Signals Under the Ocean
15 artifacts in this set
Telegraphs could be sent wherever wires could be hung in the 1850s, but hardwiring signals between transoceanic continents required a feat of engineering. In 1858, a team laid underwater cable across the Atlantic and sent a successful telegram. Though the cable soon failed, pieces were sold as souvenirs in Charles Tiffany's renowned jewelry store as symbols of speed and progress.
Celebrations surrounding the installation of the 1858 transatlantic telegraph cable were short-lived. Three weeks after it was laid, it succeeded, faltered--and then failed. In 1866, a second cable was installed by the SS Great Eastern. This cable was more durable and able to send messages eighty times faster than the original.
In July of 1918 a submarine telephone cable was laid between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, uniting Michigan's Northern and Southern Peninsulas. The 24,000-foot cable was capable of handling 21 simultaneous calls. After a successful installation, the crew onboard the cable-laying ship celebrated with toasts of grape juice due to Prohibition restrictions in Michigan.
In 1921, the first submarine telephone and telegraph cable was laid between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba. These cables represent the rugged shore end and thinner deep sea section of this communications link. Even with difficult diplomatic relations, AT&T continued service over US-Cuba cables until the late-1980s, when all existing cables were either cut or too damaged for use.
This publication contains the article "Trouble Shooting the Atlantic Telegraph Cables." It discusses the difficulty of maintaining the large network of undersea communication cables. Safety challenges include: uneven topography on the ocean floor, interference from marine life, and trawling fishing boats accidentally severing cables. Damaged cables are found using echolocation and electrical equipment and drawn to the surface for repair.
The opening of the TAT-1 (Transatlantic No. 1) cable in 1956 made it possible to place long-distance telephone calls across the Atlantic Ocean. Until this cable was installed, voice transmission over long distances occurred through an unreliable and expensive radio relay system. The TAT-1 responded to an increased demand for instant communication, establishing the first accessible international telephone service.
This vacuum tube amplifier was designed to withstand severe conditions, as part of a submarine telephone cable. They were first installed and tested in 1950 as part of the Havana-Key West cable, and later the Newfoundland-Scotland transatlantic cable. Tubes like these turned weak signals into robust ones for over twenty years, aiding in reliable long-distance telephone communication.
The late arrival of the Internet to Cuba is complicated, fueled by political and technological issues. In July of 2015, accessibility somewhat improved with the creation of 35 public Wi-Fi spots. Previous use relied upon slow satellite and dial-up connections. Now citizens can purchase one of these cards, allowing an hour of improved Internet access with a laptop or smartphone.