The history of the telecommunications industry provides a good illustration of the power of technological change, with theemergence of new technology acting as the driving force that has brought dramatic improvements to everyday life. The force of technological change has led to reorganization of the industry and has persistently improved the range and quality of communication services available to consumers. The increasing ease with which we can communicate with others to exchange ideas and information has fundamentally transformed the lives of people around the world economically, politically and socially.
Telecommunications derives from Greek and Latin. Tele, the Greek for far, combines with communicare, the Latin for to make common. Telecommunications networks are the means through which we interact with other institutions and individuals to provide effective information services. In order to achieve effective communication, the choice of a proper mean of transport for the signal has played and still plays a fundamental role. People tend to think of telecommunications in terms of telephones, computer networks, the Internet and cable television. The true nature of telecommunications is the passing of information to one person or more people in any form that can be used.
Some of the earliest forms of telecommunication included smoke signals, which were not only used by indigenous people, but in signal towers across the world. Carrier pigeons were another earlier form of long-distance communication. For as long as man has realized that there were people across great distances, there have been methods developed to communicate across large distances. The significant change in terms of quality came with the advent of electricity. Electromagnetic energy, in fact, is able to transport information in an extremely fast way in a way that previously had no equals in terms of costs reliability. Therefore, we may say that the starting point of all modern telecommunications was the invention of the electric cell by Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) in 1800. It was during the same century that the first experiments on more advanced communication system begun. In 1843, Samuel Morse (1791-1872) proposed a way to assign each letter and number to a ternary code in terms of point, line, and space. Meanwhile, technology became advanced enough to find a way to convert those signals in audible or sometimes graphic signals. The combination of these two factors quickly determined the success of Morse's symbol code.
However, the telegraph was used only by trained personal and in certain buildings like offices, so it could only be used by a limited amount of people. Research at the time therefore took another direction and aimed at producing a machine that could transmit sounds, rather than just signals. The first big step in this direction occurred in 1850 with the invention of transducers which could transform an acoustic signal into an electric one and vice versa (microphone and receiver) with acceptable information loss. Seven years later, Antonio Meucci (1808-1889) and Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) independently managed to build a prototype of an early telephone machine.
Both with telegraphs and telephones, the need for a distributed and reliable communication network soon became evident. In 1899, Almon Strowger (1839-1902) invented an electro-mechanic device simply known as "selector," which was directed by the electrical signals coming from the calling telephone device, achieved through selection based on geographical prefixes. Many other innovations such as the radio and television were soon to come. The invention of the first microprocessor electronics made a big impact on the telecommunications world, at first in the transmission and in the field of circuit commutation. Moreover, in 1946 the invention of Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) started the era of informatics. Informatics and telecommunications inevitably began to interact: the first made fast data processing possible, while thanks to the latter, the data could then be sent to a distant location.
In the 21st century, the importance of the Internet has been constantly growing. The high flexibility given by the TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol suite), the basic communication language of the Internet, and the ISO/OSI (the International Organization for Standardization/Open System Interconnect) protocols provide a strong foundation on which communication among devices of different kinds, be it a laptop, cell phone or GPS navigator, has finally been made simple and easy to achieve. Telecommunications play an important role in the worldwide economy. According to the Telecommunications Industry Association, revenues of the worldwide telecommunications industry amounted to USD 3.7 trillion in 2009.