Thousands of years ago, one cave man grunted.
A cave woman grunted back. They understood each other, somehow, and cave babies arrived. Then another cave man or woman invented icons, then the alphabet, then more alphabets, then different kinds of surfaces to paint the icons and letters onto, then different kinds of paint or pigment. Then a cave woman, most likely, figured out that drums can make sounds that represent icons or letters, or ram’s horns could do similar things. Cave people started forgetting to answer a drumbeat or a horn blast, maybe because they didn’t have a drum or a horn or they were too busy to haul the instrument down from the top ledge of the cave. Fire was discovered, and smoke signals came to be, and several caves became uninhabitable due to smoke damage, so people moved out of caves and burned down forests trying to communicate. Fast-running messengers were employed to carry scrolls of codified parchment hundreds of miles to deliver messages. Sometimes messages got lost, or the messengers died, whatever. Less than two centuries ago, somebody figured out that electricity could transmit messages over wires stretching thousands of miles. After a long message was tapped out on the telegraph, the telegrapher was also tapped out. Then came voice transmissions, and because people hated telephones they invented answering machines and voice mail, telling people their calls were very important but not important enough to deal with any time soon. Then some neo-cave man invented electronic mail, which another neo-cave man abbreviated e-mail and still another one took out the hyphen just a couple years ago. Not to be outdone, other throwbacks introduced “chat,” which is also French for “cat,” causing potential confusion in France. Then came social media, each with its own version of “chat,” making it easy and convenient to disregard everyone’s messages altogether.
Then, someone grunted.