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January 4, 2012 9:10 PM Subscribe
I'm curious about military communication methods from before radio - how armies coordinated maneuvers and formations without it. I'm also curious which preradio communications methods would most be of use to modern protesters in urban settings should they be unable to use modern wireless devices.
posted by EatTheWeak to technology (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Recently, we've seen large wireless providers work with cities to hobble protest actions by cutting off service to protesters, thus hobbling their communication and coordination. I'm trying to imagine how preradio military communication practices might be of use to protesters / dissidents in various scenarios of contested protest, riot, civil unrest and civil war, but I don't know as much as I would like about how preradio armies communicated. Picture, say, a city in chaos and no working phones at all - how do you keep a large group of people together and acting with coordination? Suppose the conflict continues and various dissident groups would like to communicate between great distances with no modern technology - say a group in Seattle wanted to get a message to a group in Portland. How was this done before the telegraph and all its descendants? How might it be done again? (assume no walkie-talkies either for these scenarios. assume there's been time to drill and work out some system with the "soldiers" and "officers")
In fantasy novels and medieval movies, there's always the suggestion of some system of banners, drums, horns and signal flags, but I've yet to see the epic film that burns screen time on actually explaining how those systems are meant to work. There's also the longer range sorts of things - flares, signal fires, riders, runners, birds and so on. I'd like to find out about how preradio / pretelegraph armies sent messages and coordinated maneuvers both great and small. I'm also curious about what sort of nonradio battlefield communications methods, if any, are still used in modern war.
I'm hoping that there's nodes of the hivemind who understands how, why and when various preradio techniques and can explain how they worked. Failing that, I'm hoping to be pointed toward good things to read about this.