My Blog on Telephony and Messaging as Rhymed By History

From Foot Messaging to Digital Transmission:

Doctor David Thornburg identified another force that really has impacted the emergence of technologies” (Laureate Education (Producer). (2014h). He called it “the rhymes of history”.  Such a force must have been the influencing factor to such technologies as the “hub print copy centers” (retrieved from or cloud printing (Riofrio, 2013) as a new name for the old post office or the messenger on the mule from antiquity. Examples closer to us revolve around telephony by taking into consideration the  invention and evolution of the telegraph, the telephone, the beeper, the fax machine, VoIP (Voice over IP), and cellular telephony, including but not limited to instant messages, text messages, voice mails, and e-commerce from a bill-paying functionality perspective.

From The Animal and

Foot Messengers to The Pony Express, to The Couriers

The practice of using messengers or couriers to transmit messages from one point to another has been used throughout history.  Prior to the advent of vehicular transportation , mail used to  be delivered by animals including Pigeons, Dogs, Camels, and Reindeers (retrieved from ).



Picture 1

Picture 1 from


Picture 2

Picture 2 from:

Picture 3

Figures 3  from

Picture 4


Picture 5

Picture 5 (Retrieved from )

In the heart of New York City, businesses are currently using foot messengers and bikers to deliver messages and packages to other businesses and to individuals  as illustrated in figures 5 and 6.

Figure 6

Picture 6 (Retrieved from

Picture 7

Picture 7: Frank E. Webner
Pony Express rider ca. 1861

The Story of the Pony Express is a true illustration (Fig 7) according to Johnson (2001). Of its beginning it is reported: “The Pony Express made its first run on April 3, 1860 and immediately captured the imagination of the nation. It had been established to provide a speedy method of delivering mail over a two thousand mile route that stretched between St. Joseph Missouri and Sacramento, California (Retrieved from ).

According to the Washington Times (2011), Bin Laden used Couriers which enabled him to hide. He was finally caught after one of his “bodyguard’s satellite phone calls helped lead US forces to hiding place (Tohid, 2011).

The history of couriers goes back hundreds of years now and it has changed dramatically  over that period of time. The services have changed with a wider variety than ever and             also how the goods are transported has developed over the years; going from being drawn   by horse and cart to being flown internationally (retrieved from    ):

The Telegraph

As one of the inventions which came to fasten human communication, the telegraph was “Developed in the 1830s and 1840s by Samuel Morse (1791-1872) and other inventors” to  revolutionize long-distance communication (retrieved from ). The first message from the first telegraph, “What hath God wrought.” (Samuel Morse, 1999), was successfully transmitted “from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland in May of 1844. Such an accomplishment came as a result of a contribution of $30,000 the year before  by the US Congress for the purpose of building the first telegra phic line.

Picture 8 – The Telegraph

Picture 8:

And the rest is history. “Today there  are millions of  telegraph wires used across the United States. Messages can now be sent beneath the ocean as well as through the air” (Samuel Morse, 1999).

We learn that the telephone was “First patented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell and further developed by many others”. It was “ the first device in history that enabled people to talk directly with each other across large distances” (Retrieved from ). The telephone was actually invented for instant communication, even though for many years and in many places, it has yet to fulfill this promise.

The Telephone:

Picture 9 – The Telephone
Picture 9 –

Bell placing the first New York to Chicago telephone call in 1892


When, 32 years ago, I immigrated to the United States from my native Haiti, the telephone was a total luxury for most Haitians. In order to talk to my relatives from the countryside in the outskirts of Leogane City, I had to dispatch a messenger from the Capital City of Port-au-Prince to set an appointment with them at the National Telecommunications Headquarters for the fifteen minute telephone call.

Today, thanks to cellular telephony, it is a different ball game, but not much has changed.

Picture 11 –

Martin Cooper of Motorola made the first publicized handheld mobile phone call on a prototypeDynaTAC model on April 4, 1973. This is a reenactment in 2007

Picture 12 -Current Cell Phones

I can call friends and relatives throughout most of Haiti but there are serious limitations.

The first setback is lack of electricity. Most people keep their phone off unless they are expecting or making a call. Second, the telephone is a very expensive commodity. You pay per minutes as you go. Once the number of minutes purchased have been exhausted, your telephone is dead until it is reloaded with a new phone card. Third and last, your battery can be dead or the telephone physically damaged. Recently, it took me about four weeks to finally reach my cousin James by telephone in Port-au-Prince, The Capital City of Haiti. I had to physically dispatch someone on a few occasions to ask him to call me or to send me another number where he could be reached since the one I had was ringing busy all the times. He finally called me from a friend’s telephone since his was actually out of service due to a defective battery. It may sound like Haiti or any country with such structural weaknesses is somewhere in the neighborhood of Mars in comparison to our comfort zone and life style here in the United States or any developed society. The sad truth is, a blackout of 24 to 36 hours can drag us back to the nightmares.

