The History of Electrical Communications

The complete history of communications dates back to prehistoric times when cavemen grunted sounds to each other, but that is not the beginning of the timeline we are concerned with on RF Cafe. Here it is the earliest use of electrical signals for transmitting data between two or more points either by conduction through cables or by radiation through the air. According to most accounts, Stephan Gray was the first, in 1729, to accomplish such a feat. From there we eventually got the telegraph, the telephone, and then radio and cellphones (which are, or course, themselves radios), and of course the Internet.

The table below summarizes many of the major technological advancements in the evolution of electrical communications.

Year First-Time Event Person
1729 Discovery that electricity can be transmitted Stephan Gray
1746 Electrometer measuring device invented Gralath
1831 Electromechanical generator invented Michael Faraday
1844 Telegraph and Morse Code developed Samuel Morse
1847 Boolean algebra developed George Boole
1858 Transatlantic cable laid Cyrus Field
1876 Bell telephone system established  
1895 Photographic film developed Eastman
1897 Ship-to-shore wireless transmission demonstrated Guglielmo Marconi
1900 Speech transmitted by wireless method Landell de Moura
1901 Transatlantic wireless message Spark-gap transmitter  
1904 Crystal radio detector patented J.C. Bose
1915 Transatlantic radio telegraphy message from the U.S.  
1917 Electric wave filter Campbell
1920 Commercial radio broadcast (KDKA, Pittsburgh, PA)
Superheterodyne circuit developed

1923 Iconoscope television camera tube invented Zworykin
1929 Kinescope (TV picture tube) invented Zworykin
1930 radar system demonstrated Blair
1931 Oscilloscope invented Allen DuMont
1934 Telecommunications Act of 1934  
1937 Klystron tube developed  
1939 Television broadcast by NBC  
1941 FM broadcasting begins in United States  
1942 Magnetic recording tape invented ENIAC electronic computer  
1948 Transistor developed at Bell Labs  
1951 UNIVAC 1 computer introduced  
1953 Early laser demonstrated Zeigler
1955 Varactor diode developed  
1956 Electronic movie camera (Bell and Howell)  
1957 Sputnik satellite launched (Russian)  
1958 Integrated circuit developed Stereo broadcasting  
1962 Light-emitting diode (LED) introduced Telstar communication satellite  
1963 Commercial mini-computer  
1966 Magnetic bubble memory developed Andrew Bobeck
1970 Arpanet introduced (early version of Internet) VP Algore
1971 Microprocessor developed Hand-held calculator introduced  
1975 Home video tape recorder introduced  
1977 Fiber optic communications for regular telephone service  
1996 Telecommunications Act of 1996 established  
1999 RF Cafe established Kirt Blattenberger