Belgium ends 19th Century telegram service


Blackleaf
#1
Belgium's telegram service is about to stop. Stop.

One hundred and seventy-one years after the first electronic message was transmitted down a line running alongside the railway between Brussels and Antwerp the final dispatch will be sent and received on 29 December.

Belgium ends 19th Century telegram service


By Kevin Connolly
BBC News, Brussels
17 December 2017



Belgium's telegram service is about to stop. Stop.

One hundred and seventy-one years after the first electronic message was transmitted down a line running alongside the railway between Brussels and Antwerp the final dispatch will be sent and received on 29 December.

The fact that this 19th Century technology is still up and running in the age of Instagram and Snapchat may seem rather odd - especially when you consider that the UK, which invented the telegram in the 1830s, abandoned it as long ago as 1982.

The United States followed suit in 2006 and even India, which had been by far the world's biggest market for the telegram, finally closed its system down in 2013.



Just 10 businesses and a handful of individual customers have kept the Belgian system going until now. It has been chiefly used by bailiffs, who had need of a system which provided legal guarantees of dispatch and receipt.

The buyer can call up a telephone operator to spell out their message, which is then sent by post.

But with a "flash" telegram costing 23.75 (21) for a basic 20 words, plus 0.90 for delivery in and around Brussels, it is not difficult to see why the system is struggling to survive in the age of unlimited texting on cheap mobile phone tariffs.

Brevity is key

Before the invention of the telephone, the telegram was the first system that allowed the more-or-less instant transmission of electronic messages over long distances.

The electronic impulses from the sender's machine - Morse code became the commonest system - were translated into text at the receiving end, first by human operator and then eventually by machine.



The printed text was then delivered to the ultimate recipient - post offices all over the world employed armies of telegram boys on bicycles.

The technology created a certain style of writing - just like text messaging.

The use of the word "Stop" for example, often written out in full, originated from the need to tell the receiver when the end of a sentence had been reached.

And because telegrams were expensive - you paid per word - there was always pressure to come up with phrases that literally displayed economy of language.

The system was costly and labour-intensive for a start and began to feel outdated as more and more ordinary families acquired telephones.

But even as the telegram died out, it remained a part of popular culture.

No wedding scene in a Hollywood movie was complete for decades without a scene in which the best man read out the telegrams - humorous or cheeky or poignant - which guests who couldn't make the service had sent from afar.

In the UK any loyal subject reaching the age of 100 traditionally received a telegram from the monarch - a huge honour for the recipient.

And in the years when we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the grim battles of the Great War it is only right to record that for decades the sight of a telegram boy coming up the path with a message was something to be dreaded in many countries.

The telegram was the chosen method by which the authorities informed grieving mothers and widows that husbands, sons or brothers were killed, injured or missing in action.

I've known widows who never forgot the agonising moments between the arrival of the delivery boy and the first reading of the words that began: "I regret to inform you".

So the world won't really change when Belgium finally pulls the plug on its telegram system, but it is another milestone in the long, slow death of a method of communication that once changed the world and which, in its glory days 100 years ago, seemed as though it would never stop. Stop.

Famous telegrams


Evelyn Waugh


When the British General Charles Napier conquered the fractious tribes of Sindh during the British conquest of the Indian subcontinent he was popularly rumoured to have celebrated the event with a one-word telegram back to the War Office in London. It said simply "Peccavi", which is the Latin for 'I have sinned'.

When the English novelist Evelyn Waugh was despatched to Africa to cover the war in Abyssinia for he Daily Mail in the 1930s he displayed similar cost-saving ingenuity. Finding it necessary to kill a story which said that an American nurse had been blown up in the town of Adowa, Waugh managed it in a message back to London consisting of just two words: "Nurse Unupblown".

No-one could rival Oscar Wilde for brevity. He is said to have once asked his publisher how a book was doing, by telegraphing simply "?". To which the publisher replied enigmatically "!".


Belgium ends 19th-Century telegram service - BBC News
Last edited by Blackleaf; Dec 17th, 2017 at 07:03 AM..
 
Curious Cdn
#2
Anybody remember Telex with it's 1 baud rate?
 
Blackleaf
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious Cdn View Post

Anybody remember Telex with it's 1 baud rate?

I remember when we used to write letters. We actually had to use ink or pencil and some paper and had to buy an envelope and a stamp.

Those were the days.
 
Curious Cdn
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

I remember when we used to write letters. We actually had to use ink or pencil and some paper and had to buy an envelope and a stamp.

Those were the days.

