Gallery: An illustrated history of the transoceanic cable

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Coaxial Cable, 8-Tube (exploded view), 1946

A fanned-out section of an 8-tube coaxial cable. One pair of these tubes was capable of transmitting 600 simultaneous phone conversations or one television program in one direction.

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Lloyd Espenschied and Herman A. Affel, [ca. 1949]

Inventors of coaxial cable, Lloyd Espenschied (left) and Herman A. Affel, examine sections of coaxial cable. In 1936, AT&T put in service the first coaxial cable for television use in New York City.

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Golden Gate Straits – Submarine Cable, 1909

Splicing the submarine cable that stretched across the Golden Gate Straits, San Francisco, California.

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Coaxial Cable, 22-Tube (exploded view), 1970

A 22-tube coaxial cable carried up to 90,000 telephone calls simultaneously.

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Transatlantic Cable (TAT-1) Under Construction, 1955

When AT&T opened TAT-1 in 1956, the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable, the initial capacity was 36 calls at a time. Since trans-Atlantic service opened in 1927, calls had traveled across the ocean via radio waves. But cables provided much higher signal quality, avoided atmospheric interference and offered greater capacity and security.

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Transpacific Cable (TPC-1) on Japan Shoreline, 1964

AT&T opened TPC-1, the first submarine telephone cable across the Pacific in 1964. It went from Japan to Hawaii, where it connected to two cables linking Hawaii with the mainland. This brought the same improvements to trans-Pacific service that TAT-1 had brought to trans-Atlantic service in 1956.

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TAT-8 Cable Sample, 1988

In 1988, AT&T laid and opened TAT-8, the first fiber-optic submarine telephone cable across the Atlantic. It had a capacity equivalent to 40,000 calls, 10 times that of the last copper cable.

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Fiber Optic, 1976

Loops of hair thin glass fiber, illuminated by laser light, represent the transmission medium for lightwave systems. Typically, twelve fibers were embedded between two strips of plastic in a flat ribbon, and as many as 12 ribbons are stacked in a cable that can carry more than 40,000 voice channels.

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Fiber Optic Installation Chicago, 1977

In downtown Chicago, AT&T installed the first fiber optic cable in a commercial communications system.

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SCARAB, 1980

SCARAB (Submersible Craft Assisting Repair and Burial) is lowered into the sea for a test run from the deck of the cable ship, C.S. Long Lines. The craft’s two mechanical arms, used for gripping cable on the sea bottom, project at the left of the craft. From the side of the ship there is a large arm (crane) holding a big iron object that is going to be put into the water.

Thanks to Brad and Seth at Fleishman and especially to the kick ass archivists at AT&T.

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5 Responses to Gallery: An illustrated history of the transoceanic cable

  1. Downpressor says:

    I love the kids watching the Japan cable being put in. I wonder if I could find any of those people still living in that area?

  2. spiregrain says:

    You may also enjoy Neal Stephenson’s Wired piece on transoceanic cables. You may also enjoy Neal Stephenson’s Wired piece on transoceanic cables.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.12/ffglass.html

  3. danilo says:

    This technology boggles the mind. Even the most primitive examples are so crazy clever while seemingly impossible to deploy. Reminds me of this, about the Brooklyn Bridge:

    http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2009/03/23/the_makers_of_things.html

    It’s so essential to our survival that we build bridges that we come up with impossibly effective solutions over and over again.

  4. danilo says:

    This technology boggles the mind. Even the most primitive examples are so crazy clever while seemingly impossible to deploy. Reminds me of this, about the Brooklyn Bridge:

    http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2009/03/23/the_makers_of_things.html

    It’s so essential to our survival that we build bridges that we come up with impossibly effective solutions over and over again.

  5. Anonymous says:

    very nice post on blogs

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