- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 2 edition (February 25, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 162040592X
- ISBN-13: 978-1620405925
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 141 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers 2nd Edition
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The Victorian Internet tells the colorful story of the telegraphs creation and remarkable impact and of the visionaries oddballs and eccentrics who pioneered it from the eighteenth century French scientist Jean Antoine Nollet to Samuel F B Morse and Thomas Edison The electric telegraph nullified distance and shrank the world quicker and further than ever before or since and its story mirrors and predicts that of the Internet in numerous ways For Thousands of Years people communicated across distances only as quickly as the fastest ship or horse could travel until the invention of the electric telegraph which nullified distance and shrank the world quicker and further than ever before or since The Victorian Internet tells the colorful story of the telegraph s creation and remarkable impact and of the visionaries oddballs and eccentrics who pioneered it from eighteenth century French scientist Jean Antoine Nollet to Samuel F B Morse who developed the first practical electric telegraph in 1837 to Thomas Edison By 1865 telegraph cables spanned continents and oceans revolutionizing the ways countries dealt with one another The new technology gave rise to creative business practices and new forms of crime Romances blossomed over the wires Secret codes were devised by some users and cracked by others The benefits of the network were relentlessly hyped by its advocates and dismissed by skeptics Government regulators tried and failed to control the new medium And attitudes toward everything from news gathering to war had to be completely rethought Meanwhile out on the wires a technological subculture with its own customs and vocabulary was establishing itself The electric telegraph unleashed the greatest revolution in communication since the development of the printing press and its story prefigures that of the Internet in numerous intriguing ways Book jacket
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For a cogent and fascinating comparison of the golden age of telegraphy with today's internet, the Victorian Internet nicely fills that niche.
In TVI, readers will encounter themes very familiar to those involved with the latest telecommunications revolution: using communications to catch criminals; concerns with privacy, and an inability to identify users; application of codes and encryption to foil thieves and governments, if possible; corruption affecting various aspects of the system; heavy reliance by the financial industry; operator jargon; dealing with load and congestion; transmission errors causing financial problems; users not understanding technology; technology staying ahead of the law; and governments intercepting, copying, and analyzing transmissions.
Probably one of the most interesting themes in the book involved expectations that improved communications would lead to world peace. While reading the book a student asked me if the rise of Web 2.0 and social networking sites would result in increased understanding among those of different faiths, hopefully leading to a more peaceful world. At the very least, after reading a book like TVI, I can say the Victorian Internet didn't result in world peace.
"The Victorian Internet" is all about our world and the invention of the Telegraph. As cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson once pointed out, the telegraph was the world's first global digital network. It's when we started trying to push voice down the copper lines that we mucked things up.
In this book, you'll find technological wizardry, geek pioneers, global aspirations, long-distance romances, and online scams. You'll discover what 19th-Century chat was like. There are growing pains. We see fear for the future and fear of moral decline. The Telegraph represented a sudden, massive interconnection of people thousands of miles apart, and the effects of this overnight deluge of information is clear in reading. You have to remember that these were people used to feeling safe in their own homes, blissfully unaware of each other, and only vaguely informed of events going on in other countries.
Standage does a nice job of hitting on the hottest topics of our time, without hitting the reader over the head to make a point. Cybergeeks will love his stops at Cryptography, code, and the other programming-like solutions people came up with to solve their problems. Fans of history will be amused by the parallels between life then and now as "old media" learns to stop worrying and embrace "new media".
In a narrative style that resembles the British TV series "Connections", Standage shows us what each side of the Atlantic was up to, the race to connect the world, and the sheer determination and boundless optimism that made it all happen. There are also interesting tidbits along the way: we get facts about Samuel Morse and Thomas Edison that most history books ignore. There are anecdotes from 19th-century daily life that we can easily identify with today. All of it combines in a way that is easy to read, decently-paced, and fun to think about and discuss with others.
I give this book 5 stars for being clever with presentation and for keeping the various threads together without seeming fragmented. Tom Standage moves us through history without jumping around, and references earlier sections to remind us of where things are going. If you like history, technology, or even the geekier topics of machine logic, programming, and cryptography, this book makes an excellent read.