Another slow species, again from Diaspora, in the third universe they visit. I told you I liked it.

“They evolved on a planet, but they’re more diffuse now, each individual spread out across space between a million stars.”

What would it mean to think at a speed where it takes thousands of years just for a signal to pass from one side of your mind to the other?

This got me thinking about slow communication. We’ve just passed through an odd point of history. Today, I can connect – with video, audio, or other interactive media – anywhere in the world equally fast. A couple of hundred years ago, everything bar my immediate locale was out of reach. Sure, there’s trade, but everything is very far away.

During the period of letters and the telegraph, we could communicate from Egypt to France… but it took time. Fast enough to be faster than people, but not fast enough for interaction. Curious.

The image on the slide is from the first of these systems, the Chappe Telegraph (image source and a description of the telegraph, and more on the optical telegraph).

Here is how it is described:

“…a pivoting wooden panel, five feet tall, painted black on one side and white on the other. By flipping it from one colour to the other, Chappe could transmit the numbers on the synchronized clocks. A telescope could help to see the wooden panel from a great distance. On March 2, 1791 [Claude Chappe] sent a message 10 miles [16km] away. In about 4 minutes they transmitted the phrase: ‘If you succeed, you will bask in glory’” [source].

This was the tachygraphe (rapid writer), then later: the telegraph, or far writer.

Matt Webb, S&W, posted 2006-04-06 (talk on 2006-02-23)