Dr T. Matthew Ciolek,
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies,
Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia
Document created: 9 Jan 1999. Last updated: 1 Feb 2005
This document, intended as a reliable electronic reference tool,
provides a timeline for three types of developments and milestones:
(1) advances in long distance person-to-person communication;
(2) advances in storage, replication, cataloguing, finding, and retrieval of data;
(3) standardisation of concepts and tools for long distance interaction.
The advancements may have a:
T echnical (hardware),
C onceptual (software),
or an O rganisational aspect,
or represent an important M ilestone in the history of a given invention,
and are annotated as such in the timeline.
This document is only as good as the collated information itself. Please email any additional
data and corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your
collaboration and input is warmly appreciated.
work in progress - tmc
- [T] The first electric typewriter, the Blickensderfer (MHP 1998).
1901 Dec 12
- [M] Guglielmo Marconi using a 150 m long copper aerial
attached to a kite receives in a makeshift radio room on Signal Hill,
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, the "dot-dot-dot" signal (the Morse
code for letter "S"), the first transatlantic one-directional wireless transmission
(The Government of Newfoundland & Labrador 2001). The signal was
sent from a distance of 3,500 km from a transmitting station at
Poldhu', in Cornwall, UK (Borgnino & Brunero 2001).
- [M] Trans-Pacific telephone cable connects Canada and Australia (MHP 1998).
- [T] Arthur Korn (1870-1945), Germany, invents telephotography. The process involves manual breaking
down and transmission of still photographs by means of electrical wires. In 1907, Korn sent the first inter-city fax
when he transmitted a photograph from Munich to Berlin (Vaunt Design Group 2002).
1902 Dec 18
- [M] Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in Glace Bay, Canada in
establishing the first transatlantic bilateral wireless exchange with
a radio station at Poldhu', in Cornwall, UK (Brunero & Valori
1903 - [T] Teleprinter, combining the best features of the Wheatstone and Baudot automatic telegraph systems, and a keyboard, invented by Donald Murray in England. Like telephone, it can be operated by anyone (Standage 1998:191).
1903 Sep - [M] Guglielmo Marconi establishes on board of
the steamboat 'Lucania' (travelling between UK and Unated States) the
first ship-based press agency which uses the radio-based bulletins to
print newspapers on board during the trip across the Atlantic.
(Brunero & Valori 2001).
1903 Dec 17
- [T] After making more than 700 successful glider flights at
Kitty Hawk, NC in 1902, Wilbur and Orville Wright use a 12-16 horsepower engine
to achieve the first successful flight ever made in a self-propelled
heavier-than-air craft (Grolier 1993). The first of the four flights made that day lasted 12 seconds, took the machine to an altitude of about 10 feet (i.e. some 3 m) and covered a distance of a little over of 120 feet (i.e. approx 40 m). The fourth flight made on the same day lasted 59 seconds and covered 852 feet (i.e. about 280 m) (Kelly 1983:59-61). A device which
could move mail and people faster than train has been thus created and tested.
1904 Sep 20
- [M] Wilbur and Orville Wright make the first complete circle with their plane (Kelly 1983:78). This means that fully controlled flights are now possible.
1905 Sep 26
- [M] Wilbur and Orville Wright achieve an uninterrupted flight 11 and 1/8 miles long in 18 minutes and 9 seconds (Kelly 1983:83)
1905 Oct 5
- [M] Wilbur and Orville Wright achieve an uninterrupted flight 24 and 1/5 miles long in 38 minutes and 3 seconds (Kelly 1983:83)
1906 Dec 24
- [M] The world's first radio broadcast is a religious service which included
a violin solo of Gounod's "O Holy Night" and readings from the Gospel of Luke (Hadden and Cowan 2000:7).
- [M] Arthur Korn (1870-1945), Germany, uses telephotography (which he invented in 1902) to sent from Munich to Berlin a photograph
as the first inter-city fax (Vaunt Design Group 2002).
1908 Sep 10
- [M] Orville Wright makes a flight at Fort Myer, near Washington, DC. The plane is airborne for 1 hr, 5 minutes, and 52 seconds, and rises to a height of 200 feet (approx 60 meters)(Kelly 1983:138).
1908 Sep 12
- [M] Orville Wright makes a flight at Fort Myer, near Washington, DC. The plane is airborne for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and rises to a height of 300 feet (approx 90 meters) (Kelly 1983:138).
