In this chapter:
- Australia is physically a long distance from the rest of the world.
- How is Australia globally connected through communication?
- Australia is now globally connected through modern technology.
- We can send post by sea or air mail.
- The invention of the telephone has given us the mobile phone, fax and video conferencing.
Australia is physically a great distance from the rest of the world. For this reason, Australia has benefitted from modern communications technology. In the past, the only way to communicate over long distances was by letter writing. Letters to and from Australia had to come by ship, which often took months. By the time the news in a letter arrived, it was already months old.
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Today we have many methods of communication that are a lot quicker than those early letter-writing days. In some cases the communication is instant. We can talk to people overseas by telephone, fax, instant message or email. We can log on to the World Wide Web (the web) and instantly find information from around the globe. We can now even video conference with people on the other side of the world. These are just some of the advantages of modern communication technology. As well as these methods of communication, we also rely on communication through radio, television, newspapers and magazines.
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All these forms of communication keep us globally connected. It really doesn't matter where we are because physical distance is less of a barrier.
Let's take a closer look at the types of communication we use in our everyday lives and how they keep us globally connected.
Have you ever written a letter to a friend or sent a birthday card to a relative overseas? Have you ever wondered how it gets there?
Overseas mail and packages travel the same way that people do - by sea or by air. Air mail is a lot quicker, but it is also more expensive. Sea mail is much slower, but it is also cheaper.
Sea mail is only for packages, not for letters. You have the choice of sea or air when you post your package at the post office. You can send up to 20kg to most countries. Air mail receives priority (very important) air dispatch from Australia and usually takes 3-10 days to arrive, depending on the country.
If you want something to arrive quickly, then air mail is the best choice. If you want to send a package and don't really mind how long it takes, then the cheaper alternative of sea mail is a better option. Sea mail is the cheapest overseas delivery service for international parcels.
Sea mail is not available to New Zealand or the Asia Pacific area.
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The telephone was one of the first inventions that enabled people to talk to each other from a distance. It has come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray fought it out in the courts for the right to call the invention their own (another story for another time).
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Today, not only do we have the fixed telephone (or landline), but also fax machines, mobile phones and even video phones. We can tap in a few numbers and be communicating with someone on the far side of the planet almost instantly. (Always remember to check the time differences, as grandmothers don't always take too kindly to being woken in the middle of the night.)
It is amazing to think how we can be connected so instantly, all around the planet. So how does it work?
The telephone network
A pair of copper wires runs from a box outside on the street to a box at your house. Then there is a pair of red and green wires that are connected to each phone jack in your house. Two separate pairs of copper wires run from the road to your house if your house has two phone lines.
A thick cable runs along the road, which has 100 or more copper pairs inside it. This thick cable leads directly to the phone company's switch in your area or to a large box that digitises your voice so it can be heard on the other end of the line. It then combines your voice with dozens of others and sends them all down a single wire known as a fibre-optic cable to the phone company's office.
Fibre-optic lines are thin strands of glass that carry digital information over long distances.
Your line then connects into a line card at the switch so you can hear the dial tone when you pick up your phone.
Your voice usually travels over a fibre-optic line to the person receiving your call, but it may also be transmitted by satellite or microwave towers if it is a long-distance call. Amazing!
With a fax machine we can send a letter, a picture, or a photo in a matter of minutes. A fax isn't used as much as it used to be, as we can now scan a document and email it, which is often a lot quicker. Sometimes, however, a document may need to be signed or have sections completed in writing. In this case it generally needs to be faxed.
The mobile phone is a modern-day invention that has really changed the way we stay in contact with the world. No longer just a business tool, mobile phones are now also a fashion item, coming in every size and colour imaginable.
We can send a text message instantly, take a photo and send it overseas, or even have a conference call with a few of our friends at the same time. Mobile phones keep changing as technology evolves (develops). The original mobiles were heavy, the size of a brick, and needed to be attached to huge batteries. Now they are as small as a matchbox, lightweight and able to play our favourite tunes, take photos and store information.
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Mass media simply means a way of communicating to a lot of people. It is a very important part of our global connections and includes television, radio, newspapers and magazines.
Every time we turn on the radio or the television and listen to or watch the news, we are connecting with places around the world. News that happens today will be on our televisions tonight. The rest of the world is in our living room at the click of a button. We are kept informed about what is happening in the rest of the world, without having to leave the comfort of our home.
Overseas television shows bring drama, music, sport and comedy right into our living room. Have you ever checked the television guide to see just how many of the shows we watch are made in another country? There is a certain amount of Australian programming that has to be shown on Australian TV. At the moment, 55% Australian content must be shown between 6am and midnight.
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Radio is a form of media that can be listened to anywhere: at home, in the car, at the beach or in the park. It also links us globally with music and news. We can listen to new overseas bands, hear the latest Hollywood gossip, or stay in touch with what is happening on the other side of the world, whether it is the latest news or sports results.
Newspapers and magazines
Another area of the mass media is print media. This means any type of communication that is printed. Newspapers and magazines are a multimillion-dollar business. They give us the latest sport, news, reviews and stories from around the globe. Newspapers are printed daily or weekly, whilst magazines generally come out either weekly or monthly. Magazines are written for a target audience. This means if you are a surfer you will buy a surf magazine. If you like music, you will buy a music magazine.
Magazines entertain and inform us. We can keep up with what is happening in the world of sport, fashion, music, lifestyle, computers, movies and many other specialised topics.
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Perhaps the biggest change to global communication has been the computer. Once the size of a room, some now the size of an ice block, computers have completely changed the way we communicate, not only on a local level, but on a global level as well.
Without computers, there would be no internet. There would be no email. There would be no mp3 players. There would be no mp3 files. There would be no world wide web to go searching for the latest download or information on just about anything imaginable. Ebay would not exist without the internet, and neither would Yahoo, Google or any other internet company.
Life would be very different indeed. We are lucky to be able to log on, send off an email to a friend or speak instantly through an instant messenger service.
Instead of going to the local library and borrowing a handful of books to do a school project, we can now go online and search for anything we need - in an instant. We can find the latest songs from just about any band in the world. We can watch international sport web-casts, speak with our sporting heroes or even download videos in a matter of minutes. Computers have brought the world to our fingertips.
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Computers are constantly evolving. Dial-up has given way to broadband, meaning everything is even quicker to access. Wireless technology means we no longer need to be connected by wires in order to use our computer.
We can access our emails through our mobile phones, take photos and send them to our friends, even download music and movies without the use of wires or connections. Technology is constantly changing, bringing us closer and closer to our global friends.
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