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What Differences And Similarities Existed Between The Development And The Social Work Of The Telegraph And The Telephone?

3608 words - 14 pages

IntroductionThe 19th century developments of firstly the telegraph, and later the telephone, opened a gateway to a new, closer, more interdependent world. For a country as large as the United States, with a population now scattered from east to west, the implications were tremendous. The infamous tyranny of time and distance had been conquered.Widespread acceptance and appreciation, however, were not immediate. Both inventions met with initial scepticism, ridicule, and even elements of fear. The wisdom of twenty-first century hindsight makes such reticence seem incredible and somewhat amusing, but the very magnitude of instantaneous communication was the source of anxiety in the first recipients as much as of excitement. In an era when any form of distance communication necessarily involved travel, the advent of the US telegraph in the 1844 represented a huge shift in reality. It is hardly surprising that it took a significant period of time before initial misgivings were surmounted.Over thirty years later the appearance of the telephone was met with similar uncertainty, although for somewhat different reasons. The acceptance of the telegraph had accustomed people to the rapidity of electric communication, but it was by then so well established that the potential benefits of the telephone were not overwhelmingly obvious. Although evoking some of the fears and superstitions associated with the early telegraph, many early views of the telephone saw it largely as an expensive toy, or an "improved speaking tube, through which orders could be sent" , usually to servants. It was to take time to cultivate appreciation for the revolutionary ability to converse with another human voice over distance.The psychological hurdles of these two inventions affected the way in which they were established. Government hesitation reflected that of the public, and financial support was minimal - neither the telegraph nor the telephone received significant sponsorship from Congress. Early opportunities to purchase patent rights to the telegraph were refused by the federal government, forcing Morse and his partners to seek out private capital. The telephone followed the path of its predecessor, and the Bell Telephone Company embarked upon a future as one of the greatest of American monopolies.The effects of the telegraph and telephone upon American culture, industry, and society are difficult to overstate. As the pioneer of modern communication, the telegraph revolutionised information access and organisational ability for all manner of commercial, government and private interests. Initial anxieties, both real and imagined, gave way to a dependence that entrenched the telegraph as a vital part of America's social infrastructure. The telephone, though in many ways a progression of the telegraph, was equally ground-breaking for the amazing capacity to transmit sound directly, and ultimately came to assume the ubiquitous presence it has today.The paths of their development...

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