1908 Sep 21
- [M] Wilbur Wright flies about 40 miles (approx 64 km) at Auvours, France. He stays continuously in the air for 1 hour 31 minutes and 25 seconds (Kelly 1983:150).
1908 Dec 18
- [M] Wilbur Wright flies at Auvours, France, to an altitude of 110 meters (Kelly 1983:153).
1908 Dec 31
- [M] Wilbur Wright flies at Auvours, France. He stays continuously in the air for 2 hours 20 minutes and 23 seconds. (Kelly 1983:153).
-  A Spanish civil governor, in order to prevent the rebels in Barcelona from
contacts with Madrid bans long-distance phone calls (Thomas 1995:392).
- [M] Wright brothers' airplane is used for the first time in the world for commercial express service, a delivery of a bolt of silk from Huffman field situated some 8 miles from Dayton, OH to Columbus, OH. The distance of more than 60 miles was covered in about one hour (Kelly 1983:172).
- [M] 52,217,000 telegrams were sent in France and 87,100,000 (in 1914) in Britain
1918 Dec 25
- [O] Pierre-Georges Latecoere launches an airline flying mail from Toulouse to Barcelona, and
to Alicante. (Schiff 1996:144).
- [O] A wartime (1917-1918) ban on nonmilitary broadcasting is lifted in US.
Public radio stations proliferate (Grolier 1993).
1919 Sep 1
- [M] Latecoere airline inaugurates airmail service between Toulouse and Casablanca.
A letter from Paris to Casablanca now travels by train and air in 3
days, as opposed to 7-11 days by train and ship (Schiff 1996:144).
- [M] Latecoere airline transports 200,000 letters a year (Schiff 1996:146).
- [T] Patent for the iconoscope, the forerunner of the modern television picture tube (SoundSite 1998).
1924 May 30
- [M] Guglielmo Marconi succeeds with the first regular
transmission of human voice between England (Poldhu) and Australia
(Sydney) (Brunero & Valori 2001).
- [T] AT&T introduces "telephotographic" fax machine which uses telephone lines for picture transmission.
"A photographic transparency was mounted on a spinning drum and scanned.
This data, transformed
into electrical signals that were proportional in
intensity to the shades and tones of the image, were
transmitted over phone lines and deposited onto a
similarly spinning sheet of photographic negative
film, which was then developed in a darkroom" (AT&T. nd).
The first fax images were 5x7 photographs sent to Manhattan, New York from Chicago
and Cleveland, each taking seven minutes to transmit.
1924 Oct 5
- [M] The Italian Ministry of Communications authorizes the
'Italian Radiophonic Union Society' to start broadcasts of radio
programs in Italy. (Brunero & Valori 2001).
- [T] Edouard Belin (1876-1963), France, constructs the Belinograph. The invention involves placing
an image on a cylinder and scanning it with a powerful light beam. The adjacent photoelectric cell
converts differences in the reflected light into transmittable electrical impulses. The Belinograph process forms
the basic principle of all subsequent facsimile machines (Vaunt Design Group 2002).
1925 - [C]
Jesuit priest and palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
(1881-1955), proposes the notion of 'Noosphere', the global and
interactive confluence of thought, aided by communication devices and
networks (Cunningham 1997).
- [T] Talking films begin with Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer" (SoundSite 1998).
- [C]Vannevar Bush
(1890-1974), the American scientist, engineer, and politician, and
his two colleagues at two colleagues at MIT design "Product
Intergraph", an analog computer that could solve simple equations.
This device was subsequently built by one of his students (Maxfield
and Montrose 1998).
- [T] Vannevar Bush builds a "differential analyser", an analog
computer. It used mechanical integrators, torque amplifiers, drive
belts, shafts, gears as well as 2000 vacuum tubes, thousands of
relays, 150 motors, and approximately 200 miles of wire for measuring
movements of parts and distances. Housed on the MIT campus, the
100-ton electromechanical machine could solve equations with as many
as 18 variables. It was used for calculations in atomic physics,
acoustics and ballistics (Maxfield and Montrose 1998).
- [M] Latecoere (Aeropostale) company transports 32 mln letters a year (Schiff 1996:146).
- [M] Qantas Empire Airways, a private Australian company,
carries air mail and passengers on a route Sydney- London (via Darwin
and Singapore) (Clark 1986:218).
- [M] The Associated Press introduces the first system (based on the facsimile principles first used in 1925 in the belinography)
for routine transmissions of "wire photos" (Vaunt Design Group 2002).
- [T] The first true magnetic tape recorder, the Magnetophone (SoundSite 1998).
