Modern Personal Communications
By: Garland Davis
“What Hath God Wrought?”– A message dispatched by Samuel F.B. Morse from the U.S. Capitol to Alfred Vail at a railroad station in Baltimore, Maryland on May 24, 1844 in a demonstration to members of Congress. The message was telegraphed back a minute later.
“On March 10, 1876, I shouted into M [the mouthpiece] the following sentence: ‘Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.’ To my delight he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said.” — Alexander Graham Bell
In 1896, Gugliemo Marconi was awarded British patent 12039, Improvements in transmitting electrical impulses and signals and in apparatus there-for, the first patent ever issued for a Hertzian wave (radio wave) base wireless telegraphic system. In 1897, he established a radio station on the Isle of Wight, England.
In 1900, Brazilian priest Roberto Landell de Moura transmitted the human voice wirelessly. According to the newspaper Jornal do Comercio (June 10, 1900), he conducted his first public experiment on June 3, 1900, in front of journalists and the General Consul of Great Britain, C.P. Lupton, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for a distance of approximately 5.0 miles
“S” — The first transmission of a radio message across the Atlantic Ocean by Gugliemo Marconi on December 12, 1901.
Each of these functions was an element in the development of the mobile telephone. Perhaps one of the earliest fictional descriptions of a mobile phone can be found in the 1948 science fiction novel Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein. The protagonist, who has just traveled to Colorado from his home in Des Moines, receives a call from his father on a pocket telephone. Before going to space he decides to ship the telephone home “since it was limited by its short range to the neighborhood of an earth-side [i.e. terrestrial] relay office.” Ten years later, an essay by Arthur C. Clark envisioned a “personal transceiver, so small and compact that every man carries one.” He wrote: “the time will come when we will be able to call a person anywhere on Earth merely by dialing a number.” Such a device would also, in Clarke’s vision, include means for global positioning so that “no one need ever again be lost.”
“Hey Jerry, how the fuck are you doing today?” A call I made to Jerry Juliana using a wireless cellular telephone from the island of Oahu to the mountains of West Virginia on March 9, 2016.
Now, I know you are asking, what does this have to do with anything. These quotes and facts show technological progression in man’s ability to communicate over long distances culminating in today’s personal cellular telephone.
The telegraph made it possible to send messages across the nation in a matter of hours where before it had taken about ten days by Pony Express. The early telegraph required multiple operators to receive and re-transmit the message onto the next operator down the line. This system was quickly replaced by an invention of Thomas Edison that automatically retransmitted the message as it was received thereby decreasing the time for a message to travel long distances.
The telephone made it possible for wires to carry the human voice to anyone else who also had a telephone attached to the same wire system. Instead of Morse Code messages being sent back and forth, voice messages, questions, and answers could go back and forth in immediate time thereby eliminating delays in communications.
Next came the radio which gave the ability to transmit and receive Morse Code messages through the air without the wires. Anyone with a receiver and transmitter built to the proper frequencies could send and receive messages. With the addition of the ability to transmit voice messages came the ability of radio owner/operators to talk with each other. Anyone with the proper equipment could also listen in on conversations. An offshoot of the ability for two way communications came the commercial broadcasting system and one way communications, entertainment and news information.
The next natural development of radio was the ability to transmit and receive photographs and then moving pictures culminating in television.
In a little over a century, mankind’s ability to communicate grew from horsemen and horse-drawn coaches carrying handwritten letters to a realization of Arthur C. Clarke’s prediction of a handheld device that could be used to communicate with others as well as determine its location anywhere on Earth. But it enables a person to do much more. Ironically it can be used to send written (texting and e-(electronic) mail communications between organizations and individuals when the entire purpose of these innovations was to eliminate the necessity to send written messages.
The practice of texting has become so prevalent that many states and municipalities have passed laws making it a crime to drive and text or even talk on a cellular telephone. At the same time, I see from the new car commercials, the car manufacturers are adding Wi-Fi and Blue Tooth technology to the 2016 models along with a touch screen to control functions of the car.
I have friends who still work for Navy contractors and sometimes go to sea on ships. They tell me that when the ship is in sight of one of the islands, the weather decks are covered by sailors talking on cell phones, sometimes to each other.
