“This Message Sent Around The World”
At 7:00 p.m. on August 20, 1911, a commercial telegram was sent by the telegraph operator at the Times, working on the seventeenth level of the newspaper’s headquarters in Times Square. The message made a westward journey from New York, and shortly afterwards, the very same operator received his transmitted message back, having arrived back to him eastwards.
The New York Times had wanted to find out how long a commercial telegram would take to travel around the world, so they tried it!
The message simply said “This message sent around the world.” And it did indeed go around the world … in just sixteen and a half minutes!
Not bad, but that was a commercial telegram and therefore it wasn’t sent with all the priority that could potentially be mustered.
That honour went to President Roosevelt years before back in 1903 on July 4th (Independence Day) when his absolutely-top-priority message travelled around the world in just nine and a half minutes.
By way of comparison, that’s faster than it’d take to parcel-up your message, instruct a driver, team-up (& feed) some horses and get a mail-coach out of the yard and onto the road!
Talking of horses, the Pony Express became immediately obsolete and ceased trading just two days after the first trans-continental telegraph was sent many years earlier, during the American Civil war. Of course, sending a telegram in those early days was wildly expensive (a relatively short-distance telegram could likely cost $100 for a modern Twitter-equivalent message.
With the rate of pace of change these days, it’s easy to forget that technological progress even 150 years ago was still pretty awesome. For example, the 98-letter message sent from Queen Victoria to the US President Buchanan (in Pennsylvania, US) was very difficult to decipher and took 16 hours to send. It was nevertheless revolutionary to send electronic communications across vast oceans in 1858 and so the novelty of her message meant it was followed by a hundred-gun salute, street-parades, church-bell ringing and all other sorts of other excitement across the land.
Perhaps take a moment a think about that next time you send an encrypted video-message via WhatsApp to a friend back home whilst you’re abroad on your holidays!