When I was in school, they taught us cursive writing with a fountain pen but what we really needed to know was how to use a keyboard. Now, kids are learning to use mice and keyboards but what they really need to know is how to formulate and speak clear and logical sentences in logical sequences that computers can easily follow and work from.

I don't see that happening anywhere.
 
Blackleaf
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious Cdn View Post

When I was in school, they taught us cursive writing with a fountain pen but what we really needed to know was how to use a keyboard. Now, kids are learning to use mice and keyboards but what they really need to know is how to formulate and speak clear and logical sentences in logical sequences that computers can easily follow and work from.

I don't see that happening anywhere.

Kids are all writing in textspeak nowadays, even when learning Shakespeare or Dickens.
 
Curious Cdn
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

Kids are all writing in textspeak nowadays, even when learning Shakespeare or Dickens.

Yes, but their thoughts are scattered all over. EI will be able to sort out quite a bit of it but precision will go down with too many extra level of extrapolation for the computer to go through. Those who know what to say to a machine and how to say it effectively will be the employable ones.
 
Blackleaf
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious Cdn View Post

Yes, but their thoughts are scattered all over. EI will be able to sort out quite a bit of it but precision will go down with too many extra level of extrapolation for the computer to go through. Those who know what to say to a machine and how to say it effectively will be the employable ones.

We'll just create new types of computers.
 
Curious Cdn
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

We'll just create new types of computers.

Computers that follow scatterbrained gobble-de-gook and create machine logic and order? I somehow doubt that. Educating our young properly would be a lot easier and it would have a predictably satisfactory outcome.
 
Blackleaf
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious Cdn View Post

Computers that follow scatterbrained gobble-de-gook and create machine logic and order? I somehow doubt that. Educating our young properly would be a lot easier and it would have a predictably satisfactory outcome.

Computers follow and understand what we program them to follow and understand.
 
Dixie Cup
#10
Well I've found that we definitely need to have kids learn how to write so that one can actually read what it says. Doesn't matter whether it's in "short" form or not, if you can't actually read what they are writing....


We have one young lady (in her early 20's) and a guy (in his 30's) and you cannot read their writing - it's atrocious - they both should have been doctors LOL!! It's rather frustrating. They don't even write numbers clearly so that you can read them so if there's a phone call to make, often times you're guessing as to what the hell it is!! They think it's a big joke but it's not.
 
Corduroy
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

I remember when we used to write letters. We actually had to use ink or pencil and some paper and had to buy an envelope and a stamp.

Those were the days.

Ah yes, or the days when you'd send a barefoot urchin boy to run a message across town and he'd stand outside and wait patiently in the mud for payment. Or when the mail barge would be raided by Channel pirates and you'd never know that Papa had passed, kicked by a Mule in Calais.
 
Curious Cdn
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

Computers follow and understand what we program them to follow and understand.

Garbage in, garbage out
 
Hoid
#13
My father was taking the telegraph messages in Yarmouth in 1940 when his own name came across for overseas deployment.
 
Curious Cdn
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

My father was taking the telegraph messages in Yarmouth in 1940 when his own name came across for overseas deployment.

... and the woods of Nova Scotia had one more permanent occupant, that day ...
 
Hoid
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by Curious Cdn View Post

... and the woods of Nova Scotia had one more permanent occupant, that day ...

does hoid sound like a french canadian name to you?

he was there for the Battle of Britain
 
Blackleaf
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by Corduroy View Post

Ah yes, or the days when you'd send a barefoot urchin boy to run a message across town and he'd stand outside and wait patiently in the mud for payment. Or when the mail barge would be raided by Channel pirates and you'd never know that Papa had passed, kicked by a Mule in Calais.

Oh yeah. The good old days. No messing about back then.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWsKhMQ41lY
 
Hoid
#17
Still using the 19th century internal combustion engine

because that's just normal to hang onto antiquated technology
 
Curious Cdn
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

Still using the 19th century internal combustion engine

because that's just normal to hang onto antiquated technology

The end of that technology is in sight (except for large diesels ... no replacement for those, yet).
 
Blackleaf
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoid View Post

Still using the 19th century internal combustion engine

because that's just normal to hang onto antiquated technology

Yep. It's not unusual to still be using antiquated Victorian technology in this day and age. Look at cyclists.
 
Curious Cdn
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by Blackleaf View Post

Yep. It's not unusual to still be using antiquated Victorian technology in this day and age. Look at cyclists.

Look at us sailors!
 
Hoid
#21
They used to read telegrams at weddings from people who could not attend. It was considered a big deal.