41 The Telegraph Goes Online 1844 NO OTHER INVENTION has shrunk the world so dramatically as the electric telegraph, capable of moving messages across land and sea at 16,000 miles per second. No wonder that when Samuel F.B. Morse inaugurated his first telegraph line (between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore), on May 24, 1844, he tapped out an exclamation from the Bible: "What hath God wrought!"
Morse's telegraph, unveiled in 1838, was not the first such device--Englishmen William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone beat him by a year with a model that used needles to spell out words--but it was by far the most practical. The sender simply pressed a key in a pattern of dots and dashes, which were automatically marked on paper at the other end. Morse's machine and code became the international standard.
The telegraph spurred the growth of multinational corporations and transcontinental railways. It helped change the pace and scope of warfare. And it gave a boost to the news media. In 1848, six newspapers formed what would become the Associated Press to collect and distribute reports by telegraph. Soon news from anywhere could reach people everywhere the very day it happened.