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Claude Chappe's optical telegraph on the Litermont near Nalbach, Germany

Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of written messages without physical transport of letters. It is a compound term formed from the Greek words tele (τηλε) = far and graphein (γραφειν) = write. Radiotelegraphy or wireless telegraphy transmits messages using radio. Telegraphy includes recent forms of data transmission such as fax, email, telephone networks, and computer networks in general.[citation needed]



A telegraph is a device for transmitting and receiving messages over long distances, i.e., for telegraphy. The word telegraph alone now generally refers to an electrical telegraph. Wireless telegraphy is also known as "CW", for continuous wave (a carrier modulated by on-off keying), as opposed to the earlier radio technique of using a spark gap.[citation needed]

A telegraph message sent by an electrical telegraph operator or telegrapher using Morse code (or a printing telegraph operator using plain text) was known as a telegram[1]. A cablegram was a message sent by a submarine telegraph cable[2][3], often shortened to a cable or a wire. Later, a Telex message was a telegram sent by a Telex network, a switched network of teleprinters similar to a telephone network.

Before long distance telephone services were readily available or affordable, telegram services were very popular and the only way to convey information speedily over very long distances. Telegrams were often used to confirm business dealings and were commonly used to create binding legal documents for business dealings.[4]

A wire picture or wire photo was a newspaper picture that was sent from a remote location by a facsimile telegraph. The teleostereograph machine, a forerunner to the modern electronic fax, was developed by AT&T's Bell Labs in the 1920s; however, the first commercial use of image facsimile telegraph devices date back to the 1800s.

Optical telegraph

Main articles: Semaphore line (visual telegraphy using signal arms or shutters), Flag semaphore (using hand-held flags), Signal lamp (visual naval communications) and Heliograph (visual communications using reflected sunlight)
Construction schematic of a Prussian optical telegraph (or semaphore) tower, C. 1835

The first telegraphs came in the form of optical telegraphs, including the use of smoke signals, beacons or reflected light, which have existed since ancient times. A semaphore network invented by Claude Chappe operated in France from 1792 through 1846.[5] It helped Napoleon enough to be widely imitated in Europe and the U.S. The Prussian system was put into effect in the 1830s. The last commercial semaphore link ceased operation in Sweden in 1880.

Semaphores were able to convey information more precisely than smoke signals and beacons, and consumed no fuel. Messages could be sent at much greater speed than post riders and could serve entire regions. However, like beacons, smoke and reflected light signals they were highly dependent on good weather and daylight to work (practical electrical lighting was not available until about 1880). They required operators and towers every 30 km (20 mi), and could only accommodate about two words per minute. This was useful to governments, but too expensive for most commercial uses other than commodity price information. Electric telegraphs were to reduce the cost of sending a message thirtyfold compared to semaphores, and could be utilized non-stop, 24 hours per day, independent of the weather or daylight.

Elevated locations where optical telegraphs were placed for maximum visibility were renamed to Telegraph Hill, such as Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, and Telegraph Hill in the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey.

Electrical telegraphs

One very early experiment in electrical telegraphy was an electrochemical telegraph created by the German physician, anatomist and inventor Samuel Thomas von Sömmering in 1809, based on an earlier, less robust design of 1804 by Catalan polymath and scientist Francisco Salvá i Campillo.[6] Both their designs employed multiple wires (up to 35) in order to visually represent most Latin letters and numerals. Thus, messages could be conveyed electrically up to a few kilometers (in von Sömmering's design), with each of the telegraph receiver's wires immersed in a separate glass tube of acid. As an electrical current was applied by the sender representing each digit of a message, it would at the recipient's end electrolyse the acid in its corresponding tube, releasing a stream of hydrogen bubbles next to its associated letter or numeral. The telegraph receiver's operator would visually observe the bubbles and could then record the transmitted message, albeit at a very low baud rate.[6]

One of the earliest electromagnetic telegraph designs was created by Baron Schilling in 1832.[citation needed]

Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Weber built and first used for regular communication the electromagnetic telegraph in 1833 in Göttingen, connecting Göttingen Observatory and the Institute of Physics, covering a distance of about 1 km [7]. The setup consisted of a coil which could be moved up and down over the end of two magnetic steel bars. The resulting induction current was transmitted through two wires to the receiver, consisting of a galvanometer. The direction of the current could be reversed by commuting the two wires in a special switch. Therefore, Gauß and Weber chose to encode the alphabet in a binary code, using positive current and negative as the two states.

A replica commissioned by Weber for the 1873 World Fair based on his original designs is on display in the collection of historical instruments in the Department of Physics at University of Göttingen.

There are two versions of the first message sent by Gauß and Weber: the more official one is based on a note in Gauss's own handwriting stating that "Wissen vor meinen – Sein vor scheinen" ("knowing before opining, being before seeming") was the first message sent over the electromagnetic telegraph.

