Communication History: From Samuel Morse to Philo T. Farnsworth to Eli Manning

Peter Wilt watches the entire Super Bowl on a hand held smart phone using new Verizon Wireless 4G LTE technology. He lists this technological advancement with others in communication history.


I watched the Super Bowl live on a smart phone.  I’m writing this blog post while watching the 1967 Academy Award winning (Best Director) picture The Graduate on the same “phone”…and the Liverpool vs. Tottenham match on television (multi-tasking).

I just experienced one of the newest major advancements in human communication – Verizon Wireless’ 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network – “the nation’s largest 4G LTE network” or so I’m told.  The new technology, like all improvements in communication history is destined to bring people around the world closer together…as well as drive people who are nearest us further away.  We’ll come back to that last sentence later, but first let’s look at Verizon’s new 4G LTE network.

I was asked to use a loaner Spectrum LG smartphone last weekend, watch the Super Bowl on its HD display and review the experience in this blog. 

As a matter of full disclosure, the smartphone was provided to me at no cost for a few days by a Verizon Wireless PR account executive who bought me lunch at Milwaukee’s finest new bar-b-que restaurant, so he could explain the phone’s features.  As a matter of even fuller disclosure, the PR executive is a good friend of mine.  So on to the unbiased review…

The phone itself is one of many, many 4G LTE smart phones available from Verizon Wireless.  It’s  about 40% larger than my BlackBerry Bold 9700 and uses touch screen technology instead of the keyboard I’ve relied on in some form since the Carter administration – Jimmy, not Vince.  The touch screen, video capabilities and fully loaded apps strain the battery, which require more charging than I am used to with my BlackBerry.

The 8-megapixel camera, 1080p video, social media, browser, and texting features all worked dandy.  I like to take pretty pictures, often while walking on Whitefish Bay's beach north of Klode Park.  I included a few taken with the Spectrum by LG on this blog post using some of the smart phone's specialty settings.

The speed of these features was restricted only by my personal touch screen learning curve.  The email didn’t work for me, but I’m certain that was simply due to my old man brain and stubborn refusal to read the instruction guide or use the help features.  Dozens of additional apps went untested, such as the SmartMovie HD for creating and editing HD videos right on the phone, the 1.3-megapixel camera for video chat and a built-in Mobile Hotspot.

 Both the size of the phone and the touch screen technology are features that may be attractive for some, but were a challenge to this fat thumbed slow learner.  While not a Neo-Luddite, I’m also not an early adopter.  I had trouble typing accurately both with traditional thumb typing and new Swype technology  – which is really cool BTW…though admittedly I improved exponentially with just a few hours of use and would likely adapt as millions of others have if/when I made a move to a touch screen phone.  The larger size of the Spectrum is slightly more bulky and less transportable than my BlackBerry, but the larger screen is a huge plus for watching movies from NetFlix or live programming….such as the Super Bowl!

Yes, I watched the entire Super Bowl live on a hand held smart phone….and loved it!  The main purpose for this smart phone trial was to experience the Super Bowl using Verizon’s 4G LTE network.  The quality of the live broadcast on the 4.5 inch True HD display was superb.  It was as good…no, it was better than the HD display on my 42 inch LG LCD HDTV.

The Spectrum came loaded with ESPN ScoreCenter and NFL Network applications with exclusive HD video.  I watched the NFL Network before and after the Super Bowl for unique coverage not available on the NBC broadcasts.   I have Time Warner Cable at home and Time Warner does not offer the NFL Network, so it was nice to get this exclusive programming.  One of the highlights was the pregame analysis from Green Bay Packers star Charles Woodson. 

The quality of the broadcast on the smartphone was superb.  There was no buffering or distortion.  The brightness was adjustable as was the volume which could be raised to fill the room or lowered for individual use.

I watched the game in a multi-media arrangement from the comfort of my living room recliner.  The 42” LG LCD HDTV showed the game live about 15 feet in front of me and my lap top displayed my rapidly filling Twitter feed in my lap.  The LG Spectrum smart phone was plugged in to a charger to keep the battery fully charged and held in my hand showing the game on a delay of 34 seconds.  I believe the delay was simply a technological delay and not a security delay though I’m not certain if M.I.A.’s digital malfunction made it to the handheld device.

Watching the game by myself in the first half allowed me to watch and listen to it on the smart phone.  My wife napped in the first half and came down in the second half for dinner when I switched the sound over to the TV and silenced the phone.  At 8:00 pm the TV turned to Channel 10 for Downton Abbey.  I watched the rest of the game exclusively on the silenced smartphone, while keeping up with Patrick Crawley’s return from the bottom of the Atlantic after “dying” in the sinking of the Titanic.

While I wouldn’t recommend watching the Super Bowl on your smart phone at a Super Bowl party where you’re expected to socialize, I do believe the experience I had watching the game on the smart phone and following and posting Twitter comments from followers and friends around the world was as good, or better than watching the game only on a television set.  Like many, I looked forward to the commercials nearly as much as the game itself.  Since the smart phone broadcast was national, there were no local ads on the phone.  That meant I could only watch the supporting his independent run for Wisconsin governor on the television.

I do think the 4G LTE technology that now allows us to watch movies and television on smart phones and video chat worldwide will change the way we process entertainment and communicate.

