Tag Archives: Internet

Remembering Social Media’s True Inventor

Before Twitter and Facebook, there was Morse code: Remembering Social Media’s True Inventor

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/05/24/before-there-was-twitter-there-was-morse-code-remembering-social-medias-true-inventor/?utm_term=.ed3ce87bfbc4

By Michael S. Rosenwald May 24, 2017

In late March of 2006, a college dropout named Jack Dorsey finished coding a site for Internet users to post 140-character messages. It was called twttr. Dorsey and his co-founders eventually added vowels to the service, forming Twitter. The name made total sense. “The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information’ and ‘chirps from birds,’ ” Dorsey said. Internet histories record Dorsey’s first tweet as a pivotal moment in the rise of social media.

The history of social media began almost two centuries earlier, on May 24, 1844, when Samuel F.B. Morse, a painter-turned-inventor, sent a message from Washington to Baltimore. Back then, Morse wasn’t typing with his thumbs but was instead tapping dots and dashes “on a device of cogs and coiled wires,” as one historian later put it. While the telegraph had been around in idea and rudimentary form, Morse devised a way to use electricity for sending a series of codes signaling letters of the alphabet.

  Social Media’s True Inventor

Suddenly, the country began shrinking in ways that sound distinctly familiar. “Telegraph operators could chat with each other by tapping on their keys,” the English journalist Tom Standage wrote in “Writing on the Wall: Social Media — the First 2,000 Years.” “All the operators along the line could hear everything that was transmitted and join in the unofficial banter, in effect occupying a single, shared chat room.”

There were early versions of OMG: “G M” meant “good morning,” “S F D,” meant “stop for dinner.” Standage writes that telegraphers played chess and checkers using Morse code, often becoming friends without ever meeting. “Romances between operators who met each other online were not unknown,” he wrote. “Such was the sense of online camaraderie that some operators in remote places preferred to commune with their friends on the wires than with the local people.”

Social Media’s True Inventor

Morse’s work foreshadowed our status update world. He is one of the most unlikely inventors in history.

Though he studied science at Yale, Morse didn’t see his future in a lab. He wanted to paint. “I am now released from college, and am attending to painting,” Morse wrote to his parents in 1810.

Portraits were his thing. “My price for profiles is one dollar,” he told his parents, “and everybody is willing to engage me at that price.” And he was seriously talented, later painting noted portraits of presidents John Adams and James Monroe, inventor Eli Whitney, and even Marquis de Lafayette, the American Revolutionary War icon.

Morse was in Washington painting Lafayette in the winter of 1835 when a letter arrived from his father — via horse — saying that his beloved wife Lucretia was ill. The couple had three children. “My whole soul,” Morse once wrote, was “wrapped up in her,” how she “connected all that I expected of happiness on earth.”

A day later his father wrote again: Mysterious are the ways of Providence. My heart is in pain and deeply sorrowful, while I announce to you the sudden and unexpected death of your dear and deservedly-loved wife. Her disease proved to be an affection of the heart. … She was up about five o’clock yesterday afternoon, to have her bed made, as usual; was unusually cheerful and social; spoke of the pleasure of being with her dear husband in New York, ere long; stepped into bed herself; fell back, with a momentary struggle, on her pillow; her eyes were immediately fixed, the paleness of death overspread her countenance, and in five minutes more, without the slightest motion, her mortal life terminated.

Lucretia was buried before Morse could arrive home by stagecoach. He was shattered. “If I had desired any thing in my dear L. different from what she was, it would have been that she had been less lovely,” he wrote to a friend. “I now feel this void, this desolateness, this loneliness, this heart-sickness.” His heart broken, Morse went on with his painting career, lamenting how he wasn’t able to learn of Lucretia’s illness until she was dead.

In 1832, after a painting trip to Europe, Morse returned home by ship, stumbling into a conversation with passengers about Michael Faraday’s electromagnet. If there was one academic subject that interested him at Yale, it was math. “When Morse came to understand how the electromagnet worked, he speculated that it might be possible to send a coded message over a wire,” according to a Library of Congress history.   Morse began experimenting with batteries and wires but quickly realized his painting career had not prepared him to tinker with electricity.

