Telecommunications, or telecom, is the transmission of signals over long distances. It began with the invention of the telegraph in 1837, followed by the telephone in 1876. Radio broadcasts began the late 1800s and the first television broadcasts started in the early 1900s. Today, popular forms of telecommunications include the Internet and cellular phone networks.

Early telecommunications transmissions used analog signals, which were transferred over copper wires. Today, telephone and cable companies still use these same lines, though most transmissions are now digital. For this reason, most new telecommunications wiring is done with cables that are optimized for digital communication, such as fiber optic cables and digital phone lines.

Since both analog and digital communications are based on electrical signals, transmitted data is received almost instantaneously, regardless of the distance. This allows people to quickly communicate with others across the street or across the globe. So whether you're watching TV, sending an email to a coworker, or talking on the phone with a friend, you can thank telecommunications for making it possible.

Updated August 8, 2014 by Per C.

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