Data communication has allowed the world to be connected in ways never thought possible before. Its evolution and implementation enabled a revolution in commerce, social networking, navigation, defense, and many other domains. With such ubiquitous technology, it is beneficial to understand the history and current technology concerning data communication.
While there were earlier attempts to create a long-distance communication network, the first significant modern breakthrough came from George Stiblitz. In September of 1940, he sent simple computation commands from a terminal in New Hampshire to a calculator in New York, which proved that such machines could be controlled remotely. Scientists at several major companies would build on this technology until, in 1943, IBM created a device capable of transmitting punch card commands at 25 bits per second. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, telephone lines were continuously upgraded, which allowed for long-distance calls and less unwanted noise. Further changes came in 1977, when the first commercially available PC modem hit the market, allowing users to plug into their existing phone lines to gain network access.
In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee designed an information management portal that would later inspire the World Wide Web used today. During this time, he created HyperText Markup Language, Uniform Resource Identifier, and Hypertext Transfer Protocol interfaces, all of which are still used today. Throughout the 1990s, customers were treated to higher speeds on their personal network and lower monthly costs for service, allowing millions of users worldwide to access the internet. The early 2000s ushered in a new era of wireless technology in which customers could create hotspots that could give network access to multiple devices simultaneously. Also at this time, telecommunication companies began to implement 3G technology, which allowed for internet access on mobile devices and wireless calls over large areas.
Since 2009, there have been major strides in the speed and reliability of data communication networks. With 4G/LTE allowing users to stream video at speeds previously thought impossible for a wireless network, and the ability to download and send larger file sizes, customer attitudes began to shift in that they demanded high-performance networks as a minimum. Around the same time, fiber optic technology began to exponentially increase as a means of transmitting data over long distances, further connecting the world and bringing about international commerce.
The newest advancement in data communication is the 5G revolution, which is quickly becoming the new global wireless standard. With lower latency, higher reliability, and the ability to be installed in remote locations, 5G looks to play a major role in expanding high-speed networks to both metropolitan hubs and underserved and rural communities. In addition, with speeds up to 20 Gbps, 5G technology will support critical and innovative technology such as self-driving vehicles and remote robotic medical procedures.
In addition to the 5G revolution, other promising data communication technologies are finding their way into the public sphere. One such innovation which has yet to be commercially implemented is Light Fidelity (Lifi), which promises speeds of over 100 Gbps. With this formulation, data is sent in the form of visible light, which exists from 400-800Thz on the electromagnetic spectrum. Because visible light is used instead of radio waves, Lifi can be configured to work in aircraft, hospitals, and other areas in which previous data communication techniques were unable to be implemented.
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