Communications Under the Seas
The Evolving Cable Network and Its Implications
312 pp., 6 x 9 in, 7 b&w illus., 4 tables
- Published: June 19, 2009
The technology of undersea communications, from stranded-wire telegraph cables in the 1850s to fiber-optic cables at the end of the twentieth century, and its social, political, and economic impact.
By the end of the twentieth century, fiber-optic technology had made possible a worldwide communications system of breathtaking speed and capacity. This amazing network is the latest evolution of communications technologies that began with undersea telegraph cables in the 1850s and continued with coaxial telephone cables a hundred years later. Communications under the Seas traces the development of these technologies and assesses their social, economic, and political effects. If we cannot predict the ultimate consequences of today's wired world—its impact on economic markets, free expression, and war and peace—or the outcome of the conflict between wired and wireless technology, we can examine how similar issues have been dealt with in the past. The expert contributors to this volume do just that, discussing technical developments in undersea cables (and the development of competing radio and satellite communications technology), management of the cables by private and public interests, and the impact on military and political activities. Chapters cover such topics as the daring group of nineteenth-century entrepreneurs who wove a network of copper wires around the world (and then turned conservative with success); the opening of the telegraphic network to general public use; the government- and industry-forced merger of wireless and cable companies in Britain; and the impact of the cable network on diplomacy during the two world wars.
Bernard Finn and Daqing Yang have assembled a world-class team of scholars focused on the history and geopolitical and economic implications of transoceanic cable telecommunications. This is a volume in which any reader can find challenging, fundamental questions about the co-evolution of technology, the nation state, and global capitalism. I can't imagine a better way to provoke debate and meaningful discussion than to assign the chapters in this book to students and begin with the simple question, 'So what do some ribbons of copper and glass on the bottom of the sea tell us about technology, commerce, empire, and geopolitics?'
David A. Hounshell, Professor of Technology and Social Change, Carnegie Mellon University
The excellent contributions to this volume help to underscore the need for additional research and publications to fill out the global map. Finn, Yang, and their colleagues have set a high standard.
Technology and Culture