Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What God Hath Wrought, Men First Wrought Of Copper*

I'm always disturbed to hear about copper wire and plumbing being ripped from abandoned and not-so abandoned properties. Thieves are motivated by commodity price inflation, or dollar devaluation--take your pick. It seems like such wanton destruction--an undoing of modern communication and sanitation.  That the copper is probably being recycled and that alternative technologies to copper wire exist for telecommunications, viz., wireless and fiber optics, is small consolation. Those newer technologies bring their own vulnerabilities.

Copper telegraph cable first linked cities beginning around the 1830's. A submarine cable was laid under the English Channel in the 1850's using a continuous length of copper coated with natural rubber. In 1858, the first of several trans-Atlantic cables was laid. A US stamp commemorated the feat:

We may think that we are now safely linked by satellite, but the bulk of Internet communication is still via cable transmission. Not copper, but fiber-optic transmission:

Link to Original
*The title is a pun/homage to Samuel F.B. Morse's first telegram: "What hath God Wrought?"


  1. The extraordinary book 'Boom Copper' chronicles the history of copper exploration and mining in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The U.P. had, and still has, the world's only source of nearly pure copper. Copper so pure that it doesn't need to be refined.

    Historians and archeologists believe that a trade route existed between the Inca villages and the U.P. They have found old Inca tool in the U.P., that were used for mining copper out of shallow pits. And the copper in many Inca items is identical on a molecular level to the copper found in the U.P.

  2. Thanks for tip on the book, Haz. I didn't know about it. Some of my earlier copper posts mentioned that neck of the woods.