The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers

The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers

by Tom Standage
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The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers by Tom Standage

For thousands of years people had communicated across distances only as quickly as the fastest ship or horse could travel. Generations of innovators tried to develop speedier messaging devices, including "magical" needles that relied more on telepathy than technology. Then, over the course of three decades in the mid-1800s, a few extraordinary pioneers at last succeeded. Their invention -- the electric telegraph -- nullified distance and shrank the world quicker and further than ever before, or since.

The Victorian Internet tells the story of the telegraph's creation and remarkable impact, and of the visionaries, oddballs, and eccentrics who pioneered it. From the eighteenth-century French scientist Jean-Antoine Nollet, whose experiments proved that electricity could be transmitted over great distances, to Samuel F. B. Morse, who developed the first practical electric telegraph in 1837, to Thomas Edison, who began his career in the telegraph business and proposed to his wife by tapping Morse code on her hand, Tom Standage tells a colorful tale of scientific discovery, technological cunning, personal rivalry, and cutthroat competition.

By 1865 telegraph cables spanned continents and oceans, revolutionizing the ways countries dealt with one another. The telegraph gave rise to creative business practices and new forms of crime. Romances blossomed over the wires. Secret codes were devised by some users, and cracked by others. The benefits of the network were relentlessly hyped by its advocates and dismissed by the skeptics. Government regulators tried and failed to control the new medium. And attitudes toward everything from news gathering to war had to be completely rethought.

The telegraph unleashed the greatest revolution in communications since the development of the printing press. Its saga offers many parallels to that of the Internet in our own time, and is a fascinating episode in the history of technology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425171691
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/1999
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Tom Standage is the former technology editor and current business editor at the Economist. He is the author of Writing on the Wall: Social Media-The First 2000 Years, the bestseller A History of the World in 6 Glasses, An Edible History of Humanity, The Turk, and The Neptune File. He lives in London.

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Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When it comes to internet hype, this book nails it! Anyone who thinks the internet is revolutionary, and will change everything, needs to read this book, and get a true historical perspective on the technology. Afterwards you'll marvel not at how much has changed, but at how little has changed in the past 100+ years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tom Standage gives you a wonderful historical view of the telegraph and its implications on our modern day technologies. By historical view, I most certainly do not mean to imply that this book is a history book. It's concept is based more from the view point of sociology and anthropology and how they were impacted by telegraph technology in the past century. Throughout the book Mr. Standage gives you parallels between the telegraph and the internet. The book starts out by telling you the beginnings of the telegraph, and how the 'new' telegraph was speculated and ridiculed just like the concept of the internet. The book also relates practical ways in which the telegraph was used in both Europe and North America. There is even a story about an online wedding using the telegraph that took place with the bride in Boston while the groom was in New York. If you like to learn about history, technology, and culture, without being put to sleep, I would recommend this easy read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Upon reading 'The Victorian Internet' I realized that it took a very long time to get the world to communicate. This book was very good of including all the historical details. If you like to learn something new from books, this is the book to read. It starts out by explaining how people used towers to communicate and ends with how people send e-mails every second. The style of writing is very different from history text books, in the sense that it doesn't put you to sleep. The author does a very good job of describing the hardships of communications in a very intelligent and interesting way. The chronological order that the book was written in helps out a lot. From the early days of networks, until the latest days of the internet, everything goes step by step. As the book progresses it becomes more clear how the telegraph is the same tool as the internet, only less advanced. Our society started out slowly but then the rate of development sky rocketed. Not only did the invention of the telegraph speed up communication, it also speed up the way of life. People became more and more busy. Things picked up the tempo. The book shows how quick thinking is a requiement in the telegraph world. One example that the author showed us was the stand off of English and French troops in Africa. The troops didn't know what the governments wanted them to do, fight or leave? The English had an advantage, they quickly went to their telegraph line and asked the government. The government told them to claim the land. The French, without orders, were forced to retreat until they got a word from their officials, but by that time the English already fortified the land. All in all, this book teaches a lot about the way we communicate with the rest of the world. Every page of the book is interesting and full of facts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me by a friend last year, and I just finally got around to it. I wish I had read it sooner. By presenting a thorough and entertaining history of the rise and fall of the telegraph, Tom Standage effortlessly makes the point that nearly all of the modern Internet phenomena that we endure today had precedents in the Victorian age, when characters were sent down a single wire one at a time in the form of dots and dashes. Online chats, online business, online crime, online romance - you name it, and it was happening in the latter half of the 19th century. Great stuff!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy the subject matter of this book. However, my experience is dampened by the fact that it was apparently not proof-read before it was released in the digital format. There are numerous spelling errors throughout and several numbers appear wrong due to the scanning process: i845 instead of 1845, for example. Many chapters begin with a small "Large" letter, etc. Since I paid for this book, I feel it should at least have the quality of a grade-school level proof-reading and checking. I hope this does not continue with other ebooks I get from Barnes & Noble.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tom Standage has done an excellent job of telling how the telegraph came into existence and how in revolutionized communication for the first time in millinium. Since the time of the Babalonians communication had to be hand delivered by messengers or couriers, later by mail services using shops and stagecoaches, often taking weeks or even months. Overnight, the telegraph made instant communication possible, albeit in code tapped out by skilled telegraph operators. Newspapers and givernments, particularly the military quickly saw its potential. Standage's book is an easy read which moves along at the pace of a good novel as he tells about rival inventors - bet you didn't know the first telegraph was invented by a Frenchman on the eve of the French Revolution in 1791 and Napoleon later allowedit to be used to transmit winning national lottery numbers - dating back a century before Victoria became queen of England! This is a very enjoyable and fascinating read for anyone who loves history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago