Home / Blogs

The Latter is Coded to Criticize the New - Lessons from Depew

This month, we are seeing a very busy global ecosystem with the ICANN 51, UN General Assembly meeting to discuss ICT for Development in New York and now the 19th ITU Plenipotentiary in Busan. Pinktober, Oktoberfest has also become saturated with ICTober so it makes me more reflective. First I would like to make a massive shout out to all those battling cancer, survivors and families who wage war against cancer. May you all walk on and walk strong!

Throwbacks from the UNGA 2nd Committee Meeting Discussions on ICT4D

I was really pleased to hear mobile technology being used to fight Ebola. Clearly, the use of ICT to manage global Health Crisis is gaining momentum. Israel mentioned how the Israeli App About Ebola has been downloaded over 5000 times in West Africa and is available in the Jola, Krio, Liberian English and Wolof languages.

Sri Lanka shared how their Island-wide rural telecenter network called “Nenasala” or “wisdom outlets” of over 750 centers is a people centric ICT knowledge disseminating mechanism that mainstreams indigenous knowledge, content development, delivering e-Government services in the local languages based on public private partnerships works. Sri Lanka remarked how women and youth rural leaders are the backbone of this Network.

China shared that since officially gaining access to the Internet twenty years ago, its internet connectivity has grown exponentially with over 600 million internet users and 3 million websites. China’s e-commerce sales in the first 6 months of the years reached 5.66 trillion RMB yuan representing an annual increase of 30.1%. It hosts 4 of the world’s top ten internet companies and the Internet industry continues to grow and an annual rate of 30%.


Mankind’s natural tendency is that the masses are often generally resistant to change. The leaders of technological movements today can be in danger of becoming irrelevant tomorrow for simply refusing to evolve, change and adapt. At times those that would be considered leaders of the current technological phenomenon would look down on the early developments of the “new, weird, unusual” but innovators who are committed to plunging into the deep, with faith of what they perceive can be built, despite criticisms, experimentation, failure have often birthed new phenomena.

What makes countries or companies different in terms of growth? The ability to always be learning, probing, discovering is key to maintaining relevance even when one has reached what can be sufficiently perceived as the height of today’s success. As we see the following migratory tracks:

  • From Telegraphs to Telephones
  • From Telephones to Voice over Internet Protocols
  • From circuit switching to packet switching
  • From domains to dotless domains
  • From Internet 1.0 in 1969 to Internet 4.0

One wonders what is in store for us. With the constant technological advancements in the world, we know for certain that innovation will come from those that are hungry to innovate, those that refuse to settle but keep investing, researching and building. We know that some things are constant, and these include things like competition, battle for control but this is a good time to reflect and focus on the things that matter.

I thought I would share this story as originally told by William Von Allven in 1998.

DePew’s Fatal Mistake—Lessons from Western Union and the Telephone?

When Bell first attempted to advocate for Voice Telephony, the leaders of the former move of Technology, the President of the Telegraph Company ridiculed the potential of voice Telephony.

See extract from Warren Bender, of A.D. Little, Inc. as published in an early issue of the Transactions of the IEEE Systems, Man & Cybernetics Society (source):

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and his financial backer, Gardiner G. Hubbard, offered Bell’s brand new patent (No. 174,465) to the Telegraph Company—the ancestor of Western Union. The President of the Telegraph Company, Chauncey M. Depew, appointed a committee to investigate the offer. The committee report has often been quoted. It reads in part:

“The Telephone purports to transmit the speaking voice over telegraph wires. We found that the voice is very weak and indistinct, and grows even weaker when long wires are used between the transmitter and receiver. Technically, we do not see that this device will be ever capable of sending recognizable speech over a distance of several miles.

“Messer Hubbard and Bell want to install one of their “telephone devices” in every city. The idea is idiotic on the face of it. Furthermore, why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?

“The electricians of our company have developed all the significant improvements in the telegraph art to date, and we see no reason why a group of outsiders, with extravagant and impractical ideas, should be entertained, when they have not the slightest idea of the true problems involved. Mr. G.G. Hubbard’s fanciful predictions, while they sound rosy, are based on wild-eyed imagination and lack of understanding of the technical and economic facts of the situation, and a posture of ignoring the obvious limitations of his device, which is hardly more than a toy… .

“In view of these facts, we feel that Mr. G.G. Hubbard’s request for $100,000 of the sale of this patent is utterly unreasonable, since this device is inherently of no use to us. We do not recommend its purchase.”

Bell went on to obtain controlling interest in Western Union by 1882.

Filed Under

CircleID Newsletter The Weekly Wrap

More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet


Comment Title:

  Notify me of follow-up comments

We encourage you to post comments and engage in discussions that advance this post through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can report it using the link at the end of each comment. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of CircleID. For more information on our comment policy, see Codes of Conduct.




Sponsored byVerisign

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign

Threat Intelligence

Sponsored byWhoisXML API

IPv4 Markets

Sponsored byIPv4.Global