Now back to my theory about advancements in communication technology and their impact on mankind’s relationships.  First, here are some of the major advancements in communication history and interesting factoids:

Printed Press:  1439, Johannes Gutenberg.  While the Chinese used wood block printing as far back as 800 AD, Gutenberg’s printing press allowed mass production of books, which dramatically improved the dissemination of information throughout the world and laid the foundation for the modern knowledge-based economy.


Electrical Recording Telegraph:  1837, Samuel Morse.  The electric telegraph was an improvement on non-electronic telegraph systems of smoke signals and semaphores.  The overland telegraph connected the United States east and west coasts on October 24, 1861, which quickly brought an end to the Pony Express two days later.  The first transcontinental message was from Utah Governor Brigham Young confirming that Utah was not seceding from the Union:  "Utah has not seceded but is firm for the Constitution and the laws of our once happy country."


Daguerreotype: 1837, Louis Daguerre.  This was one of many inventions that combined to produce the modern concept of photography.  Daguerre took the first photo of a person in 1838 accidentally.  He was taking a daguerreotype of a Paris street when a pedestrian stopped for several minutes for a shoe shine, which was long enough to be captured by the long exposure.  Photographs provided images from around the world and allowed people to see for themselves what they could only imagine or see in paintings before.  


Telephone, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell:  Like most communication inventions, several people are credited with the pioneering work that made the telephone possible including Innocenzo Manzetti, going back to 1844.  Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Elisha Gray and even Thomas Edison, along with Bell and others also contributed to the telephone’s invention.  Bell is also one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society.


Phonograph, 1877, Thomas Alva Edison:  The phonograph did for sound what the daguerreotype did for images.  Improvements were made and phonograph cylinders transitioned to gramophone records in the late 1880s.  Ninety-three years later, records were replaced by CDs, which were later replaced by downloads and flash drives.  The first CD was ABBA’s 1981 “The Visitors”


Motion Pictures, 1896, Louis Lumiere:  The Edison Company demonstrated the Kinetoscope in 1891, which was a motion picture machine limited to one viewer at a time.  Others invented technology similar to Lumiere’s around the same time as the Frenchman.  The first recognized American film projector, “Edison’s Vitascope”, not to be confused with Vitameatavegamin, was actually not invented by Edison.  


Radio, 1891, Nikola Tesla:  Radio technology is a blend of telephone and electronic telegraph technology.  While Guglielmo Marconi was first credited as the inventor of radio in 1893, the US Supreme Court overturned Marconi’s patent in favor of Tesla in 1943 just a few months after Tesla died.


Television, 1927, Philo T. Farnsworth:  It’s really hard to pin this one down.  Many contributed to its creation, but Philo has the best name, so I’m going with him.


Cell Phone, 1973, Dr. Martin Cooper:  I love the fact that the first call from a cell phone was made by the inventor from Motorola to his chief competitor, Joel Engel, head of research at Bell Labs.


Home  Computers, 1976, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs:  This was big.


Sony Walkman, 1979, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita:  The Walkman changed the way people listen to music.


Smartphone, 1992, IBM:  The first smart phone, named SIMON, was relatively primitive, but did include a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail client, the ability to send and receive faxes, and games.  The touch screen included an optional stylus!


Commercial 3G Network, 2001, NTT DoCoMo :  DoCoMo is a Japanese company whose name is an abbreviation of the phrase Do communications over the mobile.  In 2008, DoCoMo started offering their customers early earthquake warnings over their handsets.


Commercial 4G LTE Network, 2009, TeliaSonera:  It gets complicated, but TeliaSonera first implemented this network in Scandinavian nations in 2009.  Verizon Wireless won bidding in 2008 to use part of the old analog television spectrum that gave it an inside track on the nation’s fastest fourth generation of wireless network technology in the United States.  This latest advancement allows consumers to watch movies and television shows in high quality HD display without buffering or distortion.


 Each one of these advancements in communication technology truly makes the world a smaller place with greater, simpler and cheaper access to people, places and things.  And with each innovation, for better and worse, we become more beholden to the technology and its instruments.  This, in turn, can shield us from family and friends as legions of gadget addicted humans live in their virtual worlds, at times, at the exclusion of their spouses, children and “close” friends.

It’s mind boggling to think about how much information access humans now possess relative to ten, 30, 100 and 150 years ago.  In a matter of two human lifetimes, we have gone from the first transcontinental telegraph message to being able to watch live football games and 2005 “How I Met Your Mother” episodes on handheld devices.   Makes one wonder where communications technology will take us five, 15 and 50 years from now…

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jeff Rumage February 07, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Hey, I've only seen the first season of Downton Abbey! Thanks for the spoiler, Peter!
peter wilt February 07, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Oops....sorry. Hope the news about the Giants winning wasn't a spoiler, too! :)
Linda Farnsworth February 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM
You picked Philo T.Farnsworth for Television and you are correct on that one. He holds the patient that made electronic television possible. That's why RCA had to pay to use his patient. That was a first for them as we understand it. RCA tried to get around it. They even had a whole department called get around Farnsworth but they were not able to.
peter wilt February 13, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Thanks Linda. Are you related?!? Here is a great article about Philo and his inventions: http://www.videouniversity.com/articles/the-birth-of-television/ The article had me convinced that he indeed is the true inventor of television...until the last of ten comments to the article....which made me think maybe it was actually John Logie Baird as described in this article: http://www.bairdtelevision.com/firstdemo.html i'll still give it to Philo though based on his name! :)


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