Cables and Cabling : The World's Routes With Directions for the Management of a Cable Department

This contribution and the one on Code are complementary, and the reader of the one should certainly complete the study by referring to the other. Useful information will also be found in the entry Telegraph. The colour map illustrating this entry should be consulted. See also All Red Route; Atlantic Cable; Bentley's Code, etc.

Harmsworth's Business Encyclopedia and Commercial Educator (1925?) : 1122-26

The elaborate system of telegraphic lines and electric cables which form a network touching every place of any importance on the globe provide an amazingly swift method of communication. The improvement of the the elctric telegraph since about 1870 has completely revolutionised business methods, and a knowledge of the cable routes of the world is a great help to the staff of any cable department. When the messages are carried under the sea it is usual to speak of the lines as cables, and when they are carried overland, as telegraphs, but from the business point of view this difference is of very little significance.

In Great Britain and many other countries the internal telegraphs are a government monopoly. This often extends to the neighboring countries. Thus the telegraph services between Great Britain and most European countries are run by the states concerned. The Marconi Company has a special arrangement for some of this traffice, e.g. between London and Paris. But though the overseas telegraph companies usually acquire rights over certain inland lines and lines to the Continent, these lines are only used for transit traffic and never for short distance messages. Thus, the Western Union Company has exclusive use of a line between Amsterdam and London, which it uses for messages between, say, Amsterdam and Chicago via London, but its agreement would not allow it to accept traffic between Amsterdam and London only.

The title commonly used when referring to a large cable company usually denotes not one company but an amalgamation or an associated group of companies. The names of these subsidiary sections, or allied or amalgamated companies, are of little importance to the user. Thus the Eastern Telegraph Company is closely allied to the Western Telegraph Company in South America; the Western Union has practically absorbed the whole group as included under the title by which it is known at its British end.

VARIOUS SYSTEMS . The cable systems, so far as Great Britain is concerned, may be divided into two groups, those communicating with the old world and those with the new. The largest company, or group of associated companies, operating in the old world is the Eastern. This company transmits messages for several places in South Europe, e.g. Spain, Greece, Malta, pratically the whole of Africa, places all over south Asia, linking up with Japan, and also to Australia and New Zealand. The Eastern also owns two routes to St. Vincent, Cape Verde, one via the Azores and one via Madeira, and a line from St. Vincent links up with the Western system, which covers both coasts of South America, goes as far north as Barbados and as far south as the Falklands. The cable from the mainland to the Falklands, however, is not now worked.

Thus the Eastern properly belongs to both of the big groups, as it reaches thenew world as well as the old. In Spain and some of the northern parts of Africa the Eastern works in conjunction with the Direct Spanish Co.

There are two companies besides the Eastern linking up Great Britain with the East, the Indo-European and the Great Northern Telegraph Company of Denmark. The Indo suffered badly during the Great War, as its route is almost entirely overland. The lines run via Germany and Poland to south Russia (with a branch from Odessa to Constantinople), and thence to Teheran. Here the line makes contact with lines owned by the Indian government. This section goes on to Karachi, and a system of through traffic is worked from London to Karachi. There was heavy fighting over much of the territory traversed by its lines. The consequence was that, except locally at its eastern end, the company practically ceased to function. Cables to Persia were then taken by the Eastern Company via Bombay. The route has been renovated from end to end.

Route of a Danish Cable
The Great Northern is a Danish company with headquarters in Copenhagen and branches in London and several other towns in Britain. Its main lines go from London to Leningrad by two routes, and thence right across Asiatic Russia to Vladivostok and Nagasaki, with a southern branch to Peking, Shanghai and Hong Kong, where they overlap with the Eastern. The company also owns a line from Lerwick, in the Shetlands, to Iceland, via the Faroe Islands. This connects up with the European post office lines, and thus links Iceland with all parts of the continent of Europe.

The new world is connected to the old by the two big American combinations, the Western Union and the Commercial; by the Imperial Cables and by the P.Q. Company; also by the Eastern, as already noted. The Marconi wireless takes messages for America, but that, of course, is not a cable company.

