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How did we go from smoke signals to SMSs?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Communication has come a long way since our ancestors were painting pictures of animals and hunting scenes onto cave walls. Even in the past 30 years, the way we talk to one another has totally transformed; baby boomers often prefer a phone call or face-to-face conversation, while many millennials find this way too time-consuming and stick to email and texting instead.

Whichever way you prefer to communicate, we at Dialdirect make it easy for you to get in touch. Want a home contents insurance quote but don’t want to talk to a call centre agent? You can get a quote online. Or, if you prefer to speak to a human, you can schedule a dial-back on our home page – just leave your name, number, and what you’d like a quote for, and we’ll dial you back at a time that is convenient for you.

Having said this, it’s clear that we as people take being able to call, email, text, chat online, and everything in between for granted. But being able to chat instantly to one another over a distance hasn’t really been around for very long.

With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at how we’ve gone from sending smoke signals to sending texts and emails.

Rock paintings

Much like the comments section of a YouTube video, early human communication was hardly more than a random assortment of grunts, shouts and incomprehensible signs.

However, it wasn’t until our ancestors started painting on rocks in caves that ordered, documented communication really began. Back then, humans would make coloured paint with natural resources, such as with the juice of berries, ground minerals, animal blood, and burnt bones. There are a few theories on why they drew on rocks at all, but one of the most popular suggests that these drawings were a manual to others about what could be found in the area.

Postal services

Fast-forward several thousand years and you get the postal system. When our ancestors needed to send messages across great distances, the mail was the most dependable way to do it. Particularly in Europe around 20 BCE, Emperor Augustus created a sophisticated postal system for the Roman Empire called the cursus publicus, which was the most reliable way to send messages at the time.

The telegraph

Also known as the Victorian Internet, the telegraph was vastly different to other methods of communication prior to it; for the first time ever, instant messages could be sent across long distances. Considering how useful this was during wartime, it’s not surprising it was such a success.  


It’s hard to imagine a world where the landline telephone was the height of technology. Nowadays, many of us don’t even have a landline at home anymore. The funny part is, when it first came out, it wasn’t nearly as popular as the telegraph. After all, the telegraph was already doing the job of communicating over long-distance – there was no need for an expensive telephone subscription.

After just a century though, we had the first portable handset which was soon widely available to consumers all over the globe. Despite the slow uptake of early telephones, cellphones are now an extension of ourselves. And it’s no wonder – being able to educate our kids, watch movies, read books, play games, buy insurance online, find people with common interests, learn how to fix our plumbing, self-diagnose our illnesses, and everything in between means that many of us would rather lick a porcupine than give up our phones even for a day.

The internet

Finally, we arrive at the internet, the greatest equaliser of our time. It’s made knowledge and education relatively cheap and easily accessible to people in almost every corner of the earth. From email, to WhatsApp, to websites, we’re always in touch with the rest of the world.
Is this a good thing?  Does this instant communication make our lives easier or just give us more to stress about?

At Dialdirect, whichever way you choose to get in touch with us, you can be sure that we’ll make it easy to get the cover you need.

All information obtained from: