The Victorian Internet ( review )

Joe Gregorio

I missed this book when it was first published, but picked it up recently and was really impressed. While the title would have you believe it was focused on the internet, in actuality only the last chapter discusses the parallels between the telegraph and the internet, while the remainder of the book is actually a well written history of the telegraph, which bodes well for the endurance of this book; instead of coloring the whole book with the perspective of the internet as it exists today, it is left as a straight-forward history that will probably take on fresh meanings and perspectives as the internet grows and our relationship to it evolves.

Things I learned:

The first successful transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1866, a 2,300 mile long cable just a few inches wide, which is a stunning achievement for the time.

The Associated Press was formed as a response to the disruptive innovation of the telegraph, which is ironic given it's ham-fisted attempts at dealing with another disruptive innovation.

The telegraph had the equivalent of domain names; telegraphic addresses (short names) were sold to companies that senders could use to address their telegrams to, thus making the telegram shorter and cost less to send, and yes, you had to pay an annual fee to keep your telegraphic address.

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