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AT&T Archives: Submarine Cable Systems Development

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Uploaded on Jun 24, 2011

To see more from the AT&T Archives, visit http://techchannel.att.com/archives

A film from 1958 about the future of broadband submarine cable systems. Emphasis is on the mechanical aspects of cable, repeater, and shipboard machinery development. The need for continuing development work on future broadband cable systems is outlined. The complexity of the project is described and its diverse nature is indicated by the fact that information from the fields of oceanography and microbiological corrosion must be integrated with many types of engineering work on the project.

The work of the engineer is described as it pertains to experimental design and manufacture of future cable, and the development of submarine amplifiers and repeaters. The film shows the use of full-scale mockups for simulating cable laying operations in order to study methods for stowing and handling rigid repeaters and cable, and the use of scale models to develop the stowage facilities and cable handling machinery for future cable ships. Finally, the exploratory work on the plan and design of a cable ship is profiled.

In 1958, Cable technology had been around for 90 years, but still was in its relative infancy. AT&T had made significant improvements to the technology by incorporating coaxial cable, polyethylene insulation, and vacuum tube repeaters (soon to be transistorized), and through these developments had laid the first transoceanic cable, TAT-1, in 1956. TAT-1 could only carry 36 calls at a time, but also contained a Moscow to Washington DC hotline.

In 1983, fiber optic cables were being developed. By 1988 AT&T was able to lay TAT-8, the first fiber-optic transoceanic cable. It could carry 36,000 calls at a time.

Today the world is encircled by cables, in an ever-increasing net laid above and underground, and under the sea. As of this writing (2011), there are at least 15 undersea cable projects in process around the world, slated to be completed by 2013.

Intended Audience: student groups at science and tech colleges
Producer: Audio Productions, Inc.

Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

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