Imagine an almost instantaneous communication system that would allow people and governments all over the world to send and receive messages about politics, war, illness and family events. The US Government has tried and failed to control it and its revolutionary nature is trumpeted loudly by its backers. The Internet? Nope, the humble telegraph fit this bill way back in the 1800s. The parallels between the now-ubiquitous Internet and the telegraph are amazing, offering insight into the ways new technologies can change the very fabric of society within a single generation. In The Victorian Internet
, Tom Standage examines the history of the telegraph, beginning with a horrifically funny story of a mile-long line of monks holding a wire and getting simultaneous shocks in the interest of investigating electricity and ending with the advent of the telephone. All the early "online" pioneers are here: Samuel Morse, Thomas Edison and a seemingly endless parade of code-makers, entrepreneurs and spies who helped ensure the success of this communications revolution. Fans of Longitude
will enjoy another story of the human side of dramatic technological developments, complete with personal rivalry, vicious competition and agonising failures. --Therese Littleton, Amazon.com
The history of the telegraph - the men and women who made it - and its relevance to the current Internet debate.