25.12.

1763: The Man who Made a “Mechanical Internet” in the Era of the French Revolution

1763: The Man who Made a “Mechanical Internet” in the Era of the French Revolution
Photo Credit To https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/AduC_175_Chappe_(Claude%2C_1765-1828).JPG

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 25 december 1763
  • Chappe’s communications network in France was in total as much as 4,800 kilometers long and contained 556 nodes, so it is referred to by some as “mechanical internet.”

The man who invented a really interesting early system of transmitting information over long distances was born in France back in 1763. He is considered the father of modern telecommunications, because his system was the first practical long-range communication system.

His name was Claude Chappe and was born as the grandson of a French baron. By the year of birth he belonged to a generation approximately between Mozart and Napoleon Bonaparte. He was born in an era when the opulent aristocratic elite ruled France, and when he was 25 years old the famous French Revolution broke out.

Claude Chappe, along with his brothers, laid the first distant messaging system in 1792. It was a series of towers that were arranged in a line from Paris to Lille. At the top of each tower was a device with two arms connected by a cross-arm that could be moved and were visible from a great distance. An operator in the tower used binoculars and watched the neighboring tower and, when he saw the sign that it sends, he would also set up such a sign at the top of his tower. Thus, the information quickly spread hundreds of kilometers.

Chappe’s device was named “Telegraph opulent” (from Greek: tele – “at a distance”, and graphein – “to write”). It was actually an optical telegraph, unlike the later electric ones. The name “semaphore” was used for the same system, but this word later changed its meaning to signify the device for traffic lights.

The system from Paris to Lille was over 200 kilometers long, and it was important because the city of Lille was located on the northern border of revolutionary France, and from it the news of an attack from a foreign country could be sent. Already two years later, the news about the Austrian attack was really swiftly sent to Paris. Later, even longer lines were built – from Paris to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Chappe’s communications network in France was in total as much as 4,800 kilometers long and contained 556 nodes, so it is referred to by some as a “mechanical internet”.

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