The Victorian Internet

Reviewed on , book by Tom Standage

Fascinating journey through the second half of the 1800s with the invention of the telegraph. As we went from messaging taking 10 days (at the fastest) to get across the Atlantic to, in 1866 with the transatlantic submarine cable, minutes.

Of course, at the time, as we did with the Internet in the 90s, this amount of global connectivity would surely bring world peace with it! It’d wash out the cultural differences in no time! People found love over the wire and it’s described as a true hey-day for telegraph operators as they traveled around the world, operating telegraphs (the telegraphic nomad). It completely changed the news media, instead of accounts being delayed by months and weeks, they could now be relayed in real time. Something the news saw as a wonderful new opportunity to appeal to people’s emotion and give them dramatic stories in real-time.

Such a humbling account of something that took place 150 years ago, but seems so oddly familiar today. The leap from the telegraph (and later, telephone/teleprinter) to the Internet isn’t as far as the leap from mail horse wagons to telegrams.

Comes highly recommended as a Christmas read.