Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, September 21, 1998

Communications aplenty

By MYRON HEUER

Last week, we took a look at some of the communication developments in the early part of the 20th century. Now, let's see what developed after World War II.

In 1946, the first computer was developed. It used 18,000 vacuum tubes and filled a huge room.

They had to figure out a better way not to use so many vacuum tubes. So in 1927, transistors were invented. A transistor switches and controls electronic current. I remember the excitement this created in the radio and TV business. No more troublesome vacuum tubes that wear out.

Cable TV came about in 1950 . . . chips in 1959. The tiny chip, the size of a finger nail, made communications speedy and cheap.

Laser beams, beams of light that can carry many TV and telephone calls at once, was invented in 1960.

Copying machines were also invented in 1960. It spelled death for that messy carbon paper.

1960 was a big year. Echo I was the first communications satellite to relay radio signals to earth stations.

Telstar was the first satellite, in 1962, to relay live TV across the ocean. Three years later, in 1965, the Early Bird satellite was the first "bird" to regularly relay TV and phone calls between the United States and Europe.

In 1975, fiber optics were used to carry laser signals a great distance. Also in the '70s, cassette video tape recorders were developed. There was a computer revolution in the '70s. They got smaller, cheaper and easier to use.

In 1975, the fax was developed, enabling people to get documents over phone lines.

In 1980, cell phones were introduced, which made it possible to make phone calls from anywhere. 1984 marked the arrival of the Internet, which links computers all over the world.

Quite a list, right? What would you think to be the most important invention ­ radio, TV, satellites, computers, cell phones, or the Internet?

Hard to select one. Guess they're all important. It's been a heck of a century.


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