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The Victorian Internet

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For centuries people communicated across distances only as quickly as the fastest ship or horse could travel. Generations of innovators tried and failed to develop speedier messaging devices. But in the mid-1800s, a few extraordinary pioneers at last succeeded. Their invention--the electric telegraph--shrank the world more quickly than ever before. A colorful tale of scient For centuries people communicated across distances only as quickly as the fastest ship or horse could travel. Generations of innovators tried and failed to develop speedier messaging devices. But in the mid-1800s, a few extraordinary pioneers at last succeeded. Their invention--the electric telegraph--shrank the world more quickly than ever before. A colorful tale of scientific discovery and technological cunning, The Victorian Internet tells the story of the telegraph's creation and remarkable impact, and of the visionaries, oddballs, and eccentrics who pioneered it. 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 its skeptics. 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.


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For centuries people communicated across distances only as quickly as the fastest ship or horse could travel. Generations of innovators tried and failed to develop speedier messaging devices. But in the mid-1800s, a few extraordinary pioneers at last succeeded. Their invention--the electric telegraph--shrank the world more quickly than ever before. A colorful tale of scient For centuries people communicated across distances only as quickly as the fastest ship or horse could travel. Generations of innovators tried and failed to develop speedier messaging devices. But in the mid-1800s, a few extraordinary pioneers at last succeeded. Their invention--the electric telegraph--shrank the world more quickly than ever before. A colorful tale of scientific discovery and technological cunning, The Victorian Internet tells the story of the telegraph's creation and remarkable impact, and of the visionaries, oddballs, and eccentrics who pioneered it. 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 its skeptics. 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.

