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Email In the 18th Century

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the before-morse-code dept.

Communications 279

morphovar forwards a writeup in Low-tech Magazine recounting an almost-forgotten predecessor to email and packet-switched messaging: the optical telegraph. The article maps out some of the European networks but provides no details of those built in North America in the early 1800s. Man-in-the-middle attacks were dead easy. "More than 200 years ago it was already possible to send messages throughout Europe and America at the speed of an airplane — wireless and without need for electricity. The optical telegraph network consisted of a chain of towers ... placed 5 to 20 kilometers apart from each other. Every tower had a telegrapher, looking through a telescope at the previous tower in the chain. If the semaphore on that tower was put into a certain position, the telegrapher copied that symbol on his own tower. A message could be transmitted from Amsterdam to Venice in one hour's time. A few years before, a messenger on a horse would have needed at least a month's time to do the same."

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Spam? (4, Funny)

AlphaDrake (1104357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801196)

Did spam make it across these networks as well?

"Having trouble with the smell of thine donkey? Only have the one mistress? Try friar pete's ol' fashioned elixer de skunke, it's new lead based formula works wonders like that Jesus guy over there"

Re:Spam? (3, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801364)

Ah, yes, Claude Chappe's optical telegraph. :-) Nice that people still remember these. You can also read about them here [wikipedia.org] . The part about the system cost compared to the electric telegraph is really interesting. It is not very suprising that this system was ultimately replaced soon after electrical telegraphs had become available. (One has to ask why Czech Post - providing virtually the same quality of service - has not yet seen the same fate? ;-))

Re:Spam? (1, Redundant)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801374)

(Whoa, I clicked the wrong reply link? Just pretend the parent is a top-level post. ^_^ *blush*)

Re:Spam? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801756)

If A were true yet we are told B then how does C come in to this??? [dwarfurl.com]

Wow even back then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801480)

people couldn't tell ITS from IT'S?

Re:Spam? (2, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801502)

Did spam make it across these networks as well?

In an 18th-century British accent: "Oh bloody hell, I shall not need my wanker any bloody bigger! May the Queen assign lasting damnation upon your deplorable message."
       

Re:Spam? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801686)

Note: A wanker is the term for a person who masterbates. "A wanker wanks".

I live in fear that this may be marked informative.

Re:Spam? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801696)

Note: It's spelled "masturbates", wanker.

Re:Spam? (5, Funny)

ArAgost (853804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801860)

Well, I can assume that once you reach a certain proficiency, you can be called a MASTERbator.

Re:Spam? (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801856)

Note: A wanker is the term for a person who masterbates. "A wanker wanks".

So my dick-tionary is wrong?
     

Re:Spam? (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801528)

Indeed. A guy named Isaac Bayes would stand between two of the towers and every time he spotted a reference to making your penis larger, he would create a lot of thick black smoke so as to block the transmission between two towers.

And to this day, most spam filters are still called 'Bayesian filters.'

email (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801198)

the history and evolution of email as we know it today [tinyurl.com]

Light the Fires (5, Funny)

coaxial (28297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801210)

Gondor needs help.

Re:Light the Fires (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801262)

Apparently this is slightly more sophisticated than a simple "HELP!".

Re:Light the Fires (2)

hyperm0g (867446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801388)

And Rohan will answer! Muster the Rohirrim! Assemble the Men at Dunharrow, as many Men as can be found. You have two days. On the third, we ride for Gondor... and war.

Re:Light the Fires (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801618)

>Gondor needs help.

Yes, apparently they can't spell "beacons" - Someone assist them, for goodness' sake!

"beacansofgondor"?!? Puhleeze...

omfg (1)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801216)

Talk about a shit job. How many of them jumped out of the towers to their own death out of sheer boredom?

Re:omfg (2, Funny)

mdenham (747985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801236)

Talk about a shit job. How many of them jumped out of the towers to their own death out of sheer boredom?
Not nearly as many as probably made amusing edits to messages on occasion.

"S... E... N... D... send, F... A... R... C... E... S... farces?!"

