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European Themeroute | Communication

The final phase of industrialisation witnessed a revolution in communications: circulation figures for newspapers reached hitherto unknown heights, people were able to communicate directly across oceans and mountains, and photography became the first mass reproducible art form. The initial wave of ... more

Icon: CommunicationEuropean Theme Route Communication

The final phase of industrialisation witnessed a revolution in communications: circulation figures for newspapers reached hitherto unknown heights, people were able to communicate directly across oceans and mountains, and photography became the first mass reproducible art form. The initial wave of changes affected the traditional medium of paper. Towards the end of the 18th century demand for paper had risen to such an extent that it could no longer be met by manual production. In 1799 a Frenchman by the name of Nicolas-Louis Robert invented the first papermaking machine. His solution took the form of a continuous screen moving like an endless belt between two rollers. It was stretched across a barrel to catch the watery pulp and produce a continuous strip of paper instead of individual sheets. This was the start of unbroken production. In the following years a British engineer by the name of Bryan Donkin improved the machine by drying the long strip of paper between steam heated cylinders, smoothing it out and winding it into rolls.

Now the traditional raw material used in papermaking – cotton rags – proved insufficient to meet demand. Around the middle of the 19th century a weaver from Saxony named Friedrich Gottlob Keller discovered that it was also possible to process wood to paper pulp by grinding it down mechanically into fibres. In 1854 Charles Watt und Hugh Burgess 1854 developed a soda process to produce smooth and more durable fibres chemically: they boiled up wood and added sulphur to produce cellulose. Unfortunately the chemicals used in the process made the paper industry the second greatest polluter of the environment in the 19th century, after the textile industry.

Modern methods of printing received a decisive boost with the introduction of the high-speed printing press by the German book printer, Friedrich Koenig. Instead of using a flat platen press, a rotating cylinder was used to push down the roll of paper against a flat inking table. This was the process used in London to produce the first copy of the Times in 1814. Since printing could now be done more quickly, newspapers were more up-to-date and circulation rose. The principle was further improved by the introduction of the rotary printing press in America by Richard Hoe, an invention which he patented in 1845. He succeeded in producing a printing press in which a curved cylindrical impression was run between two cylinders. It was not long before long continuous rolls of paper were introduced. This enabled newspapers to be printed in a single continual conveyor belt process.

Now the only hurdle left was the problem of setting the type, which was traditionally done by hand. This was solved in the USA in 1884 by a watchmaker named Ottmar Mergenthaler whose Lynotype machine revolutionised the art of printing by using a keyboard to create an entire line of metal matrices at once. Once these were assembled, the machine forced a molten lead alloy into a mould sandwiched between the molten metal pot and the line of matrices, which were then returned to the proper channels in the magazine in preparation for their next usage. This process produced a complete line of type in reverse, so it would read properly when used to transfer ink onto paper. The completed slugs (lines of type) were then assembled into a page "form" that was placed in the printing press. The word linotype, by the way, derives from the phrase "line of type". Newspaper sales were incredibly high especially in the most important mass market, the USA.

Around the end of the 19th century the revolution in the newspaper industry received a further boost from the invention of photography. People had known for a long time that it was possible to produce an image with a lens. It was also known that light can affect certain substances. But it was not until 1827 that a French teacher by the name of Nicéphore Niépce succeeded in creating the first durable image. Later Louis Daguerre improved photography by exposing a sensitive silver-coated copper plate to the light for several minutes. But the decisive step to making photography a mass medium - reproduction - was taken by the Englishman, William Talbot Fox, who developed a blueprint process which enabled prints to be taken from a single negative. Finally, in the 1890s, the American George Eastman invented celluloid roll film, and it was not long before the Eastman-Kodak company began to market box cameras to the general public.

The electrical telegraph opened up a new dimension in communications. Since the start of the 19th century dozens of inventors had been experimenting with sending news via weak electric wires over long distances and in real time. But in order to make this practicable people had to be able to understand the nature of electricity better, especially the connection between electric current and magnetism. In 1837 two Englishmen by the name of Wheatstone and Cooke patented the first electromagnetic telegraph and put it into use for railway traffic. The receiver contained a dial with the letters of the alphabet arranged upon it. To send a message, magnetic needles were turned towards the desired letters. The magnetism induced an electric current which was then sent through several wire circuits to another receiver. The current set the magnetic needles on the second receiver in motion, and these then pointed to the same letters which had been typed in by the sender.

