> The Civil War/War Between the States (1861-1865) provided the first
> example of war more or less commanded from a central point and with
> knowledge of what was happening in the field timely enough to exercise
> such control.
The nation's telegraph network was still relatively crude. While
messaging was a big improvement over hand/horse delivery, it was still
limited, especially given mobile armies. One had to find a working
The concept of central messaging command and control was not totally
new; the telegraph was just an improvement over prior methods.
Hilltop light mirrors, semaphore flags, and smoke signals were used
throughout history. Keep in mind that any telegraph messages sent
probably had to be manually received and resent several times between
the battlefield and Washington by relay centers.
Having information and being able to make good use of it are two
different things. It was a problem for Lincoln and a problem today.
Nearly 100 years later, in WW II, communications were still crude by
today's standards. We theoretically had worldwide voice and record
(telegraph) communications capability but having and useability were
two different things. We know on D-Day radio communications had a lot
of trouble and it took a long time to get information back. Many
radios were inoperative.
One book reprinted the actual teletype log of a critical conversation.
It was pages of "can you read me now?" "not exactly, still garbled"
"Are you still there?"
> The telegraph is a form of digital communication, a concept not
> previously in use.
I think it's more accurate to say the telegraph is a form of
> For telegraphy, there was the disadvantage, of course, for commercial
> use in the need for an operator at each end. Only such enterprises as
> government, railroads, newspapers, news services and stockbrokers
> generally could afford the labor costs.
Receiving and sending the message to the last mile was and remained a
> The printing telegraph machine (Teletype and others) changed all
> that. But that was an economic effect -- until into the 1950s, at
> least, teletypewriters were no faster than skilled telegraph
While a select set of operators were indeed very fast, they also
needed skilled operators at the other end able to copy down the
information at typewritten speed. Humans do need rest breaks. An
advtg of Teletypes is that messages could be prepared offline and then
transmitted at full speed, one right after the other. I think in
actuality very few human operators could meet the speed of Teletype
By 1940, most telegraph work was done by printing, not Morse code.
> The first use I remember for the suction cups was in early business
> facsimile machines, which laboriously used thermal imaging to write a
> pretty poor line image only (no halftones) at the destination end.
Facsimile transmission over wire has been around a long time, but used
special lines. The phone cup machines were a big improvement since
they could use any phone line and were easier to use than their
For some reason, very few people today use the "fine" setting on fax
machines which makes a much clearer transmission at very little
increase in time. They still use "regular" which comes out so fuzzy.
A fax of a fax is almost unreadable.
> Certainly by 1950, and perhaps earlier, you could place an order in
> person or by telephone at your local Sears store, it would be
> transmitted immediately by telegraph to the Sears catalog warehouse,
> and in many large cities available for pickup at the local store the
> next day.
If you had a local Sears store, you probably didn't need the catalog.
The Sears catalog and mail order was developed to serve remote towns.
After WW II Sears chose to expand and build stores in the suburbs
which was a wise move. The catalog served for specialty items
With the malling of America once isolated small towns had full service
department stores with vast selections, as opposed to a relatively
small local dry goods store. Mail order catalogs ceased to be of
> The demise of the Sears and Wards catalog operations was due to their
> inefficiencies in the warehousing housing, picking and shipping
> systems of those two companies, not to the slowness of communication
> with their customers.
I can't comment on the internal workings of Sears. My point was that
the traditional method of communication -- mailing in an order and
receiving the goods by return mail -- was slow and cumbersome.
I think the Sears catalog was but a shadow of itself by the time 800
numbers _and_ pass-along credit card numbers became practical.
(toll-free numbers have been around for 75 years, but remotely
providing a credit card number without a signature is more recent. I
think local city stores would accept charges billed to their store
charge for some customers. Further, UPS and Fed Ex handling national
traffic is more relatively recent compared to all goods going through
the post office as parcel post.
I do agree the Sears chain has had serious problems in the last
decade. What and why I don't understand, but their stores became
dingy and service declined. I was just in a Sears and it was
horrible. The building, part of a 35 year old mall, needs a clean up.
For example, all the ceiling tiles are curled at the edges and many
are stained from leaks. The floor is irregular with carpet in some
spots and tile in others, with grooves where dividers once stood.
There are empty spaces. It basically looks like a K-Mart, which is
sad. I was surprised K-Mart came out of bankruptcy and able to buy
Sears since their stores are dumpy as well. A department store is not
a discount store nor should look like one.