Cooke and Wheatstone's electric telegraph

The more anecdotal version told in Göttingen observatory is that the first message was sent to notify Weber that the observatory's servant was on the way to the institute of physics, and just read "Michelmann kömmt" ("Michelmann is on his way"), possibly as a test who would arrive first.

The first commercial electrical telegraph was co-invented by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone, and entered use on the Great Western Railway in Britain. It ran for 13 miles (21 km) from Paddington station to West Drayton and came into operation on 9 July 1839.[8] It was patented in the United Kingdom in 1837, and was first successfully demonstrated by Cooke and Wheatstone on 25 July 1837 between Euston and Camden Town in London.[9] In 1843 Scottish inventor Alexander Bain invented a device that could be considered the first facsimile machine. He called his invention a "recording telegraph". Bain's telegraph was able to transmit images by electrical wires. In 1855 an Italian abbot, Giovanni Caselli, also created an electric telegraph that could transmit images. Caselli called his invention "Pantelegraph". Pantelegraph was successfully tested and approved for a telegraph line between Paris and Lyon.


Morse telegraph

A Morse key

An electrical telegraph was independently developed and patented in the United States in 1837 by Samuel F. B. Morse. His assistant, Alfred Vail, developed the Morse code signaling alphabet with Morse. America's first telegram was sent by Morse on 6 January 1838, across two miles (3 km) of wire at Speedwell Ironworks near Morristown, New Jersey. The message read "A patient waiter is no loser." On 24 May 1844, he sent the message "What hath God wrought" (quoting Numbers 23:23) from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol in Washington to the old Mt. Clare Depot in Baltimore. This message was chosen by Annie Ellsworth of Lafayette, Indiana,[10] the daughter of Patent Commissioner Henry Leavitt Ellsworth. The Morse/Vail telegraph was quickly deployed in the following two decades; the overland telegraph connected the west coast of the continent to the east coast by 24 October 1861, bringing an end to the Pony Express.

The famous telegram sent by Samuel F. B. Morse from the Capitol in Washington to Alfred Vail in Baltimore in 1844: "What hath God wrought"

Oceanic telegraph cables

The first commercially successful transatlantic telegraph cable was successfully completed on 18 July 1866. The lasting connections were achieved by the ship SS Great Eastern, captained by Sir James Anderson.[11] Earlier transatlantic submarine cables installations were attempted in 1857, 1858 and 1865. The 1857 cable only operated intermittently for a few days or weeks before it failed. The study of underwater telegraph cables accelerated interest in mathematical analysis of very long transmission lines. The telegraph lines from Britain to India were connected in 1870 (those several companies combined to form the Eastern Telegraph Company in 1872).

Major telegraph lines in 1891

Australia was first linked to the rest of the world in October 1872 by a submarine telegraph cable at Darwin.[12] This brought news reportage from the rest of the world.[13]

Further advancements in telegraph technology occurred in the early 1870s, when Thomas Edison devised a full duplex two-way telegraph and then doubled its capacity with the invention of quadruplex telegraphy in 1874.[14] Edison filed for a U.S. patent on the duplex telegraph on 1 September 1874 and received U.S. Patent 480,567 on 9 August 1892.

The telegraph across the Pacific was completed in 1902, finally encircling the world.

Wireless telegraphy

Nikola Tesla and other scientists and inventors showed the usefulness of wireless telegraphy, radiotelegraphy, or radio, beginning in the 1890s. Alexander Stepanovich Popov demonstrated to the public his wireless radio receiver, which was also used as a lightning detector, on 7 May 1895. He proudly demonstrated his wireless receiver before a group of reporters on a stormy August evening in 1895. It was attached to a long 30 foot pole that he held aloft to maximize the signal. When asked by one of the reporters if it was a good idea to hold this metal rod in the middle of a storm he replied that all was well. After being struck (and nearly killed) by a bolt of lightning he proudly announced to the world that his invention also served as a 'lightning detector'.

Albert Turpain sent and received his first radio signal, using Morse code, in France, up to 25 meters in 1895[15].

Guglielmo Marconi sent and received his first radio signal in Italy up to 6 kilometres in 1896. On 13 May 1897, Marconi, assisted by George Kemp, a Cardiff Post Office engineer, transmitted the first wireless signals over water to Lavernock (near Penarth in Wales) from Flat Holm.[16] Having failed to interest the Italian government, the twenty-two year old inventor brought his telegraphy system to Britain and met William Preece, a Welshman, who was a major figure in the field and Chief Engineer of the General Post Office. A pair of masts about 34 metres (112 ft) high were erected, at Lavernock Point and on Flat Holm. The receiving mast at Lavernock Point was a 30-metre (98 ft) high pole topped with a cylindrical cap of zinc connected to a detector with insulated copper wire. At Flat Holm the sending equipment included a Ruhmkorff coil with an eight-cell battery. The first trial on 11 and 12 May failed but on the 13th the mast at Lavernock was extended to 50 metres (164 ft) and the signals, in Morse code, were received clearly. The message sent was "ARE YOU READY"; the Morse slip signed by Marconi and Kemp is now in the National Museum of Wales.

