Bold and Cautious

Careful and Conservative

The laying of the first Atlantic cables had been an exciting adventure. Once the cables were safely under water, however, radical thinking was out. Cables were seen as expensive corporate property. The system was profitable and had little competition, so there was small incentive for change.

For 75 years the basic elements of the underwater web - materials, manufacturing, laying apparatus, and receiving techniques - remained basically the same. Cable companies formed monopolies to protect their investments. They did not support new research, and when new technology threatened them, they asked the government for protection.

Whether manufactured in Britain, the United States, Germany, or France, a cable's structure was always the same.
Atlantic cables from 1866 to 1923
Atlantic cables from 1866 to 1923
National Museum of American History, from Western Union


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