Good riddance to an antiquated communications method or misty eyed nostalgia? – a bit of both I guess.
The Central Telegraph Office in New Delhi was the world’s last major* commercial telegram operation. After 162 years, it has now also ceased operations, with the last telegram sent on the weekend.
In its heyday, the service handled 600,000 messages a day. That dwindled to just 5,000 messages a day, although in its last day thousands more “souvenir” telegrams were sent.
I’ve never received a telegram, but I have seen the old lines out in the Australian bush. It always gives me pause for thought about how important those brief messages were and how communications have changed in such a short period.
Even in my reasonably short time on this planet (I was born in the late 60’s), I’ve seen so many major changes in communications. For example, I remember playing with (destroying) an old crank-type phone as a kid (which would be worth quite a bit now I guess) and it really wasn’t all that long ago that rotary dial phones were the outside communications staple in the home.
When you left your house, that was it – no calls and not even an answering machine for most of us as they were toys for the rich. Similarly, pagers were only for high flying execs and medical or emergency personnel.
When you did make or receive calls at home, you were tethered to the device. The old Motorola bag phones that then hit the scene seemed truly revolutionary and so portable :).
We still have reminders of rotary dialers of course in the form of pay phones, but even those are going the way of the dodo.
Just ten years ago, I wouldn’t have had mobile coverage out on my patch of the Aussie outback – now I not only have coverage for voice calls, but wireless broadband too; meaning I can carry out my online business activities from the middle of nowhere. Without that access, I wouldn’t have bought it.
However, I’ve never quite gotten over the clashing of worlds when I’m puttering around the place; often the only human for a mile or two, and then my phone comes to life. It still stirs up emotions of awe; but also distaste – the ringing (do we still call it that?) fracturing the silence. It just seems so alien in that environment.
We’ve gained so much from communications technology, but probably lost a great deal too.
* Time reports other telegraph services are still in operation. It’s nice to know there are still dots and dashes floating around the place; reaching places where the tubes of the interwebs don’t.