Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Related to communications: Communication skills


The science and technology by which information is collected from an originating source, transformed into electric currents or fields, transmitted over electrical networks or space to another point, and reconverted into a form suitable for interpretation by a receiver.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


In the electronic world, it is the transfer of data and information from one location to another. "Data communications" or "datacom" refers to digital transmission. "Telecommunications" or "telecom" refers to a mix of voice and data, both analog and digital. However, due to digital convergence, "telecommunications" implies "data communications."

"Networking" generally refers to a local area network (LAN), but it may refer to a wide area network (WAN), which is commonly called a telecom network.

The term "communications" may refer only to voice-related subjects such as PBXs, modems, call centers and the like. However, the word is also a common English word such as in the "Analog vs. Digital Communications" headline below. Thus, "communications" is used specifically in some cases and generically in others.

The Protocol
The way data communications systems "talk to" each other is defined in a set of standards called "protocols." Protocols work in a hierarchy starting at the top with the user's program and ending at the bottom with the plugs, sockets and electrical signals. See communications protocol and OSI model.

Analog vs. Digital Communications

Prior to the Internet, the world's largest communications system was the telephone network, a mix of analog and digital lines. It used to be entirely analog and transmitted only voice frequencies, but is today almost entirely digital. The only analog part is the line between the telephone and a digital conversion point (digital loop carrier) within about a mile of the customer.

Amplifiers Boost the Noise
Analog systems are error prone because the electronic transmission of the sound waves get mixed together with unwanted, nearby signals (noise). In long distance analog telephone networks, amplifiers were placed in the line every few miles to boost the signal, but they also boosted the noise. By the time the person or modem received the signal at the other end, it may have been impossible to decipher.

Repeaters Regenerate
In a digital network, the transmitted voice is made up of only two elements (binary). Instead of amplifiers, repeaters are used, which analyze the incoming signal and regenerate a new outgoing signal. Any noise on the line is filtered out at the next repeater. When data are made up of only two signals (0 and 1), they can be more easily distinguished from the garble. Digital is simple.

The First Analog Communications
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell sent the first electronic communications over a wire when he said, "Mr. Watson. Come here! I want you!" (Image courtesy of AT&T.)
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
Then, BAU-1 agents search for similarities with other existing communications within the database, make a possible determination of authorship, and notify the submitting agency of their findings.
All internal communications had to appear under the heading of a specific strategic theme:
Bayer CropScience / Rhea & Kaiser Marketing Communications
Whether an insured and its insurer share a "community of interest" such that privileged communications shared with the insurer will retain their privileged status is not easily resolved in all cases.
"the communications media have acquired such importance as to be the principal means of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, familial, and social behaviour."
CTI's system automates the switching and record keeping processes, while reducing the amount of equipment and resources necessary to perform communications testing more efficiently.
While the effectiveness of standardized patients (SPs) used for evaluation and teaching communication skills has repeatedly been demonstrated, there are significant drawbacks to the use of this technique, including lack of standardization across multiple sites and both cost and time at individual sites.
Many factors affect individuals' ability to comprehend, and in turn use or act on, health information and communication. Proficiency in reading, writing, listening, interpreting, oral communication, and visual analysis is necessary as the modern health system typically relies on a variety of interpersonal, textual, and electronic media to present health information.
An estimated $575,000 price tag is attached to this project, with funds coming from Communications Information Technology Ontario ($150,000), Materials Manufacturing Ontario, ($100,000) Penguin ASI ($50,000) and FedNor ($92,000), plus $100,000 in in-kind contributions.
A successful communications plan must have an "asking" strategy, based upon listening, responding, and acting, so that employees become stakeholders.

Full browser ?