Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Sir Rowland Hill and the future of Comms

October 6, 2015

*You’ve got mail* Oh what’s this in my inbox? Looks like another British inventor in our series of blogs (you can see previous editions here!). Next in line is Sir Rowland Hill, inventor of penny postage. My Nan will be chuffed to bits.

Born in Worcestershire to a family of educators (his dad Thomas Wright Hill was renowned for his work in education and politics, nifty!), Hill was almost destined to make his own stamp on history.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Rowland taught astronomy from the tender age of 12, while fixing scientific instruments to earn a few extra quid on the side.

Hill soon left teaching to focus his attentions on the postal service.

Here’s a quick rundown of how the industry worked back in the day. Letters were charged based on distance and how many sheets of paper they contained. Also, the cost of the letter was usually paid by the recipient, not the sender.

This was a BIG problem for many; especially for the working classes – as receiving a letter could cost more than their daily wage. Many simply refused the delivery of letters, not to mention fraud was a common occurrence. In a nutshell, the postal system was a mess.

So why did Hill become so interested I hear you ask?

It’s said the nobleman Hill witnessed a young woman unable to receive a letter from her fiancé due to insufficient funds in her account (overdrafts weren’t a thing then). After seeing this poor woman in such an unfortunate situation, Hill decided change must happen. And so began the birth of penny postage.

Rowland Hill’s invention revolutionised the postal system as we know it today. Prior to the 19th century, sending letters was pretty much the only way people could communicate – phones weren’t a thing yet (Alexander Graham Bell was a couple decades later, you can read all about him here).

Hill’s suggestion of a prepaid stamp (which had the great Queen Victoria’s face on it!) and a standard delivery charge regardless of distance changed the way post operated not only in the UK, but all over the world. Rowland was essentially the prime mover of enabling geographical comms affordably for both the rich and the poor. What a guy! So what would he think about the near-instantaneous global comms we have now?

Then and now

Today, we don’t have to worry so much about the cost of the stamp because many of us have access to something that transcends even the farthest geographical barriers – the modern miracle of email (and our other numerous comms systems).

Keeping in touch with friends, family, clients, and everyone else has never been easier or accessible with the arrival of the internet and email in the 90’s – you’d find it more difficult to not keep in touch with people because it’s that easy!

Now in the modern day, mix the internet, email, a sprinkle of mobile capabilities, and collaboration platforms and you get a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious way of communicating and collaborating with your teams at work. Cisco’s Spark is a brilliant example of this. It’s a collaboration service that is changing the way people get work done. It’s designed to make teamwork simpler and create a greater sense of community.

Collaboration is a huge deal – and we’re seeing more and more technologies being introduced to transform the way people communicate with each other, share information and of course get work done.  We’re also seeing companies collaborate in order to bring these new technologies and work methods to fruition. We partnered with Apple to integrate Cisco networks with Apple products to provide a higher quality mobile work experience.  So if you were worried about not being connected whilst on the go – fear not, we’ve got you covered!

We embarked on a mission not too long ago to create a revolution of our own (eat your heart out Rowland) to create a much simpler and omnipresent way for organisations to communicate and work agilely together. So if you don’t have collaboration tools in your life yet, what are you waiting for?!

If Rowland Hill was here I bet he’d give you his stamp of approval (See what I did there? Okay I’ll stop…)

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