morphovar writes: More than 200 years ago it was already possible to send messages throughout Europe and America at the speed of an aeroplane — wireless and without need for electricity. The optical telegraph network consisted of a chain of towers, each placed 5 to 20 kilometres apart from each other. Every tower had a telegrapher, looking through a telescope at the previous tower in the chain. If the semaphore on that tower was put into a certain position, the telegrapher copied that symbol on his own tower. A message could be transmitted from Amsterdam to Venice in one hour's time. A few years before, a messenger on a horse would have needed at least a month's time to do the same.
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