Quantum Gypsies

Before the web there were bonfires and flags

If you are reading this, then you are a consumer of long distance messaging, the words that I have written in the town of Reading, in the U.K. can be read by any English speaking person on the planet within seconds of them being loaded onto this web site. Well, within seconds except on days when a new iPhone is announced, when the whole web grinds to a crawl. What you may not realise is just how long we have been trying to achieve this happy state. Long distance messaging has been around for at least two thousand five hundred years, we have just got a bit quicker in sending and receiving the messages.

These pages are a light hearted telling of the tale of sending messages over distance, from Greek bonfires to billions of ones and zeroes carried by light waves. What we are talking about here is sending messages without something physical having to be carried. We all know the story of the runner Pheidippides bringing the news of victory from Marathon to Athens. The poor bloke made it, but died very soon after and didn't even get an Olympic medal for his efforts. Even in his time, runners and riders had been used for centuries, as had carrier pigeons, but what we were striving for was a way to send a message without moving.

I have deliberately cut off the story towards the end of the nineteenth century as trying to tell the story of communications in the twentieth and twenty first centuries in anything less than a six hundred page book is impossible. So settle back on the couch with your iPad and enjoy the story of how we got to the brink of the communications age.

Last updated 05 November 2010