The Beeper:

Well, the past has those mysterious ways to mingle with the present as the future of  yesterday. A few years ago, I wrote “I am nostalgic of yesterday which used to be tomorrow, and I am fearful that tomorrow will not be another yesterday”.  This blog seems to be justifying my nostalgia, as I recall the birth and death of the beeper as a technology which briefly rekindle the past as a mean of communication.

Some 18 years ago, I had a job as Field Service Engineer with Medical Manager Corporation North-East, in Bloomfield, New Jersey. My assigned territory consisted of medical facilities using the Medical Manager Software in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Car phones were still a luxury, and while my van was equipped with basically all the tools I needed to do my job which consisted of hardware and software installation and troubleshooting, my only mean of communication with customers, supervisors, dispatchers, and fellow technicians were the Beeper or pager (Retrieved from

Picture 13 – Beeper/Pager


Picture 14 – Pay Phone (New York)


and Pay Phones on the road, malls, and other public places. Please note that both technologies, beepers and pay phones, are also disappearing species rekindling the past.

 The Fax Machine:

The first Fax Machine was invented in 1843 by Alexander Bain 1843 “by combining telegraph technology and clock. He received a British patent for the fax machine in the same year” (Received from . ). The quest for better and faster communication led to the invention of the Fax machine as substitute, alternative, replacement, or competitor to the foot messenger, the telephone, the post office, and other technologies and strategies as cited above.

Picture 15 – Fax Machine

Picture 16 – Inventor of the Fax Machine

Like the telephone, the fax machine was invented for instant transmission of information. Nevertheless, as a result of outsourcing, a fax sent to any big organization today is expected to reach its destination within a time frame of a few hours to days.


Voice Mail, VOIP (Voice Over IP), Digitalization, and Outsourcing as Rekindling History:

I will wrap up this blog with brief references to Emails, Voice Mail, VoIP, Digitalization, and Outsourcing in order illustrate typical technologies that rekindle history in the area of communication and information transmission.


Email is an abbreviation for electronic mail and refers to the “ transmission of messages over communications networks” where “ The messages can be notes entered from the keyboard or electronic files stored on disk (Retrieved from ). E-Mail has become so powerful and such a popular communication medium that it is reported to consume up to 28% of a worker’s time” (retrieved from ). E-mail’s paternity is attributed to  Raymond Tomlinson who, in 1971, “sent “QWERTYUIOP” as the first network email, and he was the first to connect his computer to his mailbox by using an “@” symbol” (Retrieved from )

Voice Mail:

Voice Mail was invented by Gordon Mathews for which he obtained a patent in 1982. Originally labeled “Voice Message Exchange”, this invention “managed electronic messages in a digital format” (Retrieved from While “voice mail has become an integral part of operating a successful business” ( every home phone and cellphone are equipped with voice mail features to enhance the communication experience. Nevertheless, voice mail has become so much a part of our daily life that it has gone as far as inspiring one of the best jokes I have ever heard (Retrieved from :

We have all learned to live with voice mail as a necessary part of modern life. But you       may have wondered: what if God decided to install voice mail? Imagine praying and            hearing this…

Thank you for calling The Lord’s House. Please select from the following options:

  • Press 1 for General Requests
  • Press 2 for Thanksgiving
  • Press 3 for Complaints
  • Press 4 for Healing
  • Press 5 for Help with the IRS
  • Press 6 for Rain or No Rain
  • Press 7 for Miracles
  • Press 8 for Lottery Winning Numbers
  • Press 9 for All Other Inquiries, or Just to Say “Hi”
  • Press 0 to hear this menu again

What if God used the familiar excuse: “I’m sorry, all the angels are helping other sinners right now. Please stay on the line. Your call is important to us and will be answered in this millennium.

VOIP (Voice Over IP):

Voice over IP (VoIP) is defined as “a methodology and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet” (Retrieved from ). Other terms commonly associated with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, broadband telephony, and broadband phone service.


