Communication through the ages and an epic sweepstakes

Gear
New York National Guard

It wasn't so long ago that we spent our Friday nights in a Blockbuster video store, strolling through the aisles looking for movies (and dates if we're being honest with ourselves) and now, there's only one Blockbuster left in the world. Thanks, Netflix. Just as video has come a long way, so too, has our communication.

Comms have certainly made a few advancements since smoke signals, like internet in the sky on an airplane. Here's a look at wartime communication through the ages, and a chance to win $50,000 from Sprint (yes, seriously) to live your best tech life.


Revolutionary War

Despite those catchy lyrics of the Hamilton Soundtrack, communication was pretty tough during the 1700s. It's why Alexander had to write all those letters which were frequently transported via horseback or boat … since that's not time consuming. Plus fountain pens. And, who could forget, "One if by land, two if by sea." That's right, folks. We communicated by lanterns. Horses and fires. Neigh.

Civil War

Things were progressing nicely for communication by the time we started fighting our neighboring states in the Civil War. Maybe camaraderie wasn't so hot, but at least comms were on the up and up.

The telegraph made its way onto the scene in America in 1844 with Mr. Samuel Morse himself, and by 1861, Western Union had wired the country from east to west. Telegrams gave nearly instant transmissions that were decoded by operators and delivered by "runners." A U.S. Military Telegraph Corps was established in 1861 which played an integral role in transmitting messages to and from the battlefields.

As if that wasn't enough, in July 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed a Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps (P.S., it was Thaddeus Lowe if that pops up - pun intended - on a future Jeopardy question). So balloons and telegraph. Faster than ponies and quill pens, but still not quite texting.

World War I

Fortunately major strides were made in communication (and all the states getting along) between the Civil War and World War I. Most notable was the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, which alongside the telegraph was the most widely-used form of communication despite being incredibly easy to intercept and to bomb the lines. Details.

While maybe not quite as popular, but definitely way more awesome: carrier pigeons were integral to this war. Yes, birds with little canisters attached to their legs with messages were sent into the sky and somehow 95% of them completed their missions. Dogs were also used for running messages back and forth. Animals for the win.

World War II

While the official communication means were vastly improving, service members still relied heavily upon writing letters to their loved ones. With redaction teams ready to blackline your words and monitoring everything that went out, it often took weeks or months for letters to be sent or received. Spouses frequently numbered their correspondence. Nothing like getting a "The funeral was lovely" letter before you find out that it was your wife's 3rd cousin that she didn't really like, who died.

Gulf War

By the 1990s, telephones were household items (even if you didn't have call waiting), satellite phones were being utilized in remote locations and all sorts of new software was making communication on the battlefield easier.

On the home front, it was much of the same but with some advancements: writing letters back and forth, sending video tapes with recorded messages and if you were feeling super romantic: an epic mixed tape that you dubbed off the radio.

It's incredible how much communication has evolved since not just the Revolutionary War (obviously) but since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. Spotty Skype service has been replaced with better Skype service and FaceTime, letters have largely turned to emails and texts.

And, instead of calling collect or using phone cards, if you switch to Sprint now, you can get the Unlimited Military plan and save 50% off family lines. As if that wasn't enough, enter now to win their $50,000 Military and Veterans sweepstakes. Picture the possibilities of what you'd do with $50,000 in your pocket. We bet that would buy a whole lot of carrier pigeons.

50% off family lines 2-6 Unlimited Basic rates. Excludes taxes, surcharges and roaming. Speed maximums and use rules and restrictions apply. Sweeps: No Purch. Nec. ends 6/30/19. 18+ employees or members of an eligible Company. 50 US/DC only. Void in PR & where prohibited. To enter, for rules and savings, visit: www.sprint.com/tangomike.

This post is sponsored by Sprint.

U.S. Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is captured in this photo during a media opportunity while serving as backup crew for NASA Expedition 56 to the International Space Station May, 2018, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (NASA photo)

NASA is reportedly investigating one of its astronauts in a case that appears to involve the first allegations of criminal activity from space.

Read More Show Less
New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen of the 24th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (CST) and 106th Rescue Wing prepare to identify and classify several hazardous chemical and biological materials during a collective training event at the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Facility, New York, May 2, 2018. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Harley Jelis)

The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.

The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.

The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.

Read More Show Less
A U.S. Marine with Task Force Southwest observes Afghan National Army (ANA) 215th Corps soldiers move to the rally point to begin their training during a live-fire range at Camp Shorabak. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Luke Hoogendam)

By law, the United States is required to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms" when it trains foreign militaries. So it makes sense that if the U.S. government is going to spend billions on foreign security assistance every year, it should probably systematically track whether that human rights training is actually having an impact or not, right?

Apparently not. According to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, both the Departments of Defense and State "have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces" — and while the Pentagon agreed to establish a process to do so, State simply can't be bothered.

Read More Show Less
The Topeka Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Public domain)

The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.

And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.

Read More Show Less
Jeannine Willard (Valencia County Detention Center)

A New Mexico woman was charged Friday in the robbery and homicide of a Marine Corps veteran from Belen late last month after allegedly watching her boyfriend kill the man and torch his car to hide evidence.

Read More Show Less