India’s telegram service is dead … not so the telegram

There are quite a few countries in which the telegram lives, including the U.S.

No matter how often my press colleagues predict this or that technology will be a "killer" of this or that one, the fact is that technologies as a rule do not die sudden or violent deaths, they fade away, sometimes over a very, very long time.


So it is even with the ancient telegram, the last of which originating from India's state-run telecommunications company will be sent on Monday, ending a run of 163 years. An Associated Press story notes:

The fact that the telegram survived this long is a testament to how deeply woven it is into the fabric of Indian society. In much of the rest of the world, telegrams long ago were relegated to novelty services used by people who wanted to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

Long ago? Though perhaps its lifetime was extended by nostalgia buffs, Western Union didn't stop sending telegrams until 2006, not that long ago even in Internet time. And when Western Union got out of the telegram business, a company called iTelegram took it over.

(Geek-themed Meme of the Week Archive)

In fact, the telegram is alive and well in many places across the globe, as an abridged version of this Wikipedia rundown shows:

  • In Australia, Australia Post closed its telegram service on 7 March 2011. In the Victorian town of Beechworth, visitors can send telegrams to family members or friends from the Beechworth Telegraph Station.
  • In Bahrain, Batelco still offers telegram services. They are thought to be more formal than an email or a fax, but less so than a letter. So should a death or anything of importance occur, telegrams would be sent.
  • In Belgium, Belgacom still offers telegram services within the country and internationally.
  • In Canada, Telegrams Canada still offers telegram services.
  • itelegram
  • In Hungary, Magyar Posta still offers telegram services.
  • In Israel, the Israel Postal Company still offers telegram services. Telegrams may be sent via the internet or by a telephone operator. Illustrated telegrams are available for speacial occasions.
  • In Japan, NTT provides a telegram (denpou) service used mainly for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, graduations, etc.
  • In Mexico, telegrams are still used as a low-cost service for people who cannot afford or do not have access to e-mail.
  • In Russia, Central Telegraph still offers telegram service. "Regular" or "Urgent" telegrams can be sent to any address in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. So called "Stylish" telegrams printed on an artistic postcard are also available.
  • In Sweden, TeliaSonera still delivers telegrams as nostalgic novelty items, rather than a primary means of communication.
  • In Switzerland, Unitel Telegram Services took over telegram services from the national PTTs. Telegrams can still be sent to and from most countries.
  • In the United Kingdom, the international telegram service formerly provided by British Telecom was sold in 2003 to an independent company, Telegrams Online, which promotes the use of telegrams as a retro greeting card or invitation.
  • In the United States, Western Union closed its telegram service on 27 January 2006. Western Union's telegram service was acquired by iTelegram, an independent company. Telegrams are also offered by other companies such as OpenText and American Telegram.


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