Re:omfg (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801310)

That would depend upon how often messages were sent. A signal like the fire beacons in LOTR would be a pain to be in charge of because you don't do anything most of the time, but you still have to be alert when the message finally has to be sent.

Re:omfg (1)

MrCreosote (34188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801342)

"99 percent boredom and 1 percent sheer stark terror"

Re:omfg (1)

mfnickster (182520) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801568)

The system didn't correct for transmission errors very well...

The first message came through as: "Opus caught rickets from bats!"

Re:omfg (1)

OECD (639690) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801836)

The system didn't correct for transmission errors very well...

I know you're joking, but I wondered about that myself. TFA implies that there was, in fact, error correction: "If the semaphore on that tower was put into a certain position, the telegrapher copied that symbol on his own tower. Next he used the telescope to look at the succeeding tower in the chain, to control if the next telegrapher had copied the symbol correctly." I presume there was a way to make the correction (else, why check?)

Postal mail used to be pretty good, too. (4, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801224)

I was reading something recently that discussed the US Postal Service in the late 19th century. In some major cities, like New York and Boston, the mail used to come as much as five times a day. That meant you could write to someone (local, served from the same Post Office) in the early morning, have it picked up in the first round, delivered in the second, have their reply picked up in the third, and delivered on the fourth. (And you could even send a reply back in the final pickup for delivery the next morning.) That's pretty good -- some people I know don't even check their email that often!

If you wanted service and delivery times that good these days, you'd need to go with a courier service.

Re:Postal mail used to be pretty good, too. (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801272)

Where I work they just cut the internal mail service from 10 to 4 times per week, due to lack of demand. Can't say I've noticed!

Re:Postal mail used to be pretty good, too. (4, Interesting)

iocat (572367) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801554)

I remember reading an article a few years ago, on various companies' ettiquette for the term "email." Some caled it 'email,' some called it 'electronic mail,' some called it by a quaint brand name ('QuickMail', anyone?). The article noted that at Micorosoft, it was simply refered to as "mail." So the author asked the inevitable question: "What do you call something that comes in a physical envelope?" The answer? "FedEx."

Anyway, there is a good book called The Victorian Internet that, despite its suspect name, is extremely well written and goes into great and fascinating depth on the telegraph (optical and electronic), as well as the pro-tech savvy of the Victorian age. I'm too lazy to put in a link for you, but I assure you, the google or the amazon can give you all the details.

Progress (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801386)

It just shows that "progress" is not linear. Service in particular has declined. In the past service was limited by technology. Now that technology has caught up, service is limited by cost cutting etc. Or put another way, no longer are these organisations motivated to provide the best service they can, but are rather motivated to be as crap as they can and still get away with it. This is not limited to postal services either.

Re:Progress (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801814)

Or, ya know, the demand for hand delivered mail has gone down.

Re:Postal mail used to be pretty good, too. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801644)

New York also used to have a crazy pneumatic tube system that took mail from one part of the island to another. They shut it down after the invention of the Automobile. I suspect the advent of that, along with refinements in sorting, let them deliver more mail with fewer mailmen (with the side effect of it being less often). Considering that Labor these days is a lot more expensive than it used to be, that has to be a huge cost savings overall. That's probably better for most people's mail usage than five-times-a-day service.

Re:Postal mail used to be pretty good, too. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801790)

New York also used to have a crazy pneumatic tube system that took mail from one part of the island to another. They shut it down after the invention of the Automobile.

I bet they wanted it back after the traffic got congested.
   

Re:Postal mail used to be pretty good, too. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801824)

In some major cities, like New York and Boston, the mail used to come as much as five times a day.
The Banks.
 

