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Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers Paperback – 18 Sep 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Co; Reprint edition (18 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802716040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802716040
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 1.9 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,198,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

The history of the telegraph - the men and women who made it - and its relevance to the current Internet debate. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Tom Standage is the former technology editor and current business editor at the Economist. He is the author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses, The Turk, and The Neptune File.


Customer Reviews

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By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 23 Nov. 2005
Format: Paperback
The title of this book, 'The Victorian Internet,' refers to the 'communications explosion' that took place with the advent and expansion of telegraph wire communications. Prior to this, communication was notoriously slow, particularly as even postal communications were subject to many difficulties and could take months for delivery (and we complain today of the 'allow five days' statements on our credit cards billings!).
The parallels between the Victorian Internet and the present computerised internet are remarkable. Information about current events became relatively instantaneous (relative, that is, to the usual weeks or months that it once took to receive such information). There were skeptics who were convinced that this new mode of communication was a passing phase that would never take on (and, in a strict sense, they were right, not of course realising that the demise of the telegraph system was not due to the reinvigoration of written correspondence but due to that new invention, the telephone). There were hackers, people who tried to disrupt communications, those who tried to get on-line free illegally, and, near the end of the high age of telegraphing, a noticeable slow-down in information due to information overload (how long is this page going to take to download?? isn't such a new feeling after all).
The most interesting chapter to me is that entitled 'Love over the Wires' which begins with an account of an on-line wedding, with the bride in Boston and the groom in New York. This event was reported in a small book, Anecdotes of the Telegraph, published in London in 1848, which stated that this was 'a story which throws into the shade all the feats that have been performed by our British telegraph.
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By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 5 Nov. 2004
Format: Hardcover
The title of this book, 'The Victorian Internet,' refers to the 'communications explosion' that took place with the advent and expansion of telegraph wire communications. Prior to this, communication was notoriously slow, particularly as even postal communications were subject to many difficulties and could take months for delivery (and we complain today of the 'allow five days' statements on our credit cards billings!).
The parallels between the Victorian Internet and the present computerised internet are remarkable. Information about current events became relatively instantaneous (relative, that is, to the usual weeks or months that it once took to receive such information). There were skeptics who were convinced that this new mode of communication was a passing phase that would never take on (and, in a strict sense, they were right, not of course realising that the demise of the telegraph system was not due to the reinvigoration of written correspondence but due to that new invention, the telephone). There were hackers, people who tried to disrupt communications, those who tried to get on-line free illegally, and, near the end of the high age of telegraphing, a noticeable slow-down in information due to information overload (how long is this page going to take to download?? isn't such a new feeling after all).
The most interesting chapter to me is that entitled 'Love over the Wires' which begins with an account of an on-line wedding, with the bride in Boston and the groom in New York. This event was reported in a small book, Anecdotes of the Telegraph, published in London in 1848, which stated that this was 'a story which throws into the shade all the feats that have been performed by our British telegraph.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of the development of the telegraph, written to be easy to understand. Enough for most people, and a good overview.

also look at "A thread across the ocean, the heroic story of the transatlantic cable" by John GORDON
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Format: Hardcover
This book is well written and enjoyable to read. The comparisons between the development of telegraph and the world wide web are well made and are sometimes spooky - the arguments presented by Western Union about why their near monopoly of the US telegraph was healthy seem uncannily like the arguments presented by a similiar monopoly today.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Standage tells the story of the telegraph in this delightful short book. It opens with a chapter on the 'optical telegraph' - the signalling system based on a network of mutually visible towers which flourished particulaly in France. After this, it traces the decisive step made by Morse, Cooke and Wheatstone in harnessing electricity to convey messages. There are fascinating chapters on the sceptics who doubted the value of the new technology; the problems of inter-continental cable laying; alternative messaging techniques such as capsules shot through tubes with compressed air; the use of the electric telegraph by criminals as well as the police; online telegraphic romance; the hopes that instant communication would lead to international conflict resolution; and the growing realisation that in fact it was an invaluable military techonology.

Finally telegraphy is over-taken by telephony, which allows a greater rapidly of communication and requires no intermediaries. The book closes with some thought-provoking remarks as to how new and revolutionary the Internet really is.

Throughout the material is admirably selected and the writing witty and clear. It is also a self-effacing book: as far as could be seen, the word 'I' (in the sense of 'Tom Standage') appears exactly once - in the acknowledgements section. Strongly recommended. His book on planetary discovery (The Neptune File) is also superb.
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