This coming Sunday commemorates 100 years since the Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean. National Geographic Channel has a huge selection of documentaries on the science and personal aspects of the Titanic disaster, it is fascinating to see how the evolution of technology has changed the way we communicate.
While sitting on the couch, how often is your smartphone or tablet within reach, making simple questions turn into fast answers with the help of Google such as:
You can pick up your smartphone or tablet, ask Google a question, and get an answer within seconds. But 100 years ago aboard Titanic, the Marconi wireless was the only form of external communication.
One of the Titanic documentaries, Seconds From Disaster, was talking about the issues with the Marconi wireless systems used. Titanic's wireless operators often sent and received personal messages from passengers in Morse code over the wireless, and on the night of April 14, 1912, Jack Phillips was working through a backlog of messages with Cape Race 800km away - however a nearby ship, SS Californian, was unable to hear this communication, and thinking the channel was empty, operator Cyril Evans sent out a message warning of the severe ice in the area, and that due to lack of visibility of the floating ice, the SS Californian had stopped for the night. However, Phillips was midway through transmitting a message and was interrupted by the warning from Evans, and replied with a short and blunt message saying he was busy. Evans waiting for Titanic to reply, however at 11:30pm left his post and went to bed, leaving the SS Californian's wireless unattended.
This last warning from Evans on the SS Californian never made it from Phillips to Captain Smith on the bridge of Titanic. Ten minutes later Titanic hit an iceberg, and within three hours, sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. Over 1,500 people lost their lives.
The first newspaper articles announcing the disaster were published on Tuesday 16th April, 1912, over 36 hours after the disaster.
With today's modern technology, answers are available within seconds, and 36 hours for a news story to break is now unheard of. We can check the weather via the Bureau of Meteorology website to get up-to-the-minute conditions from numerous locations around the country. We can also communicate with friends through Facebook, an email, a text message, or even picking the phone up and giving them a call.
News, messages and communications can reach the other side of the world within seconds, and enable the global sharing of information. The loss of life from a disaster such as the sinking of the Titanic, if it occurred in 2012, would be significantly less tragic - today we have better ice detection systems, construction standards and safety requirements, but also far superior channels of communication. 24-hour communication channels enable messages requesting help easily reach surrounding vessels and rescue teams on both sides of the Atlantic and create a prompt response.
Looking back over major news events in the past 10 years including the South East Asia tsunami, Christchurch earthquakes, the disappearance of Air France Flight 447 and September 11, news, images and video of these breaking events reached around the globe as the events unfolded. Our reactions, regardless of geographic location, could be shared with friends and family as we all witnessed the effects of these events as one.
This instant communication brings us as individuals closer together, and nurtures our hunger for fresh information on an international level. With an unfinished online encyclopaedia constantly being added to minute by minute, there's always a fascinating answer just a short question and Google away...