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Don Kimberlin

Telecommunications Technology and History

Professor Santayana said it best in 1903:

"Those Who Refuse to Learn the Lessons of History Are Doomed to Relive Them."

 

Today, more and more people are learning the history lessons of telecomm all over again. Managers, financiers, investors and individuals - none seem to understand the ways in which telecom tech- nology has been built upon a few basic principles - principles that today are being used in more and more complex, even recombinant ways but still using those same basic principles. Much of what is appearing as "High Technology" today might even be called a "shell game." All sorts of newcomers to the art are paying the cost of learning again, against Santayana's sage advice.

Wired Magazine, December 1996 made an astute observation:

"Everything that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the last couple of decades also occurred in the 1850s. Anyone who thinks that wild-ass high tech venture capitalism is a late-20th-century California phenomenon needs to read about the maniacs who built the first transatlantic cable projects..."..."The only things that have changed since then are that the stakes have gotten smaller, the process more bureaucratized, and the personalities less interesting."

...But few have learned since then, and more daily arrive to find out from hard experience and lost effort the underlying wisdom of WIRED's statement.

I've been privileged to work on the fringe of many historic entities of telecommunications. What I eventually learned about Cornwall steered us to go directly to the source, and so...

 We Traveled Into Telecom History!

 Maureen and I at Lands End in Cornwall. This windblown spit of land is within a dozen miles of several of the most significant places in telecommunications history - places that typical corporate history books cover up or gloss over.

Just on the other side of this rather desolate appearing area, a scant half dozen miles across Mount's Bay lies the Lizard Peninsula of England, a (summertime) semi-tropical land favored by hikers and divers. The shores and lands of Mount's Bay have seen and continue to see telecom history made. Here are websites to a few of the places we saw on this "Telecom Vacation of a Lifetime:"

England's Globe-Spanning "Internet" of the 19th Century:

Housel Bay, Site of Marconi's First 1890s Transmitter

Poldhu, Marconi's Epochal 1901 Transatlantic Transmitter

Goonhilly Downs, Original Large Transatlantic Satellite Station, since 1962

Cornwall itself has numerous other interests and sites that fill out the color of understanding its telecommunications history:

Spectacular site of the Polurrian Hotel adjacent to Poldhu, where we stayed in the Poldhu Suite and drank in the Marconi Lounge. Poldhu is just off to the left of this site photo:

Saint Michael's Mount, perhaps the best known landmark of Mount's Bay in Cornwall

Penzance. Largest town of Cornwall; scene of the famous Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera:

3,500 Miles to the Southwest of Cornwall, we find another epochal telecom site located only a hundred yards from the widely famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Few understand the import and significance of Fessenden's contributions to modern telecommunications. Here are some related websites:

Barry Mishkind kindly stores my series of articles on such history called Jurassic Telecommunications

Even though David Sharp has moved to Brisbane, Australia, he kindly hosts some stories about my first telecommunications love, radio broadcasting, particularly at the relatively famous WLCY:

High Telecom Drama a Century After the Submarine Cables (Regrettably slow to load, so please wait till the blank screen fills in)

Barry Mishkind also kindly stores my series of articles on other eventful times working in the telecom industry, calling them "War Stories"

There is today only ONE meaningful, truly INDEPENDENT broad-scope telecommunications certification - NARTE

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Last Updated 24 November 2002