The telephone network that ran on barbed wire

Barbed wire (Wikipedia)

We live in an age filled with reliable wireless phone service, but once upon a time people had to make do with nothing more than barbed wire. C. F. Eckhardt details the primitive yet functional system that ranchers in the west of the United States used to communicate around the turn of the 20th century. Any household telephone could be hooked up to the barbed wire fences, which were already in place to keep cattle contained on ranches. The biggest problem with the system, however, was the lack of an operator to direct calls: every phone connected to the network would ring whenever a call was placed. Despite the niggles, the system ultimately proved invaluable when it came to alerting fellow ranch owners to emergencies.

The Verge
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.