Early means of communicating over a distance included visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs. Other examples of pre-modern long-distance communication included audio messages such as coded drumbeats, lung-blown horns, and loud
whistles. 20th and 21st century technologies for long-distance communication usually involve electrical and electromagnetic technologies, such as telegraph, telephone, and teleprinter, networks, radio, microwave transmission, fiber optics, and communications satellites.
A revolution in wireless communication began in the first decade of the 20th century with the pioneering developments in radio communications by Guglielmo Marconi, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909. Other notable pioneering inventors and developers in the field of electrical and
electronic telecommunications include Charles Wheatstone and Samuel Morse (inventors of the telegraph), Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone), Edwin Armstrong and Lee de Forest (inventors of radio), as well as Vladimir K. Zworykin, John Logie Baird and Philo Farnsworth (some of the
inventors of television).
Telecommunication has played a significant role in social relationships. Nevertheless, devices like the telephone system were originally advertised with an emphasis on the practical dimensions of the device (such as the ability to conduct business or order home services) as opposed to the social
dimensions. It was not until the late 1920s and 1930s that the social dimensions of the device became a prominent theme in telephone advertisements. New promotions started appealing to consumers' emotions, stressing the importance of social conversations and staying connected to family and
Since then the role that telecommunications has played in social relations has become increasingly important. In recent years, the popularity of social networking sites has increased dramatically. These sites allow users to communicate with each other as well as post photographs, events and
profiles for others to see. The profiles can list a person's age, interests, sexual preference and relationship status. In this way, these sites can play important role in everything from organising social engagements to courtship.
Prior to social networking sites, technologies like short message service (SMS) and the telephone also had a significant impact on social interactions. In 2000, market research group Ipsos MORI reported that 81% of 15- to 24-year-old SMS users in the United Kingdom had used the service to
coordinate social arrangements and 42% to flirt.