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“The Victorian Internet” by Tom Standage Essay

In our world today, the internet is a technology that is indispensable in human life. With an estimate of about 1.5 billion people using the technology, the internet has come to establish itself as an essential part of our daily life. Not only does it ease communication, it is a world filled with endless possibilities and matchless fun. Although technically, the internet has been in operation since the early 1960s, its commercialization was not until in the 1980s. Today, to imagine a world without the internet is almost to imagine living in the primitive period. One thing that we should all agree on is this – the internet has made things easier, faster and better.

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However, the question that has been a cause of controversy is if this technology is entirely new or has there been a similar technology? In this essay, comparism will be made between the internet and other technological development that has been in us in the past. Are they similar or different? Can we say that any of these technologies is what led to the development of the internet or is it an entirely new technology? If they are similar, what proofs do we have? If not, how can we then explain the growth of the internet? Perhaps, the book that captures this topic is “The Victorian Internet” written by Tom Standage.

In the book, Tom Standage argues that Internet of these days and Telegraph in 19th century is on the same parallel. And he explains lots of commons and problems which both have with histories and examples. Speaking on the Internet, Standage maintained that the internet serves the same role in this age that the telegraph played in communication in its age. In chapter one on the book, Tom referred to the telegraph as the mother of all networks. In page 9, he introduces the similarity between the telegraph and the internet from the name that each of the have. According to him, Chappe wanted to name his new technology “the tachygraphe” which means “fast writer” but was advised against it by his friend.

He later called it telegraph meaning “far writer”. Considering the internet, one of the major things attributed to it is its speed and its reach in terms of distribution. Tom also argued that if it were possible for a 19th century citizen to be transported to our present world, he might be wowed by transportation by air but certainly not by the internet. The reason for this is because he has already been there and done that and so there is not much of a difference between the two technologies. He pointed out that they both sort of share the same histories, uses and face the same problems.

For instance, they both used Multiprotocol routers. He maintained that even back in time, translations between Morse code and scraps of paper in canisters shot were done by the use of pneumatic tubes. Apart from this, both of them have problems with bugs, hackers and frauds. Like we have today, there was a problem with fraud and security of the technology as Stock market feeds were being traced and broken in the 1830s. He also pointed that the first online marriage was a telegraph marriage.

Thus, we can say that online romance is not a new thing as it has been a practice in the past. Furthermore, there is always this rather continuous partial attention that both of them share. One feature of internet users is that they are partially addicted to the network. Interestingly, this also was the case of serious telegraph users. For instance, in 1948, it was said of New York Businessman, W. E Dodge that after returning late from work, trying to take his mind off the office work and business, he was interrupted by a telegraph from London.

Personally, I believe that nothing is entirely new, what we just have are just modification on the already existing technologies. One technological invention is crafted from a previous one. In the case of the telegraph and the internet, I subscribe to the position of Tom Standage because of the incredible similarities that exists between the two technologies. However, I am of the opinion that in doing this, Tom overstretched some points and was always looking for was of amalgamating the two technologies. Thus, I consider some of the points he gave in support of his position irrelevant. Although on the whole, I will say thumbs up for Tom Standage!

Reference:
Kaedrin, W, “The Victorian Internet and Centralized Solutions” May 14, 2006. Retrieved from Kaedrin Weblog on August 3, 2008
Mappa Mundi Magagine, “The Victorian Internet” Retrieved from Mappa Mundi Magazine Webpage on August 3, 2008
An Internet Pioneer Ponders the Next Revolution“. An Internet Pioneer Ponders the Next Revolution. Retrieved on August 3, 2008.

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