In the same year in the USA, an amateur researcher by the name of Samuel Morse used an alternative system that only required a single wire line. In order to broadcast a message, the information was first coded into two different impulses, short and long: dots and dashes. This simple telegraph alphabet soon established itself, not least because Morse was able to deliver a new receiver which automatically recorded the messages on a moving strip of paper. A worldwide telegraph network was subsequently established on a basis similar to the binary code: an early form of the internet.

A thousand kilometres of telegraph wire had already been laid – including under the ocean – when Guglielmo Marconi gave the first demonstration of wireless telegraphy. In the apparatus he made in 1896, jumping sparks produced electromagnetic waves which transmitted sounds and speech way beyond visible distances. With the aid of ever higher antennae people were able to cover increasingly large distances. Later people learnt how to exploit the influence of wave frequencies on broadcasting. Short wave transmitters, for example, enabled people to communicate with far-off ships at sea – one of the advantages of wireless telegraphy. Today radio, television and mobile telephones work on the same principle.

At first only a very few people recognised the commercial potential of the telephone. In 1861, a German, Philipp Reis, was the first person to succeed in transmitting voices and sound electrically. But the commercial exploitation of voice communications only began with the telephone that Alexander Graham Bell, a professor of vocal physiology and elocution, presented to the American public in 1876. Here one person spoke into an apparatus consisting essentially of a thin membrane carrying a light stylus. The membrane was vibrated by the voice and the stylus traced an undulating line on a plate of smoked glass. The line was a graphic representation of the vibrations of the membrane and the waves of sound in the air. A second membrane device was used to receive the signals and transform them back into the spoken word. It was not long before the membrane devices were replaced by carbon microphones. Copper was used for the telephone lines, and around the turn of the 20th century developments in telephone engineering began a triumphant march that was to continue into the 21st century.

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A wooden vat and two rollers inside a seamless wire: this is what the world's first paper machine looks like. Visitors to the Laakirchen Museum of Papermaking and Print can see its replica in action. The technical relic is part of an exciting trip exploring the history of paper production - from the ...
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Austrian Museum of Papermaking at Old Factory
Museumsplatz 1
4662 Laakirchen, Austria

Berlin | Germany
Lifeworld Ship”, “From Ballooning to the Berlin Airlift”, “Trains, Locomotives and People”: any technological developments that Berlin witnessed during the past 120 years are showcased in the capital's Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology). Greeting travellers from a distance there ...
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German Technical Museum
Trebbiner Strasse 9
10963 Berlin, Germany

In the age of the cell phone almost every place on earth can be reached within seconds. That said, less than 100 years ago wireless communication demanded gigantic technical equipment. The clearest example of this is the radio station in Grimeton near Varberg that was built in 1924 on the southwest ...
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World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station
Radiostationen 72
432 98 Grimeton, Sweden

The museum of communications in Berlin claims to be Europe’s oldest postal museum. The collection was established in 1872 by the postmaster of imperial Germany, Heinrich von Stephan (1831-97), who, in 1866, had been commissioned by the government of Prussia to establish a federal postal service, ...
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Berlin Museum of Communications
Leipziger Strasse 16
10117 Berlin, Germany

Darmstadt | Germany
The court furniture manufacturer Ludwig Alter (1847-1908) had the four-storey building constructed by the Darmstadt architect Karl Klee (1871-1927) as a furniture factory in 1905/1906. Klee chose a reinforced concrete construction, at that time considered innovative, and a classical outline for the ...
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Hessian State Museum
Abteilung Schriftguss, Satz und Druckverfahren
Kirschenallee 88
64293 Darmstadt, Germany

Leipzig | Germany
An historic printing works in Leipzig accommodates a museum which holds collections of international significance and offers to visitors opportunities for gaining an understanding of the technologies that enabled the communication of knowledge of many kinds for 500 years before the advent of the ...
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Museum of the printing arts
Museum für Druckkunst
Nonnenstrasse 38
04229 Leipzig, Germany

Stralsund | Germany
If you want to experience the sound and the atmosphere of an old printery visit Stralsund at the Baltic Sea. In this medieval Hanseatic city until 1931 the largest German game cards factury operated. Since 2009 the society „Jugendkunst e. V.“ runs a living museum called „Spielkartenfabrik ...
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Stralsund Game Card Factory
Katharinenberg 35
18435 Stralsund, Germany

Waterville | Ireland
The remote village of Waterville, Co. Kerry on the Wild Atlantic Way, was once home to one of the largest cable stations in the world. In 2000 it was recognized by the Institue of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (I.E.E.E.) as an Electrical Engineering milestone location. The “Story of ...
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Waterville Cable Station
"The Story of Waterville Cable Station" exhibition at Tech Amergin Community Arts and Education Centre
Waterville, Ireland

