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 its telegram service, bringing the long era of Indian telegraphy from a dash ... to a full stop.
The shuttering comes seven years after Western Union ended its telegram service -- and nearly 170 years after Samuel Morse sent the United States's first telegraphic messages, between Washington and Baltimore, in 1844.
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," Shamim Akhtar, general manager of BSNL's telegraph services, told the Christian Science Monitor.