A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable
By John Steele Gordon
Walker, 2002, 240 pp.
Anytime, Anywhere: Entrepreneurship and the Creation of a Wireless World
By Louis Galamdos and Eric John Abrahamson
Cambridge University Press, 2002, 310 pp.
These two books on Anglo-American cooperation span the period of globalization that began with the first successful transatlantic cable in 1866 and is continuing today with the mobile-phone revolution. Gordon tells the gripping story of the first successful oceanic cable, which came only after four dramatic failures. This achievement revolutionized global communications by permitting for the first time transoceanic communication faster than ship travel. The huge and risky project, a tale of sea and science, involved the energetic American entrepreneur Cyrus Field, British private capital, technology from both the United States and the United Kingdom, and crucial government cooperation and support (especially guaranteed minimum-use contracts) from both sides of the Atlantic.
Galamdos and Abrahamson address the recent wireless revolution, and in particular the role of American entrepreneur Sam Ginn and his company AirTouch in bringing it about. Drawing on his earlier experience with the Bell telephone companies, Ginn founded AirTouch in 1994 to exploit the new technical possibilities in personal communication. It became a highly successful mobile phone company in the United States, with extensive activity overseas. The company was then bought out by British Vodaphone in early 2001, which in turn formed a joint venture with Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) for U.S. operations. The book provides a fascinating case study in "alliance entrepreneurship" and the modern blending of technology and cross-border capital.