30 review for The Victorian Internet

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    After reading a few books by Tom Standage, I was eager to get my hands on this piece. While many are familiar with the explosion of the Internet over the past few decades, Standage argues that there was a similar type of communication system that was just as complicated and readily accessible to the masses. The idea of a telegraph system came about centuries ago, when a Frenchman sought to relay messages between two points using the clanging of pots in a specific coded manner. While this seemed After reading a few books by Tom Standage, I was eager to get my hands on this piece. While many are familiar with the explosion of the Internet over the past few decades, Standage argues that there was a similar type of communication system that was just as complicated and readily accessible to the masses. The idea of a telegraph system came about centuries ago, when a Frenchman sought to relay messages between two points using the clanging of pots in a specific coded manner. While this seemed to work, it fell apart when the wind was too strong and the privacy of the message was completely lost. As advancements grew, telegraphy became a hot topic among physicists and investors of all kinds. Samuel Morse is seen as the father of modern telegraphy, using wires to transmit messages through a coded system he created. The emergence of Morse Code and the continued experimentation of communication through the wire began a primitive system whereby communities could pass along short messages up or down the line. However, vastly separated areas were still not able to communicate with one another, which posed an issue in making it a truly global attraction. Into the middle of Victorian Era, the idea of sending messages across the British Empire became all the rage, or at least across the Atlantic Ocean. Laying wires across open bodies of water by ship soon remedied this, though there were still errors during the early stages of its organisation. With determination, messages began to make their way through, though the ease with which messages could be sent soon created a massive backlog. Standage addresses some of the larger follies of the telegraph system in the second part of the book. By using Morse Code, operators would sometimes bungle a single word and thereby completely change the message being sent or delivered. This proved to be quite costly in one instance, as a man lost thousands in stock purchases because he misunderstood the message sent by a colleague. There were also the issues of coding or shorthand message sending, where fabricated words made it even more difficult to convey the needed message from one person to the other. Eventually, rules were put in place to standardise, or at least limit the superfluous verbiage being placed across the lines. A more humourous downfall included the lack of complete understanding that people had about telegraphs. Standage discusses two examples whereby people came to the telegraph office to send physical items, from a plate of sauerkraut to a handful of money. The concept of immediate communication between people still needed to be honed, but things were surely moving in the right direction. Standage does speak of some of the downfalls that came with telegraph use, specifically the inundating of offices with information. These countless messages would create major delivery delays and tie up the wires for weeks, thereby making the new technology less effective. Others argued that telegraph transmission provided the consumer with too much readily accessible information, lessening the ‘business edge’ when it came to the capitalist relationship. The rise of Western Union can be directly tied to the advancements in telegraphy, creating a monopoly for a period. However, as new technology emerged, in the form of the telephone, Western Union’s telegraph system began to wane, leaving it to fill the void with money transfers, but that is best discussed in another biography. After reading to stellar books about world history seen through the eyes of various objects, I was pleased to see telegraphy receive such a thorough examination. Standage does a masterful job at laying the historical groundwork and developing great arguments throughout. He uses an array of concrete examples to substantiate his hypotheses in each chapter and provides the reader with a great story about the development of the telegraph machine. His parallels in the latter portion of the book as it relates to the modern internet is quite useful, as though there was a quasi-resurrection of ideas and sentiments about this new form of communication. The writing is not overly academic, though there is definitely a detailed primer feel to the writing, requiring more than a passing interest in the topic. I found myself affixed to the narrative and wanted to know more, hanging on while Standage discussed many of the topics at hand, which mixed a serious and somewhat humorous side to the topic. While the telegraph was eventually replaced with the telephone, there is sure to be a new form of technology that awaits the general public. What that is has yet to be discovered, but I hope Tom Standage is still around to explore it and pens a catchy tome to discuss its emergence. Kudos, Mr. Standage, for another amazing reading experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have read of yours to date and will scour the library for more! Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  2. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    A very readable account of the rise, spread, and fall of the telegraph. Extremely informative, and as the title suggests, full of resonances with the internet.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    After reading a number of the reviews I am prone to think that a number of people missed the larger point. For all of the hyping of the internet in the mid to late 90's, it wasn't as drastic a change to everyday lives as was the electric telegraph. Where it took weeks to months for a message to cross oceans or continents before the telegraph, it took minutes after. The phone and internet just changed the amount that could be communicated. The telegraph truly interconnected the world and laid the After reading a number of the reviews I am prone to think that a number of people missed the larger point. For all of the hyping of the internet in the mid to late 90's, it wasn't as drastic a change to everyday lives as was the electric telegraph. Where it took weeks to months for a message to cross oceans or continents before the telegraph, it took minutes after. The phone and internet just changed the amount that could be communicated. The telegraph truly interconnected the world and laid the groundwork for the phone network and internet later. Also to try to compare the telegraph operators to your standard internet user is unfair. the more proper analogy would be to the web designer/software programmer. It was a more technical job than the GUI interface of our browsers of today which make it so easy for your basic user of the internet. I agree that it is mostly an overview that doesn't go greatly in-depth, but it does hit pretty much all the points. To say that it doesn't go very far into the Chappe's telegraph towers is also unfair; the book does go into it and discusses how it sped up communications, and then it does go into the disadvantages as well (doesn't work at night, doesn't work in fog or heavy rain, and seen by whoever has a line of sight view (so not very private)).

  4. 5 out of 5

    R. C.

    Steam-powered e-love affairs! Hapless Scottish fisherman trying to serve gutta perch telegraph wire tubs for supper! Telegraph operators flooding the wires of the noobs just like kids flood chat rooms! Plus lots of little-known facts. I had no idea the first telegraphs were optical, or how hard it really was to put a line across oceans, or that codes were illegal... This book was funny and enlightening and just about the best thing you could read if you're a steampunk fan looking for some actual Steam-powered e-love affairs! Hapless Scottish fisherman trying to serve gutta perch telegraph wire tubs for supper! Telegraph operators flooding the wires of the noobs just like kids flood chat rooms! Plus lots of little-known facts. I had no idea the first telegraphs were optical, or how hard it really was to put a line across oceans, or that codes were illegal... This book was funny and enlightening and just about the best thing you could read if you're a steampunk fan looking for some actual history. It's also a good read for anyone who thinks much about how the world's all changed because of the internet. I can't think of another book that so well displays the actual moment when the whole world connected. The author makes a clear contrast between the pre-telegraph world and the newly connected one, making an argument that the generation of the Millenials should be counted back to 1854.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Hines

