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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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Sites

Seydisfjordur | Iceland
The town of Seydisfjordur (until recently spelt Seydhisfjordur) lies 400 km north-east of Reykjavik. The technical museum that illustrates many aspects of the history of the region has three principal exhibits that relate to the industrial heritage. The mechanical engineering workshop of Johann ...
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East Iceland Technical Museum
Tǽkniminjasfn Asturlands
Hafnargötu 44
710 Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Dublin 4 | Ireland
The National Print Museum collects, documents, preserves, exhibits, interprets and makes accessible the material evidence of the printing crafts and associated skills in Ireland since the introduction of printing from moveable type in the sixteenth century. It was opened in 1996 and its collection ...
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National Print Museum
Garrison Chapel Beggar’s Bush Barracks
Haddington Road
D04 E0C9 Dublin, Ireland

Cornuda | Italy
Tipoteca is a museum about type and printing, but also an archive and library, a printing shop, an exhibition gallery and a place for talks and conferences. It celebrates typefaces and the beauty of relief printing that leaves its mark deep in the surface of the paper. In a beautifully designed ...
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Tipoteca
Via Canapificio 3
31041 Corduna, Italy

This museum, opened in 1997, reflects the ‘postal culture’ the accustomed means of carrying mail and despatching telegraphs in central Europe, and the wys of life of those employed in such work. It is located in the magnificent Palazzo delle Poste de Trieste, the post office designed by the Habsburg ...
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Postal and Telegraphic Museum of Central Europe
Museo Postale e Telegrafico dell Mitteleurope
Piazza Vitorio Veneto 1
34123 Trieste, Italy

Hengelo | Netherlands
How does a farming hamlet grow into an industrial town? The Educational Industrial Museum in Hengelo will give you the answer. Its theme is the industrial development of the town of Hengelo in the west of the Netherlands during the last 150 years. The museum starts with an exhibition of textile ...
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Oyfo Techniekmuseum
Industriestraat 9
7553 CK Hengelo, Netherlands

Valkenswaard | Netherlands
The Carolusgebouw is a building in the Valkenswaard museums quarter. One of the collections inside is devoted to lithography, the method of printing using polished stones invented in the 1790s by Alois Senefelder. This allowed much cheaper reproduction, especially for images. The museum has one of ...
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Dutch Museum of Lithography
Nederlands Steendrukmuseum
Carolusgebouw, Oranje Nassaustraat 8C
5554 AG Valkenswaard, Netherlands

Finnas | Norway
The oldest telecommunications building in Norway is a small, cream-painted, wooden building with a red pantile roof, at Kulleseid in the centre of Bomlo, one of the larger islands in the archipelago south of Bergen on the west coast of Norway. The building was constructed in 1857, only two years ...
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Kulleseid Telegraph Station
Kulleseid Telegrafstation Kulleseide Kanalen
Bömlo
5437 Finnas, Norway

The Norwegian state telecommunications service (originally called the Statstelegrafen) was established in 1855, with a Morse telegraph line from Oslo (then Christiania) to Drammen. Every aspect of its history is reflected in the museum at Oslo. There are displays relating to trans-oceanic cables, to ...
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Norwegian Telecommunications Museum
Norsk TeleMuseum
Kjelsåsveien 143 i Teknisk Museum
0491 Oslo, Norway

The Stavanger branch of the Norwegian Telecommunications Museum is particularly concerned with trans-oceanic telegraphs (the American telegraph), with the role of coastal radio stations in safety at sea, and with the development of Morse technology. Visitors are able examine Stavanger’s first manual ...
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Norwegian Telecommunications Museum
Norsk TeleMuseum
St Svithungate 12
4008 Stavanger, Norway

The telecommunications installations at Sorvagen greatly increased the prosperity of the Lofoten Islands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and represented advances in technology that were of international significance. The islanders depended for their living on fishing, and improved ...
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Norwegian Telecommunication Museum
Norsk TeleMuseum
8392 Sørvågen, Norway