The term”digitalization” is often used to describe the scanning of analog sources (such as printed photos or taped videos) into computers for editing, but it also can refer to audio (where sampling rate is often measured in kilohertz) and texture map transformations. In this last case, as in normal photos, sampling rate refers to the resolution of the image, often measured in pixels per inch (Retrieved from


In business, outsourcing refers to “the contracting of a business process to another party.   (Retrieved from ). This practice must be distinguished from the term  offshoring which consists of “relocating a business function to another country” (.   (Retrieved from

Rekindling the Past:

While the Telephone, Email, the Fax Machine, Voice Mail were all conceived to speed up the transmission of spoken, recorded, or  written communication, other technologies and strategies such as VoIP,  Digitalization, Outsourcing, and Offshoring came to defeat the objectives achieved in terms efficiency, effectiveness,  and time saving to rekindle technological gains to the performance levels of the past. On this setback I can add that the fragility of our reliance on electricity, our rush in retiring older technologies may not be effective survival strategies.  While there may be value in “The ability to access voice mail and send and receive faxes via your e-mail in-box” (Fox, 2003), nothing seemed to have changed. A few examples will suffice to illustrate:

  1. No Power, No Phone, No Communication, No Food.

Indeed, and for good reasons, I am nostalgic of yesterday for at least the beeper and pay phones in this context where we remain vulnerable to blackout, shortage of  electricity, and outage of cellular signals. When 911 landed on New York City, all cell   phones went dead. Like most parents, and like the foot messengers of the past, I had to walk to pick up my son from school, just across the Manhattan Bridge by the burning  World Trade Center, at Brooklyn Technical College. How do we cook when there is no  electricity, no gaz? Ask any foreign born and you will know. Yes, hurricane Sandy in New York and Connecticut, rekindled my childhood in Haiti. Despite all, no heat, no  electricity, no gaz,  Grandma, to our delight and the amazement of the kids, made great chicken, rice, and beans as we were freezing in deep cold.

  1. Yes to Beeper and Pay Phones:

If James, my cousin in Haiti,  had a beeper, I would not have to wait for a month to get in touch with him. For myself and for my loved ones, I would definitely choose to have a   beeper functionality embedded in my cell phone and laptop for easier and more reliable access in an emergency instead of the tons of digital garbage they come loaded with. But the trouble is, like in the days preceding cellular telephony revolution, they would be no pay phone around to call loved ones.

  1. We will Return you call in 48 to 72 hours:

Most big companies these days have outsourced or offshored certain services to outside or foreign companies due to the cost incentives which usually are a fraction of what it could have been. Such is the case with call centers to which telephone services are routed and managed on wholesale basis. It is like experiencing a U_TURN to the past when upon leaving a message for someone at your bank, the system informs you: “We will return your call in 48 to 72 hours”.

  1. This Email Address is Not Monitored?

I think one of the most insensitive type of communication customers can receive is those auto-reply emails giving a false sense of caring and assurance advising “We have received your email. Please do not reply, this “Email Address is Not Monitored”.

  1. We cannot see your Fax yet, it takes a few hours to days to refresh.

One of the most frustrating experiences with sending faxes relate to having to wait for hours or days before being guaranteed you will not have to send it again. Most big companies outsource their fax service, like their calls in order to save dollars and cents. In the meantime, the customers suffer, being rekindled to the age of the foot messenger, despite the effectiveness and speed of technological innovations.

It seems therefore possible that in many ways, the natives and immigrants of technology may find themselves like homeless home owners, without technology, if we can rekindle the past, and rhyme technology with history  as in “Ain’t Got No Home” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry.


(2011). Couriers enabled bin Laden to hide; Wily messengers were ‘huge pain,’ crucial resource. The Washington Times (Washington, DC).

Fox, P. (2003). His Master’s Fax. Computerworld, 37(46), 22.

Johnson, D. (2001). Messengers of the West – The History of the Pony Express. Monkeyshines On America, 26.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2014h). David Thornburg: Rhymes of history [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Pandarakalam, J. (2011). Medjugorje Apparitional Occurrences: A Parapsychological and Spiritual Analysis. Journal Of Spirituality & Paranormal Studies, 34(2), 100-117.

Riofrio, M. (2013). How to print from anywhere: print from your smartphone, your tablet, or your PC, using printer-vendor apps or third-party options such as Google Cloud Print. PC World, (1). 27.

Samuel Morse. (1999). Monkeyshines on Health & Science, 14.

Tohid, O. (2011). Bin Laden bodyguard’s satellite phone calls helped lead US forces to hiding place. The Christian Science Monitor.

Pandarakalam, J. (2011). Medjugorje Apparitional Occurrences: A Parapsychological and Spiritual Analysis. Journal Of Spirituality & Paranormal Studies, 34(2), 100-117.


2 thoughts on “My Blog on Telephony and Messaging as Rhymed By History

  1. Joseph,
    Great post. Messaging throughout the decades has truly evolved. I would venture to say that holographic messaging will be common place in the near future.

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