The impact on physical movement and trade
The telegraph made little direct impact on most people's lives. It was a 'specialist' technology, owned by companies and operated by professionals. But the indirect impact of the telegraph was huge. Things started working more quickly and efficiently, starting with the railways and quickly extending to the transport of goods and materials.
The rise of telecommunications with the telegraph meant the new faster transport could be harnessed and exploited in markets that moved more efficiently and rapidly. For the first time, detailed information about shipments could be sent faster than the goods themselves.
Knowing when a ship or train would arrive, and what was on it, was market sensitive information - a message with financial value. This made people understand there was real value in knowledge - and in knowing things first.
But the greatest impact was in the creation of international markets in stocks and commodities. These markets moved faster. Sometimes that was a recipe for disaster.
The impact on society
Each new communications technology has had a greater impact on society than the one before. The telegraph changed society indirectly, by transforming the workings of government and industry. But the telephone and radio had direct impacts on people's working and social lives.
The electric telegraph brought information transmission time down from weeks or days to hours and minutes. The faster flow of news from around the world created a new market for daily newspapers. Feeding these newspapers with much of their news was a new breed of businesses for the telegraph age - the wire agencies.
The telephone was also slow to make much impact on social and family life - but when it did, the impact was profound.
At the same time, however, it has also allowed them to plan more carefully and has made new types of crime possible.
The Second World War was the first global conflict to be broadcast, with populations following the course of the war via their radio sets. Propaganda became a weapon of war, fighting to maintain the morale of one's own population - whilst undermining that of the enemy. Later still, television news created dramatic moments in time that were shared by millions.
Television also enabled global participation and celebration in world festivals and sporting events. By the end of the 20th century, we felt as if we really were living in a Global Village.
The impact on working life
Telecommunications was the cutting edge business of the late 19th century and the foremost growth industry of the past 100 years. From zero in 1837, it expanded to become one of the biggest businesses in the world by the mid 20th century.
Behind the power of the dial or button, lay huge communities of people who kept the networks running. Here are some of their stories.
First as operators, then as supervisors, and now in every area of the business, women have played a leading role in telecommunications.
Health and safety has been a major preoccupation, with campaigns aimed at users and customers - but more particularly at staff.
Just as The Post Office used to employ 1% of British workers, now call centres have taken over as the most common working experience. Why are there so many of them? Why is it that almost every organisation now uses them?
Impact on government
Telecommunications has had a wide and profound impact on the way governments operate. By the 1860s, the telegraph had begun to change the machinery of government, making it easier for administrators to exercise central control, and changing the relationship between nations. Before long, the advent of fast news and mass information had also begun to make governments more accountable to public opinion.
As the machinery of government became increasingly reliant on the telegraph, so administrations around the world came to understand the strategic power of communications.
In peace and war
With telecommunications, the further you go, the more dramatic the impact. Thus the telegraph, telephone and wireless altered the relationship between communities and nations more dramatically than the relationships within them. Perhaps the greatest impact of the telegraph was the way it changed diplomacy, power politics and the balances between peace and war.
This meant any messages could be intercepted - and deciphered if you had the skill. As the telegraph and radio became increasingly integral to operations of war from the 1860s onwards, so a new branch of military strategy evolved - the art of telecommunications interception and deception.
There is an ongoing war being fought in cyberspace - between those who want to see all Net traffic transparent to law enforcement and other agencies of the state - and those who believe that absolute privacy and security are not only fundamental rights but also commercially vital to the future development of the Internet.
Shrinking the world
The advent of live radio and television link-ups between continents has helped people become better acquainted internationally. As the technology has evolved it has brought ordinary people together from different parts of the world to make it a smaller place.
We now share in global shocks, global tragedies, global responses and global parties.
Being able to share television images and events with a global audience of two billion or more completely transforms the scale of international events - making each one potentially world-changing.
The new technology allows families to remain in contact, as they become more widely dispersed. At the same time, businesses have expanded their supply and customer bases beyond recognition.
From the 19th century onwards, this awareness has had an increasingly powerful effect on international politics and society.
The Internet has shortened the link between stimulus and response, enabling ordinary people to share feelings, ideas and reactions to events within minutes. It's also created a network over which far more than words can be exchanged.
The Information Society defines everything: education, family, work and culture. It changes the way we think about what we do and how we relate to others.