The devices that have the biggest impacts on our lives rarely get noticed during daily life. In particular, relatively few people understand just how important an antenna can be. Many modern technologies rely on them to function, and they have also done a great deal to promote the development of new technologies. They do that by facilitating communications. There are times when those communications are the only thing that allow a project to progress. There are also times when they have formed the basis of technologies that inspired other developments. The details vary, but the end result is always a benefit for technology.
1- Helping Communication
Research does not happen in a vacuum. Modern scientists and engineers depend on a huge network of their peers to help produce new developments. They also need access to a large amount of reference material about work that has been done in the past. Having access to that information makes sure that they don’t waste their time working on projects that somebody else has already completed. It also speeds up the education of new researchers and makes it easy for people to collaborate and pool their knowledge. The end result is that they can do far more than they could ever hope to manage on their own.
That degree of collaboration is technically possible without antennas, but not practical. Researchers need cheap, rapid communication to enable their teamwork. Antennas make that communication possible. In a world without antennas, researchers would be restricted to sending letters through the mail or working only with the people who are physically close to them. That would put significant limits on their ability to collaborate and significantly decrease the speed of scientific progress. Fortunately, antenna arrays solve that problem and make it easy for researchers to work together regardless of their physical location.
2- Enabling Exploration
Antennas made space exploration possible. A radio antenna makes it easy to communicate over long distances, and nothing on our own planet can compare with the distances of space. They make it so that satellites can send information back to the planet’s surface, and they allow ground control to stay in contact with astronauts that have made it into space. That may not seem like it would have a huge impact on our daily lives, but the fact is that space exploration could never happen without them, and that exploration has had a huge impact on modern technology.
Most people will never set foot on a rocket, but they do use devices that can trace their origins back to space exploration. In most cases, researchers at NASA or another space exploration agency developed the technology to solve a specific problem that astronauts faced. The researchers, or sometimes private companies, then realized that the technology could also be useful on Earth. That system contributed to the development of modern solar power systems, fire-resistant materials, and even medical advances. There aren’t very many areas of our lives that have not benefited from space exploration, and antennas made it all possible.
3- Direct Use
Antennas do a lot to help the development of new technology, but they also form a core component of many devices that modern people tend to take for granted. Almost every piece of technology that relies on transmitting information relies on an antenna at some point in the process. That includes objects such as cell phones, computers, and televisions. None of them would be terribly useful if they were unable to connect to other devices, and antennas are the tools that make those connections possible.
In most cases, they work by connecting to a large communication network that consists of many broadcasting and receiving antennas. Those antenna arrays can operate over a much longer distance than any small device, so they transmit data over long distances. Cables or smaller wireless transmission systems cover shorter distances to get information to the devices themselves. The system is powerful in part because it is easy to adapt to take advantage of new technologies. As long as a new device can hook into the existing system, its producers don’t need to worry about building expensive infrastructure to support it. That lowers the cost of development and encourages engineers to work on new wireless products.