In 1898 Popov accomplished successful experiments of wireless communication between a naval base and a battleship.

In 1900 the crew of the Russian coast defense ship General-Admiral Graf Apraksin as well as stranded Finnish fishermen were saved in the Gulf of Finland because of exchange of distress telegrams between two radiostations, located at Hogland island and inside a Russian naval base in Kotka. Both stations of wireless telegraphy were built under Popov's instructions.

In 1901, Marconi radiotelegraphed the letter "S" across the Atlantic Ocean from his station in Poldhu, Cornwall to St. John's, Newfoundland.

Radiotelegraphy proved effective for rescue work in sea disasters by enabling effective communication between ships and from ship to shore.

Telegraphic improvements

Phelps' Electro-motor Printing Telegraph from circa 1880, the last and most advanced telegraphy mechanism designed by George May Phelps. Note the keyboard for entering the message.
Teletype machines in World War II

A continuing goal in telegraphy has been to reduce the cost per message by reducing hand-work, or increasing the sending rate.[citation needed] There were many experiments with moving pointers, and various electrical encodings. However, most systems were too complicated and unreliable. A successful expedient to increase the sending rate was the development of telegraphese.

Other research focused on the multiplexing of telegraph connections. By passing several simultaneous connections through an existing copper wire, capacity could be upgraded without the laying of new cable, a process which remained very costly. Several technologies were developed like Frequency-division multiplexing. Long submarine communications cables became possible in segments with vacuum tube amplifiers between them.

With the invention of the teletypewriter, telegraphic encoding became fully automated. Early teletypewriters used the ITA-1 Baudot code, a five-bit code. This yielded only thirty-two codes, so it was over-defined into two "shifts," "letters" and "figures". An explicit, unshared shift code prefaced each set of letters and figures.

The airline industry remains one of the last users of teletype and in a few situations still sends messages over the SITA or AFTN networks. For example, The British Airways operations computer system (FICO) as of 2004 still used teletype to communicate with other airline computer systems.[citation needed] The same goes for Programmed Airline Reservation System (PARS) and IPARS that used a similar shifted six-bit Teletype code, because it requires only eight bits per character, saving bandwidth and money. A teletype message is often much smaller than the equivalent EDIFACT or XML message. In recent years as airlines have had access to improved bandwidth in remote locations, IATA standard XML is replacing Teletype as well as EDI.

CN Telegraph and Cable office

The first electrical telegraph developed a standard signaling system for telecommunications. The "mark" state was defined as the powered state of the wire. In this way, it was immediately apparent when the line itself failed. The moving pointer telegraphs started the pointer's motion with a "start bit" that pulled the line to the unpowered "space" state. In early Telex machines, the start bit triggered a wheeled commutator run by a motor with a precise speed (later, digital electronics). The commutator distributed the bits from the line to a series of relays that would "capture" the bits. A "stop bit" was then sent at the powered "mark state" to assure that the commutator would have time to stop, and be ready for the next character. The stop bit triggered the printing mechanism. Stop bits initially lasted 1.42 baud times (later extended to two as signaling rates increased), in order to give the mechanism time to finish and stop vibrating. Hence an ITA-2 Murray code symbol took 1 start, 5 data, and 1.42 stop (total 7.42) baud times to transmit.[17]


A Siemens T100 Telex machine
A late-model British Telecom "Puma" Telex machine of the 1980s

By 1935, message routing was the last great barrier to full automation. Large telegraphy providers began to develop systems that used telephone-like rotary dialing to connect teletypes. These machines were called "Telex". Telex machines first performed rotary-telephone-style pulse dialing for circuit switching, and then sent data by Baudot code. This "type A" Telex routing functionally automated message routing.

The first wide-coverage Telex network was implemented in Germany during the 1930s[citation needed] as a network used to communicate within the government.

At the rate of 45.45 (±0.5%) baud — considered speedy at the time — up to 25 telex channels could share a single long-distance telephone channel by using voice frequency telegraphy multiplexing, making telex the least expensive method of reliable long-distance communication.

