Instead, let's take another trip down Today in History Lane: it was on this date in 1837 that British inventors Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone demonstrated the first commercially viable electric telegraph.
The idea of using fast-moving electricity for communication had long been recognized, but it was considered impractical because the technology was dependent on ideal weather conditions, too easily disrupted by natural phenomena, and didn't have sufficient range. Some ideas actually worked, but weren't practical, including a complicated device that used a separate wire submerged in a glass tube filled with acid to receive each letter of the alphabet and each numeral (that's 36 separate tubes, in case you were counting). The person receiving the message had to watch the tubes and record the letters as the acid in the appropriate tube bubbled from the electrical stimulation. Another design worked over longer distances, but it could only transmit two letters per minute - a bit slow for rapid communication.
The telegraph system designed by Messrs Cooke and Wheatstone used six wires connected to five needles, which pointed to letters engraved on a plate. They first demonstrated it successfully on this date in 1837, sending a message between Euston and Camden Town in London - a distance of 2.027 kilometers (about 1.26 miles). Two years later, the Great Western Railway installed the system over a 13-mile stretch from Paddington Station to West Drayton. Six years after that, Cooke and Wheatstone's electrical telegraph was used by police to help catch a murderer who had escaped on a train ... they telegraphed information about the fugitive down the line, enabling the distant police to arrest him when he left the train at his destination.
The telegraph became truly viable for long-distance communication with the invention by Samuel F. B. Morse of the code that bears his name. Morse Code used combinations of long and short electrical pulses transmitted by an operator who tapped out the dots and dashes using a key ...
The telegraph, which required wires to transmit signals, eventually yielded to practical wireless communication with the work of Guglielmo Marconi ... you can read an interesting and exciting tale of Marconi's work and how his wireless system helped catch the fleeing murderer Dr H. H. Crippen in Erik Larson's story Thunderstruck.
Today, of course, we don't need telegraphs, Morse Code, or even Marconi's wireless. We have Blackberries, Wi-Fi, 3G, 3GS, 4G, and SMS. Instead of communicating across the miles on overhead wires with combinations of dots and dashes, we communicate across the table with text messages on smart phones.
IMHO, that's for the birds ... who, by the way, were the ones who actually invented tweeting.
And that's all for today. Perhaps a miracle may happen and members of Congress will actually communicate with each other, whether by telegram, telephone, SMS, wireless, smoke signals, or whatever ...
But I'm not holding my breath, and neither should you.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.