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Contemporary telecommunications facilities augment human capabilities. Indoing so, they have affected the scale and rhythm of our lives and become essen-tial to the modern, global economy, on which we all depend.


As human beings, we use technical means to augment and extend the natural capa-bilities of speaking, drawing, writing, and counting to provide a rich diversity ofways of communicating. The result is an impressive array of intercommunicationand mass communication facilities. In this section, I describe the development, char-acteristics, and applications of telephone, facsimile, television, and electronic mail.They are the paramount telecommunications capabilities employed among persons.


In all studies, questions arise as to the meaning of words. Lets begin with somebasic terms. What is communication? How does it differ from telecommunication? Inaddition, how do they differ from telecommunications? What is information? In thisbook, they are used to mean:


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Communication: the activity associated with distributing or exchanginginformation. Derived from the Latin communicare, meaning to make com-mon, to share, to impart, or to transmit, communication may be One way in the sense of an announcement Two ways. The exchange may be interactive as in a conversation between

persons in which information is transmitted one way at a time, or simul-taneous, as in an exchange of data between machines in two directions atonce.

Telecommunication: the action of communicating at a distance. Derivedfrom the Greek , i.e., tele, meaning far-off, and communication. In thebroadest sense, it includes several ways of communicating (e.g., letters,newspapers, telephone, etc.); however, it is customary to associate it onlywith electronic communication (e.g., by telephone, data communication[including telegraph], radio, and television).

Communication and telecommunication may be between persons, persons andmachines, and between machines. Note that both terms imply the act of distribut-ing or exchanging information, but telecommunication also implies that the activ-ity is undertaken between entities separated by a distance.

In a more general sense, the following terms refer to the ways in whichtelecommunication is achieved:

Intercommunication: telecommunication in which information flowsbetween two sites when computers and data processors are involved, intercommunica-

tion takes place on demand, between units that are authorized to com-municate

when persons are involved, intercommunication takes place by agree-ment at a mutually convenient time and is controlled by the partici-pantsas their conversation develops, they control the format and con-tent of the exchange.

So as not to interfere with others, in intercommunication each pair of usersrequires a separate, exclusive connection. This sets a limit to the number of partiesthat can be served simultaneously by a particular complement of equipment (afacility or network). Consequently, at times of peak use, some of those who wishto communicate may not be able to do so immediately. Intercommunication ser-vices can become congested during periods of peak demand so that some poten-tial users are refused service.

Mass communication: telecommunication in which information flows froma single (transmitting) site to a large number of (receiving) sites simultane-ously, without response from the receivers


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among persons, mass communication is associated principally with thedelivery of entertainment and information services; the originators con-trol the contents of the messages and the times at which transmissionstake place

among computers and data processors, mass communication may beemployed to update a database or data-file that is possessed by many sec-ondary stations.

Mass communication services do not suffer capacity limitations in the sense of alimit on the number of sites that can receive a service. However, the number oforiginators who can operate simultaneously is limited. For instance, in radiobroadcasting, only a certain number of frequency assignments are possible. Incable television, the characteristics of the cable used to distribute the signals set alimit to the number of channels that are available.

In contrast to telecommunication, telecommunications is not an activity butthe technology that supports the activity.

Telecommunications: the technology of communication at a distance. Anenabling technology, it makes it possible for information that is created any-where to be used everywhere without delay.

Telecommunications may be used as an adjective to describe hardware and ser-vices. Two examples of its use are

Telecommunications facility: the combination of equipment, services, andassociated support persons (if any) that implements a specific capability forcommunicating at a distance

Telecommunications network: an array of facilities that provide customrouting and services for a large number of users so that they may distributeor exchange information simultaneously.

Finally, what is meant by information? It depends on the context; thus

Information: that which is distributed or exchanged by communication when associated with computers and data processors, it may be defined

as organized or processed datai.e., the output that results from processingdata according to a given algorithm. Data, per se, are not information;information is created by organizing them.

when associated with persons, it may be defined as the substance of mes-sagesi.e., that which is known about, or may be inferred from, particu-lar facts or circumstances

when associated with the exchange of symbols, Claude Shannon (a 20th-century American mathematician) defined it in terms of the probability ofthe symbol (message) being sent.

Contemporary Communication 3

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The first implies a quantitative resultsomething that has resulted from process-ing data. The second implies a qualitative resultthe intellectual product of com-munication. The third is the easiest with which to dealit is the basis for infor-mation theory. We return to it later in Section 3.3.4(1).


At some time in prehistory, persons began to make specific noises that were com-monly understood to represent feelings, things, actions, and, eventually, ideas.When married to 19th- and 20th-century technologies, speaking over great dis-tances became possible.

In 1876, at the Centennial Exhibition in New York City, Alexander GrahamBell demonstrated the transmission of voice signals over a wire. This feat stimu-lated persons to purchase telephones for use over private circuits and led to theformation of local telephone companies under Bell licenses. Soon, as they com-peted with telegraph companies to serve public demand, the major thoroughfareswere festooned with strands of wire attached to taller and taller poles. In 1900,there were approximately 1.6 million telephones in service in the United States. By1913, some 20,000 telephone companies provided connections within local com-munities. Long-distance messages continued to be carried by telegraph. Today,there are more than 500 million telephones worldwideand the vast majority oftelephone subscribers have ready access to one another.

Between the world wars, the development of vacuum tube amplifiers, andother devices, allowed customers to talk to one another over greater and greaterdistances until transcontinental conversations were possible. In addition, electro-mechanical switches replaced an increasing number of manual switchboards,making the dial telephone a household commodity. In the late 1940s and early1950s, reliable long-distance routes that used microwave radio relay equipmentwere installed across the United States. In 1956, the first voice cable to span theAtlantic Ocean was placed in service. In the 1960s, computer-controlled switcheswere introduced, and nationwide direct-distance-dialing (DDD) became a reality.

In 1970, Viewdata, an information retrieval system with the generic namewired-Videotex, was introduced in Great Britain, and a similar system wasdeployed in France. They used the telephone for access to a database and a tele-vision receiver for display of the data retrieved. In addition, in the 1970s, geosta-tionary satellites were deployed, providing continental and intercontinental voice,video, and data links. In 1977, optical fibers were first used for interexchange con-nections, and toward the end of the decade, all-digital telephone switches werebeing installed. At the same time, in Europe, cellular radio systems were sanc-tioned and mobile telephone systems were deployed rapidly throughout thedeveloped and developing countries of the world. In the United States, competi-tive cellular services were introduced.


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In the 1970s, those who would provide alternative intercity transport facili-ties challenged the telecommunication establishment of the United States for theopportunity to serve the data needs of businesses. In 1984, after several years ofprotracted hearings before the Federal Communications Commission, and anantitrust suit brought against AT&T by the Department of Justice, some of themonopoly powers of AT&T were abolished. Under the settlement (called MFJ,Modified Final Judgment)

The Bell System was divided into: seven autonomous holding companies (Regional Bell Operating C


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