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transfer of information, such as thoughts and messages, as contrasted with transportation, the transfer of goods and persons (see information theoryinformation theory
or communication theory,
mathematical theory formulated principally by the American scientist Claude E. Shannon to explain aspects and problems of information and communication.
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). The basic forms of communication are by signs (sight) and by sounds (hearing; see languagelanguage,
systematic communication by vocal symbols. It is a universal characteristic of the human species. Nothing is known of its origin, although scientists have identified a gene that clearly contributes to the human ability to use language.
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). The reduction of communication to writing was a fundamental step in the evolution of society for, in addition to being useful in situations where speech is not possible, writing permits the preservation of communications, or records, from the past. It marks the beginning of recorded history. Whereas the rise of book publishingbook publishing.
The term publishing means, in the broadest sense, making something publicly known. Historically, it came to refer to the issuing of printed materials, such as books, magazines, periodicals, and the like; it now also encompasses issuing such materials in
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 and journalismjournalism,
the collection and periodic publication or transmission of news through media such as newspaper, periodical, television, and radio. Schools

The importance of journalism in modern society has been testified to by the establishment of schools of
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 (see also newspapernewspaper,
publication issued periodically, usually daily or weekly, to convey information and opinion about current events. Early Newspapers

The earliest recorded effort to inform the public of the news was the Roman Acta diurna,
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 and periodicalperiodical,
a publication that is issued regularly. It is distinguished from the newspaper in format in that its pages are smaller and are usually bound, and it is published at weekly, monthly, quarterly, or other intervals, rather than daily.
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) facilitated the widespread dissemination of information, the invention of the telegraphtelegraph,
term originally applied to any device or system for distant communication by means of visible or audible signals, now commonly restricted to electrically operated devices. Attempts at long-distance communication date back thousands of years (see signaling).
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, the radioradio,
transmission or reception of electromagnetic radiation in the radio frequency range. The term is commonly applied also to the equipment used, especially to the radio receiver.
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, the telephonetelephone,
device for communicating sound, especially speech, usually by means of wires in an electric circuit. The telephones now in general use evolved from the device invented by Alexander Graham Bell and patented by him in 1876 and 1877.
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, and televisiontelevision,
transmission and reception of still or moving images by means of electrical signals, originally primarily by means of electromagnetic radiation using the techniques of radio, now also by fiber-optic and coaxial cables and other means.
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 made possible instantaneous communication over long distances. With the installation of the submarine cablecable,
originally wire cordage of great strength or heavy metal chain used for hauling, towing, supporting the roadway of a suspension bridge, or securing a large ship to its anchor or mooring. Today a cable often refers to a line used for the transmission of electrical signals.
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 and improvements in short-wave radio technology, international communication was greatly improved and expanded. In 1962 the first active communications satellite was launched; it provided the first live television broadcast between the United States, Europe, Japan, and South America. Today, satellite communications is used extensively for relaying television signals, telephone calls, and special teleconferencing calls that might include two-way video and graphics along with audio (see satellite, artificialsatellite, artificial,
object constructed by humans and placed in orbit around the earth or other celestial body (see also space probe). The satellite is lifted from the earth's surface by a rocket and, once placed in orbit, maintains its motion without further rocket propulsion.
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). The 20th-century development of mass media has played a major role in changing social, economic, political, and educational institutions. In the United States, radio and television communication is controlled by the Federal Communications CommissionFederal Communications Commission
(FCC), independent executive agency of the U.S. government established in 1934 to regulate interstate and foreign communications in the public interest.
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. The international phases of transport and communications are under the direction of the Office of Transport and Communications of the Dept. of State. The United Nations maintains an International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which has three functions—to maintain and extend international cooperation for the improvement and rational use of telecommunication, to promote the development and efficient use of technical facilities, and to harmonize the actions of nations. Telecommunication has been defined by international agreement as any emission, transmission, or reception of signs, signals, sounds, and writing. Recent advances in electronics have made mobile personal communications widely available and inexpensive, primarily through cellular telephony. Worldwide computer networks allow computer users to use modemsmodem
[modulator/demodulator], an external device or internal electronic circuitry used to transmit and receive digital data over a communications line normally used for analog signals.
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 to communicate rapidly and inexpensively through electronic mail. The proliferation of facsimilefacsimile
or fax,
in communications, system for transmitting pictures or other graphic matter by wire or radio. Facsimile is used to transmit such materials as documents, telegrams, drawings, pictures taken from satellites, and even entire newspapers.
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 machines allows users to send printed communications over telephone lines. See broadcastingbroadcasting,
transmission, usually using radio frequencies, of sound or images to a large number of radio or television receivers. In the United States the first regularly scheduled radio broadcasts began in 1920 at 8XK (later KDKA) in Pittsburgh.
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See H. M. McLuhan, The Medium is the Message (1967); E. W. Brody, Communication Tomorrow (1990); M. M. Mirabits and B. L. Morgenstein, The New Communications Technologies (1990); W. Schweber, Electronic Communications Systems (1991).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