Re:Postal mail used to be pretty good, too. (1)

seadd (530971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801862)

True, but this was in times before the telephone. In that time, a proper lady would get up in the morning and write a card inviting her friends for an evening cup of tea and gossip, they would get the card by noon, reply by 3pm they would be there, and by 7pm tea and biscuits would be ready.
Today, there is no need for such service - personally my mailman delivers only bills and parcels, while gossip arrangements are made using sms or email:)

Ah, Clacks (5, Informative)

The Grey Ghost (884000) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801228)

Apparently where Terry Pratchett got the clacks - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clacks [wikipedia.org]

Re:Ah, Clacks (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801314)

No worries. Antibiotics will clear that right up.

but (5, Funny)

Sobieski (1032500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801232)

If it was "wireless and without need for electricity", then it was not electronic mail

Re:but (1)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801786)

eh, wireless maybe, but definitely need electricity, you're right.

Re:but (1)

monkeySauce (562927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801934)

So then it must have been O-mail.

You know what I'm talking about... Oh! - Oh! - Oh!...

Clacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801234)

Terry Pratchett calls these the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clacks]Clacks[/url].

Clacks! (2, Interesting)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801238)

Those are the clacks! Did they have c-commerce back then, too? And clacksites?

Re:Clacks! (1)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801574)

Thanks for modding me redundant, but when I posted, I those other Clacks posts were not visible. If they were, I would have figured out all by myself that my post would be redundant.

"Minor" mistake but... (3, Informative)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801240)

"provides no details of those built in North America in the early 1800s. Man-in-the-middle attacks were dead easy"

The "early 1800's" is the 19th Century - not 18th.

RTFA! (2, Informative)

zebslash (1107957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801466)

If you take the time to read the article, you will see the technology was invented and developed in France in 1791. But I forgot, this is Slashdot.

Re:RTFA! (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801490)

1791 is late 18th century.

Re:RTFA! (1)

zebslash (1107957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801498)

And ? Does that make the title of the article wrong ?

Re:RTFA! (0, Troll)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801520)

The disputed text is in the summary.

Re:RTFA! (1)

zebslash (1107957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801546)

Read again the summary, it does not say the technology was invented in the US in the 1800s. It is not very complicated.

Re:RTFA! (1)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801510)

RTFA is an answer to people who don't read the articles, and get all their information from the summary.

Not an excuse for poorly written summaries that obfuscate the true message of the article.

Re:RTFA! (0, Flamebait)

zebslash (1107957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801534)

Where is the obfuscation ? Read again: "The article maps out some of the European networks but provides no details of those built in North America in the early 1800s.": 1) The article maps out some of the European networks (presumably 18th century, as inferred from the title) 2) but provides no details of those built in North America in the early 1800s: ok, such kind of technology appeared later in the US, and the article does not detail any example of them. Is that so difficult to understand ?

Re:KMFA!!! (RTFA)! (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801550)

It's a slow news day... perhaps you are trying to say that whoever approved the summary on /. should have read the article so they would have gotten the summary correct?

My problem isn't an inability to read the article... whoever wrote the title and summary seem to have had that problem.

Re:KMFA!!! (RTFA)! (0, Redundant)

zebslash (1107957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801564)

Once again: the summary IS correct!!!!! The technology was invented in the 18th century, prior its introduction in the US in the 1800s, but does not discuss the latter. Is that so difficult to grab?

Re:"Minor" mistake but... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801594)

The "early 1800's" is the 19th Century - not 18th.

Whoever came up with that convention gets in "F" in communication, documentation, and interface design. They should be sentenced to debugging off-by-one loop index errors for the rest of eternity. I wonder if he/she is related to the guy who started C array indexing at zero[1] ;-)

[1] I've read they did it for efficiency because internally it multiplies the index to get the starting offset in an array of equal-sized elements. If you start at one, then indexing requires a subtraction, or else waste an element, which may have mattered in the 60's when RAM cost an arm and a leg.
               

Re:"Minor" mistake but... (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801782)

It's basic arithmetic. I'm sure the math wizards will correct my terminology. but there's nothing complicated about it other than there being no year 0 because the zero hadn't been invented yet.

The first century began at 1 and ended, duh, at 100. The second century began at, duh, 101, and ended at, duh, 200.

The fact that You can't keep track of such simplicity is no reason to blame somebody else for your ineptness.

Re:"Minor" mistake but... (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801900)

The fact that You can't keep track of such simplicity is no reason to blame somebody else for your ineptness.

