Newspapers. Television. Radio. The internet. The cell phone. All these technologies represent the latest in overall media technology as we know it today. And what we know today is constantly evolving. But who knows? Tomorrow’s media technology may look like a horse of a different color.
And, speaking of horses, did you know that there was once a time when horses were the latest thing in media technology? That’s right. Using horses as a means of communicating with another person over vast distances was a technological innovation that changed the course of history.
The part of the world we call Iran today was once the ancient Persian Empire. Toward the northeast of the Persian Empire was a land known as Media. Sound familiar?
Sometime around 550 BC, Cyrus the Great, emperor of the legendary Persian Empire, wanted to claim Media as his own. Wars of conquest back in those days were events as state of the art as wars of conquest are today.
In those days of old, just as today, the best artillery and the most skilled soldiers were vital. So was a system of cunning espionage. And clever negotiations. Then, just as now, victory often meant knowing what the enemy was planning to do before seeing it happen.
To keep abreast of the victories, defeats, and negotiations happening on the battlefields of Media, Cyrus the Great developed a system of communications that was used for thousands of years the world over. His ancient Persian media technology worked so well it’s only been updated in the last few hundred years.
The emperor arranged for men and fresh horses to be stationed one day’s ride apart all the way from his palace to the battlefields of Media. As soon as a news story developed in Media, a rider would jump on his horse and ride with all his might to the first station toward Persia, where a fresh horse awaited his arrival.
Each day, the rider rode furiously closer to the emperor, jumping on a fresh and rested horse at every station, speeding the latest scoop straight to the emperor’s ear. Of course, the emperor sent his replies and directives back to the battlefield using the same communications technology racing in the opposite direction.
It worked. Cyrus won Media. And his system of communications has been used ever since, in one form or another. It’s mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Esther. The Greek historian, Herodotus, even described the system as one that could not be stopped ‘by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness.’ For many of us, that description reminds us of the Pony Express of the American frontier and the postal service of today.
Horses are wonderful animals that have played important roles throughout time but they’re a little unwieldy for today’s media technology purposes. They don’t fit in pockets or purses or even on a lap, messages can’t be conveyed instantly or by the push of a button, and no face-to-face conversations between two people separated by great distances are allowed when using the great communications system devised by the clever Persian king Cyrus. Ever wonders what the communications systems of the 25th century will look like?