Stories and more ... behind the words 

Stories and more … behind the words 

Telecommunications: The history of a word

Although we live in an era where we cannot imagine life without telecommunications, where even in the world’s remotest places telecommunications are considered necessary or given, the very term “telecommunications” is rather recent. It was only formally established in 1932 at the Madrid Conference when the International Telegraph Union was renamed the International Telecommunication Union. At this historic conference (3 September to 10 December 1932), where telegraphy and telephony were merged, telecommunications were defined as: „Any telegraphic or telephone communication of signs, signals, text messages, faxes and sounds of any kind, with cables, wireless or other electrical or optical signaling systems.” However, as usual, the creation of the word preceded its formal introduction.

The term ”Telecommunications” was invented by French engineer Edouard Estaunié in 1904 in his book Traité pratique de télécommunication electrique (télégraphie-téléphonie). Estaunié was not only a scientist, and inspector general of the French telegraph service but was also an important writer. Thus, in the preface of his book, he apologized for inventing the word in a poetic way: ”I had to add a new word to a glossary, which, in many electricians’ opinion, is already too big. I hope they will forgive me. Words are born in new sciences such as plants in the spring. We must give up into this principle, and in fact, the damage is not so big, because the next summer will see that weak shoots will fade away”. However, many summers have passed without the Estauné-inspired word fade away.

In Greek, since 1920, in the newspapers of those times, we have found the term ”telecommunications”. However, the word does not appear in any Government Gazette until 1949, when the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization was founded and the word ”Telecommunications” will be introduced into the Greek vocabulary. It was preceded in 1941 by the renaming of the French PTT (the corresponding Greek TTT) in the „Telecommunications Directorate”.

Turning back to Estaunié’s neologism, we find that the French writer managed to look beyond the narrow horizon of his time and look into the deep that was hiding in the new applications: the man’s desire to transmit information was greater than his technological means of expression. The future, with the unlimited expansion of the field of communication and information technology, has justified him.

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