Better than shouting?
“The history of communication is mankind’s search for ways to improve upon shouting,” or so says History World in its article, “History of Communication” (http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?).
Forgetting for a moment the obstacle of the development and use of some 6,500 languages in the world, language is the reason human society was able to evolve at all. “With language any message, no matter how complex, can be conveyed between people over a limited distance.” This simply meant that in the early days of humans and language, we were able to communicate seamlessly with groups or individuals standing near us. As we began to venture out and explore our world, it became necessary to communicate with each other over a greater distance.
Over the centuries, many of the greatest societies continued to experiment with the most efficient way to communicate messages over greater distances. Smoke signals and carrier pigeons gave way to town criers. But even this process became hampered as criers could only cover a short distance while ensuring the correctness of the message. Consider the game of Whisper Down the Alley. Passing a message from person to person over a great distance many times results in the distortion of the original message.
The concept of literacy helped solve this problem as we turned to written message over the spoken one and was furthered by the invention of portable materials to scribe our messages as walls and stone tablets were replaced by papyrus, i.e. paper.
The building of roads and vehicles improved the speed and efficiency of how we carry a message, while the invention of the printing press improved the speed and efficiency of the creation of that message.
In more recent history, machines and technology have taken the printed messages, paper, and the vehicles and people carrying them across the vast expanse to their destination (i.e. the mail-carrier) and replaced it with the internet, e-mail, social media and texts. The birth of these technologies has given risen to, and made possible, the idea of machines communicating with one another. As we contemplate machine communication we must return to thinking of the development and use of language and the vast array of different types of machines almost as vast as the languages and cultures that exist in the world. Enter the discussion of interoperability and the Internet of Things.
This month’s appliance DESIGN tackles these subjects with two articles: “Finding a Common Language” and “Electrical Parts Selection: IoT Product Strategies.” Also, check out this year’s results from our second annual Design Engineering Survey.
Enjoy and thanks for reading!