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am 24. November 1999
The really interesting part about this book is the role of the personalities. the author does a pretty good job of examining the role of the individual in bringing about this 'communications revolution.' The parallels to today's emerging Internet are striking. I think that I was most struck by the 'online communities' and the new telegraph shorthand, similar to today's emoticons. An intersting, enjoyable, easy read.
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am 1. Februar 2006
The title of this book, 'The Victorian Internet,' refers to the 'communications explosion' that took place with the advent and expansion of telegraph wire communications. Prior to this, communication was notoriously slow, particularly as even postal communications were subject to many difficulties and could take months for delivery (and we complain today of the 'allow five days' statements on our credit cards billings!).
The parallels between the Victorian Internet and the present computerised internet are remarkable. Information about current events became relatively instantaneous (relative, that is, to the usual weeks or months that it once took to receive such information). There were skeptics who were convinced that this new mode of communication was a passing phase that would never take on (and, in a strict sense, they were right, not of course realising that the demise of the telegraph system was not due to the reinvigoration of written correspondence but due to that new invention, the telephone). There were hackers, people who tried to disrupt communications, those who tried to get on-line free illegally, and, near the end of the high age of telegraphing, a noticeable slow-down in information due to information overload (how long is this page going to take to download?? isn't such a new feeling after all).
The most interesting chapter to me is that entitled 'Love over the Wires' which begins with an account of an on-line wedding, with the bride in Boston and the groom in New York. This event was reported in a small book, Anecdotes of the Telegraph, published in London in 1848, which stated that this was 'a story which throws into the shade all the feats that have been performed by our British telegraph.' This story is really one of love and adventure, as the bride's father had sent the young groom away for being unworthy to marry his daughter, but on a stop-over on his way to England, he managed to get a magistrate and telegraph operator to arrange the wedding. The marriage was deemed to be legally binding.
A very interesting and remarkable story that perhaps would have been forgotten by history had history not set out to repeat itself with our modern internet.
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am 30. Juli 2011
Informationsbeschaffung war für menschliche Gesellschaften schon immer von großer, manchmal über Leben und Tod entscheidender Bedeutung, insbesondere in militärischer Hinsicht; mit der Zeit wurde es auch im Rahmen des Wirtschafts- und Finanzwesens bedeutsam, möglichst früh über neuste Entscheidungen und Entwicklungen informiert zu sein.
Vorstufen des elektrisch betriebenen Telegrafen wurden ebenso zögerlich aufgenommen wie dieser selbst. Tom Standage beschreibt detailliert diese Entwicklung, die von Frankreich ausging, berichtet von einzelnen Erfinder- und Vermarkterpersönlichkeiten und schildert die Entwicklung, die schließlich zu Morse und dem Telegrafen führte, wie man ihn so lange Zeit kannte.
Der Autor zieht auch Parallelen zum modernen Internet, und diese verblüffen: Tatsächlich glaubte die viktorianische Gesellschaft, in einem Meer aus Informationen zu ertrinken, es wurde betrogen, es wurden heimliche Liebschaften gepflegt und Heiraten über weite Entfernungen vorgenommen, private "Banalitäten" ausgetauscht, vor allem aber auch Geschäfte abgewickelt und teils die Kriminalität sowohl gefördert als auch bekämpft. Es ergaben sich spezielle Codes, und immer hinkten die Gesetze der Entwicklung hinterher.
Das Buch ist spannend und schildert die Geschichte und Bedeutung der Telegrafen gut nachvollziehbar und anschaulich. In die Tiefe geht das Buch nicht, es gibt bisweilen auch kleinere inhaltliche Brüche; wer sich also für technische Einzelheiten interessiert, wird nicht zufrieden sein. Dafür befasst sich der Autor detailliert mit den gesellschaftlichen Auswirkungen und den Erfinderpersönlichkeiten.
Spannende Lektüre!
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am 4. Februar 2009
Tom Standage stellt in "The Victorian Internet" die Geschichte der Telegraphie vor, angefangen von Türmen, die durch optische Signale kommunizieren bis hin zu den Tiefseekabeln, die letztlich die Kontinente miteinander verbanden. Dabei stellt er Erfinder, Tüftler, Telegraphisten, Mäzene und nicht zuletzt auch die Benutzer dieser neuen Technologie vor.

