Tuesday 22 March 2011

Requiem for the Network - Essay Two, ‘Victorian Search Engines’, Tonight

‘Victorian Search Engines’, the second essay in my series for Radio 3, Requiem for the Network, goes out tonight, March 22, at 23.00hrs.

Sherlock Holmes had his gazetteers, almanacs and timetables; the City had its Stock Exchange, the Parisians had their pneumatiques and Morse had his code; the early telegraph wires followed the existing network of railways throughout the country, receiving, storing and sending on information. All these examples indicate not just ways of distributing data but also ways of thinking. This essay will not only look at the historical development of such networks and reasons behind it but also the extent to which our own thinking about networks has been influenced by the past. The early telephone system, for example, was used for the delivery of music into the Victorian home, thanks to devices like the Telharmonium, a mighty switchboard-operated instrument so heavy the floor beneath it had to be specially reinforced. And whoever thought the idea of music being relayed over a phone would ever catch on?

Pictured above:  producer Mark Burman at the desk in the control room, KH in the studio, reflected in the glass partition between the two, recording the talks at Henry Wood House last week

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