The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers

The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers

by Tom Standage

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A new edition of the first book by the bestselling author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses-the 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 Internet tells 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635573961
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 08/14/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 327,585
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Tom Standage is the former technology editor and current business editor at the Economist. He is the author of Writing on the Wall: Social Media-The First 2000 Years, the bestseller A History of the World in 6 Glasses, An Edible History of Humanity, The Turk, and The Neptune File. He lives in London.
Tom Standage is digital editor at the Economist and editor-in-chief of its website, He is the author of six history books, including An Edible History of Humanity, the New York Times bestseller A History of the World in Six Glasses and The Victorian Internet. His writing has also appeared in the Daily Telegraph, the New York Times and Wired. He lives in London.

Table of Contents

1.The Mother of All Networks1
2.Strange, Fierce Fire22
3.Electric Skeptics41
4.The Thrill Electric57
5.Wiring the World74
6.Steam-Powered Messages92
7.Codes, Hackers, and Cheats105
8.Love over the Wires127
9.War and Peace in the Global Village145
10.Information Overload164
11.Decline and Fall181
12.The Legacy of the Telegraph201

What People are Saying About This

William Gibson

An inspired and utterly topical rediscovery of the emergence of the earliest modern communications technology. I recommend it highly.

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Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When it comes to internet hype, this book nails it! Anyone who thinks the internet is revolutionary, and will change everything, needs to read this book, and get a true historical perspective on the technology. Afterwards you'll marvel not at how much has changed, but at how little has changed in the past 100+ years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tom Standage gives you a wonderful historical view of the telegraph and its implications on our modern day technologies. By historical view, I most certainly do not mean to imply that this book is a history book. It's concept is based more from the view point of sociology and anthropology and how they were impacted by telegraph technology in the past century. Throughout the book Mr. Standage gives you parallels between the telegraph and the internet. The book starts out by telling you the beginnings of the telegraph, and how the 'new' telegraph was speculated and ridiculed just like the concept of the internet. The book also relates practical ways in which the telegraph was used in both Europe and North America. There is even a story about an online wedding using the telegraph that took place with the bride in Boston while the groom was in New York. If you like to learn about history, technology, and culture, without being put to sleep, I would recommend this easy read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Upon reading 'The Victorian Internet' I realized that it took a very long time to get the world to communicate. This book was very good of including all the historical details. If you like to learn something new from books, this is the book to read. It starts out by explaining how people used towers to communicate and ends with how people send e-mails every second. The style of writing is very different from history text books, in the sense that it doesn't put you to sleep. The author does a very good job of describing the hardships of communications in a very intelligent and interesting way. The chronological order that the book was written in helps out a lot. From the early days of networks, until the latest days of the internet, everything goes step by step. As the book progresses it becomes more clear how the telegraph is the same tool as the internet, only less advanced. Our society started out slowly but then the rate of development sky rocketed. Not only did the invention of the telegraph speed up communication, it also speed up the way of life. People became more and more busy. Things picked up the tempo. The book shows how quick thinking is a requiement in the telegraph world. One example that the author showed us was the stand off of English and French troops in Africa. The troops didn't know what the governments wanted them to do, fight or leave? The English had an advantage, they quickly went to their telegraph line and asked the government. The government told them to claim the land. The French, without orders, were forced to retreat until they got a word from their officials, but by that time the English already fortified the land. All in all, this book teaches a lot about the way we communicate with the rest of the world. Every page of the book is interesting and full of facts.
airship on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dinged a half a star only because I think the author is being too conservative when he compares the effect of the telegraph on the 19th century to the impact of the Internet today. In my mind, the telegraph was even more disruptive in its day than the Internet has been.Think about it - the Internet debuted in an age when we already had telephones, radio, TV, and many other tools of instant mass communication. When the telegraph came into use, it was new, and all by itself. Suddenly information was instantaneous. It was a hugely disruptive technology.Tom Standage does a great job of laying out the history of the telegraph's development and implementation, and exploring just how disruptive it was. (Did you know that people even got married over the telegraph?)An excellent book, and well worth reading.By the way, my father and grandfather were both railroad telegraphers, and card-carrying members of the ORT (Order of Railroad Telegraphers). Today I proudly own and display my father's telegraph 'bug'.
arianr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books. Draws some very interesting parallels between the development of the Internet in the late20th and early 21st centuries and the development of the telegraph in the mid-19th century.
adzebill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun little book. He draws some cute parallels between the Internet and 19th Century telegraph-geek culture; I'd have loved to hear more about the latter. In fact, a novel about the telegraph geeks would be a hoot.
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A nice little nugget of popular history, that covers an underappreciated epoch in the making of the modern world. The telegraph was probably on of the first technologies to fulfill Arthur C. Clarke¿s dictum of being indistinguishable from magic, and the effect it had on the society that developed it, compared adroitly to the similar effect of the internet in our era, makes for a fascinating read.
jaygheiser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 today's reader. Only in his concluding two-page epilogue does he feel the need to explicitly draw a parallel between the telegraph and the Internet. Outside of the current fascination with the Internet economy, this is still a fascinating and thought-provoking book. The quantum change in human communication capabilities was the first utilization of electricity and wire--everything since then has been a refinement. Learning that a young Tom Edison lived on huge amounts of weak coffee and apple pie, 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. A quick & enjoyable read. I accept the author's contention that 1) the Internet today parallels the 19th c. telegraph network, 2) the telegraph represented a significantly more dramatic change.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me by a friend last year, and I just finally got around to it. I wish I had read it sooner. By presenting a thorough and entertaining history of the rise and fall of the telegraph, Tom Standage effortlessly makes the point that nearly all of the modern Internet phenomena that we endure today had precedents in the Victorian age, when characters were sent down a single wire one at a time in the form of dots and dashes. Online chats, online business, online crime, online romance - you name it, and it was happening in the latter half of the 19th century. Great stuff!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy the subject matter of this book. However, my experience is dampened by the fact that it was apparently not proof-read before it was released in the digital format. There are numerous spelling errors throughout and several numbers appear wrong due to the scanning process: i845 instead of 1845, for example. Many chapters begin with a small "Large" letter, etc. Since I paid for this book, I feel it should at least have the quality of a grade-school level proof-reading and checking. I hope this does not continue with other ebooks I get from Barnes & Noble.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tom Standage has done an excellent job of telling how the telegraph came into existence and how in revolutionized communication for the first time in millinium. Since the time of the Babalonians communication had to be hand delivered by messengers or couriers, later by mail services using shops and stagecoaches, often taking weeks or even months. Overnight, the telegraph made instant communication possible, albeit in code tapped out by skilled telegraph operators. Newspapers and givernments, particularly the military quickly saw its potential. Standage's book is an easy read which moves along at the pace of a good novel as he tells about rival inventors - bet you didn't know the first telegraph was invented by a Frenchman on the eve of the French Revolution in 1791 and Napoleon later allowedit to be used to transmit winning national lottery numbers - dating back a century before Victoria became queen of England! This is a very enjoyable and fascinating read for anyone who loves history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago