Cory Doctorow at 7:18 am Wed, Jun 15, 2011
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sc-tech: A Map of Undersea Cables from ...1901 !
(via Super Punch!)
Not to be picky but how can undersea cables go overland?
I’m kinda just impressed they had transoceanic undersea cables in 1901!
Well, satellite coverage was a bit spotty back then…
Surprisingly similar to today, except of course for transpacific cables from Japan and Singapore (or East Asia in general) to America for obvious reasons.
Here’s some ‘context’ for the map: “History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network”
With more history in the parent page. Note that 1901 is only 35 years after Cyrus Field, after many many tries, laid the first cable (that kept working) in 1866 (it worked for 100 years). Such cables cost a princely sum at first (400 miles cost Â£36,000 … $5 million today). Explains the hefty investment needed to send a telegram.
Book: â€œA Thread Across The Ocean: The Heroic Story Of The Transatlantic Cableâ€, John Steele Gordon.
Here’s some context
with clippings of telegraphic history from that decade; I assembled this as part of research for a talk, and find it useful to go back to. The categories are arranged decade by decade.
PBS’ History Detectives had a segment about transatlantic cables that I found interesting: http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/investigation/transatlantic-cable/
Michael Schiffer’s book “Power Struggles” provides some wonderful context in its description of the history behind the first transatlantic line and its relation to broader changes in electrical science and the 19th century economy.
Fuck Los Angeles.
I had no idea the global undersea telecom network was already this extensive in 1901. That means you could probably have contacted someone within a day or so, regardless of their location in the world … provided they had either a phone or a wire office nearby, of course.
That had to boggle a few minds, back then.
Actually the global undersea telecommunications network had already existed for several decades by 1901. London and Paris were linked by telegraph as early as 1852. The first functional transatlantic telegraph cable was laid down around 1865-66. By 1876 the entire British Empire, from Canada, to the U.K., to India, to Australia, and to New Zealand, was all on a single global telegraph network, and a message could be sent across the empire in a matter of a few hours. By 1900 this was already old technology – it was the drive to overcome the limitations of this wired system that was one of the factors motivating inventors in the 1890s and early 1900s to develop wireless (radio) communications.
As royaltrux mentioned, Tom Standage’s book “The Victorian Internet” is a wonderful account of the development of this first global electronic network.
This was about the time that the first Antarctic explorations were taking place. They weren’t really sure that there was a continent down there, it might have just been a few unconnected islands. But Darwin’s theory of evolution suggested that there must be another as-yet undiscovered land mass. Based on the distribution of two fossil plant species on two other continents, it was clear that they must have evolved from a common ancestor, in some other place (since fossils of this common ancestor had not been found).
Which is why the whole of Antarctica isn’t on this map, just the few parts that has been explored up to that date. And fossils of that hypothesised plant were indeed found there.
Very mention of an Antarctic Ocean, or does that go in and out of style like Pluto? https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Southern_Ocean
QRP is great fun but I like building them more than actually operating over them, unless I am out camping or on a bicycle tour with a bit of wire and a pack of AA batteries.
rebdav, not me I like operating more than building. Same with RC planes when I was into them – flying over building. Even my Elecraft K1 was purchased prebuilt. But sending and receiving CW with a Vibroplex is transcendental. 73
how did they set this up ?
to which depth ?
There are quite a lot of cables that land on the west coast of Ireland, a member of the Irish Government has suggested salvaging the copper in Irish waters to raise some much needed cash. http://thepressnet.com/2011/06/12/sale-of-scrap-copper-telecommunications-cables-to-help-the-states-finances/
I own the original of this map (and many others) and the image is taken from my site on the history of undersea cables, which go all the way back to 1850 and now carry over 99% of all traffic worldwide. Satellite traffic is just a minor blip – but essential in emergencies and for locations where cables + landlines can’t reach. My site has almost a thousand pages on cable history over the last 160 years.
Cory: always late to the party
This is a thing of beauty.
Two books I would recommend: The Victorian Internet and A Thread Across the Ocean. Good stuff. I spent two hours honing my Morse Codes skills last night in the N.A. QRP CW Club (NAQCC) sprint, lots of fun.
Obligatory link to Neal Stephensonâ€™s fantastic essay â€œMother Earth Mother Boardâ€œ from 1996: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.12/ffglass_pr.html
If you are interested in more of these maps, you can find more here, and they are very high resolution scans with a viewer. I’ve spent hours just admiring the maps on that site.
Outstanding link –thanks for that!
There’s a wonderful book about the history of telecommunications (mostly transoceanic cables and satellites) by Arthur C. Clarke: How the world was one.
A much better cover for Cryptonomicon.
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