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Sending messages: The telegraph and the convenience of modern communication

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  1. Introduction
  2. The ancient signal towers
  3. Circumstances of being contained on a 'fast ship'
  4. The Victorian Internet : An inference
  5. Ambassador Edward Thornton's efforts
  6. Analysis of Hunt's argument
  7. Victorians' enthusiasm for the telegraph
  8. A look into the financial cost of sending telegrams
  9. Conclusion
  10. References

On the night of Sunday, 14 April, 1912, at 23:40, the HMS Titanic collided with a submerged iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean four hundred miles south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Within three hours, the ship would sink and be recalled as the most celebrated maritime disaster prior to the outbreak of the Great War. The peacetime sinking of the ?unsinkable? White Star Line vessel cost 1,517 people their lives, and shocked the world when wireless telegraph news reports of the disaster traveled the globe. By the time the HMS Titanic was launched from Southampton, England, telegraphic communication had developed across Western Europe and North America insofar as it was persistently used for official, commercial, and personal considerations. In fact, it was reported that the steamer Amerika sent a wireless warning at 13:45 on that fateful Sunday warning of large icebergs in the Titanic's path, but the Marconi wireless radio operators were preoccupied sending telegraphs to and from the passengers that ?non-essential? ice messages were neglected and not relayed to the bridge. How did telegraphic communication develop to attain such an impact on modern life?

History is replete with complex signals and systems used to quickly transmit information across geographical space. From the ancient signal towers, homing pigeons and post-horse relays, humankind has engineered the ability to transmit messages across distances to relay news in times of war and peace. George Washington's revolutionary forces utilized semaphore signals during the American Insurrection ?moving a barrel at the top of a mast, a flag below the barrel, and a basket on a crossarm to various positions,? and other systems were paralleled by European nations until the nineteenth century [Oslin, 1992].

[...] Judging by the high contemporary costs of the electric telegraph, or the initial costs of the Internet (or cellular telecommunications specifically, ?text messaging?), it is clear that any development in technologies with the promise bring people together? will receive equaled enthusiasm and fascination. References Bektas, Y. (2001). ?Displaying the American genius: the electromagnetic telegraph in the wider world,? The British Journal for the History of Science, 199-232. Carey, J. (1992). Communication as culture: essays on media and society. New York, NY: Routledge. Morus, I. R. (2000). nervous system of Britain': space, time and the electric telegraph in the Victorian The British Journal for the History of Science, 455-475. Oslin, G. P. [...]


[...] (1992). The Story of Telecommunications. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Phillips, R. J. (2000). ?Digital Technology and Institutional Change from the Gilded Age to Modern Times: The Impact of the Telegraph and the Internet,? Journal of Economic Issues, 266-289. Pound, R. (1936). Military Telegraph in the Civil Proceedings [...]


[...] The telegraph was viewed as a tool with immediate application to the governance of the British Empire, but its promotion and marketing to other nations would secure its status as an invention which would significantly impact global communication irrespective of the Commonwealth's borders. Conjoined with the ability to project human thought and control across geographical distance, the telegraph was pivotal in transforming Victorian (and, subsequently, international) conceptions of time and space. Occurring with developments in travel, such as the construction of railways and the bourgeoning use of steam-powered trains, the marvelous was suddenly accessible. [...]

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