    I just finished this wonderful little volume which chronicles the rise and fall of "The Victorian Intenet," the telegraph. Like many others, I knew about Samuel Morse and the Morse Code, of the laying of the Atlantic cable and how the telegraph laid the groundwork for modern communications unlike anything else in history. But what I didn't know is how very much alike it was to our Internet. They had "chat rooms" of sorts, they had their hackers and identity theives. Mr. Standage also tells a few I just finished this wonderful little volume which chronicles the rise and fall of "The Victorian Intenet," the telegraph. Like many others, I knew about Samuel Morse and the Morse Code, of the laying of the Atlantic cable and how the telegraph laid the groundwork for modern communications unlike anything else in history. But what I didn't know is how very much alike it was to our Internet. They had "chat rooms" of sorts, they had their hackers and identity theives. Mr. Standage also tells a few fascinating stories of how some people found love on the wires. One story stands out about a young army telegrapher in remote New Mexico who married his fiance at the fort, while the minister and the bride's father were 650 miles away in San Diego. He tells of how bored telegraph operators played chess, exchanged jokes and recipes, and got to know people outside their hometown that without the device would not have been possible. The telegraph had much more of an impact on that generation than most other technologies have on this one. Before Morse and the other pioneers of telegraphy, news was limited to an area that might be no more than a few days ride away. News of foreign wars, trade regulations, and even news from the far corners of our far flung republic could be weeks old by the time it reached decision makers. One wonders if the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 would have been fought, as a peace treaty was signed weeks before this famous battle was waged. Between 1844, when Morse sent his famous phrase over the wires, to Alexander Bell's utterances on his new telephone, the world changed drastically because of the twin catalysts of telegraphy and the railroad. Messages could now be sent from London, and it would reach it's destination in Bombay four minutes later. A New York merchant could receive an order to export flour to London, and in turn issue orders to his warehouse in San Francisco to send it eastward to help fulfill the order. During the American Civil War, President Lincoln knew the events unfolding in far away battles almost as soon as they occurred- something that had never happened in previous conflicts. And just like we had a dot com boom, where the opportunities were online, so they had a telegraph boom, where a man could make something of himself in this new fangled world. I have read widely in history, and every once in a while a book crosses my path which excites my intellect. This book entertains, informs, and demonstrates once again that indeed "there is nothing new under the sun." It just is updated.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Standage provides curious and accurate parallels between the rise of the internet, and the rise of the telegraph, the former of which can definitely trace its ancestry directly to the latter. Though given how quickly it proliferated and increased in capability and complexity, and given that instant communication had never been developed in the history of humanity, the telegraph appears to be a far more impressive in its era than the internet was to a world already widely accustomed to electricit Standage provides curious and accurate parallels between the rise of the internet, and the rise of the telegraph, the former of which can definitely trace its ancestry directly to the latter. Though given how quickly it proliferated and increased in capability and complexity, and given that instant communication had never been developed in the history of humanity, the telegraph appears to be a far more impressive in its era than the internet was to a world already widely accustomed to electricity, radio, telephones, television, and for that matter, computers. People were optimistic “The laying of the telegraph cable is regarded...as the greatest event in the present century; the whole earth will be belted with electric current, palpitating with human thoughts and emotions. It shows that nothing is impossible to man” Some even believed this would include world peace. Standage notes the irony that the same things were said about the internet. Standage writes about the history of the technology itself, from mechanical telegraphs with giant arms, to the eventual obsolescence of the electric telegraph through the rise of the telephone, though I was most fascinated in this book with the cultures that developed around it. While the technology impacted the whole world, the people most involved were the actual operators who during quiet hours would begin messaging each other. “Stories, jokes, and local gossip circulated over the wires...just as if the participants were sitting together at a club. In some cases the tales passing over the wires would find their way into the local newspaper. Most did not because...they were far too smutty or anatomically explicit.” A telegraph session is described that was joined by thirty three different offices in which everyone could send a message to anyone else at the same time, yet “after passing various resolutions, the employees adjourned the meeting in great harmony and kindly feeling after about an hour” I have no idea how they kept it organized. There are still chat rooms that are pure chaos. There were many women telegraph operators as well as men and the most curious incidents described were those of operators that met through telegraph messages and fell in love. “Minnie Swan Mitchell, a young operator in the 1880s, recalled that 'many a telegraph romance begun over the wire culminated in marriage” Nonetheless I think there were some missed opportunities. There were more parallels with the internet which I think could've been explored. The International Telegraphic Union is barely mentioned though it was literally the equivalent to ICANN. The ITU was stationed in Geneva, whereas ICANN is headquartered in Los Angeles as if to demonstrate the shift across the Atlantic in both geopolitics and the center of technological innovation. Instead of a domain name, the ITU assigned every station a code. Experiments in the transmission of images are also omitted. From the pantelegraph, to the telantograph, to the telectograph, to the telestereograph, it’s a fascinating story and completely ignored here. There was also somehow a chapter on information overload focusing on business transactions of all things without even mentioning the famous passage from Walden on the rise of irrelevant information in the news due to the telegraph. It's light and curious reading. You can finish it in a few days and gain a new perspective on one of history's most important technologies.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Victor Sonkin

