By Brian Winston

Not easy the preferred fantasy of a present-day "information revolution", Media know-how and Society is vital examining for someone drawn to the social influence of technological switch. Winston argues that the improvement of recent media kinds, from the telegraph and the phone to pcs, satellite tv for pc and digital fact, is the made from a relentless play-off among social necessity and suppression: the unwritten legislation wherein new applied sciences are brought into society in simple terms insofar as their disruptive capability is proscribed.

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Making the electrical circuit agitated the balls. This was the first of many such ideas, another, by Bozolus, a Jesuit, being explained in Latin verse. Devices along these lines existed in experimental form by the 1780s. One of the brothers Chappe had begun his telecommunication experiments with thoughts of such a friction telegraph, before perfecting his ‘optical-mechanical’ system. 1 Optical mechanical systems, such as the Chappe semaphore, can be seen as a sort of precursor to the electrical telegraph, like the string telephones.

Apart from the simultaneous arrival of the plans at the patent office, there is a distinction of style between the two men. Bell patented a telegraphic device, which was finished as such and had been built but was not a fully practical speaking telephone system. He described it as an improvement in telegraphy not only because that was what it was but also presumably because he needed to satisfy his backers that he was not wasting their money on a ‘speech-by-telegraph vagary’. Nevertheless there was a certain boldness about his approach: I was so satisfied in my own mind that I had solved the problem of the transmission of articulate speech, that I ventured to describe and claim my method and apparatus in a United States patent, without waiting for better results; in full confidence that the problem had been solved, and that my instruments would turn out to be operative speaking telephones.

The idea of using magnetism and electricity for a signalling system was thus established early in the modern period. The elaboration of the idea as well as the first prototypes for such systems tended to propose the use of static electricity. In one, suggested by an anonymous correspondent of the Scots’ Magazine writing from Renfrew in 1753, signalling was to be effected by twenty-six wires with twenty-six electroscopes in the form of mounted pith balls, each to represent one letter. Making the electrical circuit agitated the balls.

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