Discovering the parallels between the electronic telegraph (invented in 1837) and the Internet (invented 1991) was fascinating. While I have been an active ‘produser’ on the Internet for many years now, I never took the time to discover the history of this revolutionary technology. I was unaware about the far-reaching historical development and evolution that has lead to the Internet, as we know it today. Neither was I aware of the similarity in key defining characteristics between the electronic telegraph (or the Victorian Internet as Tom Standage puts it) and the magical world that is the Internet.
The truth it while these two technological inventions were from different eras they both shared one common goal: To ease the access and distribution of matter (information) across geographical boarders. Additionally these two networks shared similarities is these key areas:
- First users: government, the military and commerce (Empire building)
- Empowered journalists (democratizing)
- Loosening social hierarchies (democratizing)
- Made possible universal time zones
For more interesting comparison and facts about these two technologies, take a look at the infographic that I created (below).
Note: The creation of the Internet can be accredited to a list of heroes, with roots stemming back even further than Morse’s electronic telegraph, and further than ARPANET. However for the purpose of this infographic, I chose to focus on Samuel Morse and Tim Berners-Lee as key contributors. For a detailed account of all parties influential in the invention of the Internet, click here.
Felix Stadler’s notion of ‘Information Ecology’, was food for though, his explanation of digital media as an “integrated environment based on flows of information” (Stalder 2005, p. 62), echoed the environment I imagined Morse would have dreamed his electronic telegraph would create, but was never able to see it in fruition.
This had me thinking of the Internet’s future and what great inventions I would live to see, one area that I was intrigued about is artificial intelligence. As technology continues to evolve and expand and take on human properties, where will the human be in this future? This prompted more research and I soon stumbled upon this insightful article by Alan Turning, the breaker of the enigma machine and key supporter for Artificial intelligence or what he calls “Learning Machines” (Turning 195, p.458).
Definitely something to think about, as I sign off, I leave you with this quote by Professor Jefferson’s Lister Oration.
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Standage, T 1999, Mother of all networks, in Victorian Internet, Berkley Trade Ltd, NY, pp. 23 – 46