The fact that it tripped up another slashdotter is evidence that it is a common tripper. It's just best to avoid such terminology if it has a history of being misinterpreted. Make the terms fit humans, not the other way around. And, a perfectly good alternative is "In the 1700's" (seventeen-hundreds).

           

Re:"Minor" mistake but... (4, Informative)

hpa (7948) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801902)

[1] I've read they did it for efficiency because internally it multiplies the index to get the starting offset in an array of equal-sized elements. If you start at one, then indexing requires a subtraction, or else waste an element, which may have mattered in the 60's when RAM cost an arm and a leg.

The compiler is more than capable of doing this transformation. The real reason is because the vast majority of algorithms are easier to describe with the first index as zero -- this was a lesson learned from FORTRAN, which started indexing at 1.

The Clacks (-1, Redundant)

Mercano (826132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801246)

Ah, so this is where the idea for the Clacks [wikipedia.org] came from.

did china do this as well on the great wall? (1)

Big Torque (196609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801248)

I think China also had a simialer thing with the great wall. Dose anyone know more about this.

Re:did china do this as well on the great wall? (4, Informative)

AlphaDrake (1104357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801280)

Link [wikipedia.org]

Re:did china do this as well on the great wall? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801284)

Don't know about china, but I do seem to remember this technique from a "Lord of the Rings" movie :) They were lighting fires atop towers rather than any complex signaling though.

And I guess Native Americans' smoke signals would count also.

Re:did china do this as well on the great wall? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801770)

One nice thing about the "lighting the fires atop the walls" would do is not only notify that an attack is happening, but also the direction it is coming from.

The Internet Brain [wikipedia.org] talks a little about this a little bit, including some potential references to look at.

Re:did china do this as well on the great wall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801682)

>I think China also had a simialer thing with the great wall. Dose anyone know more about this.

I know that "simialer" isn't a word, and that "dose" doesn't work in the context in which you use it.

I doubt that helps, but thought I'd point it out.

Semaphores and smoke signals are ancient (5, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801254)

Native American smoke signals date back to pre-Columbian times.

Torches and and other forms of optical telegraphy date back to ancient times.

Thanks to the seminal work of J. Hofmueller and his colleagues, modern flag semaphores can also be used to encapsulate IP datagrams [ietf.org] . Presumably, this is more efficient than delivering the same traffic by animal transport [ietf.org] but less efficient than by wire or radio.

Telegraph Hill in San Francisco (4, Interesting)

ortcutt (711694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801266)

Telegraph Hill in San Francisco was at one time the site of an optical telegraph. Hence the name.

The hill owes its current name to a semaphore, a windmill-like structure erected in September 1849, for the purpose of signaling to the rest of the city the nature of the ships entering the Golden Gate. Atop the newly-built house, the marine telegraph consisted of a pole with two raisable arms that could form various configurations, each corresponding a specific meaning: steamer, sailing boat, etc. The information was used by observers operating for financiers, merchants, wholesalers and speculators. As some of these information consumers would know the nature of the cargo carried by the ship they could quickly predict the upcoming (generally lower) local prices for those goods and commodities carried. Those who did not have advance information on the cargo might pay a too-high price from a merchant unloading his stock of a commodity -- a price that was about to drop. On October 18, 1850, the ship Oregon signaled to the hill as it was entering the Golden Gate the news of California's recently acquired statehood.
Telegraph Hill [wikipedia.org]

Re:Telegraph Hill in San Francisco (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801920)

Flagstaff hill in Melbourne was used to watch for ships approaching the harbour. A flag would be raised to relay the observation of an incoming ship. Not quite as handy as a proper telegraph but one bit communication served the purpose.

patent trolls (3, Funny)

yabba-dabba-do (948536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801270)

In other news, NTP is now looking for someone to sue over this infringing technology.

