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Scanning the horizon

Handheld Multimedia device

How connections could evolve : the end of wires?

We are sometimes told we are standing on the threshold of a 'multimedia communications revolution' and in the age of 'information superhighways'.

It is also supposed to be a world in which the distinction between broadcasting and one-to-one communication is becoming blurred. Fine words, but what might it all mean?

In a word - change. For many people in the Britain of the future, entertainment and information services will come via a dish, down a cable or fibre optic connection.

The conventional telephone line may seem like an endangered species. It will still be there - but not necessarily providing telephone calls alone.

Some experts predict that wire-free handsets will be much more commonplace and you will use the same handset or personal communicator, wherever you are - as a cordless phone in the home or office and as your mobile when you're out and about.

In other words, what was once wired - the telephone - will have become wireless. What was once wireless (entertainment) will have become wired.

Of course it's only a theory, but you'll find out what really happens throughout the rest of your life!

Missed calls

A glimpse into the future... : '...perhaps no reply will come at all...'

Nobody can predict exactly how things will turn out. However, the following quotation was not all that far from the mark.

'There is no doubt that the day will come, maybe when you and I are forgotten, when copper wires, gutta-percha coverings, and iron sheathings will be relegated to the Museum of Antiquities. Then, when a person wants to telegraph to a friend, he knows not where, he will call an electromagnetic voice, which will be heard loud by him who has the electromagnetic ear, but will be silent to everyone else. He will call: 'Where are you?' and the reply will come, 'I am at the bottom of the coal-mine' or 'Crossing the Andes' or 'In the middle of the Pacific'; or perhaps no reply will come at all, and he may then conclude that his friend is dead.'

The electrical engineer Professor W. E. Ayrton said this in a lecture at the Imperial Institute, London ... in the year 1897.

It almost exactly describes one aspect of the world in which we live now - when for many people on September 11th, 2001, the unanswered mobile meant that a loved one had perished.

What Ayrton could not foresee was that those mobiles also meant that people facing certain death were able to reach out one last time to those they loved with the simplest and most moving message of all.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

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