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Transatlantic telegraph cable
Modern tech devices are often lauded for their innovation and shiny veneer. But what about the kind of tech that flies across interstellar distances, withstands subsea pressures, or makes the internet work? ZDNet UK salutes some of the most awe-inspiring bits of kit that nobly goes where no other tech dares to venture — and keeps our world ticking.
The transatlantic telegraph cable
This wire is so amazing that it features in Constantino Brumidi's fresco in the Oculus of the Rotunda of the US Capitol building. It was the first cable laid across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, used for telegraph communications and transformed the speed of messaging from days — by ship — to minutes.
The copper, latex and iron cable took nine years to lay, and required herculean efforts by Isambard Kingdom Brunel's ship the SS Great Eastern and its captain Sir James Anderson. When complete, it crossed from Telegraph Field in Ireland to Heart's Content in eastern Newfoundland.
Photo credit: US government
Everybody knows about the Enigma Machine, the fiendishly clever encryption device used by the Germans to encode their military communications, but flawed enough to allow the Allies to crack the code. Fewer have heard of the Bombe, an electromechanical device designed by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman to help decrypt Enigma transmissions by simulating all of its possible settings. The British bombes, which were based on pioneering Polish cryptographic work, were made by the British Tabulating Machine Company for use at Bletchley Park and other sites.
Over 150 bombes were made, and many were destroyed after the war. This one is a rebuild. Historians have judged that the cryptographic work undertaken at Bletchley Park shortened the second world war by between two and four years.
Photo credit: Tom Yates/Wikimedia Commons