They say everything must come to an end, so it must be true. The first telegram was sent in the United States in 1844, and the last telegram might be sent next July 14.
In India, at least, where, after supplying telegraph services for over 100 years, the state-run communications office, BSNL, will forever discontinue this system of communications that in the 19th and 20th centuries kept contact alive from one end of the globe to the other.
It is true that, for a long time now, users barely resort to the telegram, especially in the First World, where companies like Western Union eliminated that service in the United States because of its lack of use in the era of great technological advances.
Even in the poorest countries mobile telephony has taken over, with text messages and SMS popping up on cell-phone screens every hour of the day.
At a time when young people stay connected day and night through social networks like Facebook, it no longer makes sense to enter those establishments where a telegraph machine, a descendant of the device first used by Samuel Morse, emits electrical signals to send messages.
Nevertheless, the news that telegrams are now a vestige of the past reminds us once more that the world we knew is vanishing. Except for the scant correspondence that we find in our mailboxes, containing receipts or advertising, today it is rare to receive a personal letter.
The concept that we may find an envelope with a long and intimate epistle is something out of the past, yellowing among the pages of some forgotten book.
Even the e-mails, which ended up replacing the letters we wrote all our lives, are now seen as antiques by a generation that condenses and exhibits its experiences with pictures on Instagram or brief postings on a virtual wall. The telegram, which during two major wars last century enabled us to keep track of our loved ones at the front, is today as obsolete as smoke signals.
Reading in the papers that in less than a month we’ll hear the swan song of telegrams, I remembered that I still keep one telegram that a good friend sent me in 1987 on the occasion of the birth of my first daughter. The brief missive, sent from Spain to welcome the baby, was placed in a photo album as a reminder of a loving gesture. Now, that old telegram is a relic of a time that becomes increasingly remote.
When Morse sent his first encoded communication from Washington to Baltimore on May 24, 1844, he used a quote from the Bible: “What hath God wrought?”
Today, after more than a century, someone in a telegraph office in India will provide an answer to that existential question: We have taken a dizzying leap in the technology that has rendered obsolete such revolutionary inventions as the telegraph.
The day will come when we’ll have no memory of those telegrams. STOP.