He sought help at University of the City of New York from chemistry professor Leonard D. Gale. It would take them nearly a decade to perfect the technology, which spread rapidly across the country and then to Europe, for use in wars, business, newspapers and so much else before being replaced by telephones, fax machines, computers and Myspace, Facebook, Friendster, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and … well, ask your teenager what else.

Back then, not everyone admired the new form of communication, especially the way Morse code allowed random observations or meaningless thoughts to be quickly shared widely. Standage noted a journalist’s complaint from an 1891 issue of Atlantic Monthly.

“America has in fact transformed journalism from what it once was, the periodical expression of the thought of the time, the opportune record of the questions and answers of contemporary life, into an agency for collecting, condensing and assimilating the trivialities of the entire human existence,” the complaint went. “The effect is disastrous and affects the whole range of our mental activities. We develop hurry into a deliberate system … the pursuit of novelties and sensations into the normal business of life.”

Layne, AE1N

New Social Media Features on n1fd.org

We’ve been working to build our club’s presence on Social Media for several months now. Our club has been actively posting content on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ve recently begun to build a presence on YouTube as well.

Social Media is an important part of how we reach both existing and potential new club members. It’s also a source of information for our club members. The latter is particularly true of video content on YouTube.

N1FD Social Media - Sample of Our Facebook Feed
Sample of Our Facebook Feed

Ever wonder how we appear on Facebook and Twitter? Want to check out some interesting Amateur Radio content on social media? We’ve made if really easy to check out and interact with our new Social Media feeds here on our website!

N1FD Social Media - New Social Media Menus Items on n1fd.org
New Social Media Menus Items on n1fd.org

You can reach the new pages via the left menu on our website. You will find choices to view our club’s feeds on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. These pages also include other interesting Amateur Radio feeds as well.

N1FD Social Media - New Social Buttons on n1fd.org
New Social Buttons on n1fd.org

You will also notice that we have a new Social Media widget on the left sidebar on our website. These buttons will take you directly to our club’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube locations on Social Media. The last button provides access to an RSS feed which you can use with your web browser to alert you when new content appears on n1fd.org.

N1FD Social Media - Social Media Buttons on n1fd.org Pages
Social Media Buttons on n1fd.org Pages

You will also notice a set of these buttons at the bottom of many pages on n1fd.org.

We hope you’ll enjoy all of the new Social Media features and content. Let us know what you think about our social media features via email to [email protected] or post your feedback in our Forums. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel via the new Social Media Buttons.

Fred, AB1OC

How N1FD.ORG Works – The Basics

Ever wonder what goes into building and operating a modern website like n1fd.org?  I thought that it might be interesting to share how we approached the design and operation of our club website, n1fd.org. A better understanding of how n1fd.org works will help you to get the most out of using it.

The Basics

The basics of how  n1fd.org  works are pretty simple. The video that follows tells this part of our story well.

We’re not going to get into the details of HTML, servers or DNS. These systems all work behind these scenes to make n1fd.org and other websites work.

Most modern websites are about delivering a content-centric user experience. Such sites are media rich and include graphic and video content, are very responsive and are easy to use. Also, continuously updated content is the hallmark of high quality, modern websites. The combination of these capabilities is referred to as a Content Management System or CMS.

How N1FD.ORG Works - Why Use WordPress?

We choose WordPress as the basis for n1fd.org because we wanted to create a modern website which made it easy for all of our club members to create and share media rich content about Amateur Radio. WordPress is a feature rich, open-source based system which is easily extended to do this and much more. WordPress is easily made secure, responsive, and it produces a great looking website.

Much of the slide material which follows comes from an excellent online Introduction to WordPress.

How Does It Work?

Most modern websites have two basic parts – a Frontend and a Backend. Most of us spend our time using with the Frontend to view content on a website.

Basic CMS-Based Website Elements
CMS-Based Website Elements

The website’s administrators and the folks who create the content for the website use the Backend. If you have written an article on our Blog for our newsletter, you have already used n1fd.org’s Backend to create it!

Where Are The Page and Post Files?

This might be the first question you would ask if you have worked with a previous generation web server. The answer is, well, there aren’t any… WordPress generates pages on the fly as we click on links and other interactive elements on n1fd.org.

