Can You Hear Me Now? : Communication Issues After the Apocalypse

In the times we live in now, we’re surrounded with methods of communication and interconnectivity – sometimes whether we like it or not. And regardless of how you feel about the quality of this communication (ie: texting leading to the destruction of language and technology leading an assault on the ability to communicate in-person and face-to-face), it’s not too hard to communicate with family and friends these days, no matter how near or far they be.

As plentiful as our communication methods are, many are extremely interconnected and vulnerable to even slight attack or breakdown (or so the phone company says when my  land-line mysteriously stops working for no apparent reason every so often – and they try calling me to ask if it’s working yet).

So, when you have zero bars, and the phone just isn’t ringing, here are some ways to keep in touch.

  1. Carrier pigeons.Or, since I live in the country, I’m going for a carrier hawk or eagle (since I have a lot of those, who will probably eat the pigeons). Nope, I don’t know how I’m

    By Aviceda source Wikimedia license CC (?), From acobpx.com

    going to train one either. Guess I’ll add it to my to-do list.

  2. Smoke signals. On a very clear, relatively windless day … on top of some hill I guess, with the recipient in an office tower with their list of our agreed upon signals? Darn. This isn’t going to work very well on the prairies, especially with a lot of trees and hills between me and my intended recipients.
  3. Message boards. No, not like those ones you find online, but real ones, with pinned up physical paper, letters, pictures, etc. There would have to be a few of them, and it’s not ideal – especially if your message gets covered up, and since you’re dependent on someone coming past and seeing your message beneath or amongst all the others, but it could work in a limited sense.
  4. Word of mouth. Guess this depends on how many people are left following the apocalypse, and how spread out they are. And, like the old game “telephone” your message could quickly become garbled in the telling, but so long as you don’t mind: “Derrick Smith, your mom is looking for you” turning into, “Derrick S-something, your mom is licking you,” we’re all good.
  5. Letters and postal service. Yep, good old-fashioned letters written by hand – with a pen or pencil – and sent via some variety of postal service to the hands of your loved one. This would have to be set up when society starts to rebuild – or if you had some current postal worker so dedicated to his profession he’ll deliver the mail come rail, come snow, come the apocalypse. I’ll keep my snarky remarks about how much postal workers in my country seem to want to work (or not) to myself – if they’re in charge, I’d stick with the smoke signals and carrier hawk.
  6. In person face-to-face communication. For awhile, I imagine this will be difficult for some people used to texting the friend standing directly next to them. And the logistics of getting around won’t be easy, but if you have two feet and can walk – and provided the former texters still have tongues and ears – communication can and will happen
  7. Morse code. Described as: “a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment” (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morse_code) this could be useful – provided there is knowledge of it remaining (like a book or a person) and, using lamps or something can be passed on from station to station until the message reaches the intended target. This could use heliographs (using mirrors to send messages, as the Romans did) or a semaphore (visual or optical) telegraph line – from my understanding using manned outposts and communicating between them. Hmm … sounds like sending a message this way could be more expensive than the post.
  8. Newspapers. Hadn’t thought of this one originally, but it’s essentially a moveable message board, right? If someone is willing to start a newspaper up – or you can get your message into some kind of newspaper or other printed material being distributed in the area your loved one occupies – you could get a message to them (so long as you don’t mind everyone else who reads that paper also seeing the message).
  9. Radio. Very dependent on a) someone else having a radio and being able to transmit and receive, and b) some method of powering these devices, like a solar or renewable energy source. Oh, and the guy on the other end would have to be reliable too, or your message is going places about as quickly as you banging your head against the wall.
  10. Telepathic messages sent through time and space. Personally, I’m kind of for this one, mostly because boy does it say on time and worry! No power or phones? No problem. I’ll just send a message telepathically to my friend over 1000 kilometers away. Of course, I might have better luck training my carrier hawk than teaching myself to be telepathic.

I’ve got my carrier hawk all set – what about you? Still thinking pigeons – my hawk will eat your message. Talk about a virulent sender. Either that, or there’s always telepathy.

Seriously, though, how will we stay in touch? I’m considering this as I’m working on a manuscript, and wondering how someone could either leave a message for, or locate a long lost relative in a post-apocalyptic world. Have I missed some ideas? Can you think of others that are less dependent on electricity or technology?

If you’re interested, here’s a neat link with a brief history of communication: http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bl_history_of_communication.htm

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

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2 thoughts on “Can You Hear Me Now? : Communication Issues After the Apocalypse

  1. I think the newspaper wouldn’t work when all machinary breaks down due to loss of fossil fuel, and the infra structure vanishes and the transport system grinds to a halt – sorry I think it’s a no go!! in my book I’m useing foot power and traders delivering letters when they can – and when any thing to write on is available also got pigeons in a limited way – good luck there

    • Thanks for the comment. I think the newspaper would be a very difficult endevor, and certainly far from the most efficient. However, the presses could still go on if folks have the old printing presses (19th century) and knew how to typeset everything. Granted, by the time you got the news it probably wouldn’t be terribly “new,” but they seemed to get by in the pioneer age, and of course, the most efficient does seem to be direct word of mouth. Thanks for the luck. 🙂

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