This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

Around the World in 16 Minutes

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August 20, 1911: First Around-the-World Telegram Sent

On this day in 1911 the New York Times sends a telegram message to test how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world. Reading simply, “This message sent around the world”, it left at 7 PM, traveled over 28,000 miles and was relayed by 16 different operators. It arrived back at The Times only 16.5 minutes later. The building where the message originated is now called One Times Square and is best known for where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

One Times Square

One Times Square

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later.

It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.

End of the Telegraph

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144 years after Samuel Morse sent the first telegram in Washington, the world’s final telegram will be sent in India on July 14, 2013.

Telegraph services ended in the United States seven years ago, but in India, the century-and-a-half old communication medium is still widely used to send messages.

Approximately 5,000 messages are sent every day by telegram in India, a service favored for its “sense of urgency and authenticity,” a BSNL official told the Monitor.

At its peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were exchanged across 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, employing 998 people, down from 12,500 telegram employees in better years.

The final telegram will be sent somewhere in India this summer.

Full stop.

The Five Americans – Western Union

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