In the nineteenth century people connected America and Europe with a trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. This strikes me as an amazing feat. How did they do that? What route did it take? How deep could the wire go without snapping from the strain? How were they repaired if they broke? And although telegraphy has fallen out of favor, how often are intercontinental cables used today?
This article by Neil Stephenson in Wired Magazine is excellent: with a GPS, he tracks the laying of a cable from Europe to Asia, along the way writing about everything connected to it in space and history. It answers all of your questions and goes into volumes of tangential areas. Totally fascinating.
I was reading a book about Presidential trivia. The trans-Atlantic cables were an amazing technological feat for the time. The first telegraph, connected to Britain, was installed in the White House about ten years after the first stove. (The first stove was installed around 1850, I think; the President had to go down to the Patent Office to get the instructions on how to install it.)
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