Presentation for 10/4 on "The Victorian Internet" by Standage
Presentation for 10/4 on "The Victorian Internet" by Standage
The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage a.k.aThe “OG” Internet by Max Gardner
But First – The Telegraph The Electrical Telegraph was conceived and experimented with as early as 1804 1832 – Development of the Electromagnetic Telegraph 1833 – First regular telegraph communication occurs By 1844, a uniform communication lexicon and language is established – Morse code
Cyrus W. Field and Frederic N. Grisborne Makes his money early on and decides to invest in telegraphy as an emerging technology His first attempt in the telegraphy business is a failure His second attempt and eventually successful covers Newfoundland and eventually connects to NYC – 1855 1866 – Newfoundland is connected to Ireland English engineer hired by Field Grisborne is the reason Field gets into telegraphy and begins to work with him to establish a connection with St. John’s in Newfoundland and New York City, which they would eventually achieve in 1855 Grisborne himself is eventually phased out as Field sets his sights on much bigger objectives
1866: The Year the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable was constructed (Mind you the video is unconscionably sentimental, whereas the book describes Field as a purely business minded man)
The Founding of the Atlantic Telegraph Company Fields persuades the American and British government to back the establishment of the company Makes the uniform communiqué language between the two continents Morse Code The company appointed Dr. Edward O.W. Whitehouse as chief electrician
AS IT TURNS OUT, WHITEHOUSE IS ENTIRELY INCOMPETENT.
Once Established… Celebration of the connection bored on hysteria. The London Times – “Since the discovery of Columbus , nothing has been done in any degree comparable to the vast enlargement which has thus been given to the sphere of human engagement.” (Telegraph lines circa 1891)
Once the Cable Failed Due to Whitehouse’s miscalculations, the cable deteriorated in a matter of months and failed One of the other chief electricians and scientists attached to the project took over where Whitehouse failed. William Thomson, later to be known as Lord Kelvin, a prolific inventor, scientist, intellectual, and philosopher in the Victorian-era
Thomson redesigned the cable and by 1866 the United States are “steadily” connected to England Thomson is honored and comes to be known by his historical moniker, “Lord Kelvin”, for which the unit of measurement is named
Well if it’s broke… fix it. Because the telegraph was embraced so quickly, unlike many earlier and later technologies, the Atlantic Telegraph Company was quickly swamped in messages; they were literally piling up at the operating centers Message congestion became an issue and the public’s embrace of the telegraph became much more wary and circumspect, but business continued to boom
Remedies abound Pneumatic tubes and message transfer became a way of dealing with the volume of telegraph messages being relayed across the Atlantic. By the 1870’s, between the strengthened cable connections and introduction of the pneumatic tube system, The Victorian Internetbegins to take shape
“It brings the World Together. It Joins the Sundered Hemispheres. It unites distant nations, making them feel that they are members of one great family.” – Henry Field to his Brother Cyrus, on His brother’s achievement
Telegraph opens up to the public – it had been open, but due to the economies established by the emerging telegraph companies, it didn’t become readily accessible until the Victorian technology boom (the Industrial Revolution, remember?) started catching up with the per capita income of the average person That being said, the telegraph was not immune to the banter and communiqué of the common person or uppercrust of society – like our internet now, the telegraph was rife with juicy gossip, raunchy affairs, dark intrigue, and murderous intention
Optimistic; to a fault. In reality, it was only telegrapher operators who could communicate with one another, not the perceived hundreds of thousands – bordering on millions of people – who communicated via telegraph. There was always a middle man Print media took advantage of the telegraph’s offering of near “instantaneous” relaying of events and information. International news outlets and wire-services begin to boom by the turn of the century
During wartime, the telegraph, an essentially non-secured medium, came under scrutiny for being just that – an open forum where any telegraph operator could listen in by simply tapping the line Because most telegraph lines established had been in part or mostly funded by governments – namely the U.S., British, French, Russian, and not long after the Chinese – they commandeered them during wartime for military purposes, but problems persisted
“An Entirely New and Much-improved method of conducting diplomatic relations between one country and another has come into use with the telegraph wire and cable. The facility and rapidity of with which one government is now enabled to know the “mind”–or, at any rate, the professed min –of another, has often been the means of averting diplomatic ruptures and consequent wars during the last few decades. At first sight, the contrary result might have been anticipated, but, on the whole, experience distinctly in favor of the pacific effects of telegraphy.”- Charles Bright
Like a Drug Because of the rapidity of information provided, the telegraph also accelerated domestic markets, fueling an even greater international demand for business International markets began to flourish with this new found tap into a quickly evolving type of marketplace
By the 1870’s , the technology had caught up to the demand and automated telegraph machines existed to ease operator and transcriber demand The Wheatstone Transmitter/Transceiver became the most used automatic telegraph machine
Out with Morse, in with Binary Morse code began to be phased out as binary communication types were introduced, thereby standardizing communication between countries Networks begin to be established from these uniform communication-bases
(Fathers) of Invention Edison, Stearns, and many other inventors and scientists help to forward and progress the technology Wire traffic increased and telegraphy became a low-skill job as opposed to before where the operators had to be highly trained
Eventually the Telegraph becomes, well, the Telephone.
From the Telegraph to the Internet Q: In many ways the telegraph mirrors the internet – an interconnected series of networks amounting to a vast global connection at near instantaneous speeds – but what are the key differences, aside from the technological leaps that make the internet such a more historically prescient part of the evolution of media and mediums?