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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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ERIH Anchor Points

Laakirchen | Austria

A wooden vat and two rollers inside a seamless ...

Austrian Museum of Papermaking at Old Factory
Museumsplatz 1
4662 Laakirchen, Austria

Berlin | Germany

Lifeworld Ship”, “From Ballooning to the Berlin ...

German Technical Museum
Trebbiner Strasse 9
10963 Berlin, Germany

Grimeton | Sweden

In the age of the cell phone almost every place ...

World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station
Radiostationen 72
432 98 Grimeton, Sweden

Member Sites ERIH Association

Berlin | Germany

The museum of communications in Berlin claims ...

Berlin Museum for Communication
Leipziger Strasse 16
10117 Berlin, Germany

Darmstadt | Germany

The court furniture manufacturer Ludwig Alter ...

Hessian State Museum
Abteilung Schriftguss, Satz und Druckverfahren
Kirschenallee 88
64293 Darmstadt, Germany

Königs Wusterhausen | Germany

The windmill on the hill at Königs Wusterhausen ...

Funkerberg Radio Technology Museum
Sender- und Funktechnikmuseum
Funkerberg 20
15711 Königs Wusterhausen, Germany

Leipzig | Germany

An historic printing works in Leipzig ...

Museum of the printing arts
Museum für Druckkunst
Nonnenstrasse 38
04229 Leipzig, Germany

Stralsund | Germany

If you want to experience the sound and the ...

Stralsund Game Card Factory
Katharinenberg 35
18435 Stralsund, Germany

Chania | Greece

The first Museum of Typography in Greece is ...

Museum of Typography by Yannis and Eleni Garedakis
Chania Park of Local Industries, Building 13-03
73200 Chania, Greece

Nea Kifissia | Greece

The OTE Group Telecommunications Museum was ...

OTE Group Telecommunications Museum
25 Proteos str.
14564 Nea Kifissia, Greece

Waterville | Ireland

The remote village of Waterville, Co. Kerry on ...

Waterville Cable Station
"The Story of Waterville Cable Station" exhibition at Tech Amergin Community Arts and Education Centre
Waterville, Ireland

Vaduz | Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein in a principality of only 160 sq ...

Liechtenstein National Museum
Liechtensteinisches LandesMuseum
Städtle 43
9490 Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Belgrade | Serbia

The Nikola Tesla Museum is one of the world's ...

Nikola Tesla Museum
Музеј Николе Тесле
Krunska 51
11000 Belgrade, Serbia

Sites

Eisenerz | Austria

Eisenerz is a town in the mountains of central ...

Austrian Post and Telegraph Museum
Österreichisches Post- und Telegraphenmuseum
Schulstraße 1
8790 Eisenerz, Austria

Vienna | Austria

The technical museum in Vienna holds many ...

Technical Museum
212 Mariahilfer Strasse
1140 Vienna, Austria

Wiener Neustadt | Austria

The Museum of the Industrial Quarter was ...

Museum of the Industrial Quarter
Industrieviertel Museum
Anna Rieger Gasse 4
2700 Wiener Neustadt, Austria

Antwerp | Belgium

Christopher Plantin (?1520-89) moved to ...

Plantin-Moretus Museum
Vrijdagmarkt 22
2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Sofia | Bulgaria

The National Polytechnic Museum was founded in ...

National Polytechnic Museum
Ul Opalchenska 66
1303 Sofia, Bulgaria

Tartu | Estonia

The Estonian Paper Museum has comprehensive ...

Estonian Print and Paper Museum
TYPA Eesti trüki- ja paberimuuseum MTÜ
Kastani 48f
50410 Tartu, Estonia

Helsinki | Finland

The cable factory in Helsinki characterises ...

Cable Factory
Kaapelitehdas
Tallberginkatu 1
00180 Helsinki, Finland

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