Over the past few days I have been thinking about history, in particular the history of telecommunications. It is easy for us to imagine that the Internet will be with us forever, indeed many cannot imagine what we did before it was invented. But technology that enables communication has come before and been vanquished by a newer and better technology.
For an example of this we can take the telegraph, which was the Internet of that time. Newspapers called it a miracle, and the 6-12 week wait for news from overseas was no longer. At the time people wrote quite poetically about it:
“The contemplated extension of the Magnetic Telegraph by private enterprize, from New York to Boston, may be hailed as a stride in the march of intelligence of no ordinary importance. It is one of those triumphs of the arts of peace that knit our people in closer relations of union and brotherhood. The Magnetic Telegraph annihilates distance.” [Source: Albany Argus, January 4, 1845.]
Companies used it to trade shares and commodities, giving rise to the stock tickers we’ve seen in old movies. Nations used the electric telegraph to move armies faster and more efficiently than ever.
The telegraph even gave rise to an online community, that of the telegraph operators. Who used ‘handles’ and who developed something like a Twitter community.
This little journey into the fairly recent past shows how quickly innovations are superseded. Thus the telephone, television and computers arose and caused us to almost forget the telegraph. This very fact makes me conscious that this interweb we love so much is ephemeral and that our business models need to be enabled to respond to technology changes.
By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire