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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story as valid today as it was over 150 years ago....
First off, A very well to the point read, worth the price.

Now, overall this book just blew me away with all the comparisons between the birth of the telegraph and the birth of the internet.

Even though the telegraph was created 150 years ago, the lessons discussed in the book, and the technological outcomes, are still being felt today. So are the...
Published on June 27 2008 by Apprentice

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been a great story.
The author missed what could have been a great story in this journalistic (in the worst sense of the word) story of this fascinating invention. The hook which attempts to link the telegraph with the internet is a strained metaphor -- an attempt to make the book relevant.
Missed or lightly touched on is how the telegraphy truly changed the world -- how wars were...
Published on Sept. 20 2002 by R. Blumer


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story as valid today as it was over 150 years ago...., June 27 2008
By 
Apprentice (Montreal, Qc Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Victorian Internet, The (Paperback)
First off, A very well to the point read, worth the price.

Now, overall this book just blew me away with all the comparisons between the birth of the telegraph and the birth of the internet.

Even though the telegraph was created 150 years ago, the lessons discussed in the book, and the technological outcomes, are still being felt today. So are the struggles to keep up with demand, privacy issues, and safety on the Web.(The term "world wide web" was actually coined during Victorian times, but rarely used)

As pointed out by the author, the Victorians had many issues when it came to dealing with the telegraph, and seeing how they coped with that "new" technology, and all its applications to their "modern life"gives us, 150 years later, the hope of a better tomorrow, via the 21st century Internet.

