How the Regency Invented Twitter

Chappe_semaphoreAndrea here, thinking about communication. Now, all of you are reading this on some sort of electronic device, and no matter where you are in the world, the bytes somehow transport themselves pretty much instantaneously for your reading edification. When you think on it, it’s pretty mind-boggling the amount of information we can access with the press of an electronic key.

More than that, it’s the split-second ability to communicate with each other that has fundamentally changed (for better and for worse) the way we live and think—the rhythms of life, the expectations, the constant need to react and process. And it’s happened SO fast. I remember the the era of no internet, no cellphones . . . and wrestling with whether to spring for the cost of a long-distance telephone call to talk to a faraway pal.

1024px-Signaling_by_Napoleonic_semaphore_lineI hate to admit it, but most of us (me included) probably panic when we find that we’ve forgotten to put our cellphone in our purse or pocket when we run out to do an errand. The idea of being “out of the loop”, even for a short while, is disorienting. Our brains seem to have been rewired by the new technology . . .

This is a roundabout intro to what spurred the topic in the first place. I was doing some general Regency research for an idea for one of my future Wrexford & Sloane mysteries the other day when I came across an interesting article on the invention of semaphores—or, as many called the system back then, the visual or optical telegraph—which was really the first, albeit primitive, step in the high-speed communication revolution.

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