Main articles: Beacon and Optical telegraphy
Early telecommunications included smoke signals and drums. Drums were used by natives in Africa, New Guinea and South America, and smoke signals in North America and China. Contrary to what one might think, these systems were often used to do more than merely announce the presence of a camp.
In 1792, a French engineer, Claude Chappe built the first visual telegraphy (or semaphore) system between Lille and Paris. This was followed by a line from Strasbourg to Paris. In 1794, a Swedish engineer, Abraham Edelcrantz built a quite different system from Stockholm to Drottningholm. As opposed to Chappe's system which involved pulleys rotating beams of wood, Edelcrantz's system relied only upon shutters and was therefore faster. However semaphore as a communication system suffered from the need for skilled operators and expensive towers often at intervals of only ten to thirty kilometres (six to nineteen miles). As a result, the last commercial line was abandoned in 1880.
Telegraph and telephone
Main articles: Electrical telegraph, Transatlantic telegraph cable, Invention of the telephone, and History of the telephone [pic]
Stock telegraph ticker machine byThomas Edison
A very early experiment in electrical telegraphy was an 'electrochemical' telegraph created by theGerman physician, anatomist and inventor Samuel Thomas von Sömmering in 1809, based on an earlier, less robust design of 1804 by Catalan polymath and scientist Francisco Salvá i Campillo.Both their designs employed multiple wires (up to 35) in order to visually represent almost all Latin letters and numerals. Thus, messages could be conveyed electrically up to a few kilometers (in von Sömmering's design), with each of the telegraph receiver's wires immersed in a separate glass tube of acid. An electrical current was sequentially applied by the sender through the various wires representing each digit of a message; at the recipient's end the currents electrolysed the acid in the tubes in sequence, releasing streams of hydrogen bubbles next to each associated letter or numeral. The telegraph receiver's operator would visually observe the bubbles and could then record the transmitted message, albeit at a very low baud rate. The principal disadvantage to the system was its prohibitive cost, due to having to manufacture and string-up the multiple wire circuits it employed, as opposed to the single wire (with ground return) used by later telegraphs.
The first commercial electrical telegraph was constructed in England by Sir Charles Wheatstone and Sir William Fothergill Cooke. It used the deflection of needles to represent messages and started operating over twenty-one kilometres (thirteen miles) of the Great Western Railway on 9 April 1839. Both Wheatstone and Cooke viewed their device as "an improvement to the [existing] electromagnetic telegraph" not as a new device.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Samuel Morse independently developed a version of the electrical telegraph that he unsuccessfully demonstrated on 2 September 1837. Soon after he was joined by Alfred Vail who developed the register — a telegraph terminal that integrated a logging device for recording messages to paper tape. This was demonstrated successfully over three miles (five kilometres) on 6 January 1838 and eventually over forty miles (sixty-four kilometres)...