Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sam

Imagine my surprise when, early this morning, I saw this on the Google web page:

"Why does this look familiar?", I wondered. Then I saw the yellow title balloon. Many years ago, in the Boy Scouts, I had to learn Morse code. Even at the time it was an antiquated form of communications, only slightly more advanced than the semaphor flags we also had to learn.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yet Morse's invention changed society as much as the advent of railroads. It replaced communications "media" that moved at the pace of ships at sea or horses with a form that was nearly instant. While there were other forms of quick communications, such as the semaphor, all were hampered by being able to only transmit brief messages. The limited range of each link, which was the limits of human vision, prevented them from being very fast. Together, the telegraph and the railroad made possible the quick settlement of the American West, and the administration of that area by the Federal and territorial governments.

It also helped usher in the world of instant communications we see now. The website on which you are reading this article is, in both the technological and cultural senses, a descendant of Morse's invention.


Dana Hunter said...

I was wondering what that was all about. Hadn't thought to roll over it to see the explanation. That's pretty awesome.

Cujo359 said...

They're a bright bunch at Google. I suspect they realize the importance of th telegraph, too. As inventions go, it was right up there with fire and the computer in the way it changed how we live.