TODAY'S HISTORY LESSON: the oldest known instance of a groupchat dates back to the 1880s.
In the 1880s, farmers discovered that they could connect their phones to their barbed wire fences, and create a rudimentary communications network. Up to 20 people could be connected at once, but due to the lack of any numbers, if you made a call, EVERYONE'S phone would ring. Many farmers found that this actually helped with the loneliness and depression associated with the isolation of farming.
"Hey so I was thinking of using this new fertilizer"
"Oh really? What kind is it?"
"Wait, NO DON'T DO IT!"
Honestly, I have to imagine it was a lot like that "cave memes" Tumblr post, just with farming
I'm dead fucking serious, this is completely true
@sean @Dayglochainsaw It's true. I grew up in rural Canada and my parents first phones were over the fenced, and they were on a party line until the early 1980s. They shared a telephone line with three other homes so I grew up with "group chat". We each had our own phone number but all the numbers rang all our phones just with different ring tones.
And if my oldest sister was on the phone any of the neighbours could pick up and listen in so she had to censor herself lol.
@sean @Dayglochainsaw by 1981 my sister was married and in a home of her own, and Alberta Government Telephones added lines to the CO, so our party line was split in two so we only had to share the line with an old bachelor who only used the phone on Sundays. Yay!
We technically weren't supposed to do it but we got a 300 baud modem and started dialling into BBSes in the city, hoping the neighbour wouldn't pick up during a big 64k download and terminate the connection lol
@Dayglochainsaw that's a party line. my grandparents had one before the phone switch system became more widespread. there was a different ring for each neighbour, so you knew who should pick up.
@Dayglochainsaw this is like that gibson quote about the street finding its own uses for things, except the street is several farms
@Dayglochainsaw That's really neat.
@Dayglochainsaw This reminds me that some people I went to highschool with still had party lines (like you would call a number and it would ring all the houses on the street). A lot of rural areas were setup this way back in the day.
@Dayglochainsaw this sounds pretty cool — do you have a source?
@Dayglochainsaw In the early days of Australian television, rural users could connect to the paddock fence to pick up a tv signal.
@Dayglochainsaw groupchats, friendship, farming, and barbed wire, metal af
@Dayglochainsaw lmao my mom lived in a 300 person farming town and this is how phones worked there as late as the 50s.
@Dayglochainsaw computer sciencist Claude Shannon used barbed wire telegraph as a boy - https://kottke.org/17/08/yes-barbed-wire-fenced-cows-but-also-provided-telecommunications
@Dayglochainsaw fun fact this later was integrated into the Bell System as “farmer line”, where the local exchange would terminate on customer-owner outside plant, usually a party line on barbed wire serving several customers. It’s still on the tariff in some places, so there are probably still people using farmer lines.
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