The Victorian Internet

  • by Tom Standage
  • Narrated by Derek Perkins
  • 5 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Victorian Internet tells the colorful story of the telegraph's creation and remarkable impact and of the visionaries, oddballs, and eccentrics who pioneered it, from eighteenth-century French scientist Jean-Antoine Nollet to Samuel F. B. Morse and Thomas Edison. The electric telegraph nullified distance and shrank the world quicker and further than ever before or since, and its story mirrors and predicts that of the Internet in numerous ways.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Everything comes in cycles

Loved this book. Was waiting to read it for ages and was delighted when it popped up in my recommendations. The hype associated to the Internet and the telegraph is uncanny.
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- Ronan

Not quite what the title promises

The title invites comparisons between the Victorian telegraph and our modern Internet. To some extent the book delivers, but I was left hoping for more. The entire first half is taken up by history of the invention of the telegraph, down to the details on which inventor came up with which mechanical part. I found my attention constantly wandering during these sections, and only picking up once the book started getting into some interesting anecdotes about Victorian hackers, misinterpreted codes, long-distance romances, shady business practices and other such things that Internet users today are familiar with. The book shows its age (written mostly in 1997, updated with an epilogue from 2007) in being somewhat dismissive of the Internet. At one point the author mentions that the invention of the telegraph made traditional newspapers fear for their continued existence. We know now that the telegraph didn't herald the end of newspapers, but the Internet *is* causing them serious struggle to stay relevant. This was not yet quite so obvious 20 or even 10 years ago, when social media was still in its infancy. The author seems, at times, to treat the Internet as a curiosity but hardly revolutionary, which seems a little baffling considering it's now almost impossible to imagine a world without the Internet. This downplaying of the importance of the Internet seeps into the narrative and perhaps that is the reason it feels lacking. There are dozens of comparisons one could draw between the two inventions today, but the author only seems to come up with a few. He focuses more on the overall history of the telegraph, and the comparisons with the Internet seem more like a tacked-on afterthought, possibly to capitalize on what was still viewed as a "fad" in 1997. I would like to see the subject tackled now, updated to reflect the changes we have seen with the rise of social media, instant news, global surveillance, smartphones and other modern phenomena. The contents and performance are both competent, if a little dry. I found it hard to stay focused much of the time.
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Book Details

  • Release Date: 24-03-2015
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio