How do they compare? Telegraph vs. Internet

The main takeaway from Standage’s writing was how far communication has come.  In today’s world we don’t have to think twice about sending a message instantly to the other side of the world, and news from far away countries is expected, not rare.  The struggles with the telegraph reflect certain aspects of the creation and implementation of the internet, but not perfectly.  For instance, Standage spends a chapter discussing the difficulties of stringing the telegraph cable across the Atlantic and the backlash after it didn’t work when opened to the general public.  The internet had its difficulties starting up, but when the internet became more widespread it didn’t seem to have as expensive or as difficult of problems.  On the other hand, like the telegraph the internet revolutionized news outlets.  The telegraph expanded essentially non-existent foreign news coverage by making international content readily available; the internet did the same thing.

The increase in the speed of long-distance communication is the most important legacy of both the telegraph and the internet.  The ease and speed allows for better sharing of ideas, which in turn leads to increased global and cultural awareness. Though many of these new cultural ideas may be filtered out according to Pariser, at least we have the potential to be exposed to different ideas.

Do you think the implementation of the trans-Atlantic wire is a direct mirror to the implementation of the internet? Which do you think had a more profound impact initially? Do you think we’re utilizing everything the internet has to offer? 

This entry was posted in Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How do they compare? Telegraph vs. Internet

  1. jlpirr says:

    I think that your questions at the end are good talking points for this topic. In class when we were discussing the internet vs. telegraph I definitely saw the connection, and your questions have caused me to think even more. I also mentioned Pariser in my blog post, and now that I think about it, I wonder if we could also relate the telegraph and internet, saying that maybe the telegraph was a bit filtered too. Obviously if two family members are communicating they are probably not being filtered, but what if news back then was similar? Today we get information filtered to us by our interests, while at the same time, the government and news outlets also control what goes in and out. Back when the telegraph was first created, it wasn’t as easily accessible as the internet is today, so people were either lucky enough to get certain information, or they had to depend on others through word of mouth. This is one way that the information could have been filtered, and another way to consider is filtration through the telegraph itself. It is possible that messages about news could have been altered before or after being sent, or they could even be misinterpreted. Therefore, I think that the telegraph is very similar to the internet in the sense that both types of users need to be exposed to a variety of news information in order to be sure to get a well-rounded story. They should also be skeptical of the information they receive so that they don’t just believe everything they hear.

  2. robausti says:

    By: Robbie Austin
    The implementation of the Trans-Atlantic Wire mirrored the implementation of the Internet. Both were fundamental structural changes in communications technology. Both signaled increasing interconnectedness around the world. Both resulted in more rapid news. I think that the Trans-Atlantic Cable had a more profound initial impact because it helped shape world history in terms of the power of nations. For example, the Standage reading described how the telegraph was the key technology for the British Foreign Office in establishing critical communication between London and their posts around the world (later that key technology would be the radio). Importantly, London and New York became financial capitals of the world, largely due to the Trans-Atlantic cable-which synchronized their financial transactions. Now, the Internet allows for instantaneous communication. Perhaps the Internet is just a slightly cleaner telegraph.

  3. Cameron says:

    I find the process of trial and error during the creation of the transatlantic telegraph very fascinating. I definitely think the trans-Atlantic wire had a more profound effect initially. The ability to disseminate news across such a distance was extremely revolutionary. I look at the internet as another avenue to do this, and I do not see the internet as being as revolutionary as the telegraphic was. I also agree with the points that Robbie brought up regarding the initial impact on world history. To answer your last question, I definitely do not think we are using the internet effectively. It offers so many avenues to expand our horizons by learning about different cultures, communicating with these different cultures, and more; yet a lot of the usage is spent on Facebook and Twitter interacting with people who you also interact with in real life.

  4. hansmith91 says:

    I do think that the internet is a modern day implementation of the telegraph. However, I believe that the impact of the telegraph was far more profound than that of the internet. Yes, the internet is a revolutionary invention and should be acknowledged as such but it is important to note that before the telegraph, there were no other options for instant communication. The ONLY way you could communicate with people long distance was via mail which could take up to weeks. Before the internet, we were still able to communicate instantly with people over the telephone. While each person utilizes the internet to a different degree, the majority of us know what it has to offer but often take its potential for granted.

  5. Neha says:

    I agree my peers in saying that telegraphy, particularly international telegraphy, has had a much more profound impact on our communicative world than the internet. Since the telegraph, all other forms of communication, aside from radio and television, perhaps, represent fairly minute increments of change. Once the initial invention of quick communication was developed with the telegraph, other forms seem to be more modern developments of the same essential idea. In the future, I cannot expect for us to encounter anything as profound as the invention of the telegraph was. In that case, I can’t help but feel like we’re pretty much at the brink of using the internet to its full capacity. As hansmith91 pointed out, we all use the internet for very different reasons and to different degrees. I think our generation has learned how to use the internet to the extent of fulfilling our individual needs but surely needs to time to figure out its full capabilities.

  6. erikpeulicke says:

    While the trans-Atlantic cable and the Internet are groundbreaking within their own times, I would argue that the two revolutions are not an exact mirror of each other. In fact, the trans-Atlantic cable seems to have altered the way the world communications more than the internet (at this point in time). Looking back to life before the cable, communication via telegraph worked well across the country, but it didn’t offer communication between North America and the rest of the World. The trans-Atlantic cable was able to bring together many countries within minutes, rather than a month by ship. The Internet offered a similar revolution, but it is limiting its own potential be filtering. Pariser alludes to this by discussing the filter bubble, which is preventing internet users from connecting the groups that are different from their own.

  7. toriwhit731 says:

    I do think that the telegraph and the Internet mirror each other in the sense that they change the way in which people were able to communicate. Additionally, I think the best understanding of “profound impact” is by focusing on what has come before each of the technologies. As Professor Pasek has argued, the telegraph was the first of its kind. In framing it this way, the Internet seems more like a fine-tuning, than the birth of something entirely new. In adding to this argument, as Standage outlines the ability of foreign communication and the growth of foreign news, this is the biggest “teller” of impact, as the Internet has just increased the rate at which foreign news can be disseminated.

    Additionally, I agree with Cameron above. I do think the Internet has the opportunity to reach farther, globally. In terms of simple communication and cultural exchange, I see the Internet growing once it becomes commonplace in other areas of the world. But to assume cultural understanding and wider world view through cultural exchange is naive, much like the “world peacers” of the Victorian Internet.

  8. John D'Adamo says:

    I agree with Tori and Cameron in that the internet has and will have a very large-scale spread throughout the continental U.S. and the entire world, but currently the trans-Atlantic cable has the slight edge due to the larger historical impact of transitioning the globe from relying on mere slow letter-writing to rapid communication, the Internet has the ability to go beyond this simply because rapid response can happen not just amongst two individuals but across millions at the same time, facilitated by powerful servers. The amount of activities one can accomplish on the Internet, additionally, is greatly increased from the trans-Atlantic cable. The possibilities within the pixels are infinite- limited only by our imaginations (going back to the discussions in the Hackers video we watched a few weeks ago). As Willy Wonka said, “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.” I believe that quote has much relevance to the above in the context of the unlimited possibilities of the Internet.

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