    The story of how the telegraph service changed the world (and boy did it change the world).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    I'm not the type of person that is drawn to treatises on machines, but when I came across this book, my curiosity won out and I was shocked to find I couldn't put it down. Rather than focusing on the mechanics of the telegraph too strongly, Tom Standage instead focuses on the people that created the telegraph and its effects on society. For instance, he notes that prior to the telegraph, news took 10 weeks to get from Britain to certain outposts in India, but once the telegraph was installed th I'm not the type of person that is drawn to treatises on machines, but when I came across this book, my curiosity won out and I was shocked to find I couldn't put it down. Rather than focusing on the mechanics of the telegraph too strongly, Tom Standage instead focuses on the people that created the telegraph and its effects on society. For instance, he notes that prior to the telegraph, news took 10 weeks to get from Britain to certain outposts in India, but once the telegraph was installed there, it took just 4 minutes! Merchants were also affected because deals with suppliers across the states in the U.S. used to involve weeks of letters and negotiations back and forth. However, with the telegraph, negotiations could be done in one day causing everything to speed up and, Standage argues, resulting in the more fast paced business that we are so familiar with today. Standage also points out that operators of the telegraph could communicate much like in internet chat rooms today, so the internet today, while an advance, was not the huge life shattering change that the telegraph was. From describing the various scientists and laymen responsible for the telegraph, including the original optical telegraph used in France before electricity was harnessed for it, Standage traces the gradual evolution of the telegraph which then finally led into the telephone that destroyed the telegraph business. Though it may sound naive to some, I had no idea that they actually laid out over 2000 miles of telegraph cable at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean (some 2 miles deep) in order to connect Europe to Newfoundland and Newfoundland then to the U.S. I didn't know such things could be done - especially in the 1860's! Tom Standage writes a riveting account of a forgotten time and the legacy of the telegraph which can still be in seen in the internet and phones today.

  9. 5 out of 5

    J. Boo

    Very short placeholder review: interesting material. Light on technical details. Author is British and this shows in some of what is covered, and some of what isn't, and some American details the author probably would've mentioned if he was aware of them (e.g. Alexander Grahame Bell's shenanigans). Very short placeholder review: interesting material. Light on technical details. Author is British and this shows in some of what is covered, and some of what isn't, and some American details the author probably would've mentioned if he was aware of them (e.g. Alexander Grahame Bell's shenanigans).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Greg Pettit

    Another shallow, quick, interesting read. I enjoyed this light history of the telegraph, and there certainly were interesting parallels with the Internet. However, there also seemed to be several gaps in the narrative. For the most part, I liked how Standage simplified his description of the development and evolution of telegraphy. The early pre-electric history and problem-solving stories were particularly interesting. But with all the detail put into explaining some solutions, it was frustratin Another shallow, quick, interesting read. I enjoyed this light history of the telegraph, and there certainly were interesting parallels with the Internet. However, there also seemed to be several gaps in the narrative. For the most part, I liked how Standage simplified his description of the development and evolution of telegraphy. The early pre-electric history and problem-solving stories were particularly interesting. But with all the detail put into explaining some solutions, it was frustrating when he didn't do the same with others. For example, there were only a couple of sentences briefly mentioning how the problem of sending over great distances was resolved. Overall, I'd still recommend it for anyone interested in communication in this time period. Like the other Standage book I've read, A History of the World in 6 Glasses, it is a great starting place likely to whet your appetite for a more in-depth book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    b.andherbooks

