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New miSci takes an ambitious look at advances in communications technology – The Daily Gazette

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Humanity’s need to communicate has been an unparalleled quest, and the technological advancements that have affected the way we do things are the basis of the Museum of Innovation and Science’s new exhibit. “Let’s connect! Exploring Communication Technology” opened on Friday.

“The exhibition focuses on major changes over the years and how these innovations have created those changes,” said Chris Hunter, vice president of collections and exhibitions.

The exhibition, which is one of the largest ever produced by the museum, is divided into five parts. The first segment is wireless communication. Did you know that the human voice can carry 375 meters or that a shout in a quiet open space can carry just over a mile? But our ancestors of a millennium ago needed to reach others in more substantial ways.

“We have a couple of small tablet seals from 2000 BC from Sumer and an Egyptian scarab with hieroglyphics on it,” Hunter said.

Flags and torch systems eventually led to printing presses in the 1400s and then to early newspapers. The exhibit contains a loaned page from the Liber Biblia Moralis of a German Bible from 1474.

The second segment is communication with wires. This is Samuel Morse’s telegraph and dot-and-dash system, which used electricity to send messages over long distances. This inspired Alexander Graham Bell to use these electrical impulses to transmit the human voice in 1876 with his telephone.

The third segment discusses how radio captured the nation beginning with the early dramas of the Capital Region’s WGY radio station and the evolution into television.

The fourth segment is how the use of radio waves has been applied beyond amateur radio to the federal government’s allocation of sections of the electromagnetic spectrum to various corporations and agencies.

The final segment is computers with an emphasis on satellite technology with mention of cell phones.

Although there is “a good part of Thomas Edison and the GE connection”, Hunter said, “a lot has to do with the human voice”. One such example was the use of airwaves. Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio in 1909 primarily for ships to communicate with other ships at sea.

“When the Titantic sank in 1912, their distress signals went out, but there was no airwave regulation and all ships were on the same frequency,” Hunter said. “People were jamming the airwaves with fake news that there was no distress or that the ship had been rescued.”

When the rescue arrived, it was too late, which eventually led to the creation of the Federal Communication Commission in which today every ship has its own frequency, just like every airplane, wildlife organization, amateur radio operator or public broadband.

Hunter said the outlines of the exhibit came together quickly, but the exhibit itself took about three years to put together.

“The biggest challenge was focusing on what to focus on and not burying people with too many cool facts or objects,” he said.

Among the 150 objects are: a 1964 radio antenna prototype originally designed by Roy Anderson in the 1960s for NASA that used a golf umbrella; a model of the first mobile phones from 1983 as well as the most recent i-phone 4 from Apple; a Princess phone from the 1960s, which many Hunter employees remembered. Hardest to find, however, was an old wooden telephone booth.

“There are several glass and metal stands in the Adirondacks where cell phone reception is poor, but we got our 1960s wooden stand from a collector in Rochester,” he said. “What was funny was that without the internet, we never would have found it.”

While there might be some nostalgia about many of these older items for grandparents, kids might enjoy playing with the 20 hands-on exhibits.

“Some you press a button, or you use a telegraph to press the keys,” Hunter said.

Another shows how audio bandwidth can alter voice by filtering it to compress data when using cell phones.

“The voice doesn’t sound the same across the lines because the device cuts the higher and lower frequencies,” he said.

And even today, more and more devices are in the pipeline with the foldable cellphone and holographic display, which testifies to man’s desire to find ways to send information faster and better, Hunter said.

“Let’s connect! Explore Communication Technology »

WHEN: September 23 to May 14, 2023; Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Museum of Innovation and Science, 15 Nott Terrace Heights, Schenectady
HOW MUCH: $12, adults; $10, seniors; $8, children
MORE INFO:; 518 382-7890

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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Schenectady