Vienna | Austria
The technical museum in Vienna holds many artefacts of significance to the industrial history of Europe. It was formally established in 1908, with Dr Ludwig Erhard as its director, as part of the jubilee celebrations of the Emperor Franz Josef, but it was not opened until 1918. The museum has an ...
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Technical Museum
212 Mariahilfer Strasse
1140 Vienna, Austria

Wiener Neustadt | Austria
The Museum of the Industrial Quarter was established in 1982.by Karl Flanner (1920-2013), a welder in the city’s famous locomotive factory, who endured slave labour under the Nazis, was imprisoned in concentration camps, served as a member of the city corporation in the decades after the Second ...
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Museum of the Industrial Quarter
Industrieviertel Museum
Anna Rieger Gasse 4
2700 Wiener Neustadt, Austria

Antwerp | Belgium
Christopher Plantin (?1520-89) moved to Antwerp in 1549 from Tourcoing and became one of the foremost printers of Renaissance Europe whose products can be found in almost every library that has collections from the 16th century. His descendants, the Moretus family, continued the business until 1876, ...
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Plantin-Moretus Museum
Vrijdagmarkt 22
2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Sofia | Bulgaria
The National Polytechnic Museum was founded in 1957 and is managed by the Academy of Sciences under the direction of the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture. It occupies a building that formerly accommodated a museum commemorating Georgi Dimitrov (1882-1949), the Communist leader and theoretician. Its ...
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National Polytechnic Museum
Ul Opalchenska 66
1303 Sofia, Bulgaria

Odense | Denmark
The Media Museum brings together collections of former museums of the press and of graphics to provide a stimulating examination of the ways in which media have influenced people’s lives over the past 300 years. The museum has two strands. One is the presentation of artefacts, images and texts, ...
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Danish Media Museum
Danmarks Mediemuseum
Brands Torve 1
5000 Odense, Denmark

The Estonian Paper Museum has comprehensive displays showing how paper is made, and on the history of printing. There are old printing presses with wooden and lead type founts, together with examples of paper sculpture. The museum regularly holds workshops teaching visitors book-binding, ...
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Estonian Print and Paper Museum
Eesti trükimuuseum MTÜ
Kastani 48f
50410 Tartu, Estonia

Helsinki | Finland
The cable factory in Helsinki characterises the changes that took place in industry in Finland, and in other European countries in the course of the 20th century. All cables used in Finland had to be imported until the Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy (Finnish cable company) was founded in 1912 by Arvid ...
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Cable Factory
Kaapelitehdas
Tallberginkatu 1
00180 Helsinki, Finland

Lahti | Finland
The name of the Finnish town of Lahti appeared on the dials of radio sets in most European countries in the 1930s. Lahti is situated in central Finland, and after a private radio station began transmission there in 1924, it was chosen by the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, established in 1926, to ...
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Radio & Television Museum
Radio- ja TV-Museo Radiomäki
Radiomäenkatu 25
15110 Lahti, Finland

The Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie is one of Europe’s most imaginative interactive science centres. It is also an outstanding example of the successful adaptation to new purposes of a large industrial building. The activities of the various abattoirs and wholesale meat markets of the city of ...
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Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie
30 avenue Corentin-Cariou
75019 Paris, France

Paris | France
The icon of Paris, the 325 m high structure that was the world’s tallest building between 1889 and 1931, is one of the most imposing monuments which survive from the international exhibitions of the 19th and 20th centuries. Its platforms provide spectacular prospects over the French capital. Since ...
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Eiffel Tower
5 avenue Anatole France Champ de Mars
75007 Paris, France

Riquewihr | France
Riquewihr is one of the classic wine towns of Alsace, in a beautiful situation in the Vosges mountains, surrounded by vineyards, and with samples of wine available for tasting at several caves. The museum, founded in 1971 and situated in the chateau of Montbéliard Wurtemburg which dates from 1540, ...
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Alsace Museum of Communication
Musée de la Communication en Alsace
3 Cour de Château
68340 Riquewihr, France

Bad Münstereifel | Germany
To the east of the tourist town of Bad Münstereifel there are broad patches of forest on the hilltops of the Eifel. The area is only thinly populated and hikers are able to enjoy the countryside to the full. But near the hamlet of Effelsberg the forest suddenly opens out onto a gigantic white bowl ...
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The Effelsberg Radio Observatory
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie Radioobservatorium Effelsberg
53902 Bad Münstereifel, Germany

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