Knowledge of the past is one of the best ways to understand the present and predict the future; how do you think investors make money? In my opinion, video email represents communication coming almost full circle. It’s the next logical tool for us to communicate with each other.
People made vast fortunes by realizing that the internet would be an indispensable tool, but how long was it before you started using it? It’s a well-known fact that the big bucks are made by the pioneers – the people who start using and discover the applications for a new technology.
Sometime in the distant past, the warm sun rises over the African Serengeti signaling a new day. Humans were starting to make the jump from just grunting to speaking. The sounds eventually become words that ran together to convey complex ideas. This was the seed from which modern communication was born, the foundation on which we have built the material world of today.
We, like many of our fellow creatures, have different ways of communicating. Traditionally, we can convey our message through audio, visual, and kinetic (physical touch) channels. Once speech developed, we were able to communicate with the entire human race. The collective wisdom of the ages became available to all.
Technology and distance are two limiting factors that have shaped the way we have developed in different parts of the world.
Messengers were the earliest form of long distance communication. An actual person was delivering the message, so the recipient could still receive information from all three communication channels. This was the earliest form of communication that incorporated audio, visual, and kinetics into the message.
Flashback to ancient Egypt in 2400 BC and the birth of the paper mail system. Pharaohs wrote royal decrees on papyrus paper (scrolls) and sent them to distant parts of their empires. While the written word was effective enough, it could never convey the full intention of the author. As time passed, mankind was able to find quicker ways to get letters to their destination. As early as 1000 BC, the Egyptians and Persians were using carrier pigeons to expedite the process. Pigeons have been used for everything from announcing Olympic winners to delivering messages in World War I and II, three millennia later.
The rate at which a society develops is due in part to the speed with which its inhabitants can communicate with each other. The same principle applies to the growth of a business.
Around 150 AD, the Romans established a network of towers to transmit smoke signals. Each tower was visible to the previous and next tower in line. In 1792, French engineer Claude Chappe developed semaphore, a series of mechanical devices. He created a building that had rods sticking out of the top. There were 192 different positions making transmission of a message fairly easy. The navy modified the semaphore system to create a version that uses flags. The system is still used today.
On April 3rd, 1860, the Pony Express started in America. By using horses, sending messages across long distances now became possible and made them accessible to a large cross-section of the population.
Modern visual communication has taken two main forms: email and instant messaging. Even though these technologies became prominent during the dot com boom of the early 90s, they were around for quite some time before that due to a phenomenon called the Technology Adoption Life Cycle. MIT spawned both email and instant messaging in the mid-1960s. Basic email was part of a limited number of private network operating systems as early as 1965. Instant messaging had been achieved through several different programs. Even though the technologies were primitive, they still remain the most recent communication innovations dealing with visual interaction between people.
Auditory communication over long distances has been around longer than you might think. Starting around 1000 AD, the Mandinka people of West Africa developed a basic communication system using drums to send messages to tribes that were miles away. Certain parts of Africa still use drums today to communicate. In 1833, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Weber were able to successfully transmit an electrical signal over a long wire – the concept of the telegraph was born. It wasn’t until Samuel Morse developed Morse code that communication via telegraph became standardized. Even though it wasn’t a vocal system, an operator could easily decipher the clicks and beeps of a message.
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone and changed auditory communication forever. Now people could converse over long distances. As the technology matured, it connected people across the country and throughout the world. When Motorola released the 1st generation of cell phones in 1983, the telephone broke new frontiers. Now we were no long bound by a wire to connect to the outside world.
We live in one of the most exciting times in human history. Everybody can communicate with anyone on the planet, almost instantly!
Video can now successfully merge audio and visual components of a message. The video file type .avi actually stands for audio/video interleave. For the first time in history, audio-visual communication is accessible to the masses; we can convey the full meaning of a message [short of reaching out and touching the recipient]. This technology is still cutting edge and the applications for it are only just being discovered – the first image processing textbook didn’t exist until 1989!
What Do You Think?
Is video email going to become a staple in our communication toolbox, alongside text based email?