1

European Morse,

[si slss [1 1s stls llsl sis sss I

ssi sssl sli Issi Isll llss

Figt 1. Comparison of the early alphabetic codes with the final Internationai Morse code created by the Germans.

laboratory and put it to work. At last the world possessed the means for rapid distant communication; communication dependable day or night regardless of the weather, A triumph of simplicity itself, American Morse survived well over a hundred years in telegraph systems of I lie United States and Canada. It provided careers for thousands, a hobby for thousands more, and set the foundation for amateur radio.

Construction of the American Morse code undoubtedly benefited from the alphabetic codes available at the time, A number existed. One goes back to the ancients 150 years before the Christian era. The Greek historian, Poly bins, in the tenth book of his General history, describes a bi-signal method of signaling over a distance by torches. He credits Cleoxe-mis and Democlitus with the invention and himself with its perfection* The scheme divided the Greek a 1 pi\abet of 24 letters into five series or tablets with each (except the last) contain-iirg five letters. One to five torches exposed on the left side indicated the group or tablet; similar torches raised on the right side indicated the place of the letter on tie tablet. Slow and useable only at night, distance depended upon weather conditions and the resolving power of the receiver s eye.

Non-alphabetic systems got messages across much faster. Roman armies used the heliograph; the African, the tom-tom; the American Indian, smoke signals. Reflected sunlight flashing off polished shields, conveyed battle in structions to Roman legions and spread deeper fear among defending armies. Tom-tom rhythms, haunting as the drums in Ravels musical classic "The Bolero," aroused the jungle and sent cold chills up and down the spines of white traders in slaves. Pulls of smoke floating lazily above surrounding peaks, forecast a kind of trouble that raised hair on end as pioneers in Conestoga-wagon caravans trespassed Indian lands to settle the American West. Again, weather affected each. Subject to sunlight* daylight, or wind conditions, these systems could convey only limited intelligence.

Galileo's telescope gave birth to a much faster system—the semaphore. Using it, Claude Chappe, a French engineer produced a practical system that sent messages all over I'ranee. Above simple towers holding a vertical wooden post, a horizontal beam pivoted controlled by ropes. At the end of the beam, two vertical

Fig. 2* Example of constant-line message produced by Morse's first telegraph machine. The receiving operator numbered the "V's" between spaces. By comparing the groups of numbers with a numbered dictionary, he deciphered the message. An inverted "V" represented a zero. When the zero came before a number or group of numbers, the operator read the number as an actual number not o ward.

Fig. 2* Example of constant-line message produced by Morse's first telegraph machine. The receiving operator numbered the "V's" between spaces. By comparing the groups of numbers with a numbered dictionary, he deciphered the message. An inverted "V" represented a zero. When the zero came before a number or group of numbers, the operator read the number as an actual number not o ward.

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