Data (mainly but not exclusively informational) has been sent via non-electronic (e.g. optical, acoustic, mechanical) means since the advent of communication. Analog signal data has been sent electronically since the advent of the telephone. However, the first data electromagnetic transmission applications in modern time were telegraphy (1809) and teletypewriters (1906), which are both digital signals. The fundamental theoretical work in data transmission and information theory by Harry Nyquist, Ralph Hartley, Claude Shannon and others during the early 20th century, was done with these applications in mind.
Data transmission is utilized in computers in computer buses and for communication with peripheral equipment via parallel ports and serial ports such us RS-232 (1969), Firewire (1995) and USB (1996). The principles of data transmission is also utilized in storage media for Error detection and correction since 1951.
Data transmission is utilized in computer networking equipment such as modems (1940), local area networks (LAN) adapters (1964), repeaters, hubs, microwave links, wireless network access points (1997), etc.
In telephone networks, digital communication is utilized for transferring many phone calls over the same copper cable or fiber cable by means of Pulse code modulation (PCM), i.e. sampling and digitization, in combination with Time division multiplexing (TDM) (1962). Telephone exchanges have become digital and software controlled, facilitating many value added services. For example the first AXE telephone exchange was presented in 1976. Since late 1980th, digital communication to the end user has been possible using Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) services. Since the end of 1990th, broadband access techniques such as ADSL, Cable modems, fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) have become wide spread to small offices and homes. The current tendency is to replace traditional telecommunication services by packet mode communication such as IP telephony and IPTV.
Transmitting analog signals digitally allows for greater signal processing capability. The ability to process a communications signal means that errors caused by random processes can be detected and corrected. Digital signals can also be sampled instead of continuously monitored. The multiplexing of multiple digital signals is much simpler to the multiplexing of analog signals.
Because of all these advantages, and because recent advances in wideband communication channelssolid-state electronics have allowed scientists to fully realize these advantages, digital communications has grown quickly. Digital communications is quickly edging out analog communication because of the vast demand to transmit computer data and the ability of digital communications to do so. and
The digital revolution has also resulted in many digital telecommunication applications where the principles of data transmission are applied. Examples are second-generation (1991) and later cellular telephony, video conferencing, digital TV (1998), digital radio (1999), telemetry, etc.