A Look at the Past
It is interesting to note how technology has changed the way that we communicate with one another. From an historical perspective there have been many inventions that change or enhance the ways that we communicate. Several of the major historical developments of communication are language, alphabet, and writing--enabling humans to go beyond verbal and symbolic communication and on to such technologies as the inventions of the printing press, the telegraph and telephone, radio and television, and computers. These technologies enabled large numbers of people to communicate and share knowledge with one another as well as to the masses of people. As we look at each of these technologies, a sense of touch plays a role in how we use and control them.
We can define communication as the expression of meaning or a message conveyed by a sender to a receiver through some channel or medium. The key concepts are message, sender, receiver, and medium. Typically we think of communication as a process that takes place between two people using voices or sound waves. The message may be a simple "hello and how are you today?" However, the sender or the person "sending" the message proceeds through several steps and processes such as creating the message, encoding, and delivering the message through a process of speech. The receiver or person receiving the message must decode and interpret the message and then act or acknowledge that the message has been received.
While this is a simple analogy of how two people may communicate, it does represent a significant concept in how we may use other technologies to communicate a message to an individual or many people at one time. As we look at printing and the printing press we can see that a message must be encoded, and then it is processed and printed using technology on some medium, such as paper, where it then can be distributed to others to decode and read the message that has been encoded. Here we can define communication technology as the sensory extensions that humans use to communicate with other humans or machines. It is a way that humans use tools and techniques to create, transmit, receive, process, store, and retrieve information.
Aside from speech, the printed word was the major medium of communication for nearly 400 years after the invention of the printing press. However, with the invention of the telegraph and telephone, we may say that we entered the age of electronic communication. The capability to transmit messages and information over great distances almost instantly became a reality with the telegraph and the telephone and wired and wireless connections. While the telegraph and telephone were technologies that were directed toward one-to-one communication between people, the invention of the radio and the television would soon make it possible to communicate without wires and over great distances to many people at the same time. The invention of the radio, television, and satellite figuratively made the world "smaller" and provided the capability to communicate globally with just the click of a button!
The Changing Nature in How We Communicate
As we look at the evolution of these communication technologies, we can see that messages were recorded as some type of print media or as an electrical signal that was encoded, transmitted received, and decoded as a message. That message could be an audio signal or a televised medium that included audio and video. The users of these technologies used their hands and fingers to write a message, dial a number, or change a television channel. We can say that there is a "tactile" dimension to technology because dials had to be rotated, buttons had to be pressed, or switches changed to interact with and use the technology. As the mechanical buttons were pressed or switches moved, a person could feel the sensation of movement and intuitive "click" as the devices were actuated. …