Electronic communication can be carried out in a variety of formats and using a variety of tools, including telephones, computers, fax machines, mobile pagers, smartphones and radio; these transmissions can involve video, photo, text or sound. The United States Department of Justice has a specific definition of electronic communication, and other legal bodies may have specific rules for what gets included in the category of electronic communication. Although many relatively modern inventions rely on the use of electronic communication, including smartphones and Internet-connected computers, electronic communication has been available to humans since the mid-1900s.
One example of the use of electronic communication in the mid-1900s is the 1969 development of Instinet, an electronic communication system for processing stock and securities trading information, which improved the process from previous handwritten systems. Electronic communications networks have been very important to the stock trade and other areas of human commerce. In the case of financial markets, electronic communications increase the amount of competition between trading companies and lower the cost of transactions, such as buying and selling stock.
Communication that is not considered to be electronic includes verbal, face-to-face interactions between two or more people. If these people were communicating verbally through a conference call, this would then be considered a form of electronic communication.