In his book, “The Victorian Internet,” author Tom Standage describes how, after inventing the telegraph, its creators struggled for years before the world figured out how it might actually be used. In 1844, with a U.S. government-funded telegraph line functioning between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, its inventor, Samuel F.B. Morse, was still trying to convince a skeptical world of his invention’s usefulness. “Yet after a while [Morse] realized that everybody still thought of the telegraph as a novelty, as nothing more than an amusing subject for a newspaper article, rather than the revolutionary new form of communication that he envisaged,” Standage writes.
Morse had originally tried to convince Congress to fund and use the telegraph for government communications, but the invention really took off when it started to be used for business and commercial communications. By the early 1850’s, sending and receiving telegrams had become “part of everyday life for many people around the world.”
Now, a century and a half later—and almost 15 years into the digital media revolution—there seem to be a few important things to note.
Katie King Journalism as a Conversation