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OT: Networks, 19th century style

I've always been into networks and infrastructure, and have recently 
started collecting some old (1940-1950's) computer texts. I decided to 
read through some of Babbage's writings from the 1830's just for fun (
The entire text can be found at:, and was struck by a few 
gems. It sure seems to me he envisioned packet switched networks!

"[...] Let us imagine a series of high pillars erected at frequent 
intervals, perhaps every hundred feet, and as nearly as possible in a 
straight line between two post towns."

So far, sounds like a point-to-point link. Leased line perhaps?

"An iron or steel wire must be stretched over proper supports, fixed on 
each of these pillars, and terminating at the end of every three or five 
miles, as may be found expedient, in a very strong support, by which it 
may be stretched. At each of these latter points a man ought to reside 
in a small stationhouse."

Hey, we've got a router tying together two (or more) physical links. 
"Mr. Cisco, my good man. Please route this packet for me!"

"A narrow cylindrical tin case, to contain the letters, might be 
suspended by two wheels rolling upon this wire"

Data encapsulation!

"[...] In order to convey the cylinder which contains the letters, it 
would only be necessary to attach it by a string, or by a catch, to 
either of the branches of the endless wire. Thus it would be conveyed 
speedily to the next station, where it would be removed by the attendant 
to the commencement of the next wire, and so forwarded."

I imagine on a good night over a few pints of stout, Mr. Babbage 
might've gotten into discussions about disseminating "routing 
information" with neighboring "routermen." I can imagine elaborate 
pre-Victorian "routing tables" being circulated and meticulously maintained.

OK, admittedly some of it falls apart badly...

" [...] Perhaps if the steeples of churches, properly selected, were 
made use of, connecting them by a few intermediate stations with some 
great central building, as, for instance, with the top of St Paul's; and 
if a similar apparatus were placed on the top of each steeple, with a 
man to work it during the day, it might be possible to diminish the 
expense of the two-penny post, and make deliveries every half hour over 
the greater part of the

I suppose a "network crash" might involve roof tiles and large chunks of 
concrete falling into the street at that point.

I hate to think what a virus or worm might look like!

- Bob

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