Cieszyn | Poland
It is a complete, old printing house where the characteristic atmosphere of the old times has been preserved. This is the only such place in Poland where the entire collected equipment is fully operational. Here you can see not only various machines and devices, but also learn about their use.
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Museum of Printing
Muzeum Drukarstwa
Głęboka 50
43-400 Cieszyn, Poland

Gliwice | Poland
The 118 m. high latticework radio transmitting tower at Gliwice in Silesia, made of larch wood, is supposedly the tallest wooden structure in Europe. It dominates the townscape and is sometimes called the ‘Silesian Eiffel Tower’. It was built by Deutsche Reichpost in 1935 when Gliwice was the German ...
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Gliwice Radio Station
Radiostacja Gliwice
Tarnogórska 129
44-100 Gliwice, Poland

Pszczyna | Poland
The museum was established in 1985 by the Association of Pszczyna Land Enthusiasts. In the former typographical office each visitor may imprint a commemorative print on a historical press in person. Thus, the visitor has a chance to feel as a 19th-century printer who manually activated the press ...
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Museum of the Silesian Press
Muzeum Prasy Śląskiej im. Wojciecha Korfantego
Piastowska 26
43-200 Pszczyna, Poland

The Polish national postal collection was started as long ago as 1919 and its first museum opened in Warsaw in 1921. In 1955 the collection moved to the post office in Wrocław. It later opened a branch in Gdańsk. The authoritative collection of Polish stamps and postmarks begins with the country’s ...
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Museum of Post and Telecommunications in Wrocław
Muzeum Poczty i Telekomunikacji we Wrocławiu
ul. Zygmunta Krasińskiego 1
50-954 Wrocław, Poland

Lisbon | Portugal
The Museum of Communications in Lisbon is operated by the Portuguese Communications Foundation, which is a collaboration between the National Communications Authority, the Portuguese Postal Services and Portugal Telecom. It aims to promote the study, conservation and understanding of the ...
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Museum of Communications
Museu das Comunicações
Rua do Instituto Industrial, nº 16
1200-225 Lisbon, Portugal

Moscow | Russia
The museum has the largest collection in Europe of telephone sets and accessories from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. It traces the changes in design and technology that took the telephone from rare business device or luxury to a tool in daily use. The museum is newly completed and ...
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Museum of Telephone History
Музей истории телефона!
19 bld. 2, Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya St.
123001 Moscow, Russia

Moscow | Russia
Vladimir Grigoryevich Shukhov (1853-1939) was a Russian polymath notable for his distinguished work for the oil and chemical industries as well as for his achievements in structural engineering. The 160 m lattice steel radio communications tower that bears his name was constructed in 1920-22. It is ...
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Shukhov Tower
Ul Shukhova 8
115162 Moscow, Russia

The Popov museum in St Petersburg is the principal museum of communications in Russia and supervises similar institutions in other parts of the Russian Federation. It takes its name from the Russian physicist Alexander Stepanovich Popov (1859-1906), known principally for his work in radio ...
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A S Popov Central Museum of Communications
Pochtamskiy Per 4
190000 St Petersburg, Russia

The movement resisting the Nazi occupation in the countries that once comprised Yugoslavia depended heavily on communications between groups of partisans and on the maintenance of good relationships between the fighting men and the inhabitants of the towns and village in the areas where they ...
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Partisan Printworks at Gorenja Kanomlja
Partizanska tiskarna Slovenija
Vojsko 61
5280 Idrija, Slovenia

Polhov Gradec | Slovenia
The museum is part of the Technical Museum of Slovenia and moved to its present home in Polhov castle in 2008. It is a collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Pošta Slovenije and Telekom Slovenije. The postal exhibition provides an introduction to the development of postal services from ancient ...
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Museum of Post and Telecommunications
Muzej pošte in telekomunikacij
Polhov Gradec 61
1355 Polhov Gradec, Slovenia

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