History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

1982 - Information Technology Year British Stamps

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The lithograph for the stamp issue celebrating Information Technology Year illustrates the "History of Communications" with Brunel's "SS Great Eastern" laying the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866. Duncan Larg's dramatic treatment of this subject must owe something to the fact that he was trained as a Master Boat Builder and ran his own boat yard before completing his studies in art He still maintains a very active interest in ships and the sea and lives in Harrow.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was a civil and mechanical engineer of outstanding originality. After only three years in the profession he designed a suspension bridge over the Avon Gorge, which was ultimately adopted in preference to a design by the distinguished engineer Thomas Telford.

Brunel was appointed Chief Engineer to the Great Western Railway in 1833. He made many innovations, and his use of a compressed-air caisson to sink the pier foundations of the Maidenhead Bridge helped gain acceptance of compressed-air techniques in underwater and underground constructions.

But Brunel is best known for his outstanding contributions to marine engineering with his three ships "Great Western" (1837),"Great Britain" (1841) and the "Great Eastern" (1858), each the largest in the world at the time of its launching. Each had some outstanding innovative features, including screw propellers. The "Great Eastern" was propelled both by paddles and screw, and was the first with a double iron hull. The "Great Eastern" was a technical marvel, but an idea hopelessly before her time. She was an enormous economic liability, but achieved fame by laying the first telegraph cable between the United States and Europe. After the laying of the cable she was put up for auction, and after several changes of ownership was eventually sold for scrap in 1888

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The Post Office set of two stamps for Information Technology Year illustrates the "History of Communications" and "Technology Today".

The lower value stamp is divided into three sections, showing Egyptian hieroglyphics, a library and a man operating a Visual Display Unit (VDU).

The upper value stamp has a similar design with the three sections showing Prestel, a telecommunications satellite, and a cash register using the modern bar code system of pricing goods. The unusual format of these stamps breaks away from the conventional size of stamps normally used by the British Post Office for commemorative issues.

Last revised: 23 February, 2017

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