How Napoleon’s semaphore telegraph changed the world
By Hugh SchofieldBBC News, Modane, France
Napoleonic semaphore was the world’s first telegraph network, carrying messages across 19h-Century France faster than ever before. Now a group of enthusiastic amateurs are reviving the ingenious system.
Before the web, before the computer, before the phone, even before Morse code, there was le systeme Chappe.
Not for the first time or for the last, at the end of the 18th Century France made an important technological advance – only to see it overtaken by newer science.
In this case, it was the world’s first ever system of telegraphy.
According to most accounts, the very word “telegraph” – distance writing, in Greek – was coined to describe Claude Chappe’s nationwide network of semaphore.
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