Canada-wide automatic teleprinter exchange service was introduced by the CPR Telegraph Company and CN Telegraph in July 1957 (the two companies, operated by rival Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway would join to form CNCP Telecommunications in 1967). This service supplemented the existing international Telex service that was put in place in November 1956. Canadian Telex customers could connect with nineteen European countries in addition to eighteen Latin American, African, and trans-Pacific countries.[18] The major exchanges were located in Montreal (01), Toronto (02), and Winnipeg (03).[19]

In 1958, Western Union Telegraph Company started to build a Telex network in the United States.[20] This Telex network started as a satellite exchange located in New York City and expanded to a nationwide network. Western Union chose Siemens & Halske AG,[21] now Siemens AG, and ITT [22] to supply the exchange equipment, provisioned the exchange trunks via the Western Union national microwave system and leased the exchange to customer site facilities from the local telephone company. Teleprinter equipment was originally provided by Siemens & Halske AG [23] and later by Teletype Corporation.[24] Initial direct International Telex service was offered by Western Union, via W.U. International, in the summer of 1960 with limited service to London and Paris.[25]

In 1962, the major exchanges were located in New York City (1), Chicago (2), San Francisco (3), Kansas City (4) and Atlanta (5).[26] The Telex network expanded by adding the final parent exchanges cities of Los Angeles (6), Dallas (7), Philadelphia (8) and Boston (9) starting in 1966.

The Telex numbering plan, usually a six-digit number in the United States, was based on the major exchange where the customer's Telex machine terminated.[27] For example, all Telex customers that terminated in the New York City exchange were assigned a Telex number that started with a first digit "1". Further, all Chicago based customers had Telex numbers that started with a first digit of "2". This numbering plan was maintained by Western Union as the Telex exchanges proliferated to smaller cities in the United States. The Western Union Telex network was built on three levels of exchanges.[28] The highest level was made up of the nine exchange cities previously mentioned. Each of these cities had the dual capability of terminating both Telex customer lines and setting up trunk connections to multiple distant Telex exchanges. The second level of exchanges, located in large cities such as Buffalo, Cleveland, Miami, Newark, Pittsburgh and Seattle, were similar to the highest level of exchanges in capability of terminating Telex customer lines and setting up trunk connections. However, these second level exchanges had a smaller customer line capacity and only had trunk circuits to regional cities. The third level of exchanges, located in small to medium sized cities, could terminate Telex customer lines and had a single trunk group running to its parent exchange.

Loop signaling was offered in two different configurations for Western Union Telex in the United States. The first option, sometimes called local or loop service, provided a 60 milliampere loop circuit from the exchange to the customer teleprinter. The second option, sometimes called long distance or polar was used when a 60 milliampere connection could not be achieved, provided a ground return polar circuit using 35 milliamperes on separate send and receive wires. By the 1970s, and under pressure from the Bell operating companies wanting to modernize their cable plant and lower the adjacent circuit noise that these Telex circuits sometimes caused, Western Union migrated customers to a third option called F1F2. This F1F2 option replaced the DC voltage of the local and long distance options with modems at the exchange and subscriber ends of the Telex circuit.

Western Union offered connections from Telex to the AT&T Teletypewriter eXchange (TWX) system in May 1966 via its New York Information Services Computer Center.[29] These connections were limited to those TWX machines that were equipped with automatic answerback capability per CCITT standard.

In 1970, Cuba and Pakistan were still running 45.5 baud type A Telex.[citation needed] Telex is still widely used in some developing countries' bureaucracies, probably because of its reliability and low cost. The UN asserted at one time that more political entities were reliably available by Telex than by any other single method.

Around 1960[?], some nations began to use the "figures" Baudot codes to perform "Type B" Telex routing.[citation needed]

Telex grew around the world very rapidly. Long before automatic telephony was available, most countries, even in central Africa and Asia, had at least a few high-frequency (shortwave) Telex links. Often these radio links were first established by government postal and telegraph services (PTTs). The most common radio standard, CCITT R.44 had error-corrected retransmitting time-division multiplexing of radio channels. Most impoverished PTTs operated their Telex-on-radio (TOR) channels non-stop, to get the maximum value from them.

The cost of TOR equipment has continued to fall. Although initially specialised equipment was required, many amateur radio operators now operate TOR (also known as RTTY) with special software and inexpensive hardware to adapt computer sound cards to short-wave radios.[30]

Modern "cablegrams" or "telegrams" actually operate over dedicated Telex networks, using TOR whenever required.[citation needed]

Operation and applications

Telex messages are routed by addressing them to a Telex address, e.g. "14910 ERIC S", where 14910 is the subscriber number, ERIC is an abbreviation for the subscriber's name (in this case Telefonaktiebolaget L.M. Ericsson in Sweden) and S is the country code. Solutions also exist for the automatic routing of messages to different Telex terminals within a subscriber organization, by using different terminal identities, e.g. "+T148".

