Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Transatlantic Cable

Today on Far Future Horizons we present the PBS documentary “The Great Transatlantic Cable” which concerns  Cyrus West Field and his epic struggle to lay the first transatlantic cable between the Old and New Worlds.

In today’s era of high-speed communications and global connectivity it’s difficult to imagine a time when news travelled no faster than it could be delivered in person. A message can now be sent around the world in less time than it takes to read this sentence.

Read Wired's Magnificent Article From January 18, 2011: How the first cable was laid across the Atlantic

But as late as the 1860s the only way to transmit information across oceans was by ship, which meant weeks of lag time between sender and receiver. The completion of the first transatlantic telegraph line in 1866 redefined global communications, It was literally an overnight sensation. But like many so called overnight sensations, the transatlantic cable was  twelve years in the making and five attempts, world’s largest steamship, the SS Great Eastern, and millions of dollars of capital to overcome the long list of catastrophes and human errors that plagued the project from the start.

The Transatlantic Cable represented the Apollo project of its day and this is the story of how the Victorian Internet became truly global.

Cyrus Field
What many people fail to realize is wiring up the world in this way is an ongoing enterprise. The first submarine transatlantic telephone cable system TAT-1 (Transatlantic No. 1) was inaugurated on September 25, 1956, initially carrying 36 telephone channels and the global internet connection was inaugurated by the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) begun in 1996. The Europe-Asia segment was laid in the mid-1990s and was the subject of an extensive article in Wired magazine in December 1996 by Neal Stephenson.
For a comprehensive history of transatlantic telecommunications cables and other telecommunications projections please refer to the following links:
History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network by Bill Glover and the Transatlantic telecommunications cable .

For more information and resources directly connected with this PBS documentary visit American Experience - "The Great Transatlantic Cable".

This American Experience documentary is available for purchase from PBS video

 The American Experience - The Great Transatlantic Cable
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