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See also :Chronology of Communication after electronics to 1998,
Chronology of communication before electricity,
A Convoluted History of Early Telecommunications.


1837- British inventors William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone patent workable technologies for the electric telegraph. This will quickly make them very rich as the technology effectively ends the troublesome trainwrecks which have 'piled-up' in England since the Industrial Revolution began. Meanwhile, Sir Rowland Hill publishes Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability which leads to the elimination of postal charges by distance in favour of a universal penny post, for which patrons pay by purchase of adhesive stamps. This is fairly cool idea at the time, making distance communication uniformly affordable for the first time to just about everyone. Finally, Samuel Morse granted a patent on the electromagnetic telegraph, originally a device that embosses a series of dots and dashes on a paper roll. This didn't really impress anyone, especially Congress who thought it was some sort of astral projection.

1838- The Brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm undertake the preparation of the Deutsches Wörterbuch, an authoritative dictionary of the German language. Numerous scholars labour on the book after the Grimms' death; it appears in its final form in 1960. Samuel F. B. Morse develops the Morse Code, a language coding system for telegraphy. People now take him quite seriously. England introduces the railway post office, in which mail is sorted on the way to its destination.

1839- Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and Joseph-Nicéphore Niepce invent the daguerreotype, the first widely successful form of photography. People are however required to sit for up to an hour at a time while the processing is taking place, which is why people look so exhausted and morose in old pictures. Spirit photography also gets a lot of press.

1840- The first adhesive postage stamp, "the Penny Black" makes its glorious debut as Great Britain revamped its Penny Post system.

1842- Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace, British mathematician, creates the first computer program for Babbage's prototype computer, which technically makes her the first programmer period - later they even name a language after here, ADA. She was also a niece of Lord Byron and a compulsive gambler who hoped the Analytical Engine might be able to eventually pick horses.

1844- The telegraph is used to report results of Whig convention in Baltimore to New York newspapers. Electrified semaphore now includes 500 stations linking 29 cities in France.

1845- Perforated strips of postal stamp are first sold to the public in Britain.

1846- The Smithsonian Institution is established by Congress in Washington, D.C. using funds donated by the English scientist James Smithson. Other major museums of science and industry open in New York, London, Paris, Munich, and other cities over the course of the century.

1847- George Boole publishes The Mathematical Analysis of Logic: Being an Essay Towards a Calculus of Deductive Reasoning, providing the mathematical basis for the logic of digital computation. Much AND, OR, NOT and many, many flowcharts ensue. A patent issued for the first rotary press in the United States. The technology makes possible the widespread production of newspapers in the mid nineteenth century.

1848- The Associated Press is formed in the United States to pool telegraph expenses.

1851- The Great Exhibition opens in London, offering a compendious display of 19th-century technology and culture.

1852- Peter Mark Roget publishes his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. Henceforth, all manner of personages commence utilizing parlance of a vastly elongated variety.

1853- The Indian telegraph system opens, facilitating British colonial administration, which translates roughly, helps keep the opium flowing. The Bombay Trading Company and East India Company and its private army find this very helpful in running spice plantations.

1854- Opening of the Astor Public Library, later the New York Public library.

1855- The British government sends Roger Fenton to photograph the war in the Crimea. His pictures portray the war favourably, and gloss over the disaster of the charge of the Light Brigade.

1857- Work begun on the Oxford English Dictionary.

1858- The first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable attempted; the first permanently successful cable is laid in 1866, from Ireland to Heart's Content, Newfoundland. News that used to take two weeks to cross the Atlantic now moves at roughly 30 words a minute, a fairly major improvement in bandwidth. Before three weeks are out however, the insulation of the wire has broken down. Incidentally, the telegraph station is still in Heart's Content, which has been a very quiet place since wireless telegraphy.

c. 1860- The introduction of practical one-sided carbon paper makes possible the creation of multiple copies at the time of composition, and allows copying on thicker paper that can be stored in vertical files. By 1910 it is the chief means of making copies.

1861- Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species, which spawns some really annoying theories like Evolutionary Psychology, free market nonsense, and lots and lots of nasty competition.

1865- The American William Bullock gains a patent for the first roll-fed rotary press, improving on earlier innovations; it produces 12,000 complete newspapers per hour.

1866- Appearance of Vol. 1 of Larousse's Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXe Siecle . The French Academy takes their language real serious-like, unlikes us. At the same time, however Cyrus Field is attempting the re-installation of the Atlantic Cable.

