The Victorian Internet

The Internet is often called the “information superhighway” but its 19th century equivalent was certainly the “electric telegraph.” The benefits of the network were hyped by its supporters while the skeptics said these benefits were illusionary or over-hyped. Government tried to regulate the new medium but failed to do so. A new technological subculture was created to take advantage of this telegraph.

This new technology led to new ways to commit crime, initiate romances, and make money legally and illegally. The telegraph and its global reach thus becomes the Victorian Internet according to author Tom Standage.

Standage’s book was published in 1998, long before the Internet has become as ubiquitous in our current lives in 2020, more than twenty years later.

Minimum word count: 750 words

In your essay, briefly provide some specific examples of how the telegraph and its spread truly was a Victorian version of the Internet. Standage also argues that when the telegraph appeared in the 19th century, its proponents said it would solve the world’s problems. Today’s technology proponents claim the same thing: that the Internet will solve society’s ills. Do you think these technological marvels could solve the world’s problems? Explain your answer. Finally, I would like you to discuss how the Internet has changed since the 1990s and whether you think Standage’s argument continues to hold up in 2020.


Last Updated on March 26, 2020

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