It used to be

There is a scene in the Lord of the Rings movie where the village is being attacked and the children are sent to light the bonfire. It’s a system of fires set up to be lit across hilltops. This was the warning system.

This is the medieval 3- way handshake: light signal fire- far end sees signal fire. Far end lights signal fire.

That’s how the internet does it. But the internet hadn’t happened yet. There were a few more stops along the way between the signal fire and the internet.

The Post office changed everything. Ben Franklin had a great instinct for marketing, and the story goes that he invented electricity, white wigs and the post office, but the real breakthrough came from Victorian England.

Letters had been around since writing. The way it went is the letter writer would find some lucky person, and ask him to deliver it. The person would be paid by the person receiving the letter.

Remember that old saying “Don’t kill the messenger”? The value of a letter depended a lot on what was in it. There were risks involved.

Sir Rowland Hill invented stamps. England created a set of posts so that deliveries of these prepaid letters could be sent to anyone. And the letters were secret the envelope protected the message from strange eyes.

This was new in the world. Sir Rowland had to vision and got enough cooperation to make it a reality. No one had thought of it before, but once it existed it took off. It was so sensible it spread.

Until it was created, it wasn’t even a concept. It was impossible until one day it was normal. And once it was normal it could be made better and better until we have this internet that erases time and distance.

And we have a system that the whole world is riding on.

This normal amazing this didn’t used to be here. There are things just offstage waiting to be possible. I wonder what is next.

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