The Western Union System
The Western Union cable system runs a direct service between London and New York and Chicago. The greater part of the inland lines in the United States also belong to this company, there being no state monopoly of telegraph there. The internal telegrams of Canada are run in close association with the railway systems, the Canadian Pacific and the Canadian National Rlys. The Western Unin has a working agreement with the latter, and so transmits messages between Europe and all North America as far south as Barbados. Here it joins up with the Western Electric Telegraphc Company, already mentioned, and so provides an alternative route to South America. The Western Union has completed a new line from New York to Rome, via the Azores and Malaga. This is working on a new and improved principle, and the company expects to be able to work up to a maximum speed of 1,900 letters a minute. (This would be the new high-speed permalloy "loaded" cable; see Oliver E. Buckley, "The Loaded Submarine Telegraph Cable." Transactions AIEE 44 (1925): 882-90.) The Western Company proposes to lay a new Atlantic cable. It will be laid between Penzance and New York via Newfoundland.

The Commercial Company also carries direct traffic from London to New York and Chicago. It has lines, known as the Postal, all over the United States. Its internal system is not so large as that of the Western Union. In Canada it works with the Canadian Pacific. There is an internal system of cables in America, the All America Cables, which is intimately linked with the Commercial; and the Eastern and Commercial are in close competition in London for the traffic to Rio, Buenos Aires, and other business centres in South America, though along very different routes.

The two Imperial Cables are owned by the British Government. One is a reorganization of a German line. They connect Great Britain with Newfoundland and Canada, and accept messages for places all over the Dominion and also for the United States and the West Indies. On the west of Canada they link up with the Pacific Cable, imperially owned and operated by the Pacific Cable Board. This cable goes right on to New Zealand and Australia. Cables to those places have thus two alternative routes from London — via the Eastern, eastward, and via the Imperial and Pacific, westward. In 1924 the Pacific Cable Board brought into service three new lines. These were laid between Barbados and Trinidad, and Barbados and Turks Island. It proposes to lay a cable from Vancouver to Fiji, which will complete the duplication of the cable from Canada to Australia and New Zealand.

The P.Q. Company is an old-established French company whcih has its headquarters in Paris. It maintains an efficient American service from Paris and from London via Brest, and is making a notable bid for a share of the trans-Atlantic cable traffic from England.

CHARGES FOR CABLES . The Post Office Guide, published in January and July, gives the routes and rates for cables all over the world. Several alternative routes are usually given. As a matter of fact, the cable companies have working agreements by which any company can usually accept a cable to a place quite off its ordinary beat. A few years ago, when the cables to the East were suffering from post-war dislocation, a certain firm sent one or two important cables from London to Karachi via Western Union, across America and the Pacific. At one time the trans-Atlantic cables were cut and important business messages from London to New York were being sent St. Vincent (Cape Verde) and South America.

SPEED AND ACCURACY . Two very interesting problems in the sphere of cable activity await the solution which can only come by the hard test of experience. One is the relative efficiency, both for speed and accuracy, or cablegrams and wireless messages. The latter are seriously competing with the cables. The reader who has a practical interest in these things needs to keep himself informed of developments and to experiment from time to time with different routes, keeping an eye on times, accuracy and tariffs. It will often prove advisable to send more important cables by a certain route of known speed and efficiency and others by a cheaper one.

A pressing problem is the issue between state enterprise, represented by the Imperial Cables and the operations of the Pacific Cable Board, and private enterprise, represented by the rival routes to Australia. Where there are two alternative routes both should be given a fair trial. So many firms give their traffic to one or the other cable company without much consideration, whereas with a little trouble it can often be shown by experience that one or the other of these is definitely better. Where there is no preference and the messages sent are considerable the traffic is commonly divided among them.

CABLE DEPARTMENT . As part of its organization, every large undertaking that does business abroad must have a department for the handling of its cables. Through this pass such important matters as market reports, sales, purchases, etc., and consequently good organizaation and management are quite as vital here as they are in other departments of the business. The suggests here made for a large business can be simplified by smaller firms.

The manager of the department has a number of duties to perform.he is the point of contact of the firm with the various cable companies, and he will find it helpful to keep in personal touch with their representatives; he will be responsible for the cable accounts, which may be over 1,000 a month; and he should know all about routes and rates, and should know how long cables take to go to and from the various cities. The cable companies will, if he asks, keep him informed of any temporary delays.

He should know the difference in local time at different points, and in particular keep an eye on the beginning and end of summer time in various towns. He should know the times at which the different markets in which his firm operates open and shut, and so should be able to calculate whether a cable will arrive in time to catch a given market. This may mean that the cable must be sent in clear, there being no time to code. He and his staff should be able to tackle mutilations, and to that end should keep a careful eye on the business transacted, ports of shipment, prices and other details.

DETAILS EXPLAINED . The details of organization differ in various firms. In what follows the course of an inward and an outward telegram will be followed through all its stages inside the office, the system being a hypothetical one founded on the actual experience of the cable departments of several large firms.

