Understanding How Communications Work

From Cyberlaw: Difficult Issues Winter 2010
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In this article we will discuss the basics of communications throughout history. We will also examine the different characteristics and features of radio devices as well as how these devices are used today. In the early years of communications, radio operators used a device which translated the radio signal into an electrical signal. As the technology evolved, engineers developed better devices to accomplish better sound quality, increased range, and better battery life in their radio devices. From the very first radio transmissions to the modern day walkie talkie sets, radio communications experienced further advancements, constantly improving upon themselves.

Communication via radio was first accomplished in 1920 in the USA. This first broadcast was a commercial message which allowed listeners to hear election results well in advance of reading them in a newspaper. Communication through radio waves was not perfect though. Radio communications had some inherent faults, including the challenges of developing two way radio devices which could both send and receive messages, while being small enough to be considered portable.

Today’s radio devices boast compact sizes, impressive range, and battery power which makes them highly reliable even when conventional power sources are not operational. This makes them perfect for use in emergency situations, and makes them the preferred method of communication for law enforcement, paramedics, security staff, and others who have a need for instant communication using a network which is independent of satellites and the internet.

Following the development of radio communications, mobile phones became a rising technology when they were first developed in the early 1970s. Mobile phones also make use of radio waves to send and receive data in the form of digitised voice calls, text based messages, images and video. Mobile phones were initially large and cumbersome, but rapid advances in chip and battery technology meant that it was only a few short decades before mobile phones became a much smaller, handheld size.

The next major step up in communication technologies was arguably WiFi. This technology offers fast internet connectivity at a much higher bandwidth than old dial-up modems. WiFi is used extensively in personal computers, laptops, phones, and other wireless devices. You can literally talk to someone wherever they are in the world using the internet. The digitised WiFi signals are converted into auditory and visual output that we can comprehend, and are outputted using the phone’s screen and speakers.


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