Aust & NZ
This page considers telecommunications for perspectives
on the 'internet revolution'.
It covers -
site features a more detailed profile
on the history and shape of Australian and New Zealand
Development of the telephone by Alexander Graham
Bell and others a few decades after the telegraph sparked
speculative binges and corporate restructuring similar
to that found in the 1990s.
By 1892 there were around 240,000 telephones in use in
the US, rising to around 3.13 million Bell system telephones
and 2.98 independent telephones in 1907. Nationalisation
of the UK system in the latter decade involved 9,000 employees,
1.5 million miles of wire and 561,738 subscribers.
By the middle of last century the number of nodes on many
networks had increased by over ten times (traffic volumes
increased at a higher rate) and the wired population was
normalising, ie moving towards the same demographics as
those of the population at large rather than being restricted
to economic, professional or other elites.
Moves to new technologies - notably mobile
(aka cellular) phones, facsimile devices and digital transmission
- were reflected in changing regulatory regimes, with
for example break-up of 'Ma Bell' in the US, privatisation
of British Telecom in the UK and the introduction of competition
in the provision of fixed line and mobile services in
Australia and New Zealand.
a geopolitics of telecommunications?
Historical perspectives are provided in Global
Communications Since 1844: Geopolitics & Technology
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni Press 1999) by Peter Hughill,
The Carrier Wave: New Information Technology &
the Geography of Innovation, 1846-2003 (London: Unwin
Hyman 1988) by Peter Hall & Paschal Preston, Brian
Winston's Media Technology & Society: A History
from the Telegraph to the Internet (London: Routledge
1999) and The Struggle for Control of Global Communication:
The Formative Century (Urbana: Uni of Illinois Press
2002) by Jill Hills. Works such as The Visible Hand:
The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge:
Harvard Uni Press 1977) by Alfred Chandler
and JoAnne Yates' Control Through Communication: The
Rise of System In American Management (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Uni Press 1993 are of particular value.
Frances Cairncross' The Death of Distance (London:
Orion 1997) and Ithiel de Sola Pool - in Technologies
of Freedom (Cambridge: Belknap 1987) and Technologies
Without Boundaries (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1990)
- place the 'internet revolution' in context and tease
out some implications.
The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications & International
Politics 1851-1945 (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1991),
noted on the preceding page of this profile, is a thought-provoking
study by Daniel Headrick. It is complemented by Paul Starr's
The Creation of the Media: The Political Origins
of Mass Communications (New York: Basic 2004).
As a point of entry into the extensive literature on markets
and regulation see Scott Wallsten's 2001 Ringing in
the 20th Century: The Effects of State Monopolies, Private
Ownership & Operating Licenses on Telecommunications
in Europe, 1892-1914 (PDF),
Gerald Brock's The Second Information Revolution
(Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 2003) and the 1998 An
Overview of Telecommunications Market Evolution: Telegraphy
& Telephony 1837-1934 (txt)
by Gary Madden & Scott Savage.
There is a more pessimistic view in The Global Political
Economy of Communication: Hegemony, Telecommunications
& the Information Economy (New York: St Martins
1994), essays edited by Edward Comer. The authors argue
that the web and satellite broadcasting are the latest
iterations of traditional communication conflicts.
has promised the abolition of distance and the globalisation
of everyday life. Twice before - in 1865 with the creation
of the International Telegraph Union and in 1906 with
the creation of the Radiotelegraphy Union - international
agreement to encourage and then to regulate new international
communication technologies have marked the beginning
of generation-long conflicts over the boundaries of
new, larger (but certainly less-than-global) economic
paper Generation Text: the Cell Phone & the
Crowd in Recent Philippine History offers a view closer
fathers and mothers
For a popular history see Peter Young's Person
to Person: The International Impact of the Telephone
(London: Granta 1991), complemented by Claude Fischer's
America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone
to 1940 (Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1992),
Ian Hutchby's Conversation & Technology: From the
Telephone to the Internet (London: Polity 2001), James
Katz' Connections: Social & Cultural Studies of
the Telephone in American Life (New Brunswick: Transaction
2000) and William Dutton's Information & Communication
Technologies: Visions & Realities (Oxford: Oxford
Uni Press 1996).