  1. the imparting or exchange of INFORMATION. Communication may be verbal or nonverbal, intended or unintended (see also SIGN, SEMIOTICS, BODY LANGUAGE).
  2. the message(s) or unit(s) of information communicated.
  3. (pl.) the ‘means of communication’, e.g. MASS MEDIA OF COMMUNICATION.
The human capacity for communication, especially through LANGUAGE, is far more extensive than that of any other animal. The capacity to communicate across time and space has expanded enormously in modern times (see TIMESPACE DISTANCIATION) with the invention of WRITING, PRINTING, electronic communications – telegraph, telephone, radio – and media of mass communications, as well as the mechanization of transportation. A reduction of what geographers refer to as the ‘friction of distance’ has been particularly evident in the 20th century in the capacity to send messages over long distances at great speed. This has many implications, not least the increased capacity for social control this makes possible for the modern STATE.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



usually defined as the transmission of information from person to person. Communication can be realized through any activity—for example, work—and through specialized forms, such as speech or gestures. Animals use simpler forms of communication, with signals rather than gestures. These signals are sometimes incorrectly called animal language.



the transmission and reception of information by various means. The term “communications” is applied to the means by which communication is effected and to the branch of the national economy that deals with the transmission of information. Communication plays an important role in industry and other areas of the economy, in government administration, in the armed forces, in transportation systems, and in satisfying the cultural and domestic needs of the population. Insufficient development of communication facilities slows down the rate of economic growth and decreases the national income and living standard of the population.

In ancient times messages were communicated by messengers, who transmitted information verbally, and by coded signaling with bonfires and torches. Subsequently, information came to be transmitted in written form. This was the beginning of postal service, which remained the only means of sending messages in slave-holding and feudal societies. The accelerating rates of industrial development and commercial operations under the conditions of capitalism necessitated the creation of new means of communication permitting the transmission of information at much higher speeds. The late 18th century saw the use of optical communications (seeSEMAPHORE TELEGRAPH). Electrical methods of transmitting messages at high speeds over wires were invented in the 19th century (seeWIRED COMMUNICATIONS). P. L. Shilling built the first practical electrical telegraph in 1832. In 1837, S. Morse constructed an electromagnetic telegraph apparatus. A. G. Bell invented the telephone in 1876. The next important step in the development of communications was A. S. Popov’s invention in 1895 of wireless communication, that is, radio. The subsequent technological development of communication facilities was rapid. In recent times, new systems, with increased reliability of transmission, faster transmission speeds, higher apparatus capacity, and greater numbers of communication lines, have been developed and put into use. According to the nature of the means of transmission used, present-day communication systems can be classified as postal service or telecommunications. Under the conditions of the scientific and technological revolution, communications have taken on a special role as one of the most important branches of the economy. In most developed countries substantial funds are allocated to the development of communications. These expenditures are comparable in total amount to expenditures in such areas as power engineering, metallurgy, and highway construction.

Communications were poorly developed in prerevolutionary Russia. Animal-drawn vehicles were the principal means of transporting mail. In 1914 the total number of telegraph sets in the country was 8,225, and there were 301,000 telephones. In contrast, Great Britain had about 800,000 telephones, Germany 1.4 million and the USA 10 million. The number of radio stations was negligible. Communication facilities in Russia were almost entirely dependent on foreign industry for equipment.