    I needed a "non-fiction book about technology" for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and was hard pressed to find something modern I cared to learn about in this dumpster fire we call 2017, so I instead turned to the Victorians and the advent of the telegraph. Super illuminating and refreshing to see that new technology causes greatness and horribleness no matter the era. I was not aware the first telegraphs were visual, using long arms to gesture codes atop large hills (creepy) nor realized how I needed a "non-fiction book about technology" for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and was hard pressed to find something modern I cared to learn about in this dumpster fire we call 2017, so I instead turned to the Victorians and the advent of the telegraph. Super illuminating and refreshing to see that new technology causes greatness and horribleness no matter the era. I was not aware the first telegraphs were visual, using long arms to gesture codes atop large hills (creepy) nor realized how horrid it must have been to try and lay cable across the Atlantic. on a boat. Yikes. A highly readable micro-history!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Simon Eskildsen

    Fascinating journey through the second half of the 1800s with the invention of the telegraph. As we went from messaging taking 10 days (at the fastest) to get across the Atlantic to, in 1866 with the transatlantic submarine cable, minutes. Of course, at the time, as we did with the Internet in the 90s, this amount of global connectivity would surely bring world peace with it! It'd wash out the cultural differences in no time! People found love over the wire and it's described as a true hey-day f Fascinating journey through the second half of the 1800s with the invention of the telegraph. As we went from messaging taking 10 days (at the fastest) to get across the Atlantic to, in 1866 with the transatlantic submarine cable, minutes. Of course, at the time, as we did with the Internet in the 90s, this amount of global connectivity would surely bring world peace with it! It'd wash out the cultural differences in no time! People found love over the wire and it's described as a true hey-day for telegraph operators as they traveled around the world, operating telegraphs (the telegraphic nomad). It completely changed the news media, instead of accounts being delayed by months and weeks, they could now be relayed in real time. Something the news saw as a wonderful new opportunity to appeal to people's emotion and give them dramatic stories in real-time. Such a humbling account of something that took place 150 years ago, but seems so oddly familiar today. The leap from the telegraph (and later, telephone/teleprinter) to the Internet isn't as far as the leap from mail horse wagons to telegrams. Comes highly recommended as a Christmas read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    A great snapshot of the inventors and engineers in America and England who brought the world's first long distance network to life. Critics and pundits of the time thought it would bring peace and harmony to the world. Instead there were stock market and horse racing scams, secret lovers & adulterers sending long distance coded notes and politicians trying to rig elections. Our internet is not so revolutionary after all. The author does a great job of detailing all the various attempts at crypto A great snapshot of the inventors and engineers in America and England who brought the world's first long distance network to life. Critics and pundits of the time thought it would bring peace and harmony to the world. Instead there were stock market and horse racing scams, secret lovers & adulterers sending long distance coded notes and politicians trying to rig elections. Our internet is not so revolutionary after all. The author does a great job of detailing all the various attempts at cryptography that the power of the telegraph pushed people to innovate. What got to me was the stories of the telegraph workers who found themselves replaced by automation (the teletype is just one example) at an ever quickening pace. The introduction of the telephone made them all obsolete. It made me realize many of the Victorian era lived much more modern lives than I had presumed. Decimal Star Rating: 4.4 of 5

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lia

    A fascinating look into the very first internet, how it came about, and its impact on the world. Some of the language quoted from the time was difficult to understand, and there were parts where I felt like the author didn’t try to explain the context as well as he could have. The storytelling is quite good, though, and I give it a four for subject matter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline O.

