Big systems are a part of everyday life, from the federal government to the Internet. It’s easy to think of these systems as one big monolithic machine, but they rarely are. Instead, these systems are made up of many smaller systems, uniting as one entity to solve problems and develop products and ideas. Ever seen that 1980s cartoon, Voltron? Like that, but with fewer mechanical lions.
Take, for example, the first modern U.S. telecom system: the telegraph. When the transcontinental telegraph was completed on this day in 1861, many people might have thought of it as the construction of one grand system, but it wasn’t. What was actually completed that day in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Western Union Telegraph Company workers was a link between the eastern and western networks, allowing traffic to flow between both for the first time. Two existing collections of smaller lines and stations had merged to become one new network, and telecom was well and truly born.
Today, the Internet works on the same principle, with thousands of networks-large and small, public and private-merging to connect the globe. How did this happen? In large part, through Equinix. With more than 95 data centers worldwide, Equinix is the equivalent of that last link, the glue that binds disparate networks together, much like the Force. This is by design: when Equinix was founded in 1998, its mission was to provide neutral exchange points where different networks could connect and hand off data traffic to each other. In these neutral locations, different networks could interconnect, expanding their reach beyond their regions into national and then international markets.
From dot-dot-dash to the digital economy, the story of telecommunications is one of connection, smaller pieces joining to create a greater whole. We’ve gone from nation-spanning telegraphs to world-spanning high-speed digital platforms in 150 years. Imagine what’s yet to come.