Diesen sehr interessanten Schilderungen stellt er dann die Entwicklung des Internets gegenüber. Standage zeigt, dass mit dem Aufkommen der Telegraphie dieselben Hoffnungen aufkeimten, wie sie heute in Bezug auf das Internet in aller Munde sind, und dass sich das Internet und die Telegraphie, was ihre Akzeptanz innerhalb der Bevölkerung betrifft, auch nicht gerade unähnlich sind...

"The Victorian Internet" ist eigentlich sehr gut zu lesen und hätte auch eine bessere Wertung bekommen, wenn da nicht ein paar Wermutstropfen wären:

1. Das Buch ist insgesamt zu oberflächlich. Die Arbeitsweise der vorgestellten Maschinen wird meist nur angeschnitten.

2. Standage neigt dazu, einfach nur Daten aufzuzählen und den Leser mit Details zu erschlagen, ohne einen Faden oder Fokus erkennen zu lassen.

3. Das Buch bleibt zu kurz, um wirklich in die Tiefe zu gehen. Obwohl gesellschaftliche Änderungen gestreift werden, bleiben doch sehr viel Fragen offen.

Wer über diese Punkte hinwegsehen kann, wird dem Buch einiges Interessantes und Wissenswertes abgewinnen können.
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am 29. Juni 1999
For those looking for original research or depth of insight into the launching of the remarkable communications web the telegraph was, you'll be disappointed. Sandage does a nice job of mining the existing history to prove his single point of the parallel impact of telegraph and the Internet. The book is likely of value to readers wanting only a recitation of dates and events. The book gives support to an acquaintance's observation that what we need today is "another category of Pulitzer Prize; one for the best investigative paragraph."
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am 1. Februar 2006
The title of this book, 'The Victorian Internet,' refers to the 'communications explosion' that took place with the advent and expansion of telegraph wire communications. Prior to this, communication was notoriously slow, particularly as even postal communications were subject to many difficulties and could take months for delivery (and we complain today of the 'allow five days' statements on our credit cards billings!).
The parallels between the Victorian Internet and the present computerised internet are remarkable. Information about current events became relatively instantaneous (relative, that is, to the usual weeks or months that it once took to receive such information). There were skeptics who were convinced that this new mode of communication was a passing phase that would never take on (and, in a strict sense, they were right, not of course realising that the demise of the telegraph system was not due to the reinvigoration of written correspondence but due to that new invention, the telephone). There were hackers, people who tried to disrupt communications, those who tried to get on-line free illegally, and, near the end of the high age of telegraphing, a noticeable slow-down in information due to information overload (how long is this page going to take to download?? isn't such a new feeling after all).
The most interesting chapter to me is that entitled 'Love over the Wires' which begins with an account of an on-line wedding, with the bride in Boston and the groom in New York. This event was reported in a small book, Anecdotes of the Telegraph, published in London in 1848, which stated that this was 'a story which throws into the shade all the feats that have been performed by our British telegraph.' This story is really one of love and adventure, as the bride's father had sent the young groom away for being unworthy to marry his daughter, but on a stop-over on his way to England, he managed to get a magistrate and telegraph operator to arrange the wedding. The marriage was deemed to be legally binding.
A very interesting and remarkable story that perhaps would have been forgotten by history had history not set out to repeat itself with our modern internet.
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am 21. März 2000
This is the pioneering story of the telegraph, an almost forgotten technology, but one which Tom Standage shows to have relevance for today. For me, telegrams are very mysterious things, glued to the hands of bellboys, like the 'Candygram for Mongo' in 'Blazing Saddles'. In idle, stupid moments, I wonder how all those words got sent down a piece of wire. If I'm confused as to what comprises the telegraph, then I wouldn't have been the first: Standage relates how one woman tried to send a cake down the wire. The reason being that if generals can move armies by telegram, then why cannot cakes be sent? This new technology was ridiculed and feared in the early nineteenth century, with people such as Charles Dickens almost regaling it with supernatural powers (see Dickens' classic 'The Signalman' ). That was the case until a telegram from Slough to Paddington apprehended the murderer John Tawell. Capturing Tawell, and various other vagabonds who preyed on rail travellers, showed that the telegraph had practical uses. I was particularly interested in the references to my home town of Slough, since it has always been a communications centre, from the Roman builders of the Bath Road, the stagecoach, to the railways.
