India to send world’s last telegram. Full Stop.
In 1850, the British inventor William O’Shaughnessy — who would later become famous for his early experiments with medical cannabis — sent a coded message over a telegraph line in India. His telegram would usher in a new age of communication in and for India, connecting the country in a way that had never before been possible.
Now, sometime on July 14, 2013, someone in India will have a dubious honor: he or she will send the country’s last telegram. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, India’s state-run telecom company, will shutter is telegram service, bringing the long era of Indian telegraphy from a dash … to a full stop.
The shuttering of the service is not surprising. In a country that has quickly embraced, if not fully adopted, mobile technologies, the telegram has become largely redundant as a method of quick, long-distance communication. BSNL’s telegram service had been losing money — and lots of it — for years. “We were incurring losses of over $23 million a year because SMS and smartphones have rendered this service redundant,” said Shamim Akhtar, general manager of BSNL’s telegraph services…
At their peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were being sent and received a year in India from 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, though they are located in each of India’s 671 districts through franchises. And an industry that once employed 12,500 people, today has only 998 workers…
Unions of the labor variety, given all that, have urged Indian telecom minister Kapil Sibal to keep the telegram service running, even as a shadow of its former self. “It is a valued service and should be kept as a skeleton service and preserved as a heritage,” one union told The Hindu. But niche uses weren’t enough to convince the BSNL to keep its doors — and its telegraph lines — open. The telegram service is a business. And like most business, an end to profitability means, simply an end. Or in this case: a STOP.
May as well put it to rest. Would you buy a car because it can play 8-track tapes?
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