“The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media”: Telegraphing the Future

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: “The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media”: Telegraphing the Future

The exploding technological changes in the 1800s had significant impact on nascent media forms and formats … not to mention an enormous impact on time and distance. The development of reliable and affordable steam engines jump-started the industrial revolution as technological breakthroughs ran through every aspect of the world’s economies.

This is a book in progress. Go here to read the previous chapters.

Chapter 8, Part 3

The exploding technological changes in the 1800s had significant impact on nascent media forms and formats … not to mention an enormous impact on time and distance.

The development of reliable and affordable steam engines jump-started the industrial revolution as technological breakthroughs ran through every aspect of the world’s economies.

Of course, some technologies weren’t so technical. Moving information from one place to another already had a long history in ship-borne signal flags. But it wasn’t until 1794, when semaphore flags were invented, that rather more complex messaging system could be relayed. Of course, line of sight could be a significant hindrance.

The 1800s brought significantly faster ways to move people and things from one place to another and media was quick to take advantage of each step forward, no matter how small the step. The first railway steam locomotive arrived in 1804. The first internal combustion in an automobile was powered by hydrogen in 1807. Robert Fulton built the first workable steamboats in 1807, too.

That, naturally, expanded the reach of media and resulted in a blossoming of publications. The Saturday Evening Post was launched in 1821.Freedom’s Journal, the first US African-American newspaper, was started in 1827. It was joined by the first native-American paper, the Cherokee Phoenix, in 1828. That year also brought Noah Webster’s first dictionary. The New York Sun created the era of the penny press in 1833.

Samuel Morse, building on the work of others, developed the Morse Code and the telegraph in 1836. On May 24th (Bob Dylan’s birthday), 1844, Morse received a patent for the telegraph. The first message was, “What hath God wrought?” The second was “Have you any news?”

It wasn’t long before wires were strung all across the US. And it was only four years later that the Associated Press was founded.

Meanwhile, in 1837, Charles Babbage designed the first general purpose computer – the Analytical Engine.

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. A year later, Thomas Edison invented the first working phonograph. And then a couple of years after that Edison produced the first practical electric bulb.

In Germany, Karl Benz built the first gasoline-powered automobile.

At every step, existing media took advantage of the ability to report and distribute more quickly. Along the way new formats were created: the telegraph and the record. And the world was just getting started.

Next week: Chapter 8, Part 4 -- The Format Explosions Including Radio and Motion Pictures

In an almost 50-year career writing and reporting on media, Paul S. Maxwell started and/or ran some 45-plus publications ranging from CATV Newsweekly to Colorado Magazine to CableVision to Multichannel News to CableFAX and The BRIDGE Suite of daily newsletters and research publications. In between publishing stints, Maxwell served as an advisor and/or consultant to a number of major media companies and media start-ups including running a unit of MCI and managing a partnership of TCI and McGraw-Hill.

Send any and all criticisms, suggestions, rants, threats, corrections, etc. to him at cablemax@mac.com. He has a new Web site coming soon!

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