Kabel name…

Nick Shinn's picture

It is generally said that Kabel was named after the first transatlantic telecommunications cable; however, that was laid in 1858. And the first Transatlantic telephone cable was laid in the 1950s. So which cable was laid in ’27? From the Siemens web site:

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.

riccard0's picture

Fascinating trivia :-)

quadibloc's picture

Wikipedia claimed that it was named after the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable. However, a quick Google shows that that cable was laid in 1956, so you are indeed far more likely to be correct than they.

EDIT: And it becomes curiouser.

I thought I should Google some more, in case there was a trans-Atlantic telephone cable laid in 1927 that failed after a short period, so that the 1956 one was the first one that was practical.

What I found instead was that trans-Atlantic telephone service began in 1927, that service was based on radio links, and the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable indeed was laid in 1956.

So the coincidence of dates seems to have led to the misconception about Kabel which you have cleared up.

EDIT: I have found some further evidence, however, which suggests that Kabel could have been named after a trans-Atlantic telephone cable, albeit one that was never successfully completed.

The discovery of inductive loading of cables, known then as "Pupinization", led to discussions of building a trans-Atlantic telephone cable in the 1920s, since this reduced signal distortion to a point which seemed to make such a cable possible, given sufficient amplification at both ends.

An attempt was made to lay such a cable, but it ended in failure in the early 1930s, due to the Great Depression - according to Wikipedia, but I have not been able to find, at least on the Web, other references, by means of which I could determine who made the attempt, and whether it failed while attempting to raise capital, or if any actual cable was set down on the sea floor.

EDIT: I finally did locate a reference, which notes that design of a trans-Atlantic telephone cable which was continuously loaded using Permavar tape began in 1928, with the cable being manufactured in Germany. The cable would have run between New York and Ireland, as a joint project of AT&T and the British Post Office, and the project did fail due to the Depression.

This unsuccessful attempt, however, would then have begun one year too late to have formed the inspiration for the name of Kabel.

paragraph's picture

Advise by kabel. Stop.

Nick Shinn's picture

Telecommunications is an interest of designers, of course, as we are communicators, and technological change has a constant impact on our work.

Round about the time of Kabel, technophile Moholy-Nagy exhibited his telephone paintings, which he had ordered by phone, describing the size and position of abstraqct shapes, and their colors by the pantone system of the day.

It has always impressed me how au fait Koch was with modernism, given his deep grasp of traditional media. However, during the ’twenties many artists who had been heavily into historicism when it was the thing changed horses and became modernists. It’s not such a big deal for designers (if we don’t become trapped in our brand), as force of necessity makes us familiar with working in different styles and methods, for different clients.

paragraph's picture

Sorry, Nick, I did not query the validity of the interest, I tried to suggest that perhaps the word Kabel came from a different direction: as in telegram/cable … I do not know the German usage, does anyone?

Té Rowan's picture

The Koch museum on typOasis quotes the telephone cable story.

Nick Shinn's picture

Internet factoid.

Nick Shinn's picture

Perhaps the name is more metaphorical, in a plastic sense: making the equation between cabel as wire/cord, and a monolinear typeform of similar appearance, strength and integrity.

But now take it a step further than cable-like form, and consider the typeface’s cable-like function (font as a medium of communication, suitably high-tech).

It is a typeface that looks like a cable, and self-referentially refers to itself as a means of communication. The name is a pun.

The references to specific communications cables may not be literal, but they set the tone.

Queneau's picture

Cables were a fascinating thing in those days, obviously, when you think of the famous catalogue made by Piet Zwart for a cable company. Though I think Koch might have called Kabel Kabel because of the geometric shape?

Bert Vanderveen's picture

I don’t think communication cables as such were the inspiration for the name ‘Cable / Kabel’ — but the technological marvel of the period: the cable car, eg the one that made the highest point of Germany accessible: the Zugspitze (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zugspitze). The first one was built in 1926.

Choosing Kabel as a name during that period is equivalent to using ‘Techno’ or ‘LCD’ in the eighties…

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