A partner writes a cable and sends it to the cable department. He has a pad of numbered leaves, each consecutive pair of leaves bearing the same number. The cable is written on one and a carbon copy kept on the second. The cable department checks the number on its arrival to see that there is not one missing. Where, as is usually the case, several people send off cables, their drafts may be distinguished by tinted sheets of different colours. This is a simple device, and avoids any doubt as to a cable going astray on this stage of its journey.

On its arrival the cable department assigns to it a number and enters up in the outward book the time of its receipt. This book has different sections for cables to different destinations, and usually the numbers 1 to 100 are printed vertically down the page, and against them columns for time received, time sent off, initials of the coder and the checker, and for the number of words. This last is for checking the monthly account. There is also a column for the kind of service — urgent, deferred, week-end letter telegrams, as the case may be.

Specially urgent cables will be marked so by the drafter; otherwise, when there is a pressure of work, the manager will decide the order of precedence in coding. The cables are for the most part of well-marked types. Thus an order or a market report will usually precede, say, the out-turn of a shipment or a staff matter.

CODING AND CHECKING . Next the cable is coded and checked. A simple system is as follows: Put a strip of carbon-paper, half the width of the sheet, under the left-hand half of a sheet of paper, with another sheet underneath. Code the message, writing the code words in a vertical column on the left-hand side and writing the meaning against each on the right. In this way a carbon copy of the code words only is produced. The checker then decodes this, writing out the English as he gets it. This is read over against the original, the checker listening while the coder reads. This is important, as it is obvious that, when reading over, only the listener can notice a mistake. The above system will be found especially useful when using a figure code. The figures are written out as described, the coder puts the letters on the top copy, and the checker on the carbon copy. They are read over one against the other, as explained. Occasionally the coder makes two carbon copies of the figures. One set can then be decoded by one checker, while the letters are inserted by a second checker in the other.

When the coding and checking are complete the cable is typed on to the approprate telegraph form, great care geing taken to see that the address is correct. It seems a trifling point, but when a firm is cabling to all quarters of the globe it is by no means rare for a cable to be sent to the wrong address. In some firms it is a rule that, before sending off, both the original message and the final outward copy are shown to a third party who has taken no part in the work, with the sole object of verifying the address.

For each cable company the firm has a book into which details of the cable are entered; also the date, tiem of despatch and the number of words. A messenger takes the cable to the company's office and brings back the book with the details noted.

The original draft of the cable, both the coding and the check copies, and also a carbon copy of the cable as sent out, are kept for future reference if necessary. The first three may conveniently be kept on spike files and destroyed after, say, a month, or when the contents of the cable are no longer important.

INCOMING CABLES . As regards an incoming cable or telegram, when a cable is delivered there is a receipt form attached to the flap of the envelope, which has to be signed and handed back to the messenger delivering it. As the recipient does not know what the message, presuming it is in code, is about, he may be uncertain in what order to decode the pile of 20 or 30 cables which may be waiting when the office opens (the cable department usually starts an hour before other departments). It is therefore an advantage to have a method of indicating that a cable is of special importance and must be dealt with at once. The code word whizz is good for the purpose. It is both distinctive and helpful, and may be made the first half-word of any cable requiring immediate attention.

Cables from a simple code book are usually decoded straight on to a piece of paper, the code words being crossed off as deciphered and a carbon copy of the translation made. This copy is immediately passed to the manager of the department dealing with the subject of the cable, the copy being marked "unchecked." As soon as conveniently possible the cable is again decoded by a second clerk as a check, which is read over against the first decode, as when coding. In the case of a figure code the figures are obtained direct from the cable, written down on the left hand half of a sheet of paper, and the English written on the right. It is a great help to have the figures and the meaning opposite each other, line by line. Any query that crops up is then easily dealt with.

When decoding a cable one should always see that the number of words in the text agrees with the number stated at the top. The cables after decoding are marked each with its number and the initials of the decoder and checker and are filed away for reference. The cable department is usually responsible for circulating copies of cables to the departments interested, including a confirmation sent by mail to the addressee of each cable, and to branches and agents abroad.

It is a common practice to start newcomers to a business in the cable department. This works satisfactorily if they are efficiently supervised. The best point of the arrangement is that it is usually possible after a beginner has spent, say, a fortnight on the cables to find out by a few leading questions whether he is taking a real interest in the business and not merely remaining content with the routine work. — Charles W. R. Hooker


16 october 05