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A new paperback edition of the first book by the bestselling author ofA History of the World in 6 Glassesthe fascinating story of the telegraph, the world's first "Internet," which revolutionized the nineteenth century even more than the Internet has the twentieth and twenty first. The Victorian Internettells the colorful story of the telegraph's 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. Tom Standageis the former technology editor and current business editor at theEconomist. He is the author ofA History of the World in 6 Glasses,The Turk, andThe Neptune File. The Victorian Internettells the story of the telegraph, the world's first 'internet,' which revolutionized the nineteenth century even more than the internet has the twentieth and twenty-first. The electric telegraph nullified distance and shrank the world quicker and further than any technology before or since, and its story mirrors and predicts that of the internet in numerous intriguing ways. Tom Standage covers the creation of the telegraph and remarkable impact it had on communication and society. He writes about 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. 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 and cracked by others. The benefits of the network were relentlessly hyped by advocates and vehemently dismissed by skeptics. Government regulators tried and failed to control the new medium. Attitudes toward everything from news gathering to war had to be reconsidered. Meanwhile, on the wires, a technological subculture with its own customs and vocabulary was establishing itself. As globalization continues to makes the world seem smaller,The Victorian Internetreflects on what was the greatest revolution in communication since the invention of the printing press. The telegraph took that initial step toward connectedness across geographical, economical and social distances."With every new technology, we overestimate how quickly people change their behavior. This dot-com cult classic compares Web fever to the awe of the telegraph. When Queen Victoria sent the first transatlantic cable to President Buchanan in 1858, the London Times said that the invention 'has half undone the Revolution of 1776,' and torch-bearing revelers, celebrating the cable's completion, nearly burned down New York's City Hall. Publisher James Gordon Bennett rued: 'Mere newspapers must submit to destiny and go out of existence.' What was the best way to profit? Faster communications created our Information Age, but the telegraph industry was a short-lived wonder. By 1880, Western Union carried 80% of the traffic. Then came the phone."L. Gordon Crovitz,The Wall Street Journal"Standage has written a lively book on the telegraph and its roles in helping 19th century business and technology grow . . .The Victorian Internetdemonstrates engagingly that not even the 21st century technology is totally new."D
Tom Standage is the former technology editor and current business editor at the Economist. He is the author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses, The Turk, and The Neptune File.
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Praise for The Victorian Internet
“A dot com cult classic,”—Wall Street Journal
“I was simply fascinated by this book. It contains parallels between the reception of the telegraph and the Internet which I knew nothing about.”—Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet
“Fascinating…If you've ever hankered for a perspective on media Net hype, this book is for you.”—Wired
“A delightful book.”—Smithsonian
“A fascinating walk through a pivotal period in human history.”—USA Today “An entertaining primer on a complex subject of increasing interest.”—Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review
“An admirably efficient and concise telling of the story of the rise and decline of the telegraph.”—Henry Petroski, author of The Pencil