Basic WordPress CMS Architecture
Basic WordPress  Architecture

All WordPress websites including n1fd.org have three basic components that work together to generate the HTML pages that we view in our browser –

  • An Apache Web Server –  orchestrates the steps to create and deliver web pages to our browser (client)
  • A PHP Applications Server –  runs PHP scripts that generate the HTML and other dynamic web page elements
  • A MySQL Database Server – stores image and video metadata, text, configuration data, and user specific information. MySQL data controls the generation of the pages which we view in our browsers.

All of this seems kind of complicated doesn’t it? Fortunately, WordPress takes care of all of this technical stuff behind the scenes. All we need to do is work with the Backend of n1fd.org to create and deliver our content.

Extending WordPress Functionality

The PHP script and database approach that WordPress takes makes it very easy to extend to include new functionality.

Installed Plugins
WordPress Plugins Extend Base Functionality

Plugins provided by WordPress developers extend WordPress’s basic functionality. WordPress’s plugin architecture has spawned thousands of great plugins to do just about anything that you can imagine.  More on WordPress plugins and themes in a future article in this series.

Website Look and Feel Through Themes

Did you know that WordPress powers over 25% of all websites on the Internet? This is a pretty amazing statistic when you stop to think about it.

How N1FD.ORG Works - Themes on WordPress.org
Themes on WordPress.org

So how can this be? Wouldn’t many of the sites on the Internet look similar if this were true? The final basic piece of every WordPress website is a Theme. Themes control the basic layout, look and feel of a WordPress website. There are literally thousands of Themes to choose from. A good WordPress theme will automatically adapt your content to work on mobile devices, TVs, and other devices, reformatting your content and adjusting for alternative input devices as needed. You can literally change the look and basic function of a WordPress website by simply changing the Theme used.

What Do We Mean By Dynamic Content?

One of the coolest things about how n1fd.org works is the constantly changing content on each page. Header images, lists of articles, comments and forum posts, and many other things change constantly as we move from page to page.

How N1FD.ORG Works - Website Construction
Homepage on n1fd.org

It would be impossible to do this without WordPress’s use of applications server, database, and PHP scripts. There are literally thousands of lines of PHP code that are executed each time some visits n1fd.org!

We use the CMS capabilities of WordPress to allow everyone in our club to create new content (Articles, Forum Posts, Comments, Image Collections, Videos, …) and WordPress uses all of this constantly updated content to create a fresh experience for each of us each time we visit n1fd.org.

That’s it for this article in the How N1FD.ORG Works series. Next up, we’ll look at how we built n1fd.org’s basic look and functionality.

Fred, AB1OC

New Features On N1FD.org

We’ve added some new features to our website to make it easier to use. In addition, we have continued to work on our website to improve its performance and security.

Lightbox Image Displays and Slide Shows

New Features - Lightbox Image Display
Lightbox Image Display

Our website has many great photo images from our members and we wanted to make it easier to enjoy our photo content. We have added a lightbox capability to make viewing images easier and more fun.Simply click on an image in any page or post and a light box display will pop up. The lightbox will display the image at its highest resolution. Next, move your mouse outside the lightbox to start a slide show of all of the images on the page. Finally, when you are done, just click anywhere on the page outside of the lightbox and it will disappear.

Simply click on an image in any page or post and a light box display will pop up. The lightbox will display the image at its highest resolution. Next, move your mouse outside the lightbox to start a slide show of all of the images on the page. Finally, when you are done, just click anywhere on the page outside of the lightbox and it will disappear.

You can click on any image in this post to give the lightbox features a try!

New Uptime and Response Time Page

New Features - N1FD Internet Status Page
N1FD Internet Status Page

We have also added an Internet Status Page which shows up time and response time for Internet sites related to our club. You can reach this page from the HELP AND INFORMATION menu and then select UPTIME MONITOR.

New Features - Internet Status Details
Internet Status Details

Also, you can click on the link for any site to see what that site’s response time has been. The Internet Status pages are a members-only feature at this time and you need to log into n1fd.org to reach them.

Comments? Let us know what you think via an email to [email protected].

Fred, AB1OC