Communicating information always has been extremely important. Throughout history, some information has had value beyond measure. The lack of information often costs huge amounts of money and, sometimes, many lives.
One example of this took place near New Orleans, Louisiana. Britain and the United States were fighting the War of Eighteen Twelve. The Battle of New Orleans is a famous battle. As in all large battles, hundreds of troops were killed or wounded.
After the battle, the Americans and the British learned there had been no need to fight. Negotiators for the United States and Britain had signed a peace treaty in the city of Ghent, Belgium, two weeks earlier. Yet news of the treaty had not reached the United States before the opposing troops met in New Orleans. The battle had been a terrible waste. People died because information about the peace treaty traveled so slowly.
From the beginning of human history, information traveled only as fast as a ship could sail. Or a horse could run. Or a person could walk.
People experimented with other ways to send messages. Some people tried using birds to carry messages. Then they discovered it was not always a safe way to send or receive information.
A faster method finally arrived with the invention of the telegraph. The first useful telegraphs were developed in Britain and the United States in the eighteen thirties.
The telegraph was the first instrument used to send information using wires and electricity. The telegraph sent messages between two places that were connected by telegraph wires. The person at one end would send the information. The second person would receive it.
Each letter of the alphabet and each number had to be sent separately by a device called a telegraph key. The second person would write each letter on a piece of paper as it was received. Here is what it sounds like. For our example we will only send you three letters: VOA. We will send it two times. Listen closely.
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