Information and Communication Are The Modern Industry

The use of accurate and timely information is  vital to the functioning of a modern economy and plays a role in education and naturally is critical in any warfare whether conventional or a war on terror.  Trying to best convey information quickly and accurately has been the holy grail for many in the business world and on the battle fields and oceans since recorded time.  The famous news agency Reuters that you see by lined all the time started in the communication business in Paris in the 19th century.  Its original purpose was to get information from the other markets in the Netherlands and then elsewhere to Paris for the stock traders and merchants quicker than anyone else could get it.  That information if received before competitors would give them a bargaining and trading advantage.  Originally Reuters used carry pigeons for this work.  People were willing to subscribe to his information sheet so they could get the latest quotes on commodities.  He would get the info and have it immediately printed up in very terse terms and distributed to his subscribers.  As time went by Reuters expanded into the coverage of general news for dissemination.  Its origin was in the markets though.   I don’t know if Reuters even reports financial news these days other than as general news items.

Historically the British have been the leaders in improving communications.  Edison of course made a great contribution to the area but the English made use of the phone even more quickly than we did in their larger cities.  Marconi developed the wireless but then he worked with the British navy to exploit and refine the use of the radio system into a working model that could be reliable.   During the Napoleonic wars in 1806 the British developed a signal system using semaphores.  The method that employs flags of different colors and patterns that are held in distinct positions by a sender.  The same thing you saw in your old Boy Scout handbook.  Using this method of flag-semaphore signalling they could transmit a message from London all the way to Plymouth in three minutes.  Not bad with such simple tools.  Of course in had to be day and clear weather.  They would set up a series of towers or natural heights and the signalmen would stand ready with their telescopes to watch for messages. 

You have read in your history books about the US laying some of the earliest cable under the oceans and seas for the transmission of telegraph signals.  That is true but it was the British it did much more than we.  They laid more and faster than we did.  It was due to their Empire they had during the 19th century and the need for commercial and military communications to be sent quickly throughout the entire world.  They laid cable from London all the way through the Mediterranean Sea and then from the Red Sea to India and parts farther east.   They even laid cable across the Pacific. Those were giant undertakings in those old sailing ships and those that had steam.  By the end of the 19th century the British network literally circled the globe.  The world learned about the huge explosion of Krakatoa between Sumatra and Java by use of the undersea cables laid by the British in 1889.  It was the first sensational use of the cable to transmit “news” rather than commercial or military information.  During the Crimea War in the 1850’s Britain gave instructions from London to their local commanders by telegraph.  Although the local commanders weren’t very keen on receiving instructions by arm chair commanders thousands of miles from the scene of battle.

It was the British navy that really put the wireless radio into use.  At the turn of the 20th century the British navy was still the master of the seas and realized that being able to communicate with their admirals and ships by wireless would greatly improve their effectiveness.  Before wireless the captains or admirals had to go to port to a telegraph station for the latest instructions or a frigate would bring the message to them on the high seas.  In the very early days of the wireless use you could “tune” a radio, there were no channels or bands.  Everything tended to be scrambled.  But that refinement came along with Marconi’s work for the Brits.  The battles on the oceans in the First World War were the first use of the wireless in actual practice.  The sea battles of Coronel of the west coast of Chile in 1914 and the battle of the Falklands a couple of months later were both brought about by the use and misuse of the wireless radio.  The British used it to advise their seaman and the Germans used it when they shouldn’t have and gave away the fact they were in the area.  At Coronel, the Germans prevailed and the British lost two ship with the loss of all hands, a total of 1600 men.  At the Falklands it was the Germans who lost three ships and about 2000 dead.  That is one of the tragidies about sea warfare–they often are no wounded to be saved. 

You are each encouraged to read HR 3200 for yourself.  That is the bill proposed by the Waxman committee and the one that will be passed by the House.  You should see what you are getting.  Maybe you will like it but you sure should know what you getting.  Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.


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Filed under business, Economics, geography, history, military history

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