Think how far technology has come in the last 5 years: from Google Glasses to a Humanoid Robot.
Now think how far technology has come in the last 100 years: the telephone, the Apple computer, the Walkman, THE INTERNET!
It’s fascinating to think long-distance communication involved nothing more than a series of dots fired across wire strung along the entire United States. Today does not mark the first telegram ever sent (that happened in 1844—see below) but it does mark the first telegram to travel around the globe via commercial service. In a world where people demand connectivity 24/7, and technology such as Periscope lets you communicate with anyone anywhere on the planet with just a touch of a button, let us stop and appreciate where it all stemmed from. The telegraph. First used here in our beloved Baltimore City.
Painter-turned-inventor Samuel Morse was intrigued by the electric telegraph after overhearing a conversation about electromagnetism sailing from Europe to America. He immediately experimented and eventually developed the telegraph machine in the 1830’s and 1840’s. His first telegraph message was sent from Washington D.C. to Baltimore on May 24th, 1844 (171 years ago!)
It read: “What hath God wrought.”
The telegraph’s long-distance application marked the beginning of a new era of communication, in which information traveled faster than any human by any means of conveyance could possibly travel. Morse and fellow inventor Alfred Vail later created Morse Code, to better understand the transmissions, which in turn transformed how wars were fought, how journalists reported news and how loved ones communicated across state lines.
By the early 1900’s the telegraph machine was used countries all across the globe. But it wasn’t until this day, August 20th, in the year 1911, that a dispatcher in the New York Times office sent the first telegram around the world via commercial service. The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles—being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores, among other locations—the reply was received by the same operator sixteen and half minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.
We’ll give you a minute to let that sink in, and then you can get back to checking your Facebook newsfeed.