3 Ways Antennas Have Helped Shape Modern Technology

January 28, 2017

People rarely stop to think about the humble antenna, but modern technology actually owes a great debt to the devices. Modern communication technology still depends on them, but they’re greatest role was enabling the development of those technologies. They formed vital infrastructure that allowed entire industries to develop, so their influence can be felt even after some of those industries moved on to other things.

Enabling Radio

The first radio was a world-changing development, and it depended on antennas to function. Prior to the radio, communicating over long distances was slow, so most people only had contact with others in a small area. That kept communities small and made people identify more with regions than nations, since they didn’t know anything about people on the other side of the country. It also meant that soldiers and governors had to operate relatively independently, since they couldn’t communicate with their superiors while they were working.

The radio changed all of that. It caused mass media to blossom, so that people who lived thousands of miles away from each other could hear the same stories on the radio. Government figures could communicate quickly, so centralization became easier. Most importantly, it proved that wireless communication was technically feasible and very useful, which encouraged people to fund later developments.

Encouraging Satellites

Antennas also made it easy for humans to both receive messages from space and send them back. In the earliest periods, this was used for scientific advancement, but it did not take long for people to recognize the business potential. They launched satellites to gather data on the weather, to enable GPS technology, to provide Internet access, and even to expand television offerings. When those efforts became profitable, even more people invested, and that investment helped to fuel the development of satellite technology.

Creating Cell Phones

Cell phones are one of the most important pieces of technology in the modern world. While the phones don’t include antennas, both their supporting infrastructure and the technology that led to their development does. Handheld radio sets proved the value of portable communication systems, and they needed antennas to broadcast and receive information. Modern cell phones are the natural development of that technology, and they never would have been invented without that first step.

Antennas are also necessary for modern cell networks to function. The phones work by connecting to cell towers, which are essentially very large antenna arrays. These capture signals that the cell phones send, transmit them to other cell towers, and broadcast those signals so that the appropriate phone can pick them up. The modern world couldn’t function without them, and they came from improving on the same principles that allowed old radio antennas to function.

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