    I loved this book! I highly, highly recommend it. The Victorian Internet is an excellent history of the telegraph. But it is not simply a fact-and-name filled book of inventions and advances. It's a social history - focusing on the social impact and societal change that the telegraph brought to the world. And, cleverly he compares the changes the telegraph brought to the Victorian world (especially in England) to changes the Internet has brought about today. This makes a study of the history of I loved this book! I highly, highly recommend it. The Victorian Internet is an excellent history of the telegraph. But it is not simply a fact-and-name filled book of inventions and advances. It's a social history - focusing on the social impact and societal change that the telegraph brought to the world. And, cleverly he compares the changes the telegraph brought to the Victorian world (especially in England) to changes the Internet has brought about today. This makes a study of the history of science seem so much more relevant. It's also a quick and fun read. 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. (Flyleaf description) People chatted, dated, and fell in love "on-line", but through the telegraph. Police work was changed by the telegraph. In major cities such as London, there were even problems with overloads of traffic and delays (a problem solved with pneumatic tubes being used to deliver telegraph messages to "the last mile"). It's a fascinating history, and again, a quick and breezy read too. I did read this book a few years ago, so I don't remember every detail. But I do, still, remember some of the major points of the book. And I highly recommend it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    You know you want to read all about how the telegraph ushered in the information age, "wired love" and all! It's fun to follow the trail of inventive genius and the resulting cultural shockwaves. The things humans can do! Loved that every time I had difficulty picturing the mechanisms of one contraption or another, I turned the page only to find a helpful historical diagram! The comparisons with our modern internet are still apt 10 years on. Maybe more so, from our vantage point of web 2.0 or wh You know you want to read all about how the telegraph ushered in the information age, "wired love" and all! It's fun to follow the trail of inventive genius and the resulting cultural shockwaves. The things humans can do! Loved that every time I had difficulty picturing the mechanisms of one contraption or another, I turned the page only to find a helpful historical diagram! The comparisons with our modern internet are still apt 10 years on. Maybe more so, from our vantage point of web 2.0 or whatever they're calling it these days. (Though, for my money? The best legacy of the golden age of the telegraph might just be the pile of bad poetry.) Once you've read this I recommend checking out this book review for a critique and more cool thoughts about elitism, the transformative power of technology, and narratives of progress.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    This is a story of the telegraph well told. Standage takes the reader on a tour of the history of the telegraph. Technical details are kept sufficient to tell the story and are easy to understand for the general reader. Despite the title, Standage reserves his comparisons to the Internet (this book was published in 1998) to the final chapter, which I very much appreciated. While the Internet is hailed as a revolutionary communication achievement, Standage makes a good point that it was the teleg This is a story of the telegraph well told. Standage takes the reader on a tour of the history of the telegraph. Technical details are kept sufficient to tell the story and are easy to understand for the general reader. Despite the title, Standage reserves his comparisons to the Internet (this book was published in 1998) to the final chapter, which I very much appreciated. While the Internet is hailed as a revolutionary communication achievement, Standage makes a good point that it was the telegraph that was the true revolution. The ITU, which oversees Internet standards, was founded in 1865 to oversee telegraphy standards. Over twenty years later, the conclusions of this book still ring true today. Recommended!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Iamreddave

    I loved this book. a very quick read that shows everything from digital chatrooms to online dating were happening in the 1870s and how nerd culture developed from that point on. What happened next is in 'The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads' by Ammon Shea. Standage book on the history of the world in six glasses is great. His history of social media didn't grab me in the same way but is definitely worth reading. I loved this book. a very quick read that shows everything from digital chatrooms to online dating were happening in the 1870s and how nerd culture developed from that point on. What happened next is in 'The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads' by Ammon Shea. Standage book on the history of the world in six glasses is great. His history of social media didn't grab me in the same way but is definitely worth reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brian Koser

    This would be a really good article in The Atlantic. The thesis is that the telegraph changed the world much more than the Internet. Reducing international communication times from weeks or months to minutes is a paradigm shift that's hard to comprehend. The history of the telegraph was mildly interesting. The hook seen in the title of a comparison to the Internet and online culture (in-jokes, online dating) gets a brief treatment and is less interesting than you'd expect. You can read https://en.m This would be a really good article in The Atlantic. The thesis is that the telegraph changed the world much more than the Internet. Reducing international communication times from weeks or months to minutes is a paradigm shift that's hard to comprehend. The history of the telegraph was mildly interesting. The hook seen in the title of a comparison to the Internet and online culture (in-jokes, online dating) gets a brief treatment and is less interesting than you'd expect. You can read https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telegraphy#Social_implications instead and save a few hours. 2.5 stars

