We take so much of the technology we use for granted and I was reminded of this while on holiday at the weekend in Cornwall. My uncle suggested a trip to the Telegraph Museum at Porthcurno. Now I have two little girls and although I was really keen to visit the place where all the transatlantic telegraph and telephone cables entered the sea, I wasn’t sure they’d enjoy it all that much.
It was wet on Sunday so the alternatives didn’t seem quite so attractive and off we went. Half a day later the only thing that extracted us was the need for lunch! Everyone was enthused and morse code is now the height of fashion in our house – what struck me most was the convergence of technologies which, over an alarmingly short time, had to take place before the Victorians managed to shrink the world so effectively.
This was proper-convergence, not some marketing concept designed to get us to replace something we already have, to ‘upgrade’ to something better. Someone figured out electrical current and what it could do – then invented instruments which overcame sending it thousands of miles to provide instant communications – in the process they had to engineer a new generation of ships that were a whole lot bigger and tougher and then scour the earth for a naturally occurring insulator that would put up with being wrapped in a cable and sunk in an ocean. When this convergence started we didn’t even have electric light for goodness sake.
A commodity trader got the first cable sunk by putting in a load of his own money and then raising more from the city to improve his access to suppliers in India. I think the first three attempts were lost when the cables broke and every time more funds were raised for another attempt!
I’ll probably get de-tuned to this new perspective in a few months but for now I’ll be viewing the announcements we work on for our technology clients with a more critical eye. And I’ll probably have more sympathy for those embarking on the second or third round of funding too.