Steampunk HFT circa 1869/70: Edison and the quadruplex

Quadruplex Telegraph Rutgers University

(Photo credit: Rutgers University http://edison.rutgers.edu/index.htm )

Not quite 150 years before High Frequency Trading has become the bugaboo beast, dominating markets with enormous (if at times tenuous) order volume in exchange for order flow revenue for the financial exchanges, there was a dramatic technological leap of a greater order of magnitude, courtesy of Thomas Edison, which upended the “old order” on the stock market.

Some years before inventing inventions including the electric incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the electric grid, Edison, arrived in New York from Boston, an itinerant seasoned telegrapher. He also turned out to be the only person capable of repairing a telegraph machine at Law’s Gold & Stock Reporting company, one of the predecssors to Western Union. Hired as a supervisor, Edison would develop the quadruplex, which boosted the telegraph’s signal carrying capacity. The markets would move even further from its buttonwood tree roots, soon after Edison’s arrival in New York.

The NYSE during that time soon transitioned from its TWICE A DAY human auction towards the familiar sight of daily trading during the decade, thanks in part to Edison’s several telegraph innovations, preceding the light bulb’s debut in 1879.

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