See also :Chronology of Communication after electronics to
Chronology of communication before electricity,
A Chronology of Communication from electricity to electronics.
1794 : The first 'line of sight' telegraph (semaphore) put into operation by Claude Chappe in Revolutionary
France as voluntary soldiers were defending France against Austria and other Feudal Powers. The line consisted of 22
stations and linked Lille with the capital Paris, a distance over 240 kilometres. It only took 2 to 6 minutes to transfer a
message, riding couriers would have needed 30 hours.
1795 : Galvani and Volta, Italian scientists, discover 'galvanism', the generation of electricity by chemical
action (acid) on metal.
1800 : Semaphore system put in place between Martha's Vineyard and Boston. Meanwhile, the idea of
interchangeable machine parts is developed by weapons engineer F.W. Taylor, father of 'scientific management'.
1801 : The first Jacquard loom, a mechanical weaver which can be programmed to weave varying patterns, depending on
the perforations in wooden cards, is developed in France.
1809 : Sommering in Munich develops the 'chemical telegraph', where every letter is represented by a wire which
terminates in a jar of water. As current flows through the letter-wire, bubbles are produced in the jar, allowing distance
communication of strings of letters.
1810 : Steam power first applied to mass printing processes in Germany.
1812 : Loyalist troops from Upper Canada start a running war with the US Army. They begin by burning down the
White House, which is quickly rebuilt. So the Canadians go back later the came year and torch it again.
1816 : Sir Francis Ronald of Hammersmith, London, wires the inside of his house with 8 miles of overhead line
and develops a system where current will produce movement in corks to signal. The British Admiralty reject his research in
favour of the semaphore system they have in place. Ronald later sells his manor in Hammersmith to William Morris,
founder of the neo-medieval Arts and Crafts movement , who (needless to say) rips out the wiring.
1820 : Oersted from Denmark observes the principles of electromagnetism.
1827 : Steam driven printing presses can now produce 2500 printed pages per hour.
1832 : Andre-Marie Ampere experiments with instantaneous transmission of electricity through wire. Soon Ampere
in France, Schilling in Russia, Stenheil in Germany and Cooke in the UK are all racing to develop the first viable electric
telegraph. Samuel Finley Breese Morse is at this time a painting instructor at NYU, who hopes his transmitter idea will get
him enough money to do landscape art full time.
1833: Charles Babbage develops the Difference Engine prototype. Carl Gauss and W.E. Weber complete an
'electrograph' at the University of Gottengen, Germany. Newspapers begin mass marketing for the first time due to increased
1837 : Morse constructs his own prototype, single-wire telegraph, along with his 'binary' dot-dash code
system. At the same time, W.F. Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in London file a patent for an electrical signalling device which
will connect railway stations. Elsewhere, the daguerreotype image process is first unveiled.
1838 : The new art of photography captures the public imagination. Morse demonstrates his telegraphy in public for
the first time.
1840 : The Opium War erupts between China and Britain. The Chinese government had tried to curb the opium
trade and the emperor confiscated and destroyed more than 20,000 chests of opium. British merchants appealed to their
government who sent 16 British Warships to Hong Kong and sailed to the mouth of the Pei Ho river. Next year they attacked the
walled city of Canton where Imperial troops were decimated by naval shelling.
1842 : Babbage loses support and funding from the British Parliament for his research. He turns to
his Analytical Engine design regardless. British Navy seizes Shanghai.
1843 : Morse is given Congressional approval to experiment, though the House briefly debates tacking on an amendment
stating that half the money be spent 'trying mesmeric experiments' as the public were widely told by the press at the time
that magnetism, hypnotism and spirit projection were all the same thing.
1844 : Morse completes the Washington-Baltimore line, providing the first electrical coded message machine. He
immediately begins underwater transmission experiments in the NY harbour. The first underwater cable is laid across the
English Channel to France. Telegraph has been adapted in Britain to directing railroad traffic.
1847 : First Federal US postage stamp and mail system.
1848 : Chicago Commodities Exchange established immediately after the wiring to the city is complete, since the
telegraph now allows speculation across vast areas and price information to freely circulate. At the same time, Political
Revolution erupts in France, Italy, Austria, Hungary & Germany.