The Victorian Internet (4, Interesting)

blamanj (253811) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801274)

Tom Standage's book covered this quite well [amazon.com] .

i have a great comment (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801276)

please watch this space for 3 hours in order to view it

my comment is currently being transmitted from schenectady to poughkeepsie and the bad weather is interfereing with the candles staying lit

Common in Italy in the middle agaes (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801300)

The whole cost of Southern Italy is full of towers that were used a light based communication/alarm system, especially against the raids of the so called saracens (people from the Islamic nation from the south) in the middle ages. I believe that a similar system was also used in Roman and possibly Greek times. The distance between the towers is also similar, 5-20Km.

So... (5, Funny)

Rip Dick (1207150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801306)

Was the Optical Telegraph networked described by the clueless politicians of the time as a "series of flags"?

Probably and (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801436)

their intelligence agencies spied on network traffic by tapping in at local hill tops with binoculars.

Would the equivalent of a root kit be some guy with a flint-lock taking over a station?

Re:Probably and (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801506)

No flintlock required. He would simply need a keg of beer.

Re:So... (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801638)

Well, it's certainly not like a bunch of oxen carts.

Wow! (3, Funny)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801330)

Looks like the Victorians could copy and transmit data faster than Windows Vista!

My semaphore tower sucks (5, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801714)

I don't want to start a holy war here, but what is the deal with you semaphore fanatics? I've been sitting here at my freelance gig in front of a semaphore tower (a 1860/300 w/64 flags) for about 20 weeks now while it attempts to copy a 17 Meg file from one city on the east coast to another city. 20 weeks. At home, on my dovecote running Columba livia domestica, which by all standards should be a lot slower than this semaphore tower, the same operation would take about 2 weeks. If that.

In addition, during this file transfer, the newspaper will not work. And everything else has ground to a halt. Even my inkwell is straining to keep up as I type this.

I won't bore you with the laundry list of other problems that I've encountered while working on various semaphore towers, but suffice it to say there have been many, not the least of which is I've never seen a semaphore tower that has run faster than its dove counterpart, despite the semaphore towers' faster signalling architecture. My pigeonry with 8 Columba palumbus' runs faster than this 300 flag-position machine at times. From a productivity standpoint, I don't get how people can claim that the semaphore tower is a superior machine.

Semaphore addicts, flame me if you'd like, but I'd rather hear some intelligent reasons why anyone would choose to use a semaphore tower over other faster, cheaper, more stable systems.

Sempahore towers (3, Informative)

Uomograsso (968695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801362)

There is a reconstructed tower at Chatley Heath near Guildford, England, which was part of the route from the admiralty in London down to Portsmouth.

There are still some left in Barbados:

http://photo.clifford.ac/2007/Barbados.October/tn/dscn2211.jpg.index.html [clifford.ac]

and here is what you see when looking at Cotton Tower from Grendade Hall:
http://photo.clifford.ac/2004/Barbados.April/tn/p4130674.jpg.index.html [clifford.ac]

--
Alan clifford

Napoleon used these... (1)

The Breeze (140484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801372)

Anyone familiar with the Patrick O'Brian novels featuring Jack Aubrey or the C.S. Forester novels featuring Horatio Hornblower will recognize these...

18th? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801380)

American Indians did this long before that with smoke signals with people on top of hills.

Theory goes that long before that the ancient pagans of Europe did a similar thing near stonehenge.

They're in an old movie too (2, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801488)

I remember first seeing these in an old movie, which I remember as being in black-and-white. It may have been an old version of The Count of Monte Cristo.

Re:The Count of Monte Cristo (3, Informative)

tolworthy (1205778) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801560)

It's not just the movie. These message towers play a key part in the novel. The Count ruins one of his enemies, a banker, by sending a false message about a foreign war.

Re:The Count of Monte Cristo (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801584)

Yes, that's it then. I knew it was in the book, which I read as an adult, but wasn't sure what movie that was as I saw it so long ago.

Sorry, but... (4, Informative)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801500)

The Great Wall in China put similar means to use hundreds of years earlier.

Colored flags, whistling arrows, fires & hand signals all worked as part of a communication chain that spanned greater distances as well (6,400 km).

And 'man-in-the-middle' attacks were usually over before they began :)

Re:Sorry, but... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801834)

The Great Wall in China put similar means to use hundreds of years earlier.

