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Updated: June 27, 2013 12:23 IST
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SMS arrived, telegram gone STOP

L. Suresh
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Telegraphs have been rendered obsolete by instant messages and SMS. A model of the teleprinter, one of the early devices used for sending telegrams, at the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Telecom Training Centre in Chennai. Photo: V. Ganesan
The Hindu Telegraphs have been rendered obsolete by instant messages and SMS. A model of the teleprinter, one of the early devices used for sending telegrams, at the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Telecom Training Centre in Chennai. Photo: V. Ganesan

Instant messaging, SMS-es and email have entrenched themselves so firmly in our lives that the telegraph service has been rendered obsolete

“The transition from dots and dashes to zeroes and ones leaves a lot to be desired,” complains an old-timer.

AD: Hi, why the sad face? Is your computer down again?

BC: What hath God wrought?

AD: Wait a minute! Are you quoting Shakespeare?

BC: No, it was the message carried by the first telegram on May 24, 1844. The message becomes relevant all over again because the telegram is on its way out next month.

AD: But people hardly use it any longer, so why not give it a decent send-off instead of going into mourning?

BC: You'll never understand. It's like a heritage building that has been standing proud for over 160 years and suddenly, you get the news that it won't be around from July.

AD: Don't get so emotional. Anything that has lost its utility value needs to go, right? Do you still have your old radio or your black and white TV for sentimental value? You've thrown them out to make way for the new, haven't you?

BC: I have, but the telegram is different. It was a huge breakthrough in technology and deserves to be around simply for its historic value. Besides, unlike the gargantuan radio or TV of the 70s, this one doesn't clutter your home. All it needs is a little corner in a post office.

AD: Never thought I'd see the day when you would root for technology, even if it’s of the archaic kind.

BC: I still have the telegram that brought in the news of my admission to one of India's best engineering colleges. That was special.

AD: I can understand that, but asking thousands of post offices to operate a telegraph department just because you feel sentimental about it is a bit much, isn't it?

BC: That's not what I...

AD: Besides, email, instant messaging and SMS-es have entrenched themselves so firmly in our lives that we don't need telegrams.

BC: Agreed, but what of all the telegraph employees across the country? Isn't it true that technology will now result in loss of several jobs?

AD: I don't think so. Guess they will all be transferred to other departments... Just look at the positives of today's technology.

BC: Things have become faster, I agree. Text messages and emails take a second or two to reach their destination, compared to the fastest telegram which would still require a few hours.

AD: What about the cost factor? Text messages and emails are free, but you have to pay for a telegram.

BC: I can see at least two advantages there.

AD: Really?

BC: Telegrams taught us to be succinct and made us think before we shot our mouth off, because every word cost money.

AD: And what's the second?

BC: You would never receive a telegram from your spouse with the message, “Hi, where are you?” if you've already told her that you will be with the boys at a pub or a bowling alley. When you're saddled with a mobile, you can't escape that question.

AD: It’s called Momtext these days. Worried mothers are most likely to send that message out day after day to find out where their kids are... But speaking of costs, BSNL has been incurring huge losses because it's essentially running a service that does not have too many takers. So, after discussing the issue with the postal department, a decision was taken to stop telegrams.

BC: But there are several countries such as Belgium, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Canada, Switzerland and the U.K. that continue to use telegrams.

AD: Yes, on the other hand, the U.S., whose decisions affect us more than those of any other country, shut down its telegraph department a few years ago.

BC: Well, there’s one redeeming feature of the telegram that today's generation would have enjoyed.

AD: What is it?

BC: Back then, we never received telegrams stating, “Congratulations from FREE NATIONAL LOTTERY on having won the sum of 970,000.00 GBP STOP For claims contact Mr Paul Anderson STOP”

sureshl.india@gmail.com


The telegraph was indeed one big leap in communication technology. The fact that it won't be around from July 15, 2013 onwards makes me feel quite upset. Maybe it should still stay for its historical importance as mentioned by the writer.

from:  Winnie Panicker
Posted on: Jun 26, 2013 at 23:37 IST
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