Graphic communication has come a long way since our primitive hunter-gatherer beginnings. From prehistoric cave drawings, to the first printing press, to the World Wide Web, and the countless leaps and bounds in between, the human journey has been incredible.
People first recorded information as early as 100,000 years ago by marking patterns on things like jewelry. By 40,000 years ago, graphic communication had evolved into more meaningful forms, such as the Paleolithic cave drawings, which are now thought to be methods of communication rather than art.
More functional systems started appearing in 6000 BCE, such as the Jiahu scripts in China. Some of the oldest such artifacts are bones and tortoise shells with symbolic carvings. But much in the same way we understand what a “thumbs up” icon means today, it’s still not considered a written language.
What constitutes the first written language is subjective and still a matter of debate, but by 3000 BCE, people were using symbols to represent actual words. Some of the earliest examples of writing are found in the Cuneiform scripts of Sumer which consisted of wedge-shaped marks imprinted on clay tablets.
During Antiquity, people wrote on parchment scrolls by hand. Between the 2nd and 4th centuries, these were replaced by collections of paper sheets, bound into books and other documents, which remained the norm until the invention of the printing press sometime in the 15th Century. But how did this effect technology and computer-language today?
From simple beginnings like these came our ability to build a globally-connected network of computers. It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in just our lifetimes alone. The World Wide Web is a little more than 20 years old. Whereas people once had to communicate non-verbally hand or print, we’re now digitally connecting to mass audiences in ways never thought possible. It’s now instant, immersive and interactive. What a huge step up!
In web development, we script and write other code in text-based languages (using all the characters on a keyboard) that not only we can understand, but also our computers. These scripts can then be interpreted by the browser to execute everything from web pages to intranet apps.
Combined, these programming languages make possible your intranet, and every website. They make possible every document you upload, every article you read, every video you stream, every form you fill, every post you comment on and every photo you share. They open a new world of communication unprecedented in human history.
Could our early ancestors have envisioned anything like this? Probably not, and we may never know, but it’s fun to ponder.
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