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Entries in victorian internet (1)

Wednesday
Jun252008

The Victorian Internet

It is easy to forget (for my generation, anyways) that attempts to make language more efficient did not start with text-messaging. In a piece for the December 1900 Ladies' Home Journal, John Elfreth Watkins, Jr. predicted that the letters C, X and Q would be deemed unnecessary in the 20th century:

There will be no C, X or Q in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary. Spelling by sound will have been adopted, first by the newspapers. English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas, and will be more extensively spoken than any other. Russian will rank second.


The five-needle telegraph invented by Wheatstone and Cooke in the 1830s saw a similar efficiency that one might exploit. From the book The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage:

However, the limited number of possible combinations with the five-needle design meant that only twenty letters were included in the telegraphic alphabet; thus "C," "J," "Q," "U," "X," and "Z" were omitted. Although this design required separate wires between sender and receiver for each needle, it could transmit messages quickly without the need for a codebook.


See also:
What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years (Ladies Home Journal, 1900)
The Next Hundred Years (Milwaukee Herold und Seebote, 1900)
LOLfutures