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Hallo again to all.

In the beginning was the Word. In the beginning information passed from one person to others through speech. Oral tradition was the only means of distributing information until the advent of visual communication, and continued for some time to be the primary means of sharing and preserving information. Cave paintings are usually recognized as the earliest form of visual communication, with the earliest known dating to 30,000 BC. More permanent visuals — carvings rather than paintings — developed shortly thereafter, with pictograms (the predecessor to hieroglyphics and cuneiform) developing by around 9000 BC. While logographic writing systems developed by around 5000 BC (Sumerian cuneiform is thought to have developed in the late 3000s), it wasn't until the late 2000s BC that we began seeing alphabetical written language as we know it today.

The task of transmitting information with written communication, however, was often challenging. Oral tradition, though notoriously unreliable, was still a primary option. Town criers served from antiquity through the early 20th century* as did broadsheet-style bulletins (such as the Acta Diurna), posted in prominent places, which created an 'official' version of the news. Similarly, the oldest written form of long-distance communication, the post, began with the Persian monarchs in the 6th century BC. The first formal postal system as we would recognize it, the Roman cursus publicus, began under Augustus as a means of communicating governmental business throughout the empire.

To move information across greater distances, carrier pigeons (first known to be trained in Persia) were, according to the Roman statesman Frontinus, used by Julius Cæsar as messengers in his conquest of Gaul. The Greeks used pigeons during the Olympics, and pigeons were a common means of carrying information across great distances until the development of the telegraph in the 19th century, used by both business and military.

Our journey through the history of communications must now take a side trip to the printing press. Credited to Johannes Gutenberg, the movable-type printing press (c 1450 AD) almost doubled productivity from typographic block-printing, and greatly surpassed the efficiency of handwritten manuscripts. This innovation allowed not only for the quick and wide dissemination of materials, but also for ease in correcting future editions. Many credit the vast spread of the readings of Martin Luther — and the subsequent Protestant Reformation — to the printing press. This innovation also enabled information to spread widely and consistently and thus was the first enabler of mass communication.

This new era of communication increased literacy and empowered those outside the elite, in both church and political spheres. It also changed public expectations. The first publications that we would today recognize as newspapers† appeared in the late 16th and early 17th century, allowing the spread of detailed information to a greater number of people — whether for upright or selfish reasons.

By the mid-19th century the electric telegraph (as opposed to optical telegraphs such as smoke signals or reflected light) was used to transmit messages over long distances by wire. The commercial availability of both the system and service enabled intercontinental (first transatlantic and later to Australia) messages to be sent and read quickly. By 1902 there were cables circling the the world, bringing news, wedding announcements, death notices, and stock quotes to an eager public. Because of how it was used, the telegraph could be considered the first modern social network. The telephone added immediate voice to the benefits of the telegraph, and by the early 20th century, most homes in the western world had or had access to a telephone. The telephone, along with the radio (1895) added to the changing ways in which people interacted with information.

The arrival of the internet provided a means for the distribution of a variety of media, and, in 1994, brought you Anglicans Online. We've undergone a number of transformations over the years, but have stayed true to our goal of providing you with the updated information and resources about goings-on and life of the Anglican Communion.

As the internet has evolved over the last twenty years, so have the ways in which we access it. From the large desktop systems of the 90s to the laptop on which we are writing this to the cell phone on which we frequently check our mail and look up information, the screens we use to access information continue to evolve.

More and more people are using mobile devices as their primary means of accessing the internet, for a variety of reasons (be they economic or cultural). We want Anglicans Online to reach the widest audience possible, so over the next few weeks we will start moving towards making Anglicans Online more mobile-friendly. Those of you who access Anglicans Online from a traditional computer oughtn't notice any changes. If you do connect to AO with tablets or mobile phones, we hope to make it easier.

In the beginning was the Word and He became flesh and dwelt and dwells among us. And throughout that time, we have painted, drawn, spoken, printed, typed, called, coded, Facebooked, tweeted, and texted our way to sharing that Word with each other.

However you find us, we'll always be right here. See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

6 July 2014

*Although the functional use of the town crier ended by the early 20th century, there remain "offical town criers" in many municipalities, and there are several town crier guilds in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. There are also numerous town crier competitions.

†For our purposes, a newspaper is dated, printed, published at regular intervals, and with a variety of news items.


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