If you visit our Martello Tower in Howth, one of the first things our guides will explain is the history of communication and it’s development right up to the present day. The sending of messages over long distances by pre-arranged signals has been practiced since ancient times and we have a display that focuses on this down in the basement of the Tower. For centuries, fire and smoke and other primitive devices were in widespread use in various parts of the world. Even in Britain right up to the late eighteenth century, at a time when signalling by flags was considered a sophisticated method of communication (utilised to great effect during the Napoleonic Wars), it was still commonplace to light beacons on high ground in order to provide warning signals.
These simple and basic methods of communication rapidly began to be supplemented at first by mechanical and later in the mid to late nineteenth century by quite advanced wired electrical devices such as the telegraph and the telephone. However, it was only in the last few years of the nineteenth century that the beginnings of an efficient wireless communications systems began to emerge, an offshoot of which ultimately lead to the development of radio broadcasting in the 1920’s.
The term ‘radio’ as applied to a form of communication was first suggested by J. Munro in an article entitled ‘Radio-Telegraphy’ that appeared in The Electrician in 1898.