Monday, May 17, 2010

Nothing new under the sun

Today we rely on our cellphones for news and entertainment and the days of seeing such devices as mainly telephones are already in the past. But the idea of getting live feeds from events and access to breaking news over the telephone is nothing new. According to a BBC article, The 19th century iPhone, they had all that over 100 years ago. In the early years of the telephone, as with most new technologies, it was not clear exactly what it was going to be used for. Evidently one early suggestion was that people could phone up their local telegraph office to order a telegram!

The BBC article describes an early British service called Electrophone. This started in the 1890s and enabled subscribers to listen to live feeds from London theatres and opera houses as well as summaries of the latest news. It was a costly service but survived until radio rendered telephone delivery obsolete.

A relevant reminder to us all that the best use of new technology is seldom evident from the start and that we have to accept many false starts before we find that "killer application".

Photo: Library of Congress on Flickr Commons

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