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<nettime> Era Ends: Western Union Stops Sending Telegrams
Patrice Riemens on Tue, 2 May 2006 09:22:54 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Era Ends: Western Union Stops Sending Telegrams


(Bwo Prashan Nalsal/ the Sarai Commons-Law list)

Era Ends: Western Union Stops Sending Telegrams
By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
posted: 31 January 2006
10:17 pm ET
	

After 145 years, Western Union has quietly stopped sending telegrams.

On the company's web site, if you click on "Telegrams" in the left-side
navigation bar, you're taken to a page that ends a technological era
with about as little fanfare as possible:

"Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram
and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may
cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any
questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative."

The decline of telegram use goes back at least to the 1980s, when
long-distance telephone service became cheap enough to offer a viable
alternative in many if not most cases. Faxes didn't help. Email could be
counted as the final nail in the coffin.

Western Union has not failed. It long ago refocused its main business to
make money transfers for consumers and businesses. Revenues are now $3
billion annually. It's now called Western Union Financial Services, Inc.
and is a subsidiary of First Data Corp.

The world's first telegram was sent on May 24, 1844 by inventor Samuel
Morse. The message, "What hath God wrought," was transmitted from
Washington to Baltimore. In a crude way, the telegraph was a precursor
to the Internet in that it allowed rapid communication, for the first
time, across great distances.

Western Union goes back to 1851 as the Mississippi Valley Printing
Telegraph Company. In 1856 it became the Western Union Telegraph Company
after acquisition of competing telegraph systems. By 1861, during the
Civil War, it had created a coast-to-coast network of lines.

Other company highlights:

    * 1866: Introduced the first stock ticker.
    * 1871: Introduced money transfers.
    * 1884: Became one of the original 11 stocks tracked by the Dow
      Jones Average.
    * 1914: Introduced the first consumer charge card.
    * 1964: Began using a transcontinental microwave beam to replace
      land lines.
    * 1974: Launched Westar I, the first U.S. dedicated communications
      satellite.

On Jan. 26, the last day you could send a telegram, First Data announced
it would spin Western Union off as an independent, publicly traded company.

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