Mark Twain Predicts the Internet in 1898

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PostSun Jul 03, 2011 7:06 am » by Willease

When most people think of Mark Twain, they imagine Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn piloting a raft down the Mississippi River to find some trouble to get into. What's less well-known is that Twain also dabbled in science fiction, so there's probably a story out there in which Huck Finn finds a spaceship and enjoys a short career of interstellar high jinks and space piracy.
It was in one of his science fiction stories, From the 'London Times' of 1904, that Twain dreamed up an invention called the "telelectroscope," which used the phone system to create a world wide network of information-sharing. Basically, Mark Twain invented the Internet. Keep in mind that he wrote this in 1898, when telephones were still fairly new and rare.

But Twain didn't stop there. His story describes "the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues." Mark Twain is talking about goddamn social networking. He didn't just predict that the Internet would unite the world, but also that people would immediately clog it up with trivial bullshit.
Now check out the description of the guy using it:

"Day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people. ... He seldom spoke, and I never interrupted him when he was absorbed in this amusement."
The protagonist of the story, a man falsely accused of murder and sentenced to death, is cleared of all charges in the end when he essentially gets on the Internet and finds his supposed "victim" in the crowd of an event he's watching being streamed live from China.

Unfortunately, the story itself is terrible. So, unlike visionaries such as Jules Verne, whose predictions everybody listened to, Mark Twain goes down in history as a great writer of small-town America who should just stay the hell away from sci-fi.

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