... a chronology of Telegraph,
the three services reaching across the Atlantic before the
1960 Echo satellite.
Leon Varney, AT&T Network Systems
1837 - Charles Wheatstone patents
1844 - Samuel Morse demonstrates "Morse code"
-- but this is the old version, where a number is assigned to each
possible word. Alfred Vail helps him later with a "variable-length
1845 - General Oceanic telegraph Co. registered in NYC to
link Europe and North America (was this just another stock swindle?)
1847 - Gutta-percha (an inelastic latex) is discovered.
It serves as a reliable insulator in water (reliable, but not great
1849 - England to France telegraph cable goes into
service -- and fails after 8 days.
1850 - Morse patents "clicking" telegraph.
1851 - England-France commercial telegraph service
begins. This one uses gutta-percha, and survives.
1858 - August 18 - First transatlantic telegraph messages
via wire. Cyrus Field (a 35-year-old retired merchant) & John Pender
formed a British company, "The Atlantic Telegraph Co." The cable
deteriorated quickly, and failed after 3 weeks.
1861 - First USA transcontinental telegraph cable begins
1868 - First commercially successful transatlantic
telegraph cable completed between UK and Canada, with land extension to
(Lack of repeaters & cable capacitance in insulation
the cable to 2 words/minute -- signaling speed was inversely
proportional to square of length, per Lord Kelvin's prediction.
A "siphon receiving" mechanism raised that rate to 20 WPM in
Even 2 WPM beat the next fastest method; 10 days by steamship.)
Also, Werner Siemens patents a keyboard perforator for Morse code.
1874 - Baudot invents a practical Time Division
Multiplexing scheme or telegraph. Uses 5-bit codes & 6 time slots --
90 bps max. rate. Both Western Union and Murray would use this as the
basis of multiplex telegraph systems.
1875 - Typewriter invented.
1880 - Oliver Heaviside's analysis shows that a uniform
addition of inductance into a cable would produce distortionless
(It would be 40 more years before Bell Labs devised a
of producing uniform inductance -- "permalloy" magnetic ribbon
winding around a conductor. This would permit 400 WPM on the
New York-Azores Western Union cable in 1925.)
1901 - Donald Murray links typewriter to high-speed
multiplex system, later used by Western Union.[ The
beginnings of Teletype ? ]
1876 - Bell patents telephone.
1877 - Bell attempts to use telephone over the Atlantic
telegraph cable. The attempt fails.
1883 - Test calls placed over five miles of under-water
1884 - San Francisco-Oakland gutta-percha cable begins
1910 - Chesapeake Bay cable is first to use loading
(inductor) coils underwater. Contained 17 pairs of 13-guage conductors.
1915 - USA transcontinental telephone service begins
(Used 2500 tons of 8 guage copper on 180,000 poles, with
loading coils every 8 miles. Three vacuum tube repeaters were initially
used -- by 1918, that was increased to 8 repeaters. In 1920, all loading
was removed and 12 improved repeaters installed. This resulted in doubling
of the bandwidth (to 3 kHz), halving of the loss and a 3.5-fold increase
in propagation speed. The reduction in echo was very obvious.) (A 3-minute
call was $20.70)
1921 - Key West-Havana cable begins service, using
continuous loading via "permalloy" wrap and a blend of rubber
1928 - Design of a continuously-loaded
Newfoundland-Ireland cable begins,
as a joint AT&T-British Post Office project. The
planned loss was 165 dB over 1800 miles. It used 4 layers of Perminvar
tape for loading. Manufacturing in Germany began in 1930. The Depression
caused all work to be abandoned. By the late 1930s, submerged repeaters
and multiplexing promised more circuits at the same cost.
1947 - Polyethylene replaces rubber & gutta-percha as
1949 - "SB" submarine cable developed by
AT&T, using polyethylene + 5% butyl rubber dielectric. The
cable was made up of a core of several dozen steel wires, covered by a
copper tube, then about .2 inches of dielectric and another copper tube,
covered by a plastic jacket and armor.
1950 - Repeatered SB submarine cable used on Key
1952 - Joint AT&T-BPO meetings at Dollis Hill lab to
begin transatlantic cable project.
1953 - Canada (Canadian Overseas Telecommunications
Corp.) joins in project,
along with Eastern Telephone & Telegraph Co. (AT&T's subsidiary in
1955 - June 28, HMTS "Monarch" leaves
Clarenville, Newfoundland laying cable. After weathering Hurricane Ione,
it reaches the Firth of Lorne in Oban, Scotland on September 26.
1956 - June 4, "Monarch" leaves Oban to lay the
other cable (these are
uni-directional repeaters). Final splice at Clarenville, August 14. All
links and channels were tested within 6 weeks. A total of 102 repeaters
were needed on the main cables.
Connections at the North American end:
USA (29 circuits of the 35 originally available) White Plains, NY (via L1
coaxial cable) to Albany, NY or West Haven, Connecticut Albany/West Haven
(via K-carrier) to Portland, Maine Portland (via TD-2 microwave) to Sydney
Mines, Nova Scotia Sydney Mines (via BPO underwater cable) to Clarenville.
Canada (6 circuits) Montreal (via carrier on cable and open wire) to Saint
John, New Brunswick
St. John (via TD-2 microwave) to Sydney Mines (as above).
Sept. 25, 1956 at 11 am EST, Chairman
Craig of AT&T calls Dr. Charles Hill,
Her Majesty's Postmaster General. This initiates the first
long-term transatlantic telephone service, using the TAT-1 cable. [In
1966, after ten years of service, the 1608 tubes in the repeaters had not
suffered a single failure. In fact, more than 100 million tube hours over
all AT&T undersea repeaters were without failure.]
1963 - First cable from New Jersey to England.
1965 - First cable from New Jersey to France.
1920s- Catalina Island telephone
service to mainland via radio system.
Replaced by cable in 1923 so frequencies could be used
For 6 weeks, a "privacy" system was tested, using inverted
and a "wobbling" carrier. Later systems used 4 or 5
re-ordered before transmission. Some bands were inverted.
The band arrangement was changed a few times per minute, in synch.
1921 - British "Marconi Co." offers 3 MHz
calls between England and Norway.
1923 - Amateur radio proves that high frequency radio
can reach long distances (sometimes). Transatlantic transmission
1927 - first commercial transatlantic radio telephone
This uses low frequency radio from RCA's Rocky Point,
Long Island & Rugby, England transmitters. Receivers were in
Houlton, Maine and Cupar, Scotland. The 2800 Hz bandwidth was modulated
to 33 kHz carrier & then 92 kHz, with the lower sideband then at
about 60 kHz. Three 250-watt tubes in parallel amplified this, and fed a
water-cooled final stage of up to 35 tubes, yielding 150-200 kW. Low
frequencies were considered more "reliable". HF radio took 30
dB losses over day-long periods between Deal, New Jersey and New
Southgate, England during magnetic disturbances. On those
same days, LF radio actually gained a couple of dB. (A 3-minute call was
1929 - HF radio begins commercial transatlantic service
(2 circuits!). Transmitters in Lawrenceville, New Jersey and Rugby,
England; receivers in Netcong, New Jersey and Baldock, Hertfordshire.
(Calls used which ever radio system was working "best" at the
time. By 1931, HF was the choice 80% of the time.)
1930 - HF radio service begins to Buenos Aires.
1931 - Dixon/Point Reyes, California radio begins
1932 - Florida sites begin Caribbean & Central
1937 - USA can call 68 countries via HF radio -- 93% of
the world's telephones are interconnected via wires & radio waves.