Bell and Vail feature in HM Boettinger's The Telephone
Book: Bell, Watson, Vail and American Life, 1876-1983
(New York: Stearn 1984), RV Bruce's Alexander Graham
Bell & the Conquest of Solitude (Boston: Little
Brown 1973) and Seth Shulman's The Telephone Gambit:
Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret (New York:
Michelle Martin's "Hello Central?" Gender,
Technology, & Culture in the Formation of Telephone
Systems (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Uni Press 1991)
should be read in conjunction with Lois Kathryn Herr's
Women, Power, and AT&T: Winning Rights in the
Workplace (Boston: Northeastern Uni Press 2003),
Race on the Line: Gender, Labor and Technology in the
Bell System, 1880-1980 (Durham: Duke Uni Press 2001)
by Venus Green, G and Stephen Norwood's Labor's
Flaming Youth: Telephone Operators & Worker Militancy,
1878-1923 (Urbana: Uni of Illinois Press 1990). Thomas
Jepsen's My Sisters Telegraphic and Carolyn
Marvin's When Old Technologies Were New (noted
on the preceding page) are also of value.
teletext and Minitel
Ithiel de Sola Pool's Politics in Wired Nations
(New Brunswick: Transaction 1998) is recommended for its
provocative exploration of government attempts to regulate
what occurs on the net and arrangements for standards
that ensure the different networks and devices can continue
to communicate with each other as one global network.
Pool's Forecasting the Telephone: A Retrospective Technology
Assessment (Norwood: Ablex 1983) is a useful point
of reference for assessing forecasts about e-commerce,
WAP and other developments.
Leonard Graziplene's Teletext: Its Promise & Demise
(Bethlehem: LeHigh Uni Press 2000) looks at a revolution
that didn't arrive. For France's Minitel we recommend
Jack Kessler's 1995 D-Lib paper
and the 1998 OECD Information Economy Working Party's
on France's Experience With The Minitel: Lessons For
Electronic Commerce Over the Internet.
Molbile phones (aka cell phones) are explored in more
detail elsewhere on this
Points of entry to the literature include Constant
Touch: A Global History of the Mobile Phone (London:
Icon 2003) by John Agar, Magic in the Air: Mobile
Communication and the Transformation of Social Life
(New Brunswick: Transaction 2006) by James Katz and Thumb
Culture: The Meaning of Mobile Phones for Society
(New Brunswick: Transaction 2005) edited by Peter Glotz,
Stefan Bertschi & Chris Locke.
For the US we recommend Pool's The Social Impact
of the Telephone (Cambridge: MIT Press 1977) and the
by Robert Ward on The Chaos of Covergence: A Study
of the Process of Decay, Change, and Transformation within
the Telephone Policy Subsystem of the United States.
Alan Stone's How America Got On-Line: Politics, Markets
& the Revolution in Telecommunications (Armonk:
Sharpe 1997), Electronic Media & Government: The
Regulation of Wireless & Wired Mass Communication
in the United States (White Plains: Longman 1995)
by Leslie Smith & Milan Meeske, Breaking Up Bell:
Essays on Industrial Organisation & Regulation
(New York: North Holland 1983) edited by Donald Evans,
Telecommunication Policy for the Information Age: From
Monopoly to Competition (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press
1994) by Gerald Brock and The Fall of the Bell System
(Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1988) by Peter Temin offer
insights into regulatory and market changes in the US.
Neil Wasserman's From Invention to Innovation: Long-Distance
Telephone Transmission at the Turn of the Century
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni Press 1985) is a cogent
study of innovation and economics.
For Australia consult Ann Moyal's cogent Clear Across
Australia: A History of Telecommunications (Melbourne:
Nelson 1984) and Edgar Harcourt's less engaging Taming
The Tyrant: The First 100 Years of Australia's International
Telecommunications Service (Sydney: Allen & Unwin
1987). For New Zealand Alex Wilson's Wire &
Wireless: A History of Telecommunications in New Zealand
1860-1987 (Palmerston: Dunmore Press 1994) is serviceable.
A detailed profile on Australian and New Zealand telecommunications
Robert Babe's Telecommunications in Canada: Technology,
Industry & Government (Toronto: Uni of Toronto
Press 1990) is an incisive analysis of past rhetoric -
with public funding to match - about communications networks
as the basis of national identity. It is updated by Telecom
Nation - Telecommunications, Computers, and Governments
in Canada (Toronto: McGill-Queens Uni Press 2001)
by Laurence Mussio.
For telecommunications in nation building see The Invisible
Empire: A History of the Telecommunications Industry in
Canada, 1846-1956 (Toronto: McGill-Queens Uni Press
2001) by Jean-Guy Rens and Dwayne Winseck's paper
A Social History of Canadian Telecommunications.
wire fever and other discontents?