- [T] The first television broadcast made available in London (SoundSite 1998).
1938 - [T]Konrad
Zuse (1910-1995) builds in Berlin, Germany the Z1, first
functioning freely programmable digital computing machinery. The
mechanical computer based on binary floating point numbers and a
binary switching system had a frequency of 1Hz and was programmed via
a punch tape. The machine displayed "a clear separation between the
punch tape reader, the control unit (which supervised the whole
machine and the execution of the instructions), the arithmetic unit
(with registers R1 and R2), the memory, and the input/output devices."
- [C] Claude Shannon (30 Apr 1916-), in a master's thesis written at MIT,
shows how Boolean algebra could be used in the analysis and synthesis
of switching and circuits of digital computers (Sloane and Wyner nd.).
1939 - [M]The Times a 32 page newspaper, est. 1785 in London, is printed at a rate of some 40,000 copies
per hour (Georges 1992:106).
- [C] Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), Argentinian writer and poet, describes
in his short story The Library of Babylon,
a library with an infinite number of books on every conceivable topic in every possible
language. Again, in 1971 in The Book of Sand, he describes a book
with an infinite number of pages. Both images foretell the ever expanding galaxy
of WWW documents which sprang into existence in 1991
- [C]Plankalkül, the world's first complete high-level
programming language is developed in Germany by Konrad Zuse (the
final version of the language was prepared in 1945/1946) (Zuse
1943 Jun 10
- [T] Ballpen, patented in Argentina by Ladislao (Laszlo) Josef Biro
(Sanford Berol nd.a).
- [T] Xerography (Xerox
copies) invented (Knops 1998). The machine provided a means of
inexpensive dissemination of print (text and B&W images)
- [T] The MARK I freely programmable digital computer is
completed by Howard H. Aiken and his team. A 35 tons machine did not
contain the concept of the separation of control unit, memory,
arithmetic unit and input and output devices. It used a decimal (i.e.
not a floating point) arithmetic unit (Zuse 1999).
- [C] Vannevar Bush in his seminal paper As We May
Think, first published in "The Atlantic Monthly", envisions a
hypertext system called Memex (Bush 1945, Nielsen 1995, Gilster 1997:267).
was to extend human memory by providing the means to organise
1946 Feb 15
- [T] J. Presper Eckert (1919-1995) and John W. Mauchly
(1907-1980), of University of Pennsylvania complete work on ENIAC
(Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the world's first
electronic, large scale, general-purpose digital computer. It
occupied 1,800 square feet, employed nearly 18,000 vacuum tubes and
weighted 30 tons. ENIAC was initially used for calculating ballistic
trajectories (Anonymous 1997, Riordan & Hoddeson 1997:200).
1947 Dec 23
- [T] John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley
demonstrate to the management of the Bell Telephone Laboratories the
first working prototype of the transistor (point contacts on a tiny
slab of germanium) developed by them a week earlier at the the Murray
Hill, NJ, USA laboratory (Riordan & Hoddeson 1997:1).
- [T] Introduction of Long Play (LP) record by CBS (SoundSite 1998).
- [C] Claude Shannon, in his paper A Mathematical Theory of
Communication, shows that all information sources (as well as
communication channels) have a 'source rate' (and, respectively,
'capacity') associated with them which can be measured in bits per
second (Sloane and Wyner nd.).
- [T] Bob Wallace of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray
Hill, NJ, USA designs (using the recently developed transistor
technology) first microphone with a portable radio transmitter that
allows him to walk around and deliver lectures with no wires attached
(Riordan & Hoddeson 1997:189).
- [C] Copyright Union founded in Geneva (Knops 1998).
- [T] The first fully transistorised computer is built for the
US Air Force by the Wippany engineers. Called TRADIC (for
Transistorised Digital Computer) the machine uses 700 point-contact
transistors and over 10,000 germanium crystal rectifiers. Its speed
approximates the speed of computers based on vacuum tubes (Riordan
& Hoddeson 1997:204).
1954 Apr 26
- [T] The Bell Labs announce the first solar cell
developed early that year by Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson from a small sliver
of silicon (Riordan & Hoddeson 1997:219-220).
1954 Oct 18
- [M] The first mass produced transistor radio (a 4 transistor apparatus),
designed by Texas Instruments, and built by Regency IDEA, is launched in USA.
After initially sluggish sales, the device called TR1 and priced $49.95, becomes
a bestseller (Riordan
& Hoddeson 1997:212).
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