Origin and definition
The term "medium" (the singular form of "media") is defined as "one of the means or channels of general communication in society, as newspapers, radio, television etc."
The beginning of human communication through designed channels, i.e. not vocalization or gestures, dates back to ancient cave paintings, drawn maps, and writing.
The Persian Empire (centred on present-day Iran) played an important role in the field of communication. It has the first real mail or postal system, which is said to have been developed by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great (c. 550 BC) after his conquest of Medes. The role of the system as an intelligence gathering apparatus is well documented, and the service was (later) called angariae, a term that in time turned to indicate a tax system. The Old Testament (Esther, VIII) makes mention of this system: Ahasuerus, king of Medes, used couriers for communicating his decisions.
The word communication is derived from the Latin root communicare. This was due to the Roman Empire also devising what might be described as a mail or postal system, in order to centralize control of the empire from Rome. This allowed for personal letters and for Rome to gather knowledge about events in its many widespread provinces. More advanced postal systems later appeared in the Islamic Caliphate and the Mongol Empire during the Middle Ages.
The term media in its modern application relating to communication channels is traced back to its first use as such by Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, who stated in Counterblast (1954): "The media are not toys; they should not be in the hands of Mother Goose and Peter Pan executives. They can be entrusted only to new artists, because they are art forms." By the mid-1960s, the term had spread to general use in North America and the United Kingdom. (Mass media, in contrast, was, according to H.L. Mencken, used as early as 1923 in the United States.)