It was in building the network connecting homestead to homestead that the farmers’ ingenuity came to the fore. Instead of erecting new poles and wires, many either ran phone wires along the top of wooden fence posts or used the barbed wire itself to carry signals. The latter hardly worked as well as insulated copper wire, but with the lines already in place, installation and operating costs could be kept to a minimum. By one estimate, service ran a mere $3 to $18 a year, far less than the regional phone companies charged, and labor for maintaining the network was supplied by volunteers.
Fascinating look at what was required to communicate in the from the late 800s through the 20th century. I especially like the story of Claude Shannon mentioned in the article:
As a boy, Shannon wired the half-mile stretch of barbed wire fence between his family’s farm and a friend’s house … and the current runs again from house to house, he can speak again at lightspeed and, best of all, in code.
Note to self, read A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age next.