The first transatlantic telegraph cable

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I think it's amazing that by 1860s the industrial revolution was advanced enough to make huge commercial projects possible:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telegraphy

The first commercially successful transatlantic telegraph cable was successfully completed on 18 July 1866. The lasting connections were achieved by the ship SS Great Eastern, captained by Sir James Anderson.[11] Earlier transatlantic submarine cables installations were attempted in 1857, 1858 and 1865. The 1857 cable only operated intermittently for a few days or weeks before it failed.
That was 150 years ago.

The telegraph lines from Britain to India were connected in 1870 (those several companies combined to form the Eastern Telegraph Company in 1872).
Australia was first linked to the rest of the world in October 1872 by a submarine telegraph cable at Darwin.[12] This brought news reportage from the rest of the world.[13]
 

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  • #2
mgb_phys
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It's amazing that in 1860 there was the same sort of corporate infighting, VC scams, publicity campaigns, spin, discrediting technical experts that are silicon valley today.

For a great history past and present of international cables by a great author see -
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.12/ffglass_pr.html
(ignore the 'cyber' everything stuff in the intro, this is wired, it's very very well written)

For public opinion about how this new fangled telegraph stuff would lead to terrorism, sex, job-losses and people staying in their basements see http://tomstandage.wordpress.com/books/the-victorian-internet/
 
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It's amazing that in 1860 there was the same sort of corporate infighting, VC scams, publicity campaigns, spin, discrediting technical experts that are silicon valley today.
heh, that never changes. The author of the wired magazine article has a funny writing style. He's great.

Information moves, or we move to it. Moving to it has rarely been popular and is growing unfashionable; nowadays we demand that the information come to us. This can be accomplished in three basic ways: moving physical media around, broadcasting radiation through space, and sending signals through wires. This article is about what will, for a short time anyway, be the biggest and best wire ever made.

So it took alot of trial and error to get it right, and huge investment losses.

As of 1861, some 17,500 kilometers of submarine cable had been laid in various places around the world, of which only about 5,000 kilometers worked. The remaining 12,500 kilometers represented a loss to their investors, and most of these lost investments were long cables such as the ones between Britain and the United States and Britain and India (3,500 and 5,600 kilometers, respectively). Understanding why long cables failed was not a trivial problem; it defeated eminent scientists like Rankine and Siemens and was solved, in the end, only by William Thomson
 
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I agree, it was a amazing feat.
 
  • #5
ideasrule
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What's so amazing about making a long copper wire and laying it out on the sea? The 19th century saw much more impressive technological achievements: precise machining, precise scientific instruments, trans-continental radio communication, the internal combustion engine, batteries, electrical generators, telephones, gramophones, synthetic chemistry...
 
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mgb_phys
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What's so amazing about making a long copper wire and laying it out on the sea?
Try visiting the North Atlantic in a sailing ship. It's a risky proposition just getting across alive, doing it while trying to lay out 1000s of tons of cable is decidedly tricky.
 
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What's so amazing about making a long copper wire and laying it out on the sea? The 19th century saw much more impressive technological achievements: precise machining, precise scientific instruments, trans-continental radio communication, the internal combustion engine, batteries, electrical generators, telephones, gramophones, synthetic chemistry...
Wouldn't have happened as fast without the transatlantic telegraph.

Some of the simplest things are the most elegant in their design and construction. Laying a massive cable across an ocean is no easy task compared to sitting in a lab.

I have massive respect for anyone who works in hard labor. I do it in the summers and I am dying to get back into a classroom to get a break.
 
  • #8
I agree - it's impressive! Then, I always find it frightening comparing technology in the home at different periods over the past 100 years. It scares me both to think of handling things in the future, and what i'll miss out on when i'm gone! Humanity is amazing.
 
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  • #10
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In the early Atlantic cables the weight of the conductor was 300 to 400 lb and in the latest one not less than 600 lb a nautical mile.
http://atlantic-cable.com/Article/1895MunroNerves/index.htm" [Broken]
 
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  • #11
mgb_phys
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The grapnel to cut and pull up the cable has changed even less.
 

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