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Western Union abandons telegrams

The Internet strikes again.

First it mostly did away with brick-and-mortar auction houses. Then newspaper classifieds went the way of the Model-T Ford.

And now, thanks to the ubiquity of e-mail and instant messaging, Western Union is getting out of the telegram business, reports LiveScience.

That's like General Motors getting out of the car business. Or AT&T getting out of the phone business.

Well, in any case, after 145 years, Western Union finally decided its little telegram experiment was a dud.

"Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services," the company said on its Web site.

It's too bad, too, because there's nothing quite as heartwarming as that friendly Western Union guy showing up at your door, telegram in hand. I just could never understand why every single person who ever sent me one was directing me to "stop" so much.

In any case, according to LiveScience, the first telegram was sent on May 24, 1844 by Samuel Morse. His message: "What hath God wrought," was sent from Washington to Baltimore. No word on why they didn't just carry the message the 44 miles by horse and buggy.

In later years, telegrams saw much of their messaging market share eaten up by faxes and later e-mail. And when Western Union pulled the plug last week, it left those of us who long for an earlier, simpler era hanging. Whatever will we do now?