Images are an indispensable part of current human communication. Our daily life is proof. Young people tend to communicate with visualised forms of communication, such as photographs and emojis, more than in the past. It is no coincidence that in 2015 the Oxford Dictionaries declared an emoji, the Face with Tears of Joy, their word of the year. Instagram is more popular than Twitter. Visual messages are more powerful than written messages. They are also faster, more direct, but, at the same time, ambiguous.
But where did it all start?
The desire of humans to communicate via images is as old as the need for telecommunication.
Before the Morse telegraph system was established in Europe (1851) and before Samuel Morse had sent his famous first telegram from Washington to Baltimore (1844), there were already inventors who have succeeded in sending images over great distances, using the properties of electricity.
However, as was the case with many other innovations of the 19th century that changed the history of telecommunications (telegraphy, telephony), many claimed “paternity”.
Historians state that the first patent for an image transmission device was registered in London in 1843 by Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain. The public of the day may have been amazed when they saw images being transmitted through wires, but, soon, a young inventor, Englishman Frederick Collier Bakewell, presented a better device than Bain’s, while also accusing him of having stolen his idea. The long dispute between them ended amidst the disinterest of entrepreneurs in funding their complex machines, and, instead, investing in Morse’s cheap and easy to use system.
The first telephotography device put into practical use was the pantelegraph (because it could transmit everything) of Italian clergyman Caselli, which connected Paris to Lyon in 1863. The service operated for only four years, as its cost was prohibitively expensive for the general public (it was used mainly by businessmen to send signed documents). As in the case of Caselli, other inventions related to fax technology were doomed to failure in the 19th century, since they could not become commercially sustainable.
Telephotography is a good example of how the potential for financial utilisation of an invention determines is evolution.
To be continued…..
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