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Lecture 5

Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Express Mail, Claude Chappe, Smoke Signal

Media, Information and Technoculture
Course Code
MIT 2000F/G
Daniel Robinson

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Telecom Web (Week 4)
They can share the knowledge because there are words and pictures if they
are not literate
Hearing public model
o People reading the news to others
o The symbols allow those who cant read to participate
Writing limitations
o Writing on blackboard cause they cant afford the printed paper
o He can erase it and change it the next day
o He has to write neatly so that people can read the writing
Vernacular/Text symbols
o kick the bucket meant death for that culture; trying to speak directly
to the people in the language they are familiar with
He is a democratic watchdog
o He tries to keep the government to account
We have been talking about how physical things with messages get moved
(clay tablets, papyrus, etc.), even newspapers had to be physically moved
(Transportation model)
Transportation to Transmission Model (no longer tied to the means of
transportation, the signs will move independent of geography)
o Message faster than messenger
o With the telegraph, it will be possible for the messages to move faster
than any physical means of transporting it
Early examples
o Smoke signals, drums
o Ship-to-ship/shore semaphore (when a ship is coming into harbor,
you would have someone with flags signaling stuff about the ship, and
someone would be on shore signaling requirements)
o These required line of sight and predetermined knowledge of what
the signs meant
Claude Chappe (France, 1794)
o Wood, rope, iron, stone
o Put these symbols on top of houses, which could be moved in lots of
different ways with pulleys, and configure it in a certain way to mean
a message
o One person would look upstream and downstream, the messages
would go both ways
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o Code Book
o 45,000 words or phrases that were possible to make
Paris-Toulon 760km: How long to send message?
o It could be received in about an hour if everything is working right
o Cant work at night, when the weather is bad
It is erratic in terms of its capability
Not steady and reliable
o It is faster than physically transmitting things
Other lines (Strasbourg, Brussels)
Primarily used for military purposes
o Napoleonic wars
Nationalism/Nation State
o Sweden, Russia, Spain, Prussia (1830s)
o They typically didnt go beyond borders
Exclusive State Use (France)
o They were run by the state, not in the hands of private interests
o Have to have good weather
o Has to be daytime
o The number of messages is somewhat limited
o You need a lot of people to work at these places
o High infrastructure costs
Samuel F. Morse (US) didnt know much about electricity, he was an art
o Initially Morse had created a number for every word
o Alfred Vail was inspired by Morses demonstration, and makes the
machine more reliable
o Vail thinks of making the Morse code, but doesnt get credit for
First Message, 1844
o Washington-Baltimore
Software: Morse Code
o Dots/dashes linked to alphabet
o Electricity, magnetism, reliable batteries
Rapid Growth in miles of telegraph cable
o 1846: 40
o 185: 12,000
o 1865: 37,000 (US)
1861 transcontinental line
o The telegraph put the pony express out of business, which was a type
of express mail service
o It would get mail covering almost 2000 km from Missouri to CA
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