1850 : Georg and Edvard Scheutz, Swedish brothers and printers, read about and construct a simplified version of
Babbage's Difference Engine, for which they later receive a World Fair Gold Medal. Standardized system of
grading for commodities on international markets is now in place. John Watkins Brett (a retired antiques dealer) and
his younger brother found the General Oceanic and Subterranean Electrical Printing Telegraph Company, who contract with the
Gutta Percha Co. to produce a 25 mile cable that will connect Dover, England to Cape Gris-Nez in France. This takes over a
year of trying, but they eventually succeed.
1852 : The continental United States now has 23,000 miles of telegraph wire connecting its urban areas.
1853 : The Crimean War is officially declared. The Gutta Percha Co. now enjoys a near-complete monopoly over
undersea cable manufacturing. Cyrus West Field, a retired New England printer, hears about an attempt to wire
Newfoundland to speed contact between NY and London. Field bails out the bankrupted attempt and forms the New York,
Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company.
1854 : France and Britain form alliance against Russia and declare war.
1855 : First attempt is made by Cyrus Field to wire the Atlantic, from Valentia Bay, Ireland, to Heart's Content,
Newfoundland, with 4000 km of 5/8in. thick telegraph cable. The British Navy lay a cable across the Black Sea to speed
communication during their war with Russia.
1856 : Field has St. John's, Nfld. and New York connected by lines running across the St. Lawerence River. He
then goes on to contact the Brett Brothers who wired the English Channel and Charles Tilston Bright, an electrical
enthusiast, and they together form the Atlantic Telegraph Company, with the intention of wiring England to North America, by
running 2500 miles of cable along the ocean floor.
1857 : India-Suez telegraph line directs troops in supressing an uprising in India. William Thomson
(later Lord Kelvin) joins the Atlantic project as it makes its first attempts with the US frigate Niagra and the British
Agamemnon, each ship carrying 1250 miles of cable in its hull. The wire snaps and is lost.
1858 : The Trans-Atlantic cable is put in place successfully, from Valentia Bay, Ireland to Heart's Content, Nfld.
However, the wire only stays 'live' for two months, just long enough for Queen Victoria to wire President Buchannan and the
first news to be sent across the Atlantic : "...settlement of Chinese Question. Chinese empire open to trade; Christians and
foreign diplomatic agents allowed, indemnity to England and France...Gwalior insurgent army broken up, all India becoming
tranquil...". In Sept, the line dies again.
1859 : The British-India cable through the Red Sea also fails.
1864 : The Gutta Percha company, producer of cable cores and lining, merges with Glass, Elliott and Co., maker of
the cable armor, and together form the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, which has since lay the vast majority of
the planet's submarine communications cable.
1865 : A new cable, 2600 miles long, weighing 7000 tonnes, is loaded onto the 32,000 ton Great Eastern, the
largest sailing ship in the world at the time along with 8000 tons of coal, 500 crew, cows, sheep, cowl and oxen. And begins
yet another failed attempt to wire the Atlantic ocean.
1866 : Wiring of the Atlantic succeeds after 11 years when the Great Eastern crosses the Ocean with the Wire
1867 : The newly invented typewriter begins to standardize bureaucratic record-keeping.
1876 : The telephone is debuted at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. By five years later, commercial use
will have widely begun.
1882 : Suez-Sudan telegraph line is instrumental in the British Invasion of Egypt.
1886 : The first mechanical text layout machine, the linotype, is developed.
1890 : Herman Hollerith, develops a tabulating machine based on the punched cards of a Jacquard Loom, for
computing census data for the US government. Twenty years later, he is the head of an office machine company which will
soon become International Business Machines.
1891 : Early motion picture camera developed by the French Lumiere Brothers, though their first public film showing is not unveiled until 1895.
1899 : British Cape of Good Hope telegraph helps direct troops and supplies in defeating the Boers, which leads
to British dominion over South Africa.
1901 : First trans-Atlantic wireless telegraph message sent by Guglielmo Marconi.
1906 : First wireless radio broadcasting.
- How the World was One : Beyond the Global Village / Arthur C. Clarke. (London : 1992)
- The Russo-Turkish campaigns of 1828 and 1829, with a view of the present state of affairs in the East. (London,
Smith, Elder & co., 1854)
- Communication, technology and politics in the Information Age / G. Sussmann. (London : SAGE Press, 1997)
- The invisible weapon : telecommunications and international politics, 1851-1945 / Headrick, Daniel R (NY :