Anxieties about the telegraph as a cause of neurasthenia,
unhappy cows and impudent children or servants were highlighted
on the preceding page of this profile. They have recurred
in criticisms of landline and mobile phones, and wariness
about the net.
Accounts of 'wire fever' are provided in Avital Ronell's
The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric
Speech (Lincoln: Uni of Nebraska Press 1991), Jeffrey
Sconce's Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy
to Television (Durham: Duke Uni Press 2000) and John
Durham Peters' Speaking Into the Air (Chicago:
Uni of Chicago Press 2000).
More recent perspectives are provided in Patricia Wallace's
The Psychology of the Internet (Cambridge: Cambridge
Uni Press 1999), in Psychology & the Internet:
Intrapersonal, Interpersonal & Transpersonal Implications
(San Diego: Academic Press 1999) edited by Jayne Gackenbach
and No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media
on Social Behaviour (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1986)
by Joshua Meyrowitz.
US corporate histories
For the Bell family see works cited above and George David
Smith's The Anatomy of a Business Strategy: Bell, Western
Electric & the Origins of the American Telephone Industry
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni Press 1985), Manufacturing
the Future: A History of Western Electric (Cambridge:
Cambridge Uni Press 1999) by Stephen Adams & Orville
Butler, Sonny Kleinfeld's thin The Biggest Company
on Earth: A profile of AT&T (New York: Holt Rinehart
1981) and Robert Garnet's The Telephone Enterprise:
The Evolution of the Bell Systemís Horizontal Structure
1876-1909 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni Press 1985).
The major history of ITT remains Anthony Sampson's Sovereign
State: The Secret History of ITT (London: Coronet
1974). MCI is profiled in Larry Kahaner's On the Line:
The Men of MCI - Who Took on AT&T, Risked Everything,
and Won! (New York: Warner 1986).
Studies of the vicissitudes of telecoms operators during
the 1990s telco bubble are discussed here.
They include Disconnected: Deceit & Betrayal at
WorldCom (New York: Wiley 2003) by Lynne Jeter, The
Great Telecoms Swindle: How the collapse of WorldCom Finally
Exposed The Technology Myth (Oxford: Capstone 2003)
by Keith Brody & Sancha Dunstan, Extraordinary
Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower
(New York: Wiley 2008)
by Cynthia Cooper and Power Failure: The Inside Story
of the Collapse of Enron (New York: Doubleday 2003)
by Sherron Watkins & Mimi Swartz.
other corporate histories
UK deregulation and privatisation is explored in John
Harper's Monopoly & Competition in British Telecommunications
(London: Pinter 1997) and Cento Veljanovski's Selling
the State - Privatisation in Britain (London: Weidenfield
& Nicolson 1988). Those works build on studies such
as Douglas Pitt's The Telecommunications Function
in the British Post Office - A Case Study of Bureaucratic
Adaption (London: Saxon House 1980) and H Robinson's
Britain's Post Office: A History of Development from
the Beginnings to the Present Day (London: Oxford
Uni Press 1953).
For Vodafone see Anytime, Anywhere: Entrepreneurship
and the Creation of a Wireless World (New York: Cambridge
Uni Press 2002) by Louis Galambos & Eric Abrahamson
and Rollercoaster: The Turbulent Life & Times
of Vodafone & Chris Gent (New York: Wiley 2003)
by Trevor Merriden. W. J. Baker's A History of the
Marconi Company (London: Routledge 1996) is of historical
DoCoMo: Japan's Wireless Tsunami: How One Mobile Telecom
Created a New Market and Became a Global Force (New
York: Amacom 2002) is a triumphalist account by John Beck
& Mitchell Wade.
Introductions to contemporary telecommunications law include
Telecommunications Law in Europe: Telecommunications
Law in Europe (Haywards Heath: Tottel 2006) by Joachim
Scherer, Telecommunications Law & Policy
(Durham: Carolina Academic Press 2006) by Stuart Benjamin,
Douglas Lichtman, Howard Shelanski & Philip Weiser,
An Introduction to US Telecommunications Law
(Norwood: Artech 2001) by Charles Kennedy, Telecommunications
Law and Regulation (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 2005)
edited by Ian Walden & John Angel and Australian
Telecommunications Regulation (Sydney: UNSW Press
2004) edited by Alasdair Grant