Victorian Internet

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The Victorian Internet is a term coined in the late 20th century to describe advanced 19th century telecommunications technologies such as the telegraph and pneumatic tubes.

The idea embedded in the phrase is that instantaneous global communication is not a recent invention, but rather developed in the mid-19th century, and that the changes wrought by the telegraph outweigh the changes in modern society due to the Internet. In this view, the ability to communicate globally at all in real-time was a qualitative shift, while the modern Internet was merely a quantitative shift. The expression was used as a title of the book The Victorian Internet (1998) by Tom Standage.[1]

According to the book, besides news reporting, telegraphy, as the first true global network, permitted applications such as message routing, social networks (between Morse operators -- with gossip and even marriages among operators via telegraph being observed), instant messaging, cryptography and text coding, abbreviated language slang, network security experts, hackers, wire fraud, mailing lists, spamming, e-commerce, stock exchange minute-by-minute reports via ticker tape machines, and many others.

According to Tom Standage in basic terms, the idea of the Victorian Internet was the idea that how information has been received throughout history ultimately depended on the way it was transported, thus this type of communication is not recent but has developed throughout history.

The analogy between Victorian and electronic telecommunications technologies has also been made by Terry Pratchett in Discworld novels, where the semaphore system, the "clacks", and thus "c-commerce" is clearly a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Internet.

See also


  1. Standage, Tom. The Victorian Internet. ISBN 0-8027-1342-4 for hardback, ISBN 0-425-17169-8 for paperback. 

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