A Series of Tubes

October 11, 2011 - 0 Comments

In 2006, the Internet was infamously described as “a series of tubes” during a debate over Network Neutrality.  However, a recent infographic may give a bit more credibility to that often teased comment:

“it turns out that the World Wide Web really is more like a series of tubes than anything else–at least when it comes to the problem of getting data packets across oceans. The Submarine Cable Map makes these undersea connections clear, complete with color-coded interactive visuals.”

Bridging Continents: The First International Network

While reading this article, I was reminded of my trip to Ireland a few years back with my wife and two close friends. One of our destinations while driving the Ring of Kerry was Skellig Michael, a 7th Century Gaelic monastery on a remote island. While on the mainland, we stopped at Valentia Island, which, unknown to us, was the site of the first Transatlantic telegraph cable. In 1858, this 2130 mile length of copper wire successfully connected Valentia Island, Ireland to Newfoundland and ushered in a new age of electronic communication.

The first message sent was: “Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men.”

Even though the original transmissions were very slow by today’s standards – it took 2 minutes to transmit one character – it was a great technological leap forward, and the benefits of this leap are still evident today in this series of tubes we call the Internet.

Without manufacturing…

In a previous blog I wrote about the importance of manufacturing in our daily lives and how the world wouldn’t be the same without it. I often forget that manufacturing has played this role not only in my lifetime but also throughout history.

How would this feat of engineering and technology have been accomplished if it weren’t for the manufacturing industries of its day? A length of cable that large could only be built and dragged across the Atlantic Ocean with the products of the industrial revolution. In fact, if you look at just about any feat of human engineering, from the Pyramids of Giza to landing a man on the moon, you’ll see that it stands on the shoulders of its contemporary manufacturing industry.

Another reason to visit Valentia

Another interesting fact about Valentia Island is that it is home to extremely rare, pre-dinosaur, 358 million year-old fossilized Tetrapod footprints, which are the oldest evidence of four-legged vertebrates. There are only 4 Tetrapod tracks known in the world.

Valentia is only 7 miles long and 2 miles across. Talk about a lot of history on one tiny island!

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