Comment 1

The Telegram: Internet’s Big Brother

Technology has the ability to reshape our very societies and impact our lives exponentially. Typically technological advancements are predicted to aid and help these societies grow and no two technologies have done this so more than the internet and the telegraph.

Now let’s skip the basics. We all know what the internet is, right? Google, Facebook – basically a massive cyber brain which holds a tonne of information which we can access within a matter of seconds. But the telegraph, my friends, was the development of a long distance transmission system, which could send messages without physical exchanges. Now whilst there have been many developments of the telegraph, none have been more so important than that of the Morse system. Developed by Samuel Morse, the Morse system introduced to the world the first electrical telegraph. Soon, cities were able to communicate with each other, and then later countries. This was the very beginning of the communications systems that we take for granted today.

But what do these two inventions have in common? Both technologies aided globalisation, leading to more dynamic and cosmopolitan economic relationships. With the internet today, companies are able to comfortably expand globally and enter other stock markets and this was the same with the introduction of the telegraph. With the introduction of the Trans-Atlantic telegraph line in 1866, New York and London stock markets and exchanges were able to be connected as information was easily being sent and received. Such developments boosted the global economies exponentially.

This connection between countries also revolutionised the way we can access information. All of a sudden, the governments were losing the total control that they had upon regulated information. An example of such was witnessed during the Crimean War (1853-56), in which William Russell, war correspondent for the Times, utilised the telegraph to be able to alert the general public to the difficulty that their soldiers were facing, as well as the severe lack of medical facilities. This was a monumental event as for the first time, the public were able to access new information, information yet to be regulated or controlled by authorities. The same goes for the internet. Think of all the information we are able to access. We are able to find out minute by minute updates of significant events.

Now whilst it is clear that both inventions have a number of positive impacts upon their societies, they also brought with them a number of privacy concerns. Within both technologies, messages and information could be easily hacked or corrupted, which called for the rapid developments of codes and other forms of protection. This negative parallel is something which is very present within contemporary society and one must understand that whilst these inventions did wonders for the communication world and other significant factors, they also opened up doors to possibilities we had not yet thought of, possibilities which could have disastrous implications when knowingly messed with.

Overall, it is apparent to see that both the internet and the telegraph still have a number of striking similarities. Both were enormous breakthroughs for their time and changed societies. It also becomes so strikingly clear that without the telegraph, there would no internet. So where to from now? Who knows what other inventions in the future, will be shaped and influenced by these two greats.


Evans, N, 2015, ‘ Global Village, Global Empire’, Lecture notes, BCM232, UOW, viewed 14th April 2015.<https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/378482/mod_resource/content/1/15globalvillage.pdf>

Hills, J 2006, ‘ WHAT’S NEW? WAR, CENSORSHIP AND GLOBAL TRANSMISSION From the Telegraph to the Internet’, International Communication Gazette June 2006, vol.68, no.3, pp 195-216.

Kurbalija, J, 2013, Ten Parallels between the telegraph and the Internet in international politics’, Diplo, 15th of October, vewied 14 April 2015, <http://www.diplomacy.edu/blog/ten-parallels-between-telegraph-and-internet-international-politics&gt;

Standage, T, 2015, ‘The Victorian Internet’, 2southeastern.edu, viewed 14th April 2015.<http://www.2.southeastern.edu/Academics/Faculty/scraig/standage.html>

1 Comment

  1. Hi Blake ☺

    I really enjoyed this article and you have skilfully drawn the distinct parallels between the invention of the electrical telegraph in the 19th Century, to the Internet we know today. It’s crazy to think that the internet, that social, informative, addictive, resourceful thing that we use from the palm of our hands on daily basis was derived from a little tapping device created hundreds of years ago. Without Morse’s adaptation of the electrical telegraph and his astounding creation of a universal code, life as we currently know it may not exist!

    As you mentioned, globalisation has developed exponentially as a result of the internet, but it’s so interesting to hear of the early stages of globalisation, and put into perspective how incredible this form of technology would have been at the time. Your case of the Crimean War is a perfect example of how life-altering it was for the public, and individuals, to become part of a global network and know more than simply what their neighbour was up to that day. People at this stage, with the ability to connect with people on the other side of the world, believed that this interconnection could lead to world peace. It’s a shame that with the progression into the Internet, people did not, and still do not, share this belief.

    I also really like your title! The reference to ‘Big Brother’ not only indicates that the telegram inspired and was a prequel to the internet, it also indicates the fear of the “Big Brother” watching and the lack of privacy that comes with the use internet. Great job ☺

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