Basic Elements of Communication

I listened to most of “A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age” on a road trip today. I learned that all forms of communication share the same basic elements, no matter the sender or medium.

Claude Shannon, the father of information theory, published “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” in 1948, which laid out these basic elements:

  1. A source produces the message.
  2. A transmitter translates the message into a signal that can be sent through a particular medium.
  3. A medium, over which the signal is sent.
  4. Noise interfering with the signal across the medium.
  5. A receiver, which receives the signal and translates it back into a format that the destination can understand.
  6. A destination, for which the message is intended.

Here is a diagram I drew of these elements:

Mathematical Theory of Communication

All forms of communication share these same basic elements, including:

  • Email
  • Tweets
  • Text messages
  • DNA
  • Radio
  • Telephone conversations
  • Traffic signals
  • Television
  • Telegraph
  • Physical letters
  • Carrier Pigeons
  • Smoke signals

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