Monday, 15 June 2009

Blinding speed

In a front page article under the headline Database unveils forest of family names: Histories of 16 million Canadians posted online today's Ottawa Citizen reports on Ancestry.ca's 1861 and 1871 census databases, released at a Toronto press conference last Wednesday.

Is news ever travelling fast these days! Toronto to Ottawa is 350 km. In five days that's an average of 70 km/day. The news of Nelson's victory and death in the Battle of Trafalgar took 16 days to reach and be published in London, about 108 km/day. How much more technological advance can we stand?

1 comment:

WJM said...

I find that there's really been only two Great Leaps Forward in news-time.

The first, which is fascinating to watch if you do newspaper research over the middle decades of the nineteenth century, came with the advent of the telegraph, and especially the Trans-Atlantic cables. You go from the "Latest from Europe" column, which had months-old news from packetboats out of Greenock or Hamburg or Leghorn, to weeks-old once steam replaced sail, to having political and military events reported in North American towns and cities the very next day. It's striking, how much "smaller" the world got between about 1850 and 1865, and how much more modern - the tail end of this period was also when photography started to go "mainstream", so the documentary record begins to become visual in a way it wasn't before.

Other than that, there was no real advance until the first telecoms satellites. Twitter and the rest of teh intertubes are just new techniques of obtaining basically the same speed.