It also became clear that there was one other way

to increase the capacity of a communication system –

we can increase the number of different signaling events.

For example,

with Alice and Bob's string communication system,

they soon found that varying the type of plucks

allowed them to send their messages faster.

For example: hard, medium, versus soft plucks.

Or high-pitch versus low-pitch plucks –

[produced] by tightening the cable different amounts.

And this was an idea implemented by Thomas Edison

which he applied to the Morse code system.

It was based on the idea that you could use weak and

strong batteries to produce signals of different strengths.

He also used two directions –

as Gauss and Weber did –

forward versus reverse current – and two intensities.

So he had +3 V, +1 V, -1V and -3V ...

... four different current values which could be exchanged.

It enabled Western Union to save money

by greatly increasing the number of messages

the company could send without building new lines.

This is known as the 'quadruplex telegraph.'

It continued to be used into the 20th century.

But again, as we expanded the number of

different signaling events, we ran into another problem.

For example, why not send a thousand or a million

different voltage levels per pulse?

Well, as you may expect, fine-grained differences

lead to difficulties on the receiving end.

And with electrical systems,

the resolution of these differences

is always limited by electrical noise.

If we attach a probe to any electrical line,

and zoom in closely enough,

we will always find minute, undesired currents.

And this is an unavoidable result of natural processes,

such as heat, or geomagnetic storms,

[or] even latent effects of the Big Bang.

So, the differences between signaling events

must be great enough that noise cannot randomly

bump a signaling event from one type to another.

Clearly now, we can step back

and begin to define the capacity of a communication system

using these two very simple ideas:

First, how many symbol transfers per second?

– which we called 'symbol rate.'

And today, it's known simply as 'baud,'

for Émile Baudot.

And we can define this as 'n' –

where it's n symbol transfers per second.

And number two, how many differences per symbol?

– which we can think of as the 'symbol space.'

How many symbols can we select from at each point?

And we can call this 's.'

As we've seen before,

these parameters can be thought of

as a 'decision tree' of possibilities.

Because each symbol can be thought of as a decision,

where the number of branches

depend[s] on the number of differences.

And [given] n symbols, we have a tree with s^n leaves.

And since each path through this tree

can represent a message,

we can think of the number of leaves

as the size of the message space.

And this is easy to visualize.

The message space is simply the width

of the base of one of these trees.

And it defines the total number of possible messages

one could send, given a sequence of n symbols.

For example, let's say Alice sends Bob a message

which consists of two plucks –

and they are using a hard versus soft pluck

as their communication system.

This means she has the ability to define

one of four possible messages to Bob.

And if, instead, they were using a system of

hard versus medium versus soft plucks,

then with two plucks, she has the ability

to define one of 3^2 = 9 messages.

And with 3 plucks,

this jumps to 1 of 27 messages.

Now, if, instead,

Alice and Bob were exchanging written notes in class,

which contained only 2 letters on a piece of paper,

then a single note would contain 1 of 26^2 –

or 676 – possible messages.

It's important to realize now that

we no longer care about the meaning

applied to these chains of differences –

merely how many different messages are possible.

The resulting sequences could represent numbers,

names, feelings, music, or perhaps even

some alien alphabet we could never understand.

When we look at a communication system now,

we can begin to think about its capacity

as [being the number of] different things you could say –

and we could then use the message space

to define exactly how many differences

are possible in any situation.

And this simple, yet elegant, idea

forms the basis for how information will later be defined.

And this is the final step

that brings us to modern information theory.

And it emerges in the early 20th century.

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