It seems as if every time my wife and I go to dinner, patrons at other tables are staring at a cellphone screen and punching messages instead of carrying on a conversation with others at the table.
I was in Costco the other day and the checkout lines were backed up. I was number six in line. Each of the five people in front of me was looking down at their cell phones, either checking e-mail, playing a game, or texting. I remember reading an article in a Japanese publication that pointed out the patience the Japanese people have when waiting in line and the impatience of the Americans. I think the cell phone has solved the problem. I had to keep reminding the lady in front of me to move up as the line shortened.
I doubt seriously that there is a single teenager within a ten-mile radius of me who doesn’t have a cell phone. I know that there are almost as many cell phone stores and kiosks as there are Starbucks. I see children who cannot be much older than eight or nine years old carrying and using cell phones. Many parents give their children cell phones because it gives the parent the ability to track the movements of the child when they are in school or otherwise out of the home.
The location function also gives others the ability to track anyone’s location as long as they are carrying a cell phone. Supposedly, law enforcement or governmental organizations require a warrant to track a telephone’s location. The courts have ruled in the past that the owner of a cell phone has the legal right to track the location of that phone. If your employer provides you with a company telephone, you are subject to tracking while you are carrying that phone.
The cell phone camera has made it possible for me to see all my FaceBook friend’s kids, their puppies, their kitties, and virtually every meal they have eaten since the advent of the technology, ad nasuem. This is not to mention videos of pranks, assaults, traffic stops, traffic accidents, and anything else that falls within the range of their phone’s camera. I seldom watch the videos; my ADHD just won’t permit me to watch anything over a few seconds long unless they are videos of ships or scantily clad Asian girls.
I once had an appointment with a fellow to discuss a business proposition. I have previously done some consulting for prospective entrepreneurs. I have a good reputation for my ability to determine the viability of restaurant sites. The man owns a couple of franchise restaurants and is planning to open another. He wanted to engage me to look at a couple of prospective sites and provide him with a report and recommendations as to the value of the sites as restaurant locations.
I thought, “Why Not.” It would take a couple of weeks on the sites, determining vehicular access, amount of traffic, traffic patterns, the reasons for the traffic, the demographics and population density of the areas, the income levels of the population, and the ethnic makeup of the population. It would take about a week to put the reports of the two sites together and a recommendation paper. I figured I could pick up about three thousand for the deal.
We met in coffee shop to discuss the proposition.
Now, I think cell phones are one of the greatest technological developments of the twentieth century. A device you can carry in your pocket and literally talk with someone on the other side of the world for a few pennies. It has become indispensable for many of us. If I leave home without it in my pocket, I am as uncomfortable as if I had left without my underwear.
I am sure we all know the one asshole that, while talking with you or visiting your home will take a call and carry on a protracted conversation as if you were not even there reducing you to the insignificant.
After the third call that night, I told the asshole that I didn’t think we could do business and left him sitting there in the coffee shop with a “What did I do look” on his face.
He didn’t have a fucking clue!
Now, cell phones are not necessarily a bad thing. Women were on the verge of taking over the world, at least, the Western world, until some sexist pig living in Silicon Valley developed the technology that makes the cell phone possible. Because of this, women have taken a sidetrack on which all four billion of them will soon be happily talking to each other twenty-four hours a day, getting nothing else done and men will be back in control.
Where will the technology of personal communications take us in the future? I’ll make a prediction. Since brain functions are nothing more than electrical impulses and radio waves are created by electrical impulses why not use the increased ability of the microchip to translate brain impulses into radio waves that can be transmitted over the cell phone system. Another person can receive these waves, a microchip can translate them into brain impulses and the receiving person knows the thoughts of the sender.
For over a century, science fiction writers have written about natural Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) or the ability of two or more individuals to communicate by reading each other’s thoughts. Showmen and con artists have touted the ability to read minds for centuries. I think ESP and mind reading will be an eventual development in the progression of mankind’s ability to communicate personally.
The next small step will be the ability to control the thoughts and actions of the receivers by use of cell phone and microchip technology.
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.