1867- American inventor Christopher Latham Scholes builds the first practical typewriter. In 1873 Remington begins to manufacture the machines in large numbers. By 1886 there are more than 50,000 machines in use. They fill offices in rows and go about making things extremely loud in the work environment.

1869- Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev publishes the periodic law of the elements.

c. 1870- Development of the sulphite process for pulping wood allows increased production of printed material and books, and effectively throws the early recycling industry, rag and bone men, out of work. A century later software starts doing the same thing to bank tellers, travel agents and accountants.

1870-1890- A museum boom leads to the building of museums in most major cities in Europe and the Americas. In England, more than 100 museums are opened in this period. Paul Valery, poet of the time, then points out 'only an irrational civilization, one devoid of taste, could have devised such a domain of incoherence...this system of putting together works which simply negate one another as arranged units of incompatible pleasure by order of number and abstraction,' i.e. don't belive the hype.

1870- Balloons are used to deliver mail during the siege of Paris. Walter Benjamin writes later that at the same time, government soldiers in Paris shot the faces of public clocks to thwart citizens from organizing effective resistance.

1871- R. L. Maddox introduces dry-plate process in photography. It will free photographers from the use of tripod and lead to fast portable cameras. The first telephone exchange, or central switching point, is installed in New Haven, Connecticut, later home to the NSA. Thomas Edison, is this year perfecting duplex telegraphy, which allows sending and reception at the same time on the same wire.

1874- Twenty-two nations sign a treaty in Bern establishing the General Postal Union, later the Universal Postal Convention, which sets procedures for the exchange of international mail.

1875- Frank Stephen Baldwin patents an "arithometer" that can add, subtract, multiply and divide. In 1891, in association with James Monroe, he patents the Monroe calculator.

1876- Thomas Edison patents the spirit duplicator, which with other methods of mimeography makes possible efficient diffusion of written communication in large office organizations. Alexander Graham Bell introduces the telephone. Melvil Dewey outlines the classification system later known as Dewey Decimal, after spending a lot of time drinking and being very bored in upstate New York, one suspects. Victorianism bred this kind of urge to classify. And Henry Martin Robert, a U.S. Army officer, writes the standard manual on procedure in the United States, known as Robert's Rules of Order. Alexander Graham Bell sends his first signal.

1877- Thomas Edison patents the phonograph. Melvil Dewey establishes the first university school for librarians at Columbia University.

c. 1880- Henry R. Towne publishes first graph of management data in the Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, presaging the increasing use of graphs in scientific management. Edward Muybridge makes the first motion picture presentation in San Francisco. Herman Holllerith, a statistician, develops the first punch-card machine to process the results of the US Census. He later founds the company that is to become IBM. The cards are based on the slips fed into the Jacquard loom used decades before.

1883- Joseph Pulitzer purchases the New York World and initiates a program of sensationalist journalism. Within three years the paper's circulation has gone from 15,000 to 250,000, signalling the new era of mass newspapers and the birth of "yellow journalism." Frederick C. Taylor performs the first time-and-motion study of work practices at the Hydraulic Works of Philadelphia, laying the groundwork for the scientific study of industrial management. Henry Ford later picks up this, and industrial capitalism does a little dance of joy.

1884- Publication of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, the first novel submitted to a publisher in a typewritten form. That same year, L.E. Waterman produces and markets the fountain pen.

1885- George Eastman introduces the Kodak camera, containing film for 120 exposures, to be returned to factory for developing and recharging. Francis Galton introduces the first system for classifying fingerprints, after proving that each set is unique. Heinrich Hertz soon after begins to experiment with wireless radio.

1890- Jacob A. Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives, a photographic record of the lives of the poor in New York City that stimulates legislative reforms. Herman Hollerith, U.S. census employee, develops punched data cards and machines which can read them.

1892- Emile Reynaud popularizes the projection of film on the Praxinoscope at the Musée Grevin, three years before the Lumière brothers publicly demonstrate the Cinématographe. Automatic telephone switchboard invented.

1893- Thomas Edison constructs the world's first motion picture stage, Black Maria, and in the following year introduces the Kinetoscope, with peepholes that allow one person to watch a moving image. The vertical file is presented at the Chicago World's Fair, where it wins a gold medal. It permits a more rational organization of documents for large organizations.

c. 1896- In France, Auguste and Louis Lumière produce the first motion-picture documentaries and newsreels, while in the UK, Sir William Crookes invents the cathode ray tube.

