A master of the science fiction genre chronicles the history of telecommunications, discussing submarine cables and the development of fiber optics and communication satellites, and projecting into the future of neutrino, gravitational, and tachyon communications.
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In a cheerful, if hardly startling, review, Clarke traces humankind's transformation from a mosaic of isolated states into a true global community--through modern communications-technology that began with the laying of the first submarine cables and continues to future visions of ``talkmen'' (Walkman-like telephones). The story of the laying of the first submarine communications- cables--highly speculative ventures to which many men's fortunes, careers, and spirits were eagerly sacrificed--is one of the most profound of the 19th century, Clarke suggests; and he proves it by describing the nerve-racking succession of broken cables, entangled whales, and deadly silences that led to the miraculous, transformative intercontinental communications. Clarke maintains that the first messages to cross the oceans sparked a thirst for increased interaction that has yet to be slaked, and that led, almost inevitably, to such astonishing technical achievements as the telephone, long-distance service, TV, satellite communications, and fiber optics. Clarke's oft-repeated hope is that universal communication will continue to transform what has become a global village into an interactive global family--easing ignorance through satellite-beamed, televised education in rural areas (as demonstrated in India); discouraging war through live, uncensored broadcasts from battle scenes (via such 24-hour coverage as CNN's) and through satellite surveillance; and, perhaps, even allowing for diversity within the global whole as small communities take what they need from dozens of orbiting moons while maintaining their independence. Little here is new--Clarke must be hoarse from repeating this message--but such a charming, pleasurable retelling of the societal unification myth is certainly worthwhile. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Fully one-half of this personalized history of telecommunications appeared in Clarke's Voices Across the Sea (1958), but few authors bear repeating so well as this renowned writer of science fiction and fact. Clarke's own enthusiasm for the field emerged when he was a youth working in a post office, and continues unabated. Parts I and II cover the campaigns to lay the transatlantic telegraph cables begun in the 1850s; by the era of radio communications, young Clarke is already a participant, inventing voice-activated light signals in the garage. By 1945, he leapfrogged technology in a prophetic paper called "Extra Terrestrial Relays," which first proposed geosynchronous communication satellites. Clarke made his reputation by crafting imagination into vision; he deserves bragging rights on the comsat (communications satellite) system (the chapter "How I Lost a Billion Dollars" describes how he lost patent rights). Best is his willingness to bet on ESP in the final chapter's speculation. A vintage offering from the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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