January 6, 2004

How telecommunications work

Since ancient times, people have wondered how to communicate over long distances. The term "telecommunications" refers to the transmission and remote reception of signals carrying all types of information, from simple text to images and sound. Unlike messengers or the postal service, telecommunications signals carry messages that have no physical substance.

Today, cables and radio waves carry all manner of information around the planet via the many networks that are constantly expanding and combining in infinite ways.
Before the advent of modern communications, however, our ancestors had to use their ingenuity to send messages.

The visual telegraph, developed by Claude Chappe. Courtesy of Musée de la Poste - Paris
The visual telegraph, developed by Claude Chappe. Courtesy of Musée de la Poste - Paris

The human voice, light signals and smoke signals were the forebears of modern telegraphs, telephones, radio, television, faxes and the Internet, which are the result of rapid advances made possible by the advent of electricity and, more recently, computers.
Using increasingly sophisticated technology, these tools have become a vital part of daily life and are the culmination of human endeavours stretching back over the centuries.

Did you know?
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
Founded in 1865, the ITU, which has around 195 member states, promotes international cooperation in telecommunications. Its activities include providing technical assistance for developing countries, regulating the industry, implementing standards and allocating radio frequencies. In France, the Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications (ART) manages French telecommunications legislation and competition.

Last updated: January 2004

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