Needless to say there is no longer any consensus when these revolutions started, when they ended and why the changes were so revolutionary that a new number had to be attached.I want to talk in any detail only about the Second Industrial Revolution, but perhaps I should mention the First one first, not its effect on society, a controversial subject, but just the technological innovations about which a consensus does exist.
The electrical problems were entirely new and their seriousness was hardly appreciated at the beginning.
It turned out that the current at the receiving end differed drastically from the current at the transmitting end. A nice, well defined pulse at the transmitting end turned into an ill-defined long-drawn-out current at the receiving end.
And even problems like the safe storage of that length of cable in a ship were far from trivial.
However there was considerable optimism that all these problems could be solved.
Problems abounded: mechanical, electrical, financial. The traditional view was to build the cable, wind it on lots of big coils, put the transmitting apparatus at one end, the receiving apparatus at the other end and send signals along the whole length of the cable.
If the rate of transmission of the signals is fast enough, the cable is OK, if the rate of transmission is not high enough then the cable must be modified.To support this thesis I shall have to immerse myself in the history of that cable.The first telegraph line in England was opened in 1839.Many people define the Second Industrial Revolution by the development of new industries, oil, steel and electricity being the more important ones. Why to attach a higher number when essentially the same trend continues.The rate of technological advance might have accelerated but nonetheless they were just further developments of the same kind. To my mind the Second Industrial Revolution started with the submarine cable between England and the US, and I claim that we are still in the midst of that revolution.The cable had to be built before it could be measured. He was happy that on the basis of these experiments he would be able to design the transatlantic cable.Each experiment would have cost close to hundred thousand pounds. And that’s when William Thomson (elevated to the peerage later as Lord Kelvin) came into the picture.A brief summary is as follows: The productivity of the textile industry leapt forward by the invention of the power loom and the spinning mule, output of coalmining rapidly increased, transport was revolutionised by the railways, power to run machinery was provided by the steam engine.In one sentence: much of muscle power was replaced by machine power.A telegraph cable under the Channel connecting France to Britain was successful at the second attempt in 1850, a mere 11 years later.The next step was to establish telegraph communications with the United Sates.