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The Writings on the Stall

Wednesday, 2002-04-03

the telegraph

I have been reading a book called The Victorian Internet for my Intro to TLC class. The book documents the rise and fall of the telegraph. Interesting, I know. But what keeps me awake when I am reading it are the similarities of the telegraph, referred to as "The Victorian Internet," and the Internet as we know it today.

The gist of this post...? Every chapter in the book has an excerpt from a newspaper or poem written about the telegraph. My favorite is the excerpt below, taken from a poem called "The Victory" written in tribute to Samuel Morse, 1872.

"We are one!" said the nation, and hand met hand,
in a thrill electric from land to land.

And onto another favorite (also from "The Victory").

But one morning he made a slender wire.
As an artist's vision took life and form.
While he drew from heaven the strange, fierce fire
That reddens the edge of the midnight storm;
And he carried it over the Mountain's crest,
And dropped it into the Ocean's breast;
And Science proclaimed, from shore to shore,
That Time and Space ruled man no more.

The first poem explains itself. But the second may need some clarification. At the time the poem was published, the telegraph was the wave of the future. For the longest time, the idea of instantaneous communication between America and Britain was proposterous. Within the span of twenty years though, the world became much smaller as a result of the first, and following, telegraph connections between the nations. The telegraph system was dropped into the ocean. And no longer was man bound by space or time.


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