A major advantage of Telex is that the receipt of the message by the recipient could be confirmed with a high degree of certainty by the "answerback". At the beginning of the message, the sender would transmit a WRU (Who aRe yoU) code, and the recipient machine would automatically initiate a response which was usually encoded in a rotating drum with pegs, much like a music box. The position of the pegs sent an unambiguous identifying code to the sender, so the sender could verify connection to the correct recipient. The WRU code would also be sent at the end of the message, so a correct response would confirm that the connection had remained unbroken during the message transmission. This gave Telex a major advantage over less verifiable forms of communications such as telephone and fax.

The usual method of operation was that the message would be prepared off-line, using paper tape. All common Telex machines incorporated a 5-hole paper-tape punch and reader. Once the paper tape had been prepared, the message could be transmitted in minimum time. Telex billing was always by connected duration, so minimizing the connected time saved money. However, it was also possible to connect in "real time", where the sender and the recipient could both type on the keyboard and these characters would be immediately printed on the distant machine.

Telex could also be used as a rudimentary but functional carrier of information from one IT system to another, in effect a primitive forerunner of Electronic Data Interchange. The sending IT system would create an output (e.g., an inventory list) on paper tape using a mutually agreed format. The tape would be sent by Telex and collected on a corresponding paper tape by the receiver and this tape could then be read into the receiving IT system.

One use of Telex circuits, in use until the widescale adoption of x.400 and Internet email, was to facilitate a message handling system, allowing local email systems to exchange messages with other email and Telex systems via a central routing operation, or switch. One of the largest such switches was operated by Royal Dutch Shell as recently as 1994, permitting the exchange of messages between a number of IBM Officevision, Digital Equipment Corporation All-In-One and Microsoft Mail systems. In addition to permitting email to be sent to Telex addresses, formal coding conventions adopted in the composition of Telex messages enabled automatic routing of Telexes to email recipients.

Teletypewriter eXchange

The Teletypewriter eXchange (TWX) was developed by the Bell System in the United States and originally ran at 45.45 baud or 60 words per minute, using five level Baudot code. Bell later developed a second generation of TWX called "four row" that ran at 110 baud, using eight level ASCII code. The Bell System offered both "3-row" Baudot and "4-row" ASCII TWX service up to the late 1970s.

TWX used the public switched telephone network. In addition to having separate Area Codes (510, 610, 710 and 810) for the TWX service, the TWX lines were also set up with a special Class of Service to prevent connections to and from POTS to TWX and vice versa.

The code/speed conversion between "3-row" Baudot and "4-row" ASCII TWX service was accomplished using a special Bell "10A/B board" via a live operator. A TWX customer would place a call to the 10A/B board operator for Baudot - ASCII calls, ASCII - Baudot calls and also TWX Conference calls. The code / speed conversion was done by a Western Electric unit that provided this capability. There were multiple code / speed conversion units at each operator position.

Western Union purchased the TWX system from AT&T in January 1969.[31] The TWX system and the special area codes (510, 610, 710 and 810) continued right up to 1981 when Western Union completed the conversion to the Western Union Telex II system. Any remaining "3-row" Baudot customers were converted to Western Union Telex service during the period 1979 to 1981.

The modem for this service was the Bell 101 dataset, which is the direct ancestor of the Bell 103 modem that launched computer time-sharing. The 101 was revolutionary, because it ran on ordinary telephone subscriber lines, allowing the Bell System to run TWX along with POTS on a single public switched telephone network.

International Record Carriers

Bell's original consent agreement limited it to international dial telephony. The Western Union Telegraph Company had given up its international telegraphic operation in a 1939 bid to monopolize U.S. telegraphy by taking over ITT's PTT business. The result was a de-emphasis on Telex in the U.S. and a "cat's cradle" of international Telex and telegraphy companies. The Federal Communications Commission referred to these companies as "International Record Carriers" (IRCs).

  • Western Union Telegraph Company developed a subsidiary named Western Union Cable System. This company later was renamed as Western Union International (WUI) when it was spun-off by Western Union as an independent company. WUI was purchased by MCI Communications (MCI) in 1983 and operated as a subsidiary of MCI International.
  • ITT's "World Communications" division (later known as ITT World Communications) was amalgamated from many smaller companies: "Federal Telegraph", "All American Cables and Radio", "Globe Wireless", and the common carrier division of Mackay Marine. ITT World Communications was purchased by Western Union in 1987.
  • RCA Communications (later known as RCA Global Communications) had specialized in global radiotelegraphic connections. In 1986 it was purchased by MCI International.
  • Before World War I, the Tropical Radiotelegraph Company (later known as Tropical Radio Telecommunications, or TRT) put radio telegraphs on ships for its owner, the United Fruit Company (UFC), to enable them to deliver bananas to the best-paying markets. Communications expanded to UFC's plantations, and were eventually provided to local governments. TRT eventually became the national carrier for many small Central American nations.
  • The French Telegraph Cable Company (later known as FTC Communications, or just FTCC), which was owned by French investors, had always been in the U.S. It laid undersea cable from the U.S. to France. It was formed by Monsieur Puyer-Quartier. International telegrams routed via FTCC were routed using the telegraphic routing ID "PQ", which are the initials of the founder of the company.
  • Firestone Rubber developed its own IRC, the "Trans-Liberia Radiotelegraph Company".[citation needed] It operated shortwave from Akron, Ohio to the rubber plantations in Liberia. TL is still based in Akron.

