Lecture 1 - No man is an island

In his first lecture David Pye introduces us to the many different ways we, humans, have devised through the course of the years to communicate with each other. 

As any other animal, we are equipped with a complex system of muscles and air pipes to be able to produce sounds. Sounds that when received by a fellow human being can be interpreted and interact accordingly. In one of his demonstrations, professor Pye, uses a very old instrument by Paget to show how simple human sounds can be produced. 

When communicating through sound fails however, other methods have been devised and adapted to utilise visual cues as a way to pass on concise information like for example sign language.

He finally goes on to explain how technology came into play allowing us to record sound and store it in a high fidelity format using the newly emerging technology (then) of compact discs.

More from the 1985 lecture programme:

Communication is simply the transfer of information as a message between two places. The message must first be coded by imposing systematic changes on a stream of energy that is then called a signal. This energy radiates from a transmitter to a receiver where the message is decoded and acted on or stored for future use. In these lectures the main transmitter will be my larynx emitting sound energy, the code will be the English language, the receiver will be your ears and finally your brain will act as decoder.

You will gain more information by watching me, using your eyes as receivers. I will not need to emit light for you, you can form an image with light that is merely reflected from my face and arms. Other senses are also used for certain kinds of communication, but hearing and vision are the most important to Man. We sometimes use them in artificial ways as in sign language or Morse code, while radio and television can increase their effective range enormously. We can also record messages by writing them down for subsequent decoding by vision, or as Braille code for the sense of touch. Here again technology has greatly increased the possibilities.

Civilisation has only become possible by the refinement of human communication. But life itself, our very existence, would fail without communication since no-one can be entirely independent of others.

Please note that due to copyrighted material, we have had to remove a 54 second segment containing a graphical demonstration on how the compact disk works.

Copyright

BBC

Year

1985

Lecturer

David Pye

Duration

57:03

All lectures in the series