The basic building blocks of communication have changed little, but the methods through which we are able to use our linguistic abilities to convey ideas has changed drastically. From the era of pictographs of accounts written on clay tablets in Sumeria 5500 years ago to the first evidence of writing during the Protoliterate period (Sumerian civilization, to about 28 B.C.) form of communication had advanced. For example, by 2800 B.C., the use of syllabic writing had reduced the number of signs from nearly two thousand to six hundred. (1) For the next few thousand years communication exchange evolved slowly.
The first humans exchanged information through crude grunts and hand signals. Gradually a complex system of spoken words and visual symbols were invented to represent new language. Earliest forms of telecommunications consisted of smoke signals, ringing a bell or physically transporting a message between two places.
However, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries communications codes for meaning exchange at a distance or across time began to become accessible to more users. A standard postal system allowed people to send messages throughout the world in a matter of days. The development of the telegraph cable including the development of radio made real-time vocal communication over long distances a reality. The Internet is the most recent advancement in the communication. It allows us, in a split second, to disseminate a limitless amount of information throughout the globe.
All communication involves interaction and thus forms a basis for relationships. “Throughout the history of human communication, advances in technology have powered paradigmatic shifts…” (Frick, 1991). Technology changes how we communicate; big shifts in culture cannot occur until the communicative tools are available. The printing press is an example. Before its invention Scribal monks sanctioned by the Church had overseen the maintenance and hand copying of sacred texts for centuries. The press enabled widespread literacy, with books accessible and more affordable for all. The spread of literacy in turn changed communication which changed the educational system and the class structure.