The Victorian Internet – A review of Tom Standage’s classic

The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers. Tom Standage. New York: Walker & Company, 1998. 217 pp.

Just when you think the Internet revolutionized new ways to communicate, lie, cheat, find love and disrupt society – think again. The electric telegraph in the 1800s had already been the instigator of this some 150 years ago and author Tom Standage does an exceptional job painting us metaphorically in his book The Victorian Internet. The similarities between it (telegraph) and the modern day Internet are too remarkable to ignore. In this quick review of the book, I’ll touch on those similarities that jumped out at me as I read it.

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Brian Winston on: The Internet

It’s hard to believe a time when the Internet was like the Wild, Wild West. Not in the sense that there was so much to explore – there still is – but a time when domain names were abundant and available free for the taking. Winston didn’t mention this in his book Media Technology and Society, but domains registrations were free of charge in the early days when the DNS was new. I wish he had discussed this in his book because it was an interesting time in the early days of the commercialization of the Internet. Let’s talk about email though.

According to Winston: “the most unambiguously valuable facility provided by the net is e-mail.” I would have agreed with him 5 years ago before all of the social networks took over the way we communicate online. The fact of the matter is, Facebook is changing the way communicate and write each other messages, particularly with the younger demographic.

A quick online search for the phrase “email is dead” gives us articles on the topic from CNET, the Wall Street Journal, PC Magazine and more. Many contend that competition from instant messaging programs and closed networks like LinkedIn and Facebook make communicating much easier. Personally, I don’t know if I find these systems easier, but I have noticed lately that my peers (and those younger than me) DO prefer me contacting them through one of these rather than sending them a mail.

Winston also writes that: “there is also little to support the idea that the net will become a crucial method for selling goods and services.” Whoa! When I read this I had to flip to the front of his book to see that his book was first published in 1998 and reprinted in 2000. Well, that explains a lot. At that time Amazon hadn’t yet proved itself and Zappos was nothing more than an idea in a young guy’s head who couldn’t find shoes his size whenever he went into a shoe store.

I am not ripping on Winston. No way. He took us through history all the way up to 1998 and he did an excellent job. A week ago I didn’t know what supervening necessities were, nor did I know that these necessities play a large role in directing the process of innovation.

Digital music: a look at music consumption and possession over a 30 year period

It’s hard to remember a time when things weren’t digital. Today everything is: photos, books, movies, television shows and of course music. Subscription-based digital music platforms like Pandora boast over 800,000 uniquely analyzed songs to which consumers can access whenever and from wherever they like. A model like Pandora enables us to listen to the music without ever purchasing it, or even storing it for that matter. This new wave of “renting” music has become increasingly more popular. According to Businessweek writer, Peter Burrows: “That’s what many music fans seem to want.” However, this new distribution model for distributing music does have a history with a tainted past that began around the turn of last century in 1999.

Peer to peer sharing platform Napster forever changed the game for music distribution when it went live in 1999. With Napster, you could now download and/or share any song in .MP3 format. It was usually done with people around the world you didn’t actually know. Those people opened up their computer’s music library to you and you opened up your computer’s music library to them- hence the phrase peer-to-peer sharing. This new way of distributing music introduced a huge change in both how we consume and distribute music. New listening habits were formed because of Napster, allowing people to bypass ever buying a physical CD ever again.

In contrast, when the first music CD was produced and made available in November of 1982, Sony’s CDP-101 player cost approximately $900 with the CDs themselves averaging around $33.  Nearly thirty years ago, music distribution outside of a “tape” or “record” was very expensive and not easy to do. No one had CD burners then, and very few of us (or even our parents) had one of these CD players. It wasn’t until they were made commercially affordable that it caught on in a mainstream way.

I wish to look at the evolution of digital distribution and how it has completely changed the way we listen to and store music. My paper will discuss why there was a demand for it to be set free from the confines of compact discs and disc players and we’ll look at the important parts in time over the last 30 years that have allowed for this to take place. I will also explore this new notion of “renting vs. owning,” and what this means for the future of personal music possession.


Burrows, P. (2007). Stars are aligning for subscription music. BusinessWeek, (4063), 066-067. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

COM546 Project – Music’s past, present and future

For my COM546 project I’d like to study the history of music and follow it through its early days of the gramophone, the record player, the 8-track, cassette and compact disc on to its modern digital format.

As a combined study, I’d like to look at the evolution of music creation itself. As an avid electronic music listener, it’s interesting to see how the making of music has really shifted from the use of traditional instruments to the laptop with programs like Reason.

Lastly, I’d like to look at the social aspect of sharing music (not peer-to-peer sharing). I’m more interested in apps on Facebook (and other platforms) that are enabling people to learn about new music when their friends “like” it. An example of this is an app called RedRovor that my friends just launched in Nashville, Tennessee. With the music industry having been hit hard since the launch of the first iPod, the question I wish to ask is “will they embrace apps like this to help promote and encourage the legal purchasing of their music?”