Life Before Phones!


By Safaa Magdy

Thanks to instant messaging you can now easily reach anyone anywhere in the world. But we need a moment to think of all the milestones humanity have been through to reach this point. Humans have always been creative and sometimes funny in inventing ways to communicate and Yaoota will help you find out through the article.

The easiest way to communicate with someone back in the days was simply to meet them face to face to talk and discuss the latest news. People used to meet in cafés and marketplaces. However, arranging a meeting with someone with no prior emails or telephone calls was not an easy task.

Smoke Signals

Communicating with people was very minimal and people from different places only communicated when necessary. Smoke signals are one of the oldest forms of long distance communication. People then used smoke signals to announce good or bad news or danger.

In Ancient China, soldiers used to stand on towers on both sides of the Great wall to see if the enemies were approaching and then used smoke signals to tell the people on the other side that the enemies were coming. Smoke signals allowed them to transmit messages as far as 750 KM.  The Greeks in 150 BC developed numerical smoke signals. Around the same time, the indigenous people of North America  had a special smoke signal for each tribe, were the direction of the smoke meant either safe or danger.


Pigeons for us now are nothing more than a delicious meal but once upon a time pigeons were to people as whats app and facebook messenger are to us nowadays. Carrier-pigeons were known for their high speed and a good sense of direction. However, they were always in danger of getting hunted and then people would have access to the letters that are sometimes confidential.

The letter in the bottle

Believe it or not! People once used to write letters, put them in a bottle and throw it in the ocean hoping to make it to the right person. Of course, most of the letters would get lost.


Not the Facebook messenger, but actual messengers that were hired and sent on their horses to deliver the messages. But still this was risky because at the time of war the messenger would get killed.


In 1837, the first telegram was introduced. A telegram is a device that used “Morse code” to send and receive messages. The language turned the alphabet into dots and dashes. Usually, telegraphs were short and concise. Telegrams were used until recently to send condolences and congratulations.

Tweet in balloons

Activists now use “twitter” to express their opinions that are usually controversial. But activists in the old ages used to tweet their opinions in balloons. They wrote anonymous letters, attached them to helium balloons hoping to reach people far away, so that their opinions could spread in different places.


Thanks to “Alexander Graham Bill”, the telephone was first introduced to humanity in 1876. That was a breakthrough indeed and finally communicating was made easier. But telephone sets were very few.

Mobile Phones

The mobile phones were first invented 100 years after the invention of the telegram. Motorola introduced the first mobile phone in 1973. The mobile set was huge and had many buttons but it was mobile, to say the least. Gradually, the mobile phone sets became slimmer and they lost the buttons for good.


Following the introduction of the mobile phone, the SMS (short message service) was introduced and the first SMS in history said: “Merry Christmas” in 1992. Nokia mobile phones were the first to adapt to SMS. Eventually, SMS turned into Instant Messaging (IM) and messaging over social media applications.

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