What Is Communications?

Pronunciation: \kə-ˌmyü-nə-ˈkā-shəns\
Plural but sing or plural in constr a: a technique for expressing ideas effectively (as in speech) b: the technology of the transmission of information (as by print or telecommunication)

- Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

In the broadest context, communications is the study of techniques to allow for the reliable transmission of information.

The information we are dealing with can take many different forms. It may be the conversation you are having on your cell phone, the web page you have just downloaded, the data stored on your hard-disk, or the latest motion picture released on digital media. All these types of information have in common the requirement that they be transferred from one place (or time) to another. The purpose of our group is to study efficient ways of achieving this task.

In order to design a communications system, techniques must be developed which allow for the reliable, secure, and speedy delivery of the data. Mathematics is a central tool used to perform the design and analysis of these techniques. The communications system designer often creates a mathematical model of the system along with the requirements. Techniques are then developed to satisfy the requirements while minimizing the cost. Computer simulation and experimental test beds may be developed to generate additional insights. They are often used to validate and optimize the design before its deployment.

Some of the principal questions that the discipline of communications aims to answer are:
  • What are the best approaches to transmit information for a given application?
  • How do we make the data transmission more reliable?
  • How do we make the data transmission more secure?
  • How do we make data transmission faster?
  • How do we manipulate and display the data to more effectively communicate it to the user?
  • How do we best create large networks of communicating machines (one examp le of such a system is the Internet)?


History of Communications

A Bit about the History of Communications

Communication is one of the most essential aspects to the advancement and development of civilization as we know it today. The beginning of verbal communication is estimated to be over 50,000 years ago. Graphic images over 20,000 years old have been found in caves, and written records over 5,000 years old have also been discovered!

The following list includes a selected number of more recent milestones. If you are studying in the area of electrical or computer engineering or a related discipline you will most definitely recognize many of the names and ideas mentioned below.




1838 Samuel F. B. Morse demonstrates the telegraph
1864 James C. Maxwell predicts electromagnetic radiation
1876 Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone
1894 Wireless communications over short distance demonstrated by Oliver Lodge
1901 Guglielmo Marconi demonstrates radio telegraphy
1915 Bell System completes a transcontinental telephone line
1918 B. H. Armstrong perfects the superheterodyne radio receiver
1933 Edwin H. Armstrong demonstrates Frequency Modulation (the beginnings of FM radio)
1938 Television broadcasting begins
WWII Radar and microwave systems are developed
1948 The transistor is invented
1948 Claude Shannon establishes theoretical foundations of digital communications
1956 First transoceanic telephone cable is implemented
1960 Maiman demonstrates the laser
1962 Telstar I, the first communication satellite is launched
1960s Colour television is introduced
1970s Intercontinental computer communication networks established
1980s Mobile, cellular telephone systems are established
1980s Cryptography on a chip developed
1980s Compact disk (CD) audio players and high definition television are introduced
1990s The Internet community forms
2001+ Youtube, Wikipedia, iPhone, Facebook ...

A brief look back at the communications developments of Edward S. Rogers Sr., after whom our Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is named, can be found here.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:57 )