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In 1847, Werner von Siemens needed only a cigar box, some imagination and a few lengths of copper wire to construct an operational pointer telegraph of simple design. His achievement solved the problem of transmitting messages reliably over longer distances. It also enabled him to lay the foundation stone for the Siemens & Halske Telegraph Construction Company.
Siemens & Halske started construction of the Russian long-distance telegraphy network in 1853 and completed the project in 1855. The network was approximately 10,000 km in length and extended from Finland down to the Crimea via St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Odessa. Further lines led to the Baltic provinces, to Warsaw and Myslowitz.
After a construction time of only two years, Siemens & Halske began operating the Indo-European telegraph line (Indo-line) in 1870. The route was over 11,000 km long and extended from London to Calcutta. A dispatch to Tehran required only one minute, while it took a sensational 28 minutes to reach Calcutta.
In 1874, Siemens – with the help of a purpose-built cable-laying ship, the Faraday – begins laying its own telegraph cable to link the Old World and the New World. It leads from Ireland via Newfoundland to the American coast and went into operation on September 15, 1875. Thanks to the outstanding quality of the connection, the company receives orders for further transatlantic cables in the following years.
Facsimile telegraphy was introduced in the nineteen twenties. Photographs were scanned by a photocell and copied onto photosensitive paper by means of a controlled light source at the receiving end. In 1927, the Berlin-Vienna route went into operation using the Siemens-Karolus-Telefunken system. This new way of transmitting photographs was used in particular by the press.
When Berlin's first telephone exchange went into operation in 1881, the connections were still made manually. As the number of subscribers increased, the process was automated and the first German urban telephone exchange with automatic dialing was opened in Munich-Schwabing in 1909, initially for 2,500 lines.
In 1928, the further development of printing telegraphy equipment led to the teleprinter, a typewriter with transmit and receive functions. At the suggestion of Siemens, in 1933 the Deutsche Reichspost started operating the world's first public telex dialing network on a trial basis, with exchanges in Berlin and Hamburg.
In 1953 Siemens became the first company to succeed in manufacturing the ultra-pure silicon needed for semiconductor components, independently of researchers in the U.S. who achieved this at almost the same time. In the same year, the company was granted a patent for this technique, known as the floating-zone method.
Most international telecommunications traffic is now handled by communications satellites. As principal contractor for the German Post Office, Siemens set up a satellite earth station in Raisting/Upper Bavaria in 1964. It was gradually extended and is now the largest of its kind in the world.
Siemens introduced the HICOM private communications system in 1984. It conformed to the world standard of the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) and was the first such system to integrate all communication modes in a single network, on a single line and under a single call number.
With the completion in 1996 of the first industry samples of the 256-megabit chip, the smallest and fastest of its kind, the Mega Project entered a decisive phase. This chip has sufficient capacity to store the entire works of Shakespeare and Goethe as well as the classical literature of Japan.
Secret codes, keys and passwords will soon be obsolete and the touch of a finger will be all it takes to start an automobile or activate a credit card, a mobile phone or a computer. This is achieved through a fingertip sensor which records and stores the exact profile of a fingerprint at the first touch by means of over 65,000 tiny sensors.