By the 1850's quick communication between distant places was possible by sending a series of electrical impulses over a wire precariously stretched across wide-open prairies and heroically strung over the stormy tops of great mountains.
When the wire was not down, calls for help, warnings of impending attack, messages of great importance or good news made life easier for people busy building a brave new world. This telegraph, as it came to be known, saved uncounted lives during disasters of all categories over the decades.
Then, in the years surrounding the close of the 19th century and the birth of the 20th, the telephone was beginning to make possible the nearly instant transmission of actual voices through emerging telephone exchanges, connected by tons of copper stretched into endless miles of wire.
Families separated by incredible distances could now hear beloved voices once again. It was a blessing - a miracle - to immigrants and settlers who would never have a chance to return to their homes, and to those left behind, who would otherwise grow old and die without ever speaking with their children again.
A hundred years later, wired Internet switches, sharing those same copper wires, made it possible for people to correspond and conduct transactions, almost instantaneously, back and forth across continents and oceans. Of course, the need for speed brought about newer technologies such as fiber optic cables made of glass, wireless (radio) Internet communications, and even satellite transmissions into space and back.
A few short years after the Internet became a fixture in every place imaginable, came IM, or Instant Messaging. Every modern child now corresponds with friends using a tiny hand-held device with a screen and a camera. "See what I can see!" (Or however they write it in their shorthand version of English.)
Lately, families are being brought together via a small, inexpensive addition to the personal computer ... a midget TV camera known as the Web Cam. (Some computer monitors now come with a Web Cam built right into the frame; you would hardly notice the tiny lens and microphone holes.)
Grandparents in the Old Country can now talk to distant grandchildren whom they previously may never have seen. They are able to watch them romp across a beautifully clear Liquid Crystal Monitor screen the size of a coffee table book.
Indeed, they can now share in the daily lives of their dear ones, even keep their language alive for the latest generation. Such is the wonder and irresistibility of the Web Cam.
With its sharp lens and tiny speck of a microphone, this device captures living pictures and excellent sound, converting it all into small packets of data to be sent out onto the web. Miraculously, those packets mostly end up at the correct computer, wherever it may be in the world, to be reassembled into a joyful family reunion.
A Web Cam is affordable, and using one needn't cost a cent over and above your monthly Internet bill. There are free Web Cam service providers, and others that charge a small monthly fee. Each has its advantages; so do not rush into signing any long-term contract until you have learned enough to make an informed decision. Ask your family which service they are using; using the same one may have its advantages.
The Web Cam is rapidly becoming an indispensable part of the personal computer. The merging of these two technologies is replacing the century-old telephone as the preferred way to bring families together over long distances.
By now you have seen the utility of the Web Cam - and what it can do for your family - so enjoy a whole new dimension of family life!