Also, I would recommend anyone who has read James Burke's Book CONNECTIONS to give this book a try (and vice versa).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been a great story., Sept. 20 2002
By 
R. Blumer (NEW YORK, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The author missed what could have been a great story in this journalistic (in the worst sense of the word) story of this fascinating invention. The hook which attempts to link the telegraph with the internet is a strained metaphor -- an attempt to make the book relevant.
Missed or lightly touched on is how the telegraphy truly changed the world -- how wars were fought, how business is conducted. Instead we get a lot of the fluffy stories of people getting married by telegraph etc.
Also glossed over are any real technical details about how the various gadgets worked. The author obviously doesn't know the difference between a volt and jolt and assumes the readers are equally ignorant.
Pity because the relationship between invention and history is a great story and the telegraph is a great way of telling this story. This book just skims the surface.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Past and future, Nov. 24 2005
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Victorian Internet (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars History Repeats Itself, Oct. 7 2003
This review is from: Victorian Internet (Paperback)
Tom Standage is onto something. It seems that everything we know about the Internet today, we've already done before. The turn of this century was a lot like the turn of the last century.
"The Victorian Internet" is all about our world and the invention of the Telegraph. As cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson once pointed out, the telegraph was the world's first global digital network. It's when we started trying to push voice down the copper lines that we mucked things up.
In this book, you'll find technological wizardry, geek pioneers, global aspirations, long-distance romances, and online scams. You'll discover what 19th-Century chat was like. There are growing pains. We see fear for the future and fear of moral decline. The Telegraph represented a sudden, massive interconnection of people thousands of miles apart, and the effects of this overnight deluge of information is clear in reading. You have to remember that these were people used to feeling safe in their own homes, blissfully unaware of each other, and only vaguely informed of events going on in other countries.
Standage does a nice job of hitting on the hottest topics of our time, without hitting the reader over the head to make a point. Cybergeeks will love his stops at Cryptography, code, and the other programming-like solutions people came up with to solve their problems. Fans of history will be amused by the parallels between life then and now as "old media" learns to stop worrying and embrace "new media".
In a narrative style that resembles the British TV series "Connections", Standage shows us what each side of the Atlantic was up to, the race to connect the world, and the sheer determination and boundless optimism that made it all happen. There are also interesting tidbits along the way: we get facts about Samuel Morse and Thomas Edison that most history books ignore. There are anecdotes from 19th-century daily life that we can easily identify with today. All of it combines in a way that is easy to read, decently-paced, and fun to think about and discuss with others.
I give this book 5 stars for being clever with presentation and for keeping the various threads together without seeming fragmented. Tom Standage moves us through history without jumping around, and references earlier sections to remind us of where things are going. If you like history, technology, or even the geekier topics of machine logic, programming, and cryptography, this book makes an excellent read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I really liked it, July 4 2003
This review is from: Victorian Internet (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book. If you're looking for an in-depth study of the science behind the telegraph or a statistical sociological study, however, this is not the book for you.
This book really glosses over the technical side in a bare-bones manner. For example, the book states that telegraphy over long distances requires a series of small batteries working together instead of one large battery, and leaves it at that. No explanation as to why this is the case is provided. As the title suggests, the goal of this book is to draw parallels between today's Internet and yesterday's telegraph. Since the parallels are more in the area of societal effects, not technologies, the technologies are naturally de-emphasized.
As a college professor, I think this book will be a perfect one to use in my Technology in Our Lives course. Now, don't let that comment scare you. I don't mean to suggest that this is an academic treatise on the telegraph's societal impacts. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. This is a very engaging book that would hold the interest of readers of all types. It reads almost like "historical fiction," but it's not fiction, of course.
The book takes a "breadth over depth" approach to its subject, and yet contains a lot of details. Although I knew how the telegraph, especially once the Atlantic was crossed with a telegraph wire, changed commerce and the news industry, I had no real idea of the online games and online romances that occurred over the telegraph wires all over the world. The parallels with the modern Internet are fascinating.
As I said, I really enjoyed this book and plan to use it in one of my classes. Go into this book with your eyes open, however, knowing what the book's goal and thesis are. If you're looking for detailed information on the science and technology of the telegraph, or an in-depth, statistical sociological study, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you wish to be exposed to series of parallels between the Internet's and the telegraph's impacts on culture and society, this is an engaging book that will fulfill that desire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Past and future..., May 29 2003
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Victorian Internet (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining historical account, Oct. 8 2001
By 
S. Lawrenz "Lendorien" (Milwaukee, WI) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Victorian Internet (Paperback)
Standage's "Victorian Internet," stands of one of the more entertaining non-fiction reads that I've read in recent months. It's clearly intended as a light read, not a deep scholarely work. The writing style is light and informative.
Standage's thesis in the book is that the Telegraph was very much like the internet is today. I think that in many ways, he was able to prove that thesis. It was the beginning of instant mass communications, and it opened the world in ways that few other inventions have since. There were even a few "Online romances" and marriages connected with the telegraph.
The book follows the developement of the telegraph from it's very early beginnings in the form of optical telegraphs, to the development of machine enhanced, and harmonic telegpahs, then lastly, the telephone. As the book progresses, the development of the telegraph is interspaced with many interesting anecdotes that makes the book even more entertaining.
The only downside I can see for this book is the lack of decent endnotes or something similar. I'm a fan of them, even if the book is intended as a light read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History at its best, June 2 2001
By 
Theresa Welsh "The Seeker" (Ferndale, Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Victorian Internet (Paperback)
Looking to the past can sometimes help you understand the present and this little book will open your eyes. Tom Standage takes what could have been a dry subject -- telegraphy-- and makes it interesting by drawing a parallel with the modern internet. While the analogy is not perfect, these pages reveal the tremendous impact the instantaneous sending of messages had on the world. Interestingly, some of the first uses are the same as the early uses of modems -- stock quotes, horse racing results and news.
The book also brings to life the colorful characters who worked the wires, skilled people who were so in damand they could always get a job. Here was a profession that women entered in considerable numbers, giving them freedom at a time when women were just beginning to push for equal rights. Thomas Edison, that curmudgeon of American industry, got started as a telegrapher. These men and women were the geeks of their day, having fun with their messages and even building romances over the wire.
This books helps you see the communications revolution as a series of breakthroughs, with the telegraph as an important part of it. It also is entertaining reading, taking you back to another time when people just like us were making a living sending bits of information all over the world through electronic blips traveling through wire. Sound familiar?
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5.0 out of 5 stars two hours of fun, fun, fun, April 7 2001
By 
Philip Greenspun (Cambridge, MA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Victorian Internet (Paperback)
In the story of the world-wide telegraph system, built from the 1840s until 1900 when the telephone rose to supplant it, Standage develops fascinating parallels with the rise of the Internet. Western Union "insisted that its monopoly [on US telegraphy] was in everyone's interest, even if it was unpopular, because it would encourage standardization." Today's high-pressure startups have nothing on Thomas Edison who "locked his workforce in the workshop until they had finished building a large order of stock tickers." As with the Web, the true inventor, Samuel Morse, made "a respectable sum, though less than the fortunes amassed by the entrepreneurs who built empires on the back of his invention." Standage pairs modern pundits such as Nicholas Negroponte predicting that the Internet will bring about world peace with their 19th century equivalents predicting that the telegraph will enable a perfect understanding between governments and peoples and bring an end to wars. If you made big bucks in the dotcom world of the 1990s, page 205 may cause you a moment's reflection:
"The heyday of the telegrapher as a highly paid, highly skilled information worker was over; telegraphers' brief tenure as members of an elite community with master over a miraculous, cutting-edge technology had come to an end. As the twentieth century dawned, the telegraph's inventors had died, its community had crumbled, and its golden age had ended."
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Rise & Fall of the Telegraph, Sept. 18 2000
This review is from: Victorian Internet (Paperback)
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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