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The Victorian Internet


A review of the book Victorian Internet by Tom Standage

A review of the book Victorian Internet by Tom Standage

Published in Business , News & Politics
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  • 1. The Telegraph: How Innovation caused Social Change - Annteresa Lubrano,1997 Week 3: How revolutionary is IT ? The Victorian Internet : The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers - Tom Standage, 1998 Insights from
  • 2. The Telegraph Story
    • Origin
    • The need for communication
    • The invention and refinements
    • Diffusion
    • into society, culture, literature....
    • Impact
    • on government, transport and business
  • 3. ORIGIN:
    • Motivation:
    • -16 th century rumour on sympathetic needles
    • -Jean Nollet’s experiment in 1746
    • -1753- C.M (anonymous) proposed an electric telegraph
    • -Claude Chappe’s optical telegraph in 1791
    • -George Murray’s shutter telegraph in 1793
    • -1816-Francis Ronald’s first woking electric model
    • Further innovation:
    • -Early 1800s- batteries, electromagnetism, galvanometer
    • -1830s- Cooke’s 3 and 5 needle telegraphs in England and Morse’s telegraph in Washington
    • Prototyping =easy ; People =difficult
    • Initially regarded as black magic
    • 1840s –First line from Washington to Baltimore with funds from the congress
    • 1850s-Gradually expansions (intra-continent) as it gained acceptance into the society.Hailed as the modern invention of science.
    • Too much traffic  Steam powered pneumatic tubes
    • Undersea telegraphy- London to Paris, 1852
    • Exploring Trans-atlantic telegraph- 4 failures later, America finally connected with Europe in Aug. 1858- BUT ONLY FOR A MONTH !
    • 1866- Permanent link re-establised under able guidance of William Thompson
    • Telgraph and the common man :
    • The good side:
    • New employment avenues -->skilled jobs
    • Technology Feminization (Ms.Sara Bagley,1846)
    • Social Networking –chatting, playing games, love affairs, online weddings
    • Manuals and pamplets and literature published on telegraphy-words like semaphore, teletype, telegraphery (an office) enter vocabulary
    • The bad side:
    • Hackers and cryptoanalysts: bank frauds, horse racing,stock price
    • Int’l Telegraph Union (ITU) formed in 1865- futile regulatory measures
    • Information overload
  • 6. IMPACT:
    • Government and Telegraphy:
    • Initially sceptic about the technology
    • French: Primarily a defense aid
    • British: integrated into the postal service after the technolgy matured
    • America: Predominantly a private enterprise dominated by Western Union
    • Transportation :
    • Formed a partnership with the railway industry- fostered monopoly in a sense, especially in Britain
    • 1851-Pony Express closed due to the Transcontinental line from New York to California
    • Railway telegraph invented in 1887 by Granville Woods
  • 7. IMPACT:
    • Business
    • Telegraph gave birth to the pneumatic tube industy-which later proved a cheaper way to communicate locally.
    • Merchants started living in the fast lane- Quality and price more important than geographical proximity
    • 1872-Western Union monopolises controls of 80% of telegraph traffic- makes huge profits and sets a modern business model
    • Stock Tickers redefine the way the stock prices were transmitted
    • Telegraph and the press:
    • One of the key drivers of news paper industry.
    • International coverage, feeling of belonging to a global community
  • 8. IMPACT:
    • Gave rise to a new industry of info-sellers ->The Assoicated Press of New York and Reuters in Europe- synonymous even today !
    • 1870s- The stage is set for the Victorian Internet- telegraph, submarine cables, pneumatic tubes and messengers.
  • 9. The vicious cycle ends (or does it ?)
    • 1870s- Telegraph is glorified.Improved features like quadruplex transmissions gave more for less.
    • Automatic / Harmonic telegraph systems makes skilled operators redundant.Wages are cut. Becomes a semi-skilled worker’s profession
    • 1876- Alexander Bell patents the telephone.Instant hit.
    • 30,000 telehones world wide by end of 1880.
    • 1900s-The telegraph is dead,long live telegraph !
  • 10. Issues raised:
    • Is the internet really the fore runner in bridging the geographic divide ?
    • CAN we bridge the divide at all ?
    • Under what social context does technolgy become successful ?
    • Is success permanent or does it fall prey to the very nature of humans dealing with it ?
    • Can you regulate technology ?
    • Do you think internet has an end ?
  • 11.