Bell Telex users had to select which IRC to use, and then append the necessary routing digits. The IRCs converted between TWX and Western Union Telegraph Co. standards.

Arrival of the Internet

Main article: History of the Internet. See also: E-mail and ARPANET

Around 1965, DARPA commissioned a study of decentralized switching systems. Some of the ideas developed in this study provided inspiration for the development of the ARPANET packet switching research network, which later grew to become the public Internet.

As the PSTN became a digital network, T-carrier "synchronous" networks became commonplace in the U.S. A T1 line has a "frame" of 193 bits that repeats 8000 times per second. The first bit, called the "sync" bit, alternates between 1 and 0 to identify the start of the frames. The rest of the frame provides 8 bits for each of 24 separate voice or data channels. Customarily, a T-1 link is sent over a balanced twisted pair, isolated with transformers to prevent current flow. Europeans adopted a similar system (E-1) of 32 channels (with one channel for frame synchronisation).

Later, SONET and SDH were adapted to combine carrier channels into groups that could be sent over optic fiber. The capacity of an optic fiber is often extended with wavelength division multiplexing, rather than rerigging new fibre. Rigging several fibres in the same structures as the first fibre is usually easy and inexpensive, and many fibre installations include unused spare "dark fibre", "dark wavelengths", and unused parts of the SONET frame, so-called "virtual channels."

In 2002, the Internet was used by Kevin Warwick at the University of Reading to communicate neural signals, in purely electronic form, telegraphically between the nervous systems of two humans[32], potentially opening up a new form of communication combining the Internet and telegraphy.

As of 2006, the fastest well-defined communication channel used for telegraphy is the SONET standard OC-768, which sends about 40 gigabits per second.

The theoretical maximum capacity of an optic fiber is more than 1012 bits (one terabit or one trillion bits) per second[citation needed]. In 2006, no existing encoding system approached this theoretical limit, even with wavelength division multiplexing.

Since the Internet operates over any digital transmission medium, further evolution of telegraphic technology will be effectively concealed from users.

As of 2007, the Internet carried the majority of telegraphic messages in the form of e-mail[citation needed].

E-mail displaces telegraphy

E-mail was first invented for Multics in the late 1960s.[citation needed] At first, e-mail was possible only between different accounts on the same computer (typically a mainframe). UUCP allowed different computers to be connected to allow e-mails to be relayed from computer to computer. With the growth of the Internet, e-mail began to be possible between any two computers with access to the Internet.

Various private networks like UUNET (founded 1987), the Well (1985), and GEnie (1985) had e-mail from the 1970s, but subscriptions were quite expensive for an individual, US$25 to US$50 per month, just for e-mail. Internet use was then largely limited to government, academia and other government contractors until the net was opened to commercial use in the 1980s.

By the early 1990s, modems made e-mail a viable alternative to Telex systems in a business environment. But individual e-mail accounts were not widely available until local Internet service providers were in place, although demand grew rapidly, as e-mail was seen as the Internet's killer app. The broad user base created by the demand for e-mail smoothed the way for the rapid acceptance of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990s.

On Monday, 12 July 1999, a final telegram was sent from the National Liberty Ship Memorial, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, in San Francisco Bay to President Bill Clinton in the White House. Officials of Globe Wireless reported that "The message was 95 words, and it took six or eight minutes to copy it." They then transmitted the message to the White House via e-mail. That event was also used to mark the final commercial U.S. ship-to-shore telegraph message transmitted from North America by Globe Wireless, a company founded in 1911. Sent from its wireless station at Half Moon Bay, California, the sign-off message was a repeat of Samuel F. B. Morse's message 155 years earlier, "What hath God wrought?"[33]

Worldwide status of telegram services

In Australia, Australia Post's TELeGRAM service "combines new age demands with old world charm to offer you a quick, convenient way to send a message that matters."[34] Messages can be submitted online or by telephone, and can be printed on a range of template designs. The printed telegrams are dispatched using Express Post Mail Service or the Ordinary Mail Service. Orders received before 15:00 are dispatched on the same day. The cost of the service, being AUD4.50 for Ordinary and AUD8.50 for Express Post Mail Services in comparison with AUD0.55 for an Australia-wide postage fee, makes this service too expensive for day-to-day communication.

