The cable that wired the world
This paper was published in 2016 within the Journal of the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals (Volume 10, Part 2, Pages 41-45) and is made available here with their kind permission.
Today we take global communications for granted. Whether we are telephoning someone in America, sending an email to Australia, or simply browsing the web, we accept that our global telecommunications networks will make it all happen. Nevertheless, life hasn’t always been this convenient and in 2016 we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of a significant event that proved to be the catalyst for a telecommunications revolution that laid the foundations of the global connectivity that we all enjoy today. For it was in 1866 that the first fully-operational telecommunications cable was laid under the Atlantic Ocean between the UK and Newfoundland, thereby linking the so-called old and new worlds. Now over 95% of our global telephone and Internet traffic is carried on fibre optic cables laid under the world’s oceans. However, as is so often the case, the successes enjoyed in 1866 were the culmination of several years of engineering endeavour and the need to overcome major failures and financial crises.