by Deryck Fay
Ireland is abuzz with telecommunications. Walk up any street from Dublin to Dingle and every second person is head-down in their mobile phone. Everywhere we are bombarded with deals for fibre-this and wireless-that. The nation's software industry includes nine of the world's top ten tech firms and generates EURO50 billion in annual exports. Sitting silently around Dublin is a necklace of unmarked data centres, storing everything from airline bookings to our personal videos of cute cats. Even more anonymous are the 17 underwater cables stretching out from the coastline, carrying text messages, phone calls and internet data to and from the rest of the world. Across the country a programme to connect over half a million rural homes to the internet by fibre is rolling out.
And yet it wasn't so long ago that Ireland was a largely agrarian society with a two-year waiting list just to get a landline phone installed.
How did we get from that old-world Ireland to this modern super-connected one? Connecting a Nation tells this story - a story not just of cables, exchanges, SIM cards and broadband but of how telecommunications has played a pivotal role in the development of the country from 1852 to the present.
Telecommunications is intimately bound up with politics and economics, with place and people. Connecting a Nation illustrates these interconnections by drawing on personal stories, from the first day of work for an operator at Dublin's new telephone exchange in 1881, via the painful process of getting a phone installed in the 1970s, to the Ryanair website created by two students that ignited the digital revolution in Ireland. Connecting the past to the present, Connecting a Nation offers an insider's perspective on how the decisions of the past continue to shape who we are as individuals - and as a nation.
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Date of Publication: 21/10/2021