This review of James Gleick's new book, The Information, has this wonderful passage about the telegraph and human frugality, ie pay less to telegraph your message by abbreviating the words.. the early SMS - in the late 18th century no less!
In a series of chapters, Gleick recounts oft-told tales about the invention of writing systems and the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary along with the stories of lesser-known structures of coding and communication. In the late 18th century, long before Samuel Morse, for example, the Chappe brothers of France invented the first “telegraph” in the form of a network of hundreds of towers topped by semaphore arms with which the government could relay messages from Paris to Bordeaux in less than a day, weather permitting. One French deputy described the Chappes’ ingenious signaling system as one of the great inventions of history, along with the compass, printing and gunpowder. And once the Chappes’ optical telegraph had been replaced by the more democratic and versatile electric version, frugal customers hit on the similarly ingenious expedient of using economical abbreviations for common messages, like “gmlet” for “give my love to” — texting avant la lettre.