The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage i.e. The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-Line Pioneers is really quite fascinating. There were two things that really stood out for me.
For one, I couldn’t believe how technologically advanced information sharing was in the late 1800’s. I never even heard of a visual telegraph and had no idea pneumatic mail tubes were so advanced back then, that one could even send a cat from Brooklyn to Manhattan by them. Add to that the electric telegraph, which is the star of the book, with which people were having online-weddings, using it with complicated encryption schemes and of course scammers and spammers were all over the technology.
Which leads me to the second revelation, I was fascinated to find out how closely the telegraph revolution mirrored our own information explosion in the age of email and the “new” internet. I think I might have to agree with Standage when he claims that Time-traveling Victorians arriving in our time would be much more bewildered by our heavier than air flying machines and space flight, “as for the Internet – well, they had one of their own,” in short, they would probably be unimpressed.