Telecommunication and the “Flat” World

“What hath God wrought”

The dramatic message from the Bible was transmitted 34 miles from the Supreme Court building in Washington to a railroad station in Baltimore, Maryland on May 24, 1844. It was part of a demonstration for members of the US Congress of telegraphy, then a new communication technology.1 Note that the message is a statement and not a question. It does not question the divine linkage to this new technology, it celebrates it. The message reflected the perspective in that era that this new technology was divinely inspired as a powerful tool to assist human communication. This viewpoint may seem atypical today in a world suffused with secular communication technologies, but at the time the hand of God was seen as the motive force behind the mysterious powers that made telegraphy, and later telephony, possible. Subsequent advances in science explained the electromagnetic forces at work in electrical communication and progressively demystified them. In the 19th century, however, it enhanced the public acceptance of these technologies to invoke their supposedly divine origins.


Figure 7.1 Samuel F. B. Morse, photographed circa 1866 by Mathew Brady. The date of the photo is uncertain. Photographic historians place it as being taken ...

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