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter Aronson

    Three-and-three-quarters stars. A readable and compact history of the telegraph and the impact it had on society. While I think it had some good points to make, its title theme -- that the telegraph network was the internet of its time -- was somewhat sketchily justified. But still, it is worth being reminded that each new thing that is supposed to "change everything", was preceded by many other new things that changed some things, but hardly everything. Three-and-three-quarters stars. A readable and compact history of the telegraph and the impact it had on society. While I think it had some good points to make, its title theme -- that the telegraph network was the internet of its time -- was somewhat sketchily justified. But still, it is worth being reminded that each new thing that is supposed to "change everything", was preceded by many other new things that changed some things, but hardly everything.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Jeremy's been pressing me to read this book for years, and I'm glad I finally did. It's an entertaining look at the history of the telegraph and its impact on society, which has surprising parallels to the internet. The book was written in 1998, so it didn't have much to go on in speculating how the web might change society. But the same techno-utopianism that accompanied the birth of the web ("There won't be any more hatred! There won't be any more nationalism!" - AHAHAHAHAA) accompanied the da Jeremy's been pressing me to read this book for years, and I'm glad I finally did. It's an entertaining look at the history of the telegraph and its impact on society, which has surprising parallels to the internet. The book was written in 1998, so it didn't have much to go on in speculating how the web might change society. But the same techno-utopianism that accompanied the birth of the web ("There won't be any more hatred! There won't be any more nationalism!" - AHAHAHAHAA) accompanied the dawn of the telegraphic age. These technologies do bring unimagined benefits to society, but in the end, people are still people, and people still hate. That glum realization aside, this is actually a fun and lively account. I especially loved the passages on laying the first transatlantic cables, and I'm definitely going to check out A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable for more insight into that incredible feat.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I expected the title to be hype but was pleasantly surprised by this book. The first online dating, marriage all took place over the telegraph. First online crime took place over the telegraph. When it was first built it was expected to usher in a lasting world peace as governments could instantly communicate with each other. This book is well worth the time to read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Larsson

    The book gives a god insight into the history of the telegraphs upcoming and fall. The book put forward the contrebutions that was made not only on a globol level but also how the telegrath effected men an woman in there every day life with storys that brings history to life.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karsyn

    Not my typical good first book of the new year, but I read all but 20% in Dec. I had hoped to finish it up then, and didn't get to it, so the last bit finished as my first book of the year. It was alright. I'm not a non-fiction fan, and this was read purely for a challenge. Some of it was quite interesting though. I enjoyed the first several chapters, then it just kept going on and on. Still, liked it overall. Not my typical good first book of the new year, but I read all but 20% in Dec. I had hoped to finish it up then, and didn't get to it, so the last bit finished as my first book of the year. It was alright. I'm not a non-fiction fan, and this was read purely for a challenge. Some of it was quite interesting though. I enjoyed the first several chapters, then it just kept going on and on. Still, liked it overall.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mike Parkes

    Fascinating, if very brief, overview of the telegraph, a technology that I'd never thought much about, but helped shrink the world (along with steam power and the railroad, which came slightly earlier) and kick off telecommunications. Some fascinating parts to me were the optical telegraph that preceded the electrical one (literally a line of observers manning stations and using telescopes to decipher optical signals), the pneumatic steam tube network for physical delivery of short-distance mess Fascinating, if very brief, overview of the telegraph, a technology that I'd never thought much about, but helped shrink the world (along with steam power and the railroad, which came slightly earlier) and kick off telecommunications. Some fascinating parts to me were the optical telegraph that preceded the electrical one (literally a line of observers manning stations and using telescopes to decipher optical signals), the pneumatic steam tube network for physical delivery of short-distance messages that integrated with the electric telegraph network, the laying of the transatlantic cable, and how different newspapers were in the pre-telegraph days. I would have liked a bit more on the technological developments - the first few chapters are good, and there is a wrap-up chapter near the end that talks about later advances in sending information and signal switching that were later built on in the telephone network, but I was still left with some unanswered questions (e.g., why did multiple small batteries work better than large ones to send long-distance messages; in an era where it was difficult to produce electricity, just how much electric power did the telegraph networks use, and how was it produced?)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    I learned so much!!! And it was super interesting to see the parallels between the telegraph way back when and the internet today! I absolutely loved learning about the secret codes and romances that bloomed through the telegraph!

