Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Looking Backward at Telecommunications

While commentators on the Web and its offspring often make comparisons with its historical predecessors such as the telephone, there have been a modest number of efforts to provide serious analysis of the history of telecommunications. Richard R. John, a journalism professor, draws on the vast array of existing archival materials and offers up Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), a volume sure to be the standard history for quite a while. John commences his story back in the late eighteenth century and goes into the early twentieth century and provides a detailed account of the development of both the telegraph and telephone. He considers the nature of the technologies and their economics as well as government involvement in and civic ideals concerning the evolution, seeking to explain that there was noting inevitable about these network systems and trying to reveal that how these technologies took hold was the result of complex political, economic, technological, and social elements. He also tells a great story, one that is quite capitvating even if we know how it ends.

1 comment:

Martin Weiss said...

I haven't read the book, but I have done a fair amount of research in this time period. It is indeed a fascinating story and one that has many layers to it.