Cross Section of an Undersea Cable

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A submarine communications cable is a cable laid on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean.

The first submarine communications cables, laid in the 1850s, carried telegraphy traffic. Subsequent generations of cables carried telephone traffic, then data communications traffic. Modern cables use optical fiber technology to carry digital data, which includes telephone, Internet and private data traffic.

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Transatlantic cables of the 19th century consisted of an outer layer of iron and later steel wire, wrapping India rubber, wrapping gutta-percha, which surrounded a multi-stranded copper wire at the core.

Early long-distance submarine telegraph cables exhibited formidable electrical problems. Unlike modern cables, the technology of the 19th century did not allow for in-line repeater amplifiers in the cable.

Large voltages were used to attempt to overcome the electrical resistance of their tremendous length but the cables’ distributed capacitance and inductance combined to distort the telegraph pulses in the line, reducing the cable’s bandwidth, severely limiting the data rate for telegraph operation to 10–12 words per minute.

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In the 1980s, fiber optic cables were developed. A fiber-optic cable comprises multiple pairs of fibers. Each pair has one fiber in each direction.

The optic fiber used in undersea cables is chosen for its exceptional clarity, permitting runs of more than 100 kilometers between repeaters to minimize the number of amplifiers and the distortion they cause.

Image via Proteon on Reddit. Map of undersea cables in 1901 and modern African cable network from Wikimedia Commons.
Quoted text via Wikipedia.

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About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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