In the USSR the types of communication systems used and the means employed are developed according to a unified state plan. The most widely used system is the postal service. In 1974 it handled 8.9 billion letters (2.6 billion in 1940), 39.5 billion newspapers and magazines (6.7 billion in 1940), and 203 million parcels (45 million in 1940). New automated handling and sorting equipment is being put into use. To speed the mail, a six-digit code has been introduced in postal addresses (see alsoPOSTAL EQUIPMENT). Up-to-date main post offices have been built or are being built in a number of cities, in particular, Moscow, Leningrad, and the capitals of the Union republics. For example, in 1974 the mail-sorting center at the Kazan Railroad Terminal in Moscow handled about 600,000 periodical publications per day, more than 5 million letters, 100,000 small packets, and about 75,000 parcels. A large share of postal operations is performed by the Central Retail Agency Soizpechat’, which handles the distribution of periodicals. The transmission of information by electrical communication is being automated on a broad scale; this has been the case particularly since the mid-1960’s. Telephone service is undergoing automation through various systems of automatic exchanges (see Table 1).

In the 1960’s and 1970’s work has been under way on the development of the Integrated Automatic Communications system, on increasing the number of urban and rural telephones per 100 inhabitants, and on enlarging the system of long-distance telephone lines through the construction of new cable lines and radio-relay lines (seeRADIO-RELAY COMMUNICATIONS) and, to a large extent, through the rebuilding and more extensive use of existing facilities. As of 1974, the capitals of all the Union republics and many large cities were linked by automatic or semiautomatic service to Moscow. In 1974,684 million intercity telephone calls were made, compared with 92 million in 1940. A Telex service has been developed in the USSR (seeSUBSCRIBERS TELEGRAPH SYSTEM). An automatic direct-connection system is being introduced; as a result, messages can be handled at least twice as fast as previously. Facsimile transmission (phototelegraphy) is being introduced to expedite the transmission of the pages of the central newspapers over broadband (cable, radio-relay, and satellite) communication channels. In 1974, 421 million telegraph messages were sent in the USSR, compared with 141 million in 1940. The computer-based National Data Transmission System is under development. It will be of great importance for the introduction of automatic control systems.

Radio and television broadcasting makes use of radio-communication facilities. The extensive network of radio broadcasting stations in the USSR operates in the long, medium, short, and ultrashort wavelength bands. Automatic wired broadcasting systems are being put into service. In 1974 there were 59 million wired-broadcasting receivers, compared with 5.9 million in 1940. By the 1970’s, hundreds of cities were provided with multiprogram wired broadcasting; such systems are being introduced in rural areas. The total number of television stations broadcasting original programs and providing relays was 1,749; in 1940 there were 2, and in 1965 there were 653. The number of television receivers in 1974 was 52.5 million, compared with 400 in 1940. Color programs are broadcast regularly from such cities as Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Baku, Tbilisi, and Tashkent. In 1974 color programs were being received in more than 100 cities.

The satellite communications systems developed in the 1960’s and 1970’s show great promise (seeSPACE COMMUNICATIONS). They are used for communication between a large number of points in the country. The Soviet Molniia satellites have been used since 1967 to transmit television programs through the Orbita system. The Molniia satellites are also used to provide remote regions of the USSR with telephone and telegraph service.

The principal means of communication are under the jurisdiction of the Union and republic ministries of communications, which have an extensive network of communications offices: post offices, communication centers, main post offices, local and long-distance telephone offices, and telegraph offices. There were a total of 86,000 communications offices in 1974, compared with 51,000 in 1940. In addition to the communications

Table 1. Principal indexes of the development of telephone service in the USSR
1Data are as of the end of the year
Total number of telephones in the general telephone system (thousands).....1,7296,39915,825
Number of dial telephones in the general system (thousands) ............4144,45014,631
 urban systems.......................................4144,11012,767
 rural systems ....................................... 3401,864
Percentage of village Soviets with telephone service..................70.098.399.7
Percentage of sovkhozes with telephone service....................76.399.299.9
Percentage of kolkhozes with telephone service ....................9.299.699.95
Percentage of sovkhozes with intrasovkhoz telephone systems........... 68.182.2
Percentage of kolkhozes with intrakolkhoz telephone systems ........... 31.869.8

systems for general use, other systems also exist in the USSR. These include intraagency systems in ministries and departments, local intercommunication systems in industry, for example, in mines and factories, and communication systems for control rooms.

