Advances in technology are changing the way that most folks communicate. Electronic communications can be traced back to Samuel Morse, his famous code, and the telegraph, with many changes to that basic technology in the years that followed. Ironically, Morse was not an engineer or scientist but a professional artist. An overheard shipboard conversation on electromagnets during his travels led to a vision and the invention of the telegraph.
Morse's first transmission, from the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC to a railway depot in Baltimore, MD on May 24th, 1844, was the code representing the message "What hath God wrought." The simple message essentially paved the way for an industry of massive proportions in electronic communications. While Morse relied on metal wires, modern communications technologies are a blend of similar wires, glass fibers, space-based satellites, and "the-air-as-wire" wireless techniques.
Ironically, it was a simple coded message that started an industry and it is now more complex coded messages—in the forms of digital data—that are driving communications technologies worldwide. Of course, voice communications is still the largest single form of electronic communications worldwide. But data is not far behind. And this thirst for more data and faster data rates is driven by the "instant-information-anytime" mentality fostered by Internet access. What started as access from a home personal computer (PC) is quickly migrating to mobile devices such as cellular telephones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).
It does not take a visionary to see that the Internet will only take on greater importance in the years to come. It is already the main source of data transport for most businesses. And it is quickly becoming a link for voice communications, by means of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP essentially supports two-way voice communications by transmitting voice in the form of packet data over common networks, rather than using more expensive switched-circuit (conventional telephone) or cellular/PCS (wireless) communications networks. VoIP calls are not free (as one day, it is likely the Internet will also carry a price tag), but they are extremely inexpensive to the point that most VoIP carriers offer the service for a single monthly fee (no matter how many calls are made).
VoIP is such a cost-effective means of communications that will no doubt one day be the primary technology for telephony. Coupled with the increasing demand for data, it is easy to see that future communications devices will need to incorporate several technologies compatible with various strains of wireless technology and Internet access. But keeping pace with the changes will require the vision of a Samuel Morse.