From telegraph to Internet

2 May

After reading the book “Victorian Internet”, this week article “Technologies of the third mediamorphosis” brought me back to the subtle relationship between telegraph and Internet again. It is obviously that Internet will not have today’s success without many intelligent inventions of telegraph in nineteenth-century.

Since the electric current usage of transmitting message have been found by scientists two centuries ago, human beings keep changing the communication ways in the world. From telegraphs, telephones to wireless radios, televisions and computers with Internet. These remarkable inventions dramatically changed people’s life style and whole society. The speedy, liberally communication way makes the “globe” become a flat surface.  Among these inventions, I feel really amazed about the similarities between telegraph and Internet. Long distance telegraph message usually transferred by several telegraph offices to arrive its destination.  So does e-mail. When people sent out e-mail, it usually takes a random route by using different “IP address” of each computer to transfer from one to another and then arrive to the exactly destination. In my own opinion, it’s clear that people have been improving their society and living by imitating the ancestors’ experiences and logics, and it usually works well.

On the other hand, I also noticed an interesting point about how people treat the old inventions when new technologies are coming out. It makes me feel surprise that not every old invention would be weeded out by people, even though people start welcoming the new one, for example, the walkie-talkie and cell phones. The walkie-talkie is a handset that using wireless radio technology to connect with others’ handsets. Like cell phone, you can talk with others by using walkie-talkie but in a short or limited distance.  As my observation, many taxi drivers really like to use walkie-talkie to communicate with other drivers or the colleagues in Company. Why the taxi drivers don’t use cell phone? Cell phone has the same function as walkie-talkie and even more suitable in long distance. From my own perspective, I think walkie-talkie already fulfill the needs of taxi drivers and it has some pros that cell phone doesn’t have, for example, cheaper expense or simpler features. Hence, I believe that even the new inventions are always coming up rapidly, as long as old ones could find its specific users, they still have lots of chances in the market.

The last meaningful point I realized in the article is that it mentioned many inventions were actually the convergence of other earlier technologies; for example, television and facsimile. Just like the relationship between telegraph and Internet, the combination of telegraphy and photography gave birth to television and facsimile. Also, after invention of computer and Internet, people now start using “Internet” to watch “television programs” by their PC or even mobile phone! I think it’s another convergence of two different technologies when they met to each other. It’s hard to say if the television will be weed out or not due to the walkie-talkie example. As long as there is a need for specific people, there is hard to say.

The reading took me back from the past to current situation of telegraphy once again. Although I have many thoughts, the most important take away this time is: Without the inventions by earlier ancestors, there is no today’s success.


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