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Human beings are a remarkably communicative bunch. Our ability to exchange information with one another has expanded greatly over the centuries. Advances in information and communication technology, or ICT, have made it easier, cheaper and faster to share information across the street or across the globe. Examples of communication technology include the telegraph and telephone in the 19th century and more recently, everything from cell phones to the latest smart cars. With so many devices plugged into the internet and wired for communication, it's not possible to draw exact boundaries around the meaning of communication technology.
Communication Technology: Definition -- International organizations such as the United Nations consider information and communication technology (ICT) to include any tools used to create, store, transmit, or share information. Some examples of communication technology are computers, the internet, television, radio, phones and podcasts.
Early Examples of Communication Technology
The earliest examples of communication technology are devices that amplified a person's ability to send messages over long distances. Beating drums and sending smoke signals to communicate beyond the range of the human voice are perhaps the earliest examples of communication technology. Electric devices like the telegraph, telephone and wireless radio made it possible for people to communicate over a global scale, and for a single person to reach a very large audience.
Modern Communication Technology
The latter half of the twentieth century gave rise to the Information Age and rapid advances in the use of computers. Communication technology made a transition from analog technology to digital forms of communication, greatly enhancing the capacity of the underlying devices. For example, analog television technology provided users with a handful of TV channels while modern digital televisions offer hundreds of channels. Digital televisions linked to the internet also make possible alternative types of entertainment such as music and access to Youtube videos.
Other technological advances, such as email and the World Wide Web, created a world of communication unlike anything that had come before. The internet made it possible for one person to reach hundreds or thousands of others with very little cost or effort. With the click of a mouse, a computer user can send an email to one, or a dozen, or ten thousand others. People can also interact with others through websites, podcasts and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Computer technology also revolutionized the creation and storage of information. Software tools like word processing and spreadsheet programs simplified the process of creating large and sophisticated sources of information. Improvements in digital communication allowed transmission speeds to advance from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes in the space of a second. Continual expansion of memory chips meant that larger and larger files could be created and stored. It is not unusual for an ordinary laptop computer to offer a terabyte of storage capacity -- an amount of storage that was unheard of just a decade ago.
The Internet of Things
Wireless technologies have become small enough and cheap enough that it is now possible to turn almost any device into a tool for communication, a phenomenon know as the Internet of Things (IoT). In our homes, thermostats, refrigerators, doorbells and even light bulbs can all be linked to the internet and remotely controlled with a computer or cell phone. Cars, bicycles and scooters can be outfitted with wireless capabilities that provide communication capabilities and make possible new services like instant rentals. Businesses use IoT technology to monitor remote equipment, control manufacturing robots and respond to changing conditions on the factory floor.
With so many devices already plugged into the internet and with so many others on the way, there is less of a distinction between communication technology and other forms of technology. Even our wristwatches are now communications devices. We are truly living in the Information Age.
David Sarokin is a well-known Internet specialist with publications in a wide variety of business topics, from the best uses of information technology to the steps for incorporating your business. He is the author of The Corporation, Its History and Future (Cambridge Scholars, 2020) the role of big business in the modern world, and Missed Information (MIT Press, 2016), detailing how our social systems like health care, finance and government can be improved with better quality information.
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