Friday, August 30, 2013
These do all sound ridiculous and impractical configurations, but the point is that the Morse system won out because it was the first practical system. he didn't invent it in a void. That is evidenced by the fact that Prof. Charles Wheatstone, Charles T. Jackson and David Alder all "invented" the telegraph around the same date. Only a few years before the Morse system debuted, Carl Friedrich Gauss showed off a semi-practical electrical telegraph. He and and Wilhelm Weber built connected the Gottingen Observatory and the Institute of Physics; a distance of about half a mile.
Their prototype consisted of a coil which could be moved up and down over the ends of two magnetic bars. This motion generated an induction current that was transmitted through two wires to a galvanometer. They could also toggle the direction of the current. Using positive and negative states they encoded the alphabet in binary code. In 1832 Pavel Shilling revised an 8-wire model down to two. It was tested in Russia over a distance of 3 miles. The British government was interested in buying the design. Had Morse not had his own breakthroughs, either of these could have been a usable systems.
The first of these was developed by Mr. Royal E. House. His printers used paper tape not unlike early stock tickers. In 1846 a Scottish scientist, Alexander Bain, sped up the Morse system with a paper tape soaked in a mixture of ammonium nitrate and potassium ferrocyanide, which gave a blue mark when zapped with the current. But this was too fast so he re-engineered it as punched paper. His unit managed a top speed of 282 words in under a minute. This was more than 4x the speed of Morse's telegraph. Morse sued him of course claiming ownership of the paper tape idea. In 1848 Friedrich Clemens Gerke revised the original Morse code into a binary arrangement of dots and dashes. Sort of reminds me of VHS and Betamax.