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The History of Communication

March 22, 2000

Is a picture still worth a thousand words in a world with cell phones, e-mail and satellite TV? Whether it's verbal or nonverbal, visual or written or electronic, communication has changed dramatically from the cave paintings, stone carvings and smoke signals of long ago. Explore the history of communication and the many ways people have expressed their ideas through the direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site:

Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.

Level 1

The British Museum: Writing in Ancient Egypt: The ancient Egyptians used a picture language called hieroglyphics to write down religious and governmental documents and a basic script for letters and record-keeping. Learn about the importance of writing in ancient Egypt and find out about the Rosetta Stone, a carving that had text written in three languages and was thus the key to deciphering hieroglyphics.

The History of Handwriting: Travel back in time to see how communication has changed from the cave paintings of 25,000 years to the modern handwriting and calligraphy of today. Learn about the science behind different writing methods ranging from writing tools that make marks to pens that work like plants and use capillary action to function.

Brain Spin: Alexander Graham Bell: Find out how Alexander Graham Bell's work with helping deaf people communicate inspired him to invent an important invention in the history of communication: the telephone.

Level 2

The Evolution of Communication: From cave drawings and hieroglyphics to the telegraph and computer languages, learn about the development of verbal and nonverbal communication through history. Learn about important inventions such as the telegraph, radio and satellites and take a short quiz to assess your knowledge.

The Many Faces of Communication: People have been interested in nonverbal communication as early as the year 1644, when the book "Chirologia: or the Natural Language of the Hand" discussed how people use gestures and body language to communicate. Learn about the impact of such inventions as the Pony Express, the television and the Internet on communication and try such activities as making homemade paper.

Media History Project Timeline: In 500 BC, the ancient Greeks used trumpets, drums, beacon fires, smoke signals and even mirrors for communications. View illustrations as you follow the history of communication from Neanderthal carvings from 45,000 BC to the development in the 1900s of such media as radio, motion pictures and television.

Level 3

Encarta: Communication: Explore the many facets of communication from how animals communicate and signal each other to the history behind how 6,000 languages and major dialects are spoken in the world today. Read about the development of Braille and sign language and find out about the legal ramifications of free speech.

The Evolution of Languages: Where did languages come from? Read about the history of languages and discover how many English words come from other languages and particular historical periods.

Etymologic! The Toughest Word Game on the Web: Where does the phrase "to hear a pin drop" come from? What exactly is the apple of one's eye? Find out through this online game in which you learn the origins of common words and phrases.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This column was designed by Fernanda Villalba, Rosalia Rodriguez, Daniela Picciotta and Anna Manring.


The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.

Who published the first newspaper?

CLUE: See the Many Faces of Communication

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point now covers more than 100 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Quest: Albert Einstein was the famous physicist who explained that time travel is theoretically possible.

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