How The First Ever Telecoms Scam Worked

  • Published on: 01 October 2018
  • In the 1830s, two French brothers, François and Joseph Blanc, pulled off the first telecoms scam in history. The optical telegraph, a line of semaphore towers stretching from hilltop to hilltop, was for government use only: but something as simple as the law wasn't going to get in their way.

    Thanks to Victoria Harrison for all her research and translation skills! Pictures of the original documents are uploaded here:

    CG effects by Mat Hill:

    I'm at
    on Twitter at
    on Facebook at
    and on Instagram as tomscottgo
  • Runtime : 5:49
  • tom scott tomscott optical telegraph semaphore line blanc brothers François and Joseph Blanc high frequency trading hft stock exchange paris stock exchange financial fraud things you might not know


  • Tom Scott
    Tom Scott   1 years ago

    Quick tip if you ever go to France: don't let the rental car company give you a free upgrade to an SUV. SUVs do not fit well on tiny rural French roads.

  • Tim Watkins
    Tim Watkins   6 hours ago

    Fascinating story, as usual, Tom! I don't know how you do it...I just enjoy!

  • Nhoc
    Nhoc   2 days ago

    Names should not be translated.

  • Hypotheticlz
    Hypotheticlz   1 weeks ago

    Wow! You’re in cranham Upminster at the beginning, live just around the corner!

  • No Name
    No Name   2 weeks ago

    Tower : ⬆↗↖⬇↙↘Somewhere is France : STONKS 📈💹🔼

  • 0nirayju
    0nirayju   2 weeks ago

    I'm from Bordeaux and I had never seen one of those, or even heard of that. Loved it

  • Nhật Anh Bùi
    Nhật Anh Bùi   3 weeks ago

    1:20 How can they be so close? And how can they get translate that vague information? Why don't they just use copper wire?

  • Muhammad Najmul Haque
    Muhammad Najmul Haque   1 months ago

    Why is this considered a scam ? Yes a few people were bribed, to use a government network, but no individual public member was defrauded , proven by the trial.

  • dr moist
    dr moist   1 months ago

    This videoDistance: MilesSpeed: Km/h

  • Jack Doyle
    Jack Doyle   1 months ago

    “Frankwah and Joseph Blonk”“I love how French names sound so classy”

  • Lazy guy wachting YT
    Lazy guy wachting YT   1 months ago

    I've been watching for a long time, I never knew I wanted this info, but I like it

  • Jonathan Harston
    Jonathan Harston   1 months ago

    At "after it was discovered, the French Government..." I was expected "opened up the network to commercial traffic, just like the postal system" but typical Frenchies, no, "banned all non-government use of the network". Sheesh! A monopoly goldmine just sitting there on hundreds of hills.

  • neonwired
    neonwired   1 months ago

    i'm not sure i'd call that a 'scam' necessarily.

  • Steven Victor Neiman
    Steven Victor Neiman   1 months ago

    I personally think that high frequency trading should be banned by making the stock exchange run only once every 15 minutes. Sure, there'd still be people using computers to make money, but it would be at a fraction the rate and it would at least reward the best models rather than the fastest lines.If someone can literally say that their job is to harvest money from the economy, the system is broken.

  • Liam
    Liam   2 months ago

    It's the Clacks from discworld!

  • Yo wut
    Yo wut   2 months ago

    Funny thing, that merchant owns every central bank in the world now. How amazing is that

  • Jonathon Ward
    Jonathon Ward   2 months ago

    Very clever! They were dodgy AF...but very clever nonetheless!

  • Kimmo Laine
    Kimmo Laine   2 months ago

    If my memory serves, The Count of Monte Cristo has a segment about this sort of forging the message sent via relays. That was published in 1844-1846, so was it inspired by real events?

  • Joseph Huckaby
    Joseph Huckaby   2 months ago

    The main thing I got from this is that the Clacks network is real.

  • Teflon Smile
    Teflon Smile   2 months ago

    They now create apps like Robinhood 📐🇺🇲💥 they delay financial information for their gain, claiming they are protecting "liquidity" and its 100% legal 🇺🇲😉🧠🤣

  • michael lavery
    michael lavery   2 months ago

    Is this not related to the modern day misinterpretated science paper that they found a way to send signals faster than the speed of light? Some financial institution invested billions into it only to discover someone did their sums wrong.

  • Z's Life
    Z's Life   2 months ago

    Honestly who'd vote for Tom Scott as Prime Minister? I legit feel like this dude could put UK on the top of the world.

  • WhAT d0
    WhAT d0   2 months ago

    1:17 No one:Me: Ah yes, like the survey corps with the smoke signals in attack on titan

  • Hubert Blastinoff
    Hubert Blastinoff   2 months ago

    I'd like alt-history that explores what the Romans could've done with technology like that...

  • Garnet Nard
    Garnet Nard   2 months ago

    This scam is actually one of the ways Dante’s exacts revenge in his enemies in The Count Of Monte Cristo.

  • laernulieNlaernulieNlaernulieN

    It sounds like a line of people shouting the message to the next guy down the line. What if one station got it slightly wrong? Or you could just stand there and intercept the message

  • B Lisles
    B Lisles   2 months ago

    The Clacks!!! Or kinda.