HABEAS EPISTOLAM (Or: 'You've Got Mail!')
Freivalds, John, Communication World
How will you mark the millennium? One way would be to read yet another endless tract on how the Internet will change our lives and the way we communicate in the next millennium. Another would be to look at the history of communication to see how we got to where we are. I have chosen the latter. I decided to look at how people communicated around the year 01 plus or minus 100 years.
Many ancient peoples developed some rather sophisticated methods of communicating. We gain a lot from the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Arabs because they wrote it down. So it is not surprising that a Roman patriarch, home from a hard day at the Forum, would be told by his wife, "Habeas Espistolam."
I have come to the conclusion that we have an inability to look back and learn from history beyond the previous generation. Yet in looking at how the "ancients" handled communication in the year 01, one can only be impressed. The technology was primitive, but the organization was outstanding and the message writing precise. I think there is an inverse relationship between the ease of sending messages and their clarity. How many of us have sent e-mails in a nanosecond only to get a phone call five minutes later asking, "What did you mean by that?"
Peter James and Nick Thorpe, authors of "Ancient Inventions," aptly point out in their fascinating book that the achievements of ancient societies in communication probably bring them closer to us than their feats in any other technical field. Not only are the systems they invented remarkably similar to those of our recent past, but their obsession with preserving records of their own times provides us with an invaluable source of information about life in the ancient world.
Historians Will and Ariel Durant tell us that Romans wrote on a variety of papers: "a folded sheet of membrane, or vellum, constituted a diploma, or two fold. Usually a literary work was …
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Publication information: Article title: HABEAS EPISTOLAM (Or: 'You've Got Mail!'). Contributors: Freivalds, John - Author. Magazine title: Communication World. Volume: 17. Issue: 1 Publication date: December 1999. Page number: 14. © 2009 International Association of Business Communicators. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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