[This is an independent review]
TELEGRAPH, TELEPHONE & WIRELESS:
How Telecom Changed the World
BookSurge (584 pp.)
January 21, 2009
Exhaustively researched, reader-friendly narrative of the telecom industry.
Lundy, a faculty member of the computer-science department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., for more than 20 years, covers the telecom industry’s history with admirable enthusiasm and knowledge, starting with the first simple communication devices and continuing through developments in the phone and radio industries. The author is at his best when he focuses on stories about the historical figures behind the technological development. It’s hard to imagine a more thorough account of the progression from the first telegraph to the work of Samuel Morse and Cyrus Field, with an enlightening look at supporting players like Fog Smith and Henry O’Reilly. Similarly, he tells the story of the telephone through the stories of the well-known principals, like Alexander Graham Bell, and important but underappreciated contributors like Johann Philipp Reis and Walter S. Gifford. Lundy takes into account how technological developments worked together—how laying a transatlantic cable efficiently in terms of cost and work was greatly enhanced by the development of a boat large enough to carry tons of telegraph cable. He also explains most technical concepts where the story depends on them. However, the book suffers from a slightly rough beginning. Lundy’s primer on economics in the introduction could have been cut completely, and he often indulges in a bit of editorializing, especially in the ending chapter, where he opines about free-
market development and the often-negative role he sees governments playing in the advance of technology. Some of these conclusions are touched on in the chapters, but would be better left for the reader to decipher. At times, it also reads like a lecture, repeating information from previous sections or using phrases like “as will be seen later” that take up space without advancing the story. Lundy could have easily cut 100 pages and still delivered a taut but detailed narrative.
Despite a few faults, an interesting and informative story.
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