In Bahrain, Batelco still offers telegram services. They are thought to be more formal than an email or a fax, but less so than a letter. So should a death or anything of importance occur, telegrams would be sent.

In Belgium, traditional telex operations ceased 28 February 2007. The Belgacom Telex services were replaced by RealTelex, an internet based Telex alternative.[35]

In Canada, Telegrams Canada offers a public telegram service.

In Ireland, Eircom – the country's largest telecommunication company and former PTT – formally discontinued Telex services on 30 July 2002.[36]

In Japan, NTT provides a telegram (denpou) service that is today used mainly for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, graduations, etc.[37] Local offices offer telegrams printed on special decorated paper and envelopes.

In Mexico, the telegram is still used as a low-cost communication service for people who cannot afford or do not have the computer skills required to send an e-mail.[38]

In Nepal, the Telex service has been discontinued as of January 1, 2009. Nepal Telecom states the reason for its decision due to "availability of advanced technology in data communication."[39]

In the Netherlands, the telegram service was sold by KPN to Unitel Telegram Services in 2001. On 9 February 2007, according to the online edition of the Telegraaf newspaper, the Netherlands national telecommunications company KPN pulled the plug on the last Telex machine in the Netherlands after having operated a Telex network since 1933. As their Telex service had only 200 remaining customers, it was decided that it was no longer worthwhile to continue to offer Telex within the Netherlands. It is, however, still possible to send Telex messages to foreign customers through the Internet.

In New Zealand, while general public use telegrams have been discontinued,[40] a modern variant has arisen for businesses, mainly utilities and the like, to send urgent confidential messages to their customers, leveraging off the perception that these are important messages. New Zealand Post describes the service as "a cost effective debt collection tool designed to help you to recover overdue money from your customers. New Zealand Post Telegrams are delivered by a courier in a Telegram branded envelope on Telegram branded paper. This has proven to be an effective method to spur customers into immediate action".[41]

In Sweden, TeliaSonera, still delivers telegrams as nostalgic novelty items, rather than a primary means of communication.

In Switzerland, UTS took over telegram services from the national PTTs. Telegrams can still be sent to and from most countries.

In the United Kingdom, the international telegram service formerly provided by British Telecom has been spun off as an independent company Telegrams Online, which promotes the use of telegrams as a retro greeting card or invitation.

In the United States, telegram services are operated by American Telegram, which operates under authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as well as iTelegram. Western Union announced the discontinuation of all of its telegram services effective from 31 January 2006.[42] Only 20,000 telegrams were sent in 2005, compared with 20 million in 1929. According to Western Union, which still offers money transfer services, its last telegram was sent Friday, 27 January 2006.[43] The company stated that this was its "final transition from a communications company to a financial services company."[44]

Social implications

Prior to the electrical telegraph, all but very small amounts of information could be moved only a few miles per hour, as fast as a human or animal could travel. The telegraph freed communication from the constraints of geography.[45] It isolated the message (information) from the physical movement of objects or the process.[46]

Telegraphy allowed organizations to actively control physical processes at a distance (for example: railroad signaling and switching of rolling stock), multiplying the effectiveness and functions of communication. "... Once space was, in the phrase of the day, annihilated, once everyone was in the same place for the purposes of trade, time as a new region of experience, uncertainty, speculation, and exploration was opened up to the forces of commerce."[47]

Worldwide telegraphy changed the gathering of information for news reporting. Since the same messages and information would now travel far and wide, the telegraph demanded a language "stripped of the local, the regional; and colloquial".[48] Media language had to be standardized, which led to the gradual disappearance of different forms of speech and styles of journalism and storytelling. It is believed that objective journalism finds its roots in the communicative strictures of the telegraph.[49]

Names of periodicals

The word "Telegraph" still appears in the names of numerous periodicals in various countries, a remnant of the long period when Telegraphy was a major means for newspapers to obtain news information (see Telegraph (disambiguation)).

