Communication is an essential part of human life, and it has been so since the dawn of humanity. Over the course of history, communication has evolved from rudimentary grunts and gestures to the sophisticated verbal and written forms of today. While we are not the only species to communicate with each other, it is our unique ability to express thoughts in language that allows the transmission of compositional concepts, recognizing past, present, and future tenses, and inventing new ideas.
From gestures to letters
Early means of communication used nonverbal cues, including body language, expressions on the face, and gestures. Early humans were able to communicate basic emotions like fear, anger, and delight via these methods. Verbal exchanges became a more sophisticated method of communication once language was invented by humans. In the eleventh century BCE, the Phoenicians invented an alphabetic script, which led to the development of one of the oldest types of written communication. The alphabet made it possible for people to exchange ideas and record knowledge in writing, allowing it to be passed from generation to generation as well as in real time.
In the 15th century, the printing press was a groundbreaking invention that transformed the way information was disseminated. With the ability to mass-produce books, newspapers, and other written materials, information became more accessible to the public. It is estimated that the number of books in Europe increased from approximately 1 million in 1450 to 150 million in 1500 after the invention of the printing press, showing just how transformative the technology was in terms of making knowledge more accessible to the masses. This accessibility fueled a significant rise in literacy rates and greatly expanded the reach of written communication.
The telegraph, invented in the 19th century, marked a significant step in the development of communication technology. It allowed people to communicate quickly over long distances, making it possible to send messages across continents and oceans. Invented shortly after the telegraph, the telephone made possible previously unimaginable — voice communication in real time over long distances.
Radio and television were other milestones of the evolution of communication technology. Radio made it possible for people to hear news and entertainment broadcasts from around the world, while television brought moving images and sound into people’s homes.
Enter the net
The invention of the internet in the late 20th century was arguably the most transforming thing for the world, let alone communication technology. The technology made it possible to connect in verbal, visual, and sonar form with people all over the world instantly. Email, instant messaging, and websites all of these platforms rely on the internet and have transformed the way we communicate.
Social media has become an integral part of modern communication. These platforms allow people to share experiences and opinions with friends, family, and people all over the world. Launched in 2004, Facebook quickly became the dominant social media platform, with about 3 billion active users as of 2023. Other prominent examples of social media platforms include Twitter, which focused on short messages (tweets), Instagram, which is primarily a photo-sharing platform, and TikTok — a service that made short videos (under 30 seconds) one of the key social media trends.
Today, social media platforms are not only popular ways for casual communication but also powerful tools for companies. Selling on social media has been shown to beat in its effectiveness physical advertising and mass mailings. This, in turn, led to a growing popularity of omnichannel messaging platforms that allow managing all digital communication channels, such as live chat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Email, in a single interface.
Over the course of the last five and a half thousand years, since humans acquired the ability to write, communication has evolved and taken a multitude of forms. Since 5,500 years is such a short period of time, compared to the history of the human species and planet Earth, who knows what new ways to communicate are going to emerge soon?