Lat 25⁰ 0.795’N Lon 055⁰ 05.404’E

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A Brief History

  • 1840 : Telegraph cables start to be laid across rivers and harbours, but initially had a limited life

  • 1843-1845 : Gutta-percha (a type of B gum found in a Malaysian tree) was brought to Britain and starts to replace other materials that were used for electrical insulation, thus extending the life of the cable

  • 1850 : 1st international telegraph cable laid between UK and France, followed by a stronger cable in 1851

  • 1858 : 1st transatlantic cable laid Great Eastern off Newfoundland This failed after 26 days and another was laid in 1866

  • 1884 : 1st underwater telephone cable – San Francisco to Oakland 1920s: Short-wave radio superseded cables for voice and telex traffic, but capacity limited and affected by atmosphere

  • 1956 : Invention of repeaters (1940s) and their use in TAT-1, the first transatlantic telephone cable, began an era of rapid and reliable transoceanic communications

  • 1961 : Beginning of a high quality global network

  • 1986 : 1st international fibre-optic cable connects Belgium to the UK

  • 1988 : TAT-8, the 1st transoceanic fibre-optic cable system, connects the USA to the UK and France

Comparing Old and New

Early Cable Systems:

  • 1866: 1st transatlantic cable carried telegraph messages at seven words a minute and cost £20 for 20 words
  • 1948: Telegram cost reduced to 4 pence a word for transmission across the Atlantic
  • 1956: 1st transatlantic telephone cable (TAT-1) initially had capacity of 36 telephone calls at a time. Each call cost US$12 for the first 3 minutes

Modern Cable Systems:

  • 1988: 1st transatlantic fibre-optic cable, TAT-8, carried 40,000 simultaneous phone calls, 10 times that of the last copper-based telephone cable
  • Today, a single cable can carry millions of telephone calls, together with huge amounts video and internet data