Friday, 16 January 2009

The Electromagnetic Telegraph

A technical history of the 19th-century electromagnetic telegraph, with special reference to the origin and variey of the alphabets, or codes, that were used.

In an Atlantic Magazine article in 1858, Reverend Hale explains how "dots and lines" are used for communication, describing many ways of sending and receiving them. James Swain of Philadelphia had described what he called a Mural Diagraph in 1829, using knocks and scratches to communicate through walls (obviously not brick walls), that were like dots and dashes. The reverend says his friend Langenzunge (a joke?) cut the wires beside the Baltimore and Ohio during a delay in a trip on a freight train, put them in his mouth, and tasted the sad message that his friend Old Rough and Ready (President Taylor) had died. A blind girl had smelled a message received on the Bain electrochemical telegraph, and another blind person had read the message recorded by a Morse embossing register (a predecessor of the Braille code?). He says the dots and line have been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt (using all five senses). You can believe as much of this as you want.

Full article here.

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