Sahm Adrangi Discusses the History of Telecommunications


In the course of my work at Kerrisdale Capital, I’ve written about companies in the telecommunications industry. This is a fascinating industry, and of course it’s a vital one in our day and age. Now I’m going to write about the history of the telecommunications industry, going back to the earliest known forms of remote communication. At Kerrisdale Capital, we place a high value on research. Keep reading to learn more about the roots of our modern telecommunications industry.

Sahm Adrangi on the Earliest Forms of Telecommunication

When we hear the word “telecommunication,” our minds tend to jump to the telephone. However, all that “telecommunication” really means is communication from a distance. Human beings have been practicing telecommunication, in one form or another, since the dawn of human history.

In primitive societies in both Asia and North America, people used smoke signals to communication information with one another. In Africa, many tribes developed a system of “talking drums” to convey information.

The ancient Greeks used a system of hydraulic semaphores, which worked as a kind of telegraph; instead of electricity, the system relied on signal torches and water to convey messages. The ancient Romans – and likely other ancient peoples – also used messenger pigeons to carry notes from one location to another.

Sahm Adrangi on the Invention of the Telegraph

There were a number of precursors to the electrical telegraph. We’ve already discussed the Greek semaphore system. In the Middle Ages, some Europeans used beacon fires to send simple messages to one another; the fires would be arranged on a hill so that they could be seen from far away.

Later, in the 18th century, scientists began working on a more complex form of visual telegraphs. The French engineer Claude Chappe developed a system of wooden figures that could be positioned by wires from afar. The different positions of the wires conveyed different meanings. Obviously, there was a limited range of messages available, because of the limited number of positions that the figures could be arranged in.

Finally, in 1816, the electrical telegraph was born. The telegraph revolutionized communication, making it possible to send messages across the world at unheard-of speeds.

Sahm Adrangi on the Invention of the Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell is generally credited with inventing the telephone. However, it is important to remember that Bell did not work in isolation. His work built on the discoveries made my scientists working to improve the existing electrical telegraph. Besides, Gardiner Greene Hubbard is widely viewed as having contributed as much to the invention of the telephone as Bell.

Telephone lines were first set up in the 1870s. The first cities to have telephone lines were New Haven, Connecticut in the United States and London, England. The telephone company set up by Alexander Graham Bell, the Bell Telephone Company, later evolved into the American Telegraph and Telephone company, or AT&T, and remains a telecommunications giant.

Sahm Adrangi on the Modern Telecommunications Industry

My company, Kerrisdale Capital, has done research into the modern telecommunications industry in the past. It goes without saying that today’s telecommunications industry is light years away from the ancient and early-modern forms of communication discussed here. The days of beacon fires and carrier pigeons are long gone. However, the human urge to communicate across great distances is what lies at the heart of the telecommunications industry.


Sahm Adrangi is the founder of Kerrisdale Capital, a research-based hedge fund. He founded Kerrisdale Capital in 2005. Sahm Adrangi is well known for short selling and for publishing research

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