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Erik Setsaas

    Fascinating story about the introduction of the telegraph, and how this affected society.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    While the term ‘Victorian Internet’ conjures up visions of a steampunk alternate history, the invention and spread of the telegraph system in the 19th century had much the same effect on society then as the internet has had in our own time. It turned a world where messages took weeks to cross the Atlantic to one where it took mere minutes. It changed the speed of business and of war. New forms of crime sprang up to take advantage of the new technology and encryption was developed to deal with th While the term ‘Victorian Internet’ conjures up visions of a steampunk alternate history, the invention and spread of the telegraph system in the 19th century had much the same effect on society then as the internet has had in our own time. It turned a world where messages took weeks to cross the Atlantic to one where it took mere minutes. It changed the speed of business and of war. New forms of crime sprang up to take advantage of the new technology and encryption was developed to deal with this. A new class of people sprang up- the telegraph operators, the only people who knew the knack of sending and receiving messages. They could go anywhere and be assured of a job. Suddenly, anyone who could afford the price of the telegram could talk to people across the globe. The telegraph system was hyped by some as the technology that would bring world peace- after all, if you could talk to someone instantly, you wouldn’t want to make war on them, would you? Sadly, that last wasn’t true. And the telegraph operators soon found their economic boom over and them selves obsolete as a new, voice over protocol was invented- the telephone. But the world was permanently changed by the technology that, for a lot of purposes, made distance immaterial. Standage tells us not just about the invention of the technology of the telegraph system, but about the personalities of the people who created it, and the consequences that it had in business, government, romance (yes, love did bloom across the wires) and newspapers. He gives a complete picture but keeps it light. And interesting read about a part of history that changed the world as much as the printing press did before it and the internet after it. A quick read for non-fiction.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Randy Mcdonald

    Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet, a historical survey of the telegraph from its origins in the optical telegraph of Revolutionary France to the beginning of its eclipse by the telephone in the 1880s, makes a superficially convincing argument that the telegraph fostered a tight-knit culture among mid-19th century telegraphists comparable to contemporary Internet culture. Before the invention of the teleprinter, telegraph operators did constitute a highly-skilled class of information workers Tom Standage's The Victorian Internet, a historical survey of the telegraph from its origins in the optical telegraph of Revolutionary France to the beginning of its eclipse by the telephone in the 1880s, makes a superficially convincing argument that the telegraph fostered a tight-knit culture among mid-19th century telegraphists comparable to contemporary Internet culture. Before the invention of the teleprinter, telegraph operators did constitute a highly-skilled class of information workers with sufficient leisure time as workers to develop a geographically dispersed culture, online relationships resulting in everything from stock market fraud to marriages. Though Standage's analogy stumbles in that telegraph operators always formed a rather smaller minority of the general population than Internet users even in the late 1990s, used critically it does help the reader get a grasp on the way that instantaneous global communications transformed the 19th century world. It's always comforting, somehow, to find out that the new in fact has a tradition somewhere.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lora

    One of these days I'll remember to pay attention to which edition of a book I'm listing. I read the later edition, which added some notes at the end philosophizing about the internet. Over all the book was good- I could even recommend it for a kid to read. The history of the telegraph and reflections on the internet were the focus. The personalities were described without detailed analysis of their irrelevant sexual orientations. It was just basic history. The social aspects of the rise of the t One of these days I'll remember to pay attention to which edition of a book I'm listing. I read the later edition, which added some notes at the end philosophizing about the internet. Over all the book was good- I could even recommend it for a kid to read. The history of the telegraph and reflections on the internet were the focus. The personalities were described without detailed analysis of their irrelevant sexual orientations. It was just basic history. The social aspects of the rise of the telegraph were interesting. I started reading this to appease my husband who seems under the impression that I am incapable of reading non fiction. I finished it because I enjoyed both the actual history and the author's perspective relating old and new technologies. That was probably my favorite part, all told. I like that history books have been throwing off their dry old attitudes. This was a very interesting history piece for anyone to read.

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