But did they use telescopes? If not, then it would require more stations. IIRC, there's a tower every mile or so. I imagine (walking) chains of signalers were a common battle coordination technique for thousands of years.
         

Read The Victorian Internet (2, Informative)

RoloDMonkey (605266) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801504)

For more detail, read The Victorian Internet [tomstandage.com] . It is an awesome book.

Fax History (2, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801526)

Perhaps slightly off-topic, but its interesting how long the fax machine has been around. From wikipedia:

Scottish inventor Alexander Bain is often credited with the first fax patent in 1843. He used his knowledge of electric clock pendulums to produce a back-and-forth line-by-line scanning mechanism.

Frederick Bakewell made several improvements on Bain's design and demonstrated the device at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.

In 1861, the first fax machine, Pantelegraph, was sold by Giovanni Caselli, even before the invention of workable telephones.

Signal guns (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801530)

And before that, since about 1500 AD, signal guns were commonly used. The bit rate was rather low, but by using bespoke messages, a signal could be sent across a country at the speed of sound.

taggers are fucking illiterate (4, Informative)

toby (759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801542)

BEACONS of Gondor, for Sauron's sake.

BEACONS.

If you can't afford a dictionary, rednecks, at least Google.

Re:taggers are fucking illiterate (4, Funny)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801606)

Mmmm, bacons of Gondor. Sizzling fatty meats of Frodo!

Semaphores weren't the first (4, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801548)

Actually, the semaphore-based network wasn't the first on in Europe. Before it, there was a simpler network based around mutexes, but it wasn't very popular because it got quite bothersome once you had more than two people communicating. Still it was a major step forward from the previous concurrent networks where the non-locked shared message space meant that if two people broadcasted at the same time they'd overwrite each other's messages.

Much later, North America would see an experimental monitor-based optical messaging network, but the cost of keeping hundreds of big CRTs powered on all the time quickly put an end to it.

Bad pun, baaaaaaad pun.... (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801672)

Somebody mod this guy +5 *groan*.

Big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801562)

It only takes like five minutes to get a message from Gondor to Rohan with signal fires!

At my old job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801580)

They out-source email and internal email delivery time went from seconds to hours.

"Virus" (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801608)

network consisted of a chain of towers... placed 5 to 20 kilometers apart from each other. Every tower had a telegrapher [worker], looking through a telescope at the previous tower in the chain...

Back then when a "node was infected with a virus", it was literal.
   

The First Time Information Outpaced Man (5, Insightful)

Hubec (28321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801650)

Before the semaphore telegraph a man could travel faster than information. Am I the only one who thinks that's just really cool? The whole concept of being able to race across the globe faster than events is completely alien to our current existence.

Hmmm... Let me put it this way; Before the semaphore telegraph, the world was split into a very large number of simultaneous but completely separate realities. As soon as that telegraph came into existence those realities began merging into one.

Re:The First Time Information Outpaced Man (1)

True Vox (841523) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801796)

You hurt my brain..... but I approve.

Encrypted? (1)

tristian_was_here (865394) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801670)

Would the messages be encrypted at all?

Re:Encrypted? (1)

iocat (572367) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801872)

Yes.

Horses versus humans (5, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801678)

Article: Humans or horses can maintain a speed of 5 or 6 kilometres an hour for long distances.

It may defy common sense, but a runner in top shape can almost match the pace of a horse over long distances. There used to be a yearly contest in England, and a human sometimes won. Our ancestors used to chase down pray by outlasting them in the heat (some isolated tribes still do). Our sweating system keeps us cooler than hairy animals. However, it may be more economical to wear out a horse than a human. Plus, a horse can carry more.
   

Re:Horses versus humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801800)

No, I don' think they were chasing pray so much as praying they'd prey on prey.

Heliographs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21801720)

An alternative form was used in the Southwest by the US Army for commuication. It was basically a formalized system using flashing mirrors (well suited to the southwest environs).

Relayed Messages (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801774)

purple monkey dishwasher

It's much older (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21801788)

This communication system was used in the late Roman/Byzantine empire I think.
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