Telegraph - History of Telegraph


A common feature among old timey Western movies is the familiar sounds of the short and long buzzing associated with Morse code. Although most people don't know the ins and outs of that code, everyone recognizes the customary three short 'dits' followed by three 'dahs', ending with three 'dits' coding for the distress signal S.O.S. The union between Morse code and the telegraph seem inseparable. Surprisingly, however, this code was developed nearly 80 years after the creation of the first telegraph.

The idea for the first telegraph was submitted in 1753 by an anonymous contributor to the Scots Magazine, who suggested that a communication device could be created by attaching a separate wire for each letter, and running those wires to an output source at a faraway location. Many attempts were made by various local scientists to follow through on this idea, but all failed. The next attempt at creating a telegraph was in 1809, by a German physician names Samuel Thomas von Sömmering. His idea also used multiple wires representing each letter, but instead, he had the end of the wires suspended in acid. When a message was to be sent, an electric signal could be directed through the appropriate wire and the recipient could count bubbles and decode the message. This idea was also a failure.

Finally, in 1816 an electrostatic telegraph was developed, which used electric currents to pass signals to recipients. This idea was tested by connecting eight miles of wire to clocks containing letters instead of numbers. An electrical pulse was sent through the wires and directed the clocks to signal for specific letters, which in turn, spelled out a message. This attempt was successful and the electric telegraph was continually developed over the next 20 years.

In 1837, William Fothergille Cooke and Charles Whatstone produced the first commercially available telegraph that used needles to convey an electrically coded signal to the recipient. Quickly the London and Blackwell Railway began introducing this system around the city. Concurrently, a version of the electrical telegraph was created in the United States. On January 11th, 1838 Samuel Morse succeeded in sending the first Morse coded signal via telegraph. The signal read "WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT" and was received over two miles from its source location. Over the next thirty years, the telegraph connected the entire United States and ended the pony express.

Further advancements of the telegraph included connecting countries via stringing cables underneath the world's oceans. In July 1866, the first telegraph cable crossed the Atlantic Ocean. However, as oral communication technologies, such as telephones, were created and expanded, the telegraph fell out of use. In January 2006, the Western Union ended all telegraph messaging in the United States. The last telegraph system to be operational ended in India on July 14th, 2013. This amazing technological advancement, although outdated by today's measures, deserves immense respect for being the first technology to simply connect people, countries, and the entire world.

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