The vanished competitor of Morse code: typesetting telegraph

Original author: Allison Marsh
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In 1842, the French watchmaker, Louis Francois Breguet, invented a simpler but less efficient alternative to the telegraph to use.

For many years I have been playing with interactive telegraph exhibits in scientific centers and museums. I can tap the distress signal * * * - - - * * * and know the designation of the letters H (****) and E (*), but outside of this sequence of points and a dash from Morse code are confused in my head. The stories of telegraph operators capable of deciphering hundreds of characters per minute still amaze me.

However, I recently learned about Cook and Wheatstone's telegraph telegraph . At the sender and recipient, the shooter or arrows simply pointed to the desired letter on the dial. Finally, I found a user-friendly telegraph system - if, of course, the user could read.

The first arrow telegraph was patented by William Cook and Charles Wheatstone in Britain in 1837. They used a set of magnetic arrows arranged in a row, and the letters of the alphabet were located above and below them on a rhombic grid . Each arrow could point left, right, or be in a neutral position; to mark a letter, the two arrows turned, showing the way to it. The operator who sent the message controlled the direction of the arrows by pressing the buttons that closed the contours to the desired combination of letters.

Although you could use any number of arrows, Cook and Wheatstone recommended five. This combination allows you to designate 20 characters. They threw out the letters C, J, Q, U, X and Z. Early telegraphs mainly transmitted simple signals and were not used for conversations. For example, to indicate that a one-way tunnel is free, the operator could send a short message “wait” [wait] or “go” [go ahead]. The absence of several letters was not a big disadvantage.

To use the system, it was necessary to train the operators quite a bit, which their employers liked. But the system was costly to maintain, because it needed a wire for each arrow and another wire that closed the loop. Maintenance of several wires turned out to be expensive, and many British railways stopped at a version that used one arrow and two wires. But to use the one-arrow system, operators had to learn the code to send and receive signals. The simplicity of reading the letters has disappeared.

Cook and Wheatstone probably realized that they have where to improve the invention, because in 1840 they introduced a dial-up telegraph., on the dial of which were all the letters of the alphabet. The operator selected the desired letter by pressing the corresponding button and turning the handle. The arrow on the dial of the recipient turned and pointed at it. However, the dispute between the inventors prevented the commercialization of this type of telegraph. It was only after the expiration of the patent that Wheatstone returned to dialing the telegraph and patented several improvements.

In the meantime, the French used the optical telegraph invented by Claude Schappduring the French Revolution. He relied on semaphore signals transmitted by several towers. By 1839, Alfons Foy managed more than a thousand operators of the optical telegraph, but saw the need to study the emerging developments of the electric telegraph. He sent Louis Francois Breguet to England to study the Cook and Wheatstone switch telegraph. The first result of this was the Foya-Breguet telegraph, which used two arrows that simulated semaphore signals.

Louis Francois Breguet

Breguet worked as a manager of a family watch company , Breguet & Fils, and soon after the first telegraph, he developed a version similar in appearance and schematic to a clock (photo in the title of the article). After activation by an electric current coming from the sender, the spring connected by gears rotated the arrow; the trigger (a mechanism with a fork and a gear that moves the hands of the clock) kept the pointer in place in the absence of a signal.

Breguet divided the dial into 26 sectors, and the inner part of it was marked with numbers, and the outer part - with letters. The starting position at the top was marked with a cross, leaving space for 25 letters. At the end of each word, the arrow returned to the starting position. In some versions, the letter W was omitted, in others - J.

After the French railways adopted the Breguet telegraph as standard equipment, it became known as the French railway telegraph; It was used until the very end of the [XIX] century. Breguet imported Japan; she connected Tokyo with Yokohama, as well as Osaka and Kobe. On the Japanese telegraph dial katakana symbols were depicted .

The use of the Breguet telegraph in the Yokohama telegraph. The man in Western-style clothing is a Scottish engineer, George Miles Gilbert, who was hired by the Japanese government to supervise the introduction of the telegraph.

Of course, even the Breguet type-setting telegraph was limited in the number of characters that he was able to transmit. The operators of the switch and dial telegraphs had to somehow solve the problems of the missing letters - perhaps they were aware of the context, or perhaps the companies were developing their own codes for certain letters or symbols. Louis-Francois Breguet would not have been able to convey the sedile contained in his own name, but perhaps he accepted the limitations of the technology.

It so happened that as early as the 1840s, Friedrich Klemens Gerke , an inspector of the telegraph line Hamburg-Cuxhaven in Germany, noted similar deficiencies in Morse code. Code developed by Samuel Morseand Alfred Vail in the USA was quite suitable for the unstressed English alphabet. To fit it for European languages, Gerke added percussion letters; he also significantly changed the sequence of dots and dashes for letters and numbers, which allowed the code to become more efficient. His version became known as Continental Morse Code, and spread throughout Europe.

Despite the growing popularity of the code, the International Telegraph Society for many years could not accept it. In the book of 2017 " Chinese typewriter: history", Thomas Mulleeni describes the slow and conservative evolution of Morse code. In 1865, the Society chose a set of standardized and definitely Anglocentric characters. After three years, it confirmed the standard codes for 26 letters of the English alphabet, numbers from 0 to 9, and 16 special characters - mainly punctuation , and the letters e-acute, É. In 1875, the Society upgraded É to the title of a standard symbol and added six more strike letters as special characters: Á, Å, Ä, Ñ, Ö, Ü. It was only in 1903 that the Society decided to read these symbols Standard. Languages, not the basis Alphabetic characters such as Chinese never entered the standard, although some countries developed their telegraph codes [the Russian version of the alphabet was adopted in 1856; codes of similar Latin letters were used to transmit Russian letters.]. This is how the telegraph technology simultaneously united and separated different parts of the world in new, unexpected ways.

The Breguet telegraph receiver, which inspired my research, is on display at the Museum School of Telecommunications Engineering at the Technical University of Madrid. In the 1970s, the museum organized a small group of professors who went around antique shops and flea markets to collect artifacts representing the history of communications. The museum does not collect objects in one place, but instead has placed showcases in the lobbies of the whole school, where students, visitors and everyone else may stumble upon them on any given day.

I wonder if the parallels between the Breguet telegraph and the modern technologies were made by those who saw it. For example, the character set on a computer keyboard varies from place to place and from language to language. I remember participating in a student conference in Istanbul in 1998, and could not check my mail. I did not know that there are two versions of the letter i on the Turkish keyboards, with and without a full stop, so I pressed the wrong key. A few years later I met Hamburg students who used American keyboards for programming. They found that on a German keyboard, it took three clicks to set a semicolon, which slowed down the process.

These stories are good reminders of the constancy and variability of a language adapting to new technologies, while these technologies are changing under the influence of people using them.

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