Standage's analogy would seem to hold true, since a certain internet retailer has just opened in the same town, with geographical networks still retaining import in the invisible world of electronic commerce. But this book will appeal to readers on a far wider level. This is an exciting tale of scientific innovation, featuring characters such as Samuel Morse, and will delight those who loved 'Fermat's Last Theorem' and 'Longitude'
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am 2. Februar 2006
The title of this book, 'The Victorian Internet,' refers to the 'communications explosion' that took place with the advent and expansion of telegraph wire communications. Prior to this, communication was notoriously slow, particularly as even postal communications were subject to many difficulties and could take months for delivery (and we complain today of the 'allow five days' statements on our credit cards billings!).
The parallels between the Victorian Internet and the present computerised internet are remarkable. Information about current events became relatively instantaneous (relative, that is, to the usual weeks or months that it once took to receive such information). There were skeptics who were convinced that this new mode of communication was a passing phase that would never take on (and, in a strict sense, they were right, not of course realising that the demise of the telegraph system was not due to the reinvigoration of written correspondence but due to that new invention, the telephone). There were hackers, people who tried to disrupt communications, those who tried to get on-line free illegally, and, near the end of the high age of telegraphing, a noticeable slow-down in information due to information overload (how long is this page going to take to download?? isn't such a new feeling after all).
The most interesting chapter to me is that entitled 'Love over the Wires' which begins with an account of an on-line wedding, with the bride in Boston and the groom in New York. This event was reported in a small book, Anecdotes of the Telegraph, published in London in 1848, which stated that this was 'a story which throws into the shade all the feats that have been performed by our British telegraph.' This story is really one of love and adventure, as the bride's father had sent the young groom away for being unworthy to marry his daughter, but on a stop-over on his way to England, he managed to get a magistrate and telegraph operator to arrange the wedding. The marriage was deemed to be legally binding.
A very interesting and remarkable story that perhaps would have been forgotten by history had history not set out to repeat itself with our modern internet.
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am 19. September 2000
From the late 1840s to the advent of the telephone in the early 1880s, the telegraph provided the first modern means of instant communication to a suddenly shrunken world. Standage's book is easy to read with several interesting anecdotes, including appearances by more than a few eccentric characters. Take for example Dr. Edward Orange Wildman Whitehouse, something of a crackpot who, despite a pathetic lack of scientific knowledge, talked his way into becoming the official electrician of the Atlantic Telegraph Company. This organization pioneered the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858. Within a month Whitehouse had fried the wire by mandating the use of excessive voltage to transmit messages. Successful and reliable transatlantic cabling thus had to wait until the conclusion of the American Civil War in 1865.
Although we enjoyed the easy to read style in which the book is written, a dearth of footnotes providing source citation is a minor annoyance (thus, we docked Standage a star in Amazon's ranking system). Sometimes quotes appear to be completely unattributable, and it would have been nice to see from where Standage drew them. Regardless, it is an easy and fun read and the book will no doubt open the eyes of the current generation to the fact that "Everything old is new again" holds true today more than ever.
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am 1. Februar 2000
The most effective way to demonstrate a parallelism is to describe the unfamiliar in such a way that its similarity to the familiar is obvious. Standage's short but effective history of the telegraph's initial period of rapid growth resonates with anyone even casually familiar with the Internet. Only in his concluding two-page epilogue does he feel the need to explicitly draw a parallel between the telegraph and the Internet.
This would still be a fascinating and thought-provoking book even without the implicit comparison to today's expanding Internet infrastructure. The first use of electricity and wire for instantaneous communication represented a quantum change in society, affecting the media, government, and individuals. Everything since then has just been a refinement to that first revolution. A less significant but amusing factoid was that the young Tom Edison lived on huge amounts of weak coffee and apple pie when pulling all-nighters to invent. Its easy for the reader to envision him as an early hacker, endangering his health with the 19th century equivalent of Jolt Cola and Twinkies.
This book is equally enjoyable to anyone who enjoys the history of technology, and those who have a more specific interest in the Internet and want to learn what lessons a historical high-tech boom can offer.
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