Sep 21, 2008

We've come full circle

In 1825 William Sturgeon invented the electromagnet.   Sturgeon showed that when electricity is passed through a coiled wire around an iron body, a magnetic force is produced.   This was probably the single most important invention of the nineteenth century.   Later, Joseph Henry demonstrated that by using an electromagnet, primitive communications could be sent long distances.   His first demonstration?   Henry passed a current through a one-mile cable to ring a bell.   A great concept, but it was only useful to call people to dinner!


But history will remember Samuel Morse.   Morse showed that by feeding a strip of paper through a machine and using electric current to strike the paper, marks could be written.   Morse's original idea was to transmit a unique number which would point to a specific page and word in a dictionary.   However, his business partner, Alfred Vail, convinced Morse that a series of dots and dashes would be more efficient.  The result?   Morse Code.   In 1844 the first message transmission occurred between Washington and Baltimore.   Annie Ellsworth, a friend of Morse's chose the text.  It was Numbers 23:23, "What hath God wrought?" 


Over time, experienced operators were able to parse the Morse code while it was still printing out.   They could simply hear the clicking of the machine and decode the messages. So eventually the paper system was dropped. Thus began a whole new era of transcontinental communications by telegraph. Transmission was charged by the letter so original messages were extremely short and carried only the bare minimum of information.


Over time the telegraph was replaced with the telephone.   Through a series of mergers and buyouts, the original telegraph infrastructure became part of American Telephone and Telegraph, or AT&T.   The twentieth century saw huge leaps in communications.   The next was radio, then television, fax, satellite and internet.   Each new technology made communications faster and more complex.


What fascinates me is that we have come full circle.   Today we have a whole generation of youth who communicate with short, minimal messages.   Even though we have a plethora of communication methods at our fingertips, the youth of today prefer to communicate with a system that is only marginally superior to the old Morse Code.   Many even use the same company, AT&T.   (Praise God for unlimited Text Messaging!)


But whether it is carried though telegraph, telephone, cable, satellite, internet or cell phone, the message is clear.   JLU! That's shorthand for Jesus loves you.   TISC.   (That is so cool!)



("ta ta for now" )


Pastor David Hook

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