Transatlantic Cable: Connecting Two Worlds

Transatlantic Cable

The Transatlantic cable, laid across the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, made communication much quicker between North America and Europe. Prior to the Transatlantic cable, communication was only possible via taking a ship across the ocean.

There were five attempts to lay the cable- in 1857, two in 1858, in 1865 and in 1866. The first attempt to lay the cable in 1857 was unsuccessful, but an attempt in 1858 led to the first official telegram communication. The first telegram, which took 17 hours to send, was a message from Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan. It took a daunting 2 minutes to send a single letter across. This cable would later fail when excess voltage to the line was applied in hopes for a quicker transmission.

The most successful cable of the era was laid in 1866. This Tranatlantic cable could send 8 words per minute. By the 20th century, cable transmission reached 120 words per minute through use of relays which amplified the signal along the way.

Transmitting messages, which used to take atleast a week between the two continents by ship, was drastically cut with the creation of the Transatlantic cable. It was a huge technological step forward for its time. Two of the original successful cables ceased to work in 1872 and 1877, but by then there were others working with greater capacity. It was not until the 1960’s that the first satellites offered a serious alternative to the cable lines.