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What's the Connection

My mother once remarked that telephone surveys only ask the opinions of those who have telephones. The same goes for HTML pages that sing the praises of the communications revolution. Obviously, everyone who can read what is written here is connected to the internet and can, in the fraction of a second, download unlimited quantities of information from all over the world to his home computer.

However, What's the Connection, the current exhibition in the new museum wing, is not in praise of modern communications. It presents the underlying principles and ideas behind the communications process. These principles have remained largely unchanged for centuries, even as torches and beacons gave way to the flickering lights of fiber optics, and the mail coach moved aside for microwave transmissions bounced back from earth-orbiting satellites.

Every communications process starts with transmitted information: a hand waving a greeting, a faxed document, a video sent by cable. Each of these contains information that must be coded before it can be transmitted. Morse code is based on long and short electric signals, the binary code is a sequence of ones and zeros, a dial tone is the sound of coded information transmitted between telephone exchanges. But as you can see from Yoram Buker’s pantomime film clip, even when we communicate without words we are using codes. Coded material is fed into a communications channel. The electric current of the phone line is the channel through which we transmit our voice to the telephone exchange. Channels of fiber optics transmit from one exchange to another. There are also radio waves – channels based on the transmission and reception of electro-magnetic radiation.
Date Created: 21/10/12
Date Updated: 21/04/13