1898- Eugène Atget starts to produces an extended photographic record of Paris urban life that he continues until 1927. Largely ignored during his lifetime, his work is rediscovered by the surrealists around the time of his death. Outbreak of the Spanish-American War, largely incited by William Randolph Hearst's New York Morning Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, an indication of the new political power of the mass press. Hearst's maxim, 'You provide the pictures, I'll provide the war.'

1899- Herbert Putnam appointed head of Library of Congress, and transforms it into one of the most important national collections. He introduces library services that include the publishing of bibliographies and the Library of Congress Classification System . Andrew Carnegie makes the first of grants that will eventually build more than two thousand public libraries in the United States, Canada and Britain.

1900- The proportion of typists and stenographers who are women reaches 77 percent, a four-or five-fold increase over the previous fifty years, reflecting the reorganization and specialization of work practices induced in part by technologies like the typewriter and dictating machine.

1902- Photographs are transmitted by telegraph for the first time by German inventor Arthur Korn, which effectively acts like a fax machine, the resolution actually being just as good as a dot matrix printer. Police catch on to the crime-busting potential of this quickly, when London police use it to send a picture of a murder suspect to Halifax, NS when they learn the man fled there aboard an ocean liner. Police in Halifax pick him off the gangplank there.

1904- The lithoset or offset printing developed. French psychologist Alfred Binet develops the modern intelligence test. First telegraphic transmission of photographs, anticipating the fax machine and Sir Ambrose Flaming invents the electronic vacuum tube.

1907- Autochrome, the first practical colour photography process, is introduced in France by Auguste and Louis Lumière. Canada passed its first Wireless Telegraph Act, naming as licensing authority the Department of Marine and Fisheries.

1911- Airmail service begins in England.

1915- D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation establishes the American narrative film style and marks the arrival of cinema as an art form. There are now 1/2 million telephones in NY homes; 90,000 in Paris. The first trans-Atlantic phone call is placed.

1917- The use of multiple frequency transmission makes possible broadcast radio.

1920- The first commercial radio station, KDKA, goes on the air in Pittsburgh with a broadcast of the returns of the Harding-Cox election.

1922- The British Broadcasting Company is established to co-ordinate production of radio programming.

1923- Americans Henry R. Luce and Briton Hadden found Time Magazine, which establishes the form for modern magazine journalism. Credit cards are introduced in United States at hotels and gasoline stations. The usury section of Hell gets a big boost.

1926 - The National Broadcasting Company establishes a network of radio stations to which it distributes daily programs. The Book of the Month club is founded in the United States, distributing over 200,000,000 copies of books to areas where there were few bookstores and introducing "negative option" mail-orders. Metropolis by Fritz Lang debuts.

1927- The Radio Act the sets up the agency now called the Federal Communications Commission to allocate radio frequencies. The phenomenal success of The Jazz Singer ensures the conversion of the motion-picture industry to sound films.

1928- Eastman Kodak introduces the Recordak system of microfilming, soon widely used in the storage of organizational records.

1931- Emergence of the telex, the antecedent to the FAX, in the UK, the U.S., and several European countries.

1932- The Radio Corporation of America demonstrates an all-electric television using a camera tube called the iconoscope (patented by Vladimir Zworykin in 1923) and a cathode-ray tube in the receiver.

1933- Publication of Oxford English Dictionary (OED), begun in 1857. The Indian librarian and educator Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan devises the system of colon classification for research libraries. Vannevar Bush of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology constructs the differential analyser, a powerful analogue computer. The Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (later called the CBC) is born.

1934- U.S. National Archives are opened to supplement the Library of Congress, housing the retired records of the national government.

c. 1935- Frequency modulation is developed to overcome radio transference. The Farm Security Administration commissions a group of photographers, including Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, to document conditions among the poor. Their photographs of victims of the Depression help move states to establish camps for migrant workers.

1937- The coronation of King George VI is telecast from Hyde Park Corner. Alan Turing publishes his essay, "On Computable Numbers," which theorizes digital computation.

1938- Orson Welles' radio presentation of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds creates panic among thousands of radio listeners who have become so accustomed to receiving news by radio that they take the reports of a Martian invasion of New Jersey in earnest. The Hungarian Laszlo Biro, living in Argentina, patents and successfully markets the ball-point pen. The Englishman Allen Lane launches Penguin books, initiating mass production of good-quality paperback books.

1939- The National Broadcasting Company initiates regular television broadcasts for two hours per week. The CBS and Dumont networks soon follow suit, but broadcasting is interrupted by World War II.

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