The USSR is a member of such international organizations as the International Telecommunication Union and the Universal Postal Union. These organizations promote scientific and technical cooperation, develop standards, and support the adoption of coordinated regulations for communication systems. Such cooperation and uniform practices are essential for the interconnection of national communication systems. The USSR is a member of the Organization for Cooperation in Telecommunication and Postal Communication, which was created in 1957 to share knowledge and coordinate the development of communications in the socialist countries, and a member of the Permanent Commission on Telecommunication and Postal Communication of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON).

Communication systems are developing rapidly in other socialist countries. Between 1960 and 1974, the number of television broadcasting stations increased from 18 to 50 in the German Democratic Republic, from 15 to 40 in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, and from eight to 44 in the Polish People’s Republic. Over the same period, the number of television relay stations grew from eight to 748 in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, from 62 to 431 in the German Democratic Republic, from four to 174 in the Socialist Republic of Rumania, and from zero to 143 in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. Also over this period, the number of telephones installed increased by a factor of almost five (reaching 26,200) in the Mongolian People’s Republic, by a factor of 4.2 (reaching 718,000) in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, by a factor of 2.5 (reaching 2.5 million) in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, and by a factor of 2.7 (reaching 2.4 million) in the Polish People’s Republic. In 1973 the volume of postal traffic, in billions of items, was 2.2 in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, 4.3 in the German Democratic Republic, (3.9 in 1960), 2.0 in the Hungarian People’s Republic (1.3 in 1960), and 1.3 in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (0.9 in 1960). The number of telegraph messages, in millions, sent in 1973 was 15.5 in the Polish People’s Republic (10.3 in 1961), 14.2 in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (more than 12 in 1961), and 15.9 in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (9.9 in 1961). In 1974, the number of post offices and telegraph and telephone offices was 14,527 in the German Democratic Republic (14,017 in 1960), 5,079 in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (4,725 in I960), and 7,949 in the Polish People’s Republic (6,953 in 1960).

In most capitalist countries, communication systems belong to the government. In the USA only the postal service is nationalized; telecommunication is in the hands of capitalist monopolies. The largest monopoly is the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (the Bell System); it monopolizes longdistance telephone service. The Western Union Corporation is the most important company in telegraph communication, and the RCA Corporation is the most important in radio communication. In Great Britain the postal, telegraph, and telephone communication systems are run by the government; communication with other countries, however, is for the most part controlled by private companies. With respect to radio and television broadcasting, the leading position is occupied in Great Britain by the British Broadcasting Corporation, in the Federal Republic of Germany by several companies that have the status of corporations, and in Japan by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. The total volume of postal traffic in 1972 was, in billions of items, 87.2 in the USA (62.1 in 1960), 12.4 in Japan (6.8 in 1960), 11.4 in France (6.1 in 1960), and 10.8 in Great Britain (10.6 in 1960). The number of telegraph messages sent in 1972, in millions, was 58.9 in Japan (94.7 in 1960), 36.2 in the USA (131.3 in 1960), and 20.4 in France (16.4 in 1960). The number of telephones in 1972, in millions, was 131.6 in the USA (74.3 in 1960), 34.0 in Japan (5.5 in 1960), 17.6 in Great Britain (8.2 in I960), and 16.5 in the Federal Republic of Germany (6.0 in 1960).


Materialy XXIV s”ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1972.
Ustav sviazi Soiuza SSR. Moscow, 1954.
Razvitie sviazi v SSSR, 1917–1967. Moscow, 1967.
Psurtsev, N. D. Sviaz’ na sluzhbe stroitel’stva kommunizma. Moscow, 1970.
Psurtsev, N. D. Sviaz’ v deviatoi piatiletke. Moscow, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


The transmission of intelligence between two or more points over wires or by radio; the terms telecommunication and communication are often used interchangeably, but telecommunication is usually the preferred term when long distances are involved.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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