Stanford Chaparral

In 1800 the fastest a message could travel was the speed of horse. Then a young entrepreneur named Samuel F.B. Morse developed the first practical telegraph line. He chose to display his hesitations about this new technology by sending the first message via telegraph, “What hath God wrought?”

A world wide telegraph network had been established by 1875. But unscrupulous scientists, unsatisfied with instantaneous electrical communication, began to think about using electromagnetic devices to transmit speech.

The first to succeed was Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone in 1876. Samuel Morse, the inventor of the now famous Morse code, got to do the honors of making the first telephone call to Alexander Graham Bell. The following is a transcript of that conversation.

Alexander Graham Bell: [gasp] God help us all! [clears throat, picks up phone] Hello?
Samuel Morse: What have you done?
Bell: I know. [lips trembling with fear] I know! [falls to knees sobbing]

The telegraph and telephone provided electromagnetic communication, but scientists continued to invent newer and more sinister ways to communicate. The world had recently been horrified by the discovery of electromagnetic waves, and reluctant scientists warily opened up a new dimension of evil—wireless communication at the speed of light. Radio technology developed rapidly in the late 19th century, and in 1901 the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi sent and received the first transatlantic radio broadcast. Marconi decided to broadcast a short radio drama set far in the post-apocalyptic future. It portrayed a society that had been so dehumanized by radio transmissions that it descended into violence and brutality. Below is a short excerpt from that broadcast.

Father: Sandra, our daughter has been murdered.
Mother: No! Not little Jane, it can’t be?
Father: I’m afraid it is.
Mother: There must be something we can do, anything!
Father: Should we radio for help? [There is a pregnant pause. Both are struck by the bitter irony of the situation. With nothing left to live for, they both burst into maniacal laughter]