See also


  1. ^ UK Post Office Telegram - example of the paper used to send telegrams
  2. ^
  3. ^ US Western Union Telegram - example of the paper used to receive telegram
  4. ^ Sample contract cancellation, website
  5. ^ "Semaphore,Encyclopædia Britannica". 
  6. ^ a b Jones, R. Victor Samuel Thomas von Sömmering's "Space Multiplexed" Electrochemical Telegraph (1808-10), Harvard University website. Attributed to "Semaphore to Satellite" , International Telecommunication Union, Geneva 1965. Retrieved 2009-05-01
  7. ^ R.W. Pohl, Einführung in die Physik, Vol. 3, Göttingen (Springer) 1924
  8. ^ Hubbard, Geoffrey (1965) Cooke and Wheatstone and the Invention of the Electric Telegraph, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London p. 78
  9. ^ Nichols, John (1967). The Gentleman's magazine, Volumes 282-283. p.545. University of California
  10. ^ Roswell, New Mexico was named after Annie Ellsworth's future husband, Roswell Smith.
  11. ^ Wilson, Arthur (1994). The Living Rock: The Story of Metals Since Earliest Times and Their Impact on Civilization. p. 203. Woodhead Publishing. ISBN 9781855733015.
  12. ^ Briggs, Asa and Burke, Peter: "A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet," p110. Polity, Cambridge, 2005.
  13. ^ Conley, David and Lamble, Stephen (2006) The Daily Miracle: An introduction to Journalism,(Third Edition) Oxford University Press, Australia pp. 305-307
  14. ^ Briggs, Asa and Burke, Peter: "A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet," p117. Polity, Cambridge, 2005.
  15. ^ "Raconte-moi la radio : Albert TURPAIN". Pierre Dessapt. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  16. ^ "Marconi: Radio Pioneer". BBC South East Wales. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  17. ^ Hobbs, Allan G. Five-unit codes (1999) accessed 2007-12-20
  18. ^ C.J. Colombo, “Telex in Canada”, Western Union Technical Review, January 1958: 21
  19. ^ Phillip R. Easterlin, “Telex in New York”, Western Union Technical Review, April 1959: 47 figure 4
  20. ^ Phillip R. Easterlin, "Telex in New York", Western Union Technical Review, April 1959: 45
  21. ^ Phillip R. Easterlin, "Telex in Private Wire Systems", Western Union Technical Review, October 1960: 131
  22. ^ James S. Chin and Jan J. Gomerman, "CSR4 Exchange", Western Union Technical Review, July 1966: 142–149
  23. ^ Fred W. Smith, "European Teleprinters", Western Union Technical Review, October 1960: 172-174
  24. ^ Fred W. Smith, "A New Line of Light-duty Teleprinters and ASR Sets", Western Union Technical Review, January 1964: 18–31
  25. ^ T.J. O’Sullivan, "TW 56 Concentrator", Western Union Technical Review, July 1963: 111-112
  26. ^ Phillip R. Easterlin, "Telex in the U.S.A.", Western Union Technical Review, January 1962: 2-15
  27. ^ Kenneth M. Jockers, "Planning Western Union Telex", Western Union Technical Review, July 1966: 92-95
  28. ^ Kenneth M. Jockers, "Planning Western Union Telex", Western Union Technical Review, July 1966: 94 figure 2
  29. ^ Sergio Wernikoff, "Information Services Computer Center", Western Union Technical Review, July 1966: 130
  30. ^
  31. ^ "WU to Buy AT&T TWX" |title=Western Union News Volume II, No. 4, January 15, 1969
  32. ^ Warwick, K, Gasson, M, Hutt, B, Goodhew, I, Kyberd, P, Schulzrinne, H and Wu, X: "Thought Communication and Control: A First Step using Radiotelegraphy", IEE Proceedings on Communications, 151(3), pp.185-189, 2004
  33. ^ Quinn, Andrew (July 13, 1999). "It's Taps For U.S. Telegraph—Last Dots Dashed Out". San Francisco Chronicle (Reuters). Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ [1]
  36. ^ Details of Eircom Services
  37. ^ R25編集部 (2008-04-21). "【コラム】 メール全盛の現代なのに…"電報"が生き残るワケとは?" (in Japanese). - gooニュース. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ TVNZ: Telegrams back in vogue
  41. ^ New Zealand Post: Telegrams
  42. ^ Western Union Telegrams
  43. ^ "NPR: Western Union sends its last telegram" by Robert Siegel, February 2, 2006
  44. ^ Telegram Passes Into History
  45. ^ Carey, James (1989) Communication as Culture, Routledge, New York and London, pp.204
  46. ^ Wark, McKenzie (1997) "The Virtual Republic," Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards.
  47. ^ Carey, James (1989) Communication as Culture, Routledge, New York and London, pp.201-30
  48. ^ Carey, James (1989). Communication as Culture, Routledge, New York and London, p.210
  49. ^ Carey, James (1989) Communication as Culture, Routledge, New York and London

Further reading

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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Simple English

Telegraphy (from the Greek words tele (τηλε) = far and graphein (γραφειν) = write) is the long-distance transmission of written messages without physical transport of letters.

A telegraph sends electric pulses in a special code, composed from short and large marks. Usually, amateur radio operators use Morse code. 's optical telegraph on the Litermont near Nalbach, Germany]]

Telegraphs are not used as much as they used to be. This is because of newer kinds of technology that people can use to communicate, such as the telephone and the Internet.

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