The Riches of Data

If not electric, then semaphore will do.

From The Information, by James Gleick:

Today the old telegraphs are forgotten, but they were a sensation in their time. In London, a Drury Lane entertainer and songwriter named Charles Dibdin put the invention into a 1794 musical show and foresaw a marvelous future:

If you’ll only just promise you’ll none of you laugh, I’ll be after explaining the French telegraph! A machine that’s endow’d with such wonderful pow’r, It writes, reads, and sends news fifty miles in an hour. …Oh! the dabblers in lott’ries will grow rich as Jews: ’Stead of flying of pigeons, to bring them the news, They’ll a telegraph place upon Old Ormond Quay; Put another ’board ship, in the midst of the sea. …Adieu, penny-posts! mails and coaches, adieu; Your occupation’s gone, ’tis all over wid you: In your place, telegraphs on our houses we’ll see, To tell time, conduct lightning, dry shirts, and send news. The telegraph towers

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