If you’d hoped to get a message to the colonies for Christmas, your time might be running out, as on 14th July the last telegram service will close, due to it becoming disused in the wake of increased mobile phone usage across the world.
The last service and its 75 offices, currently reside in India and are run by the state telecoms company, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. It costs a whopping £15 million a year to run, despite only sending a few thousand telegrams a day – though it does use modern computer systems to send the messages, instead of a traditional morse code input.
While India has a low uptake in mobile phones – only around a quarter of the populace uses them – it’s thought that the increased spread of text messaging has brought an abrupt end to the telegram system. It’s been in operation there for well over 100 years and at its peak in the 80s, was seeing over 60 million sent out from upwards of 45,000 offices.
One interesting detail about the telegram system, pointed out by CSMonitor, is that telegrams were traditionally used as a method of conveying the news that a family member had died – to date, messages involving such news are charged at 1/5 of the standard rate.
Telegrams also have some legal weight in the country, with ones sent to a court describing illegal detention of another form of injustice, count as writ petitions, ensuring speedy investigation.
While smoke signals could be considered the earliest form of telegraphy, telegrams as we know them, were developed by Samuel Morse and his assistant in the 1830s, and saw mass deployment by the early 1860s, bringing an end to the half century running Pony Express mail industry in the US.
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