Technology’s Advance

The maps in this exhibition are printed on paper. They have also been scanned so that digital surrogates can be broadly shared—viewed and studied on screens, or printed on new paper. Since Cornell’s Persuasive Cartography website went online four years ago, it has been visited by more than 50,000 users from 178 countries and territories.

The technologies that make this distributed access possible at a keystroke were developed across nearly two centuries. The advancement of those technological inventions and structures has, itself, been mapped.

Samuel Morse’s “electro-magnetic” telegraph was the first communication device to enable near-instantaneous communication across long distances. News and information could now be sent wherever the wires reached, across the state, across the continent, and by 1858, across oceans. The transatlantic telegraph cable reduced the communication time between North America and Europe from ten days—the time it took to deliver a message by ship—to a matter of minutes.

Communication technologies would take another leap forward in the 1980s and 1990s with the advent of the Internet. This poster from 1994, designed by technical artist Timothy Edward Downs as a bonus for purchasers of PC Computing magazine, is believed to be the first printed map of the Internet. Inspired by subway maps, the artist applied a spatial hub-and-spoke metaphor, replacing subway stations and lines with servers and sites that have key addresses radiating from major Internet servers. Perhaps most striking is the relative emptiness of the “landscape.” The early World Wide Web was dominated by government and educational institutions and contained perhaps 30 servers and only a couple of hundred web sites—including the Cornell Legal Institute, an early adopter of this technology.

“Map Exhibiting the Lines of Morse’s Electro-Magnetic Telegraph, in Operation, Being Constructed, and Proposed.” New York Herald. January 22, 1848. Robert Dalton Harris, Jr. Telegraph Collection.
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, #8720.

Timothy Edward Downs. The Internet. Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, 1994.
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, History of Science QA76.5 .Z46 1994 Mapcase +++

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