Stacy's Reviews > The Victorian Internet

The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage
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it was amazing

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.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 12, 2014 – Shelved
February 12, 2014 – Finished Reading

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