Skip to Main Content

History of the Office and Office Equipment: A Resource Guide

Communications Equipment

Detroit Publishing Company. An operator. Between 1915 and 1925. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The ability to communicate with other businesses and consumers is an essential part of business. This section focuses on providing sources for those studying the history of communication generally from the telegraph, the telephone, fax machines, cell/smart phones, to the internet.

The development of these different tools changed how businesses communicated. After the telegraph was introduced, there were telegraph codes and books like Merchant Tailors' Telegraph Code, Lumberman's Standard Telegraph Code, Telegraph Code for Vegetable, Clover, Grass, Tree, Field, and Miscellaneous Seeds, Business Telegraph Code, and Private Telegraph Code of Herzog & Glazier, New York that allowed businesses in particular industries to transmit messages with rather specific language to facilitate speedier transactions.

The telephone became another critical component of the office and became essential in the relationship business had with suppliers and customers/clients. When it was introduced, communication became even speedier and more democratic—there were no special code systems or skills for the end user to operate. Other machines like the fax machine also left their mark but have been relegated to a dusty corner to make room for newer technologies.

The paths of communications systems and computers began to merge. Computer systems may have been developed to perform certain tasks (see the Typewriters & Computers section of this guide for more), but with the advent of personal computers, computer networks, and e-mail, businesses were able to bring powerful computing to even more employees, and communication became more than just sending messages. Twenty-first century video conference systems allowed people to hold meetings without even having to travel.

Technology got smaller, though no less powerful. Cell phones, and then smart phones, became multifunctioning devices going beyond making/receiving calls and text messages, to accessing the internet and email accounts, and providing apps for video chat and even payment systems.

Books & Periodicals

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital versions are provided when available.

Communications Equipment Internet Resources

General Equipment Internet Resources