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Dead medium: the Telegraph: the Morse Pendulum Instrument, the Morse Register
From: ac038@osfn.rhilinet.gov (Paul Di Filippo)
Source(s): Source: *The Progress of Invention in the 19th Century* by Edward W. Byrn
Munn and Co., Publishers, Scientific American Office, 361 Broadway, New York 1900

(((bruces remarks: Paul Di Filippo was kind enough to send me this one-volume technical compendium from 1900 A.D., and it is a veritable brass mine of dead media. The beautiful period etchings (sadly mixed with blurry, up-to- date photos), are expecially impressive, and the work now has a signal place of honor on my dead media reference shelf. The turn of a century seems to inspire technical writers to great flights of summary fancy, and Edward W. Byrn's deep-breathing peroration on the telegraph rivals the writing of John Perry Barlow.)))

page 15

"Of all the inventions which man has called into existence to aid him in the fulfillment of his destiny, none so closely resembles man himself in his dual quality of body and soul as the telegraph. It too has a body and soul. We see the wire and the electro-magnet, but not the vital principle which animates it. Without its subtile, pulsating, intangible spirit, it is but dead matter. But vitalized with its immortal soul it assumes the quality of animated existence, and through its agency thought is extended beyond the limitations of time and space, and flashes through the air and sea throughout the world. (...)"

page 20

"Morse's first model, his pendulum instrument of 1837, is illustrated in Fig. 5. A pendulum carrying a pencil was in constant contact with a strip of paper drawn beneath the pencil. As long as inactive the pencil made a straight line. The pendulum also carried an armature, and an electro-magnet was placed near the armature. A current passed through the magnet would draw the pendulum to one side. On being released the pendulum would return, and in this way zigzag markings, as shown at 4 and 5, would be produced on the strip of paper, which formed the alphabet. A different alphabet, known as the Morse Code, was subsequently adopted by Morse (...)"

page 21

"The alphabet consisted simply of an arrangement of dots and dashes in varying sequence. The register is an apparatus operated by the combined effects of a clock mechanism and an electro-magnet. Under a roll, see Fig. 8, a ribbon of paper is drawn by the clockwork. A lever having an armature on one end arranged over the poles of an electro-magnet, carries on the other end a point or stylus. When an electric impulse is sent over the line the electro-magnet attracts the armature, and the stylus on the other end of the lever is brought into contact with the paper strip, and makes an indented impression. A short impulse gives a dot, and a long impulse holds the stylus against the paper long enough to allow the clock mechanism to pull the paper under the stylus and make a dash (...)

"(...) the Morse register has been practically abandoned, as no expert telegrapher requires the visible evidence of the code, but all rely now entirely on the sound-click of the electromagnet placed in the local circuit and known as a sounder, the varying time length of gagps between the clicks serving every purpose of rapid and intelligent communication." (((Note that the telegraph's early hard-copy peripheral was simply tossed aside as useless!)))

"The invention of the telegraph has been claimed for Steinheil, of Munich, and also for Cooke and Wheatstone, in England, but few will deny that it is to Prof. Morse's indefatigable energy and inventive skill, with the preliminary work of Prof. Henry, that the world to-day owes its great gift of the electric telegraph, and with this gift the world's great nervous forces have been brought into an intimate and sensitive sympathy."

Paul Di Filippo (ac038@osfn.rhilinet.gov)