Wednesday, April 18, 2012



The 19th century telegraph and railroad provided the first habitus
for virtual communities. The railroad objectified time and created
the potential for liaisons at a distance. The telegraph workers used
their spare time to talk to one another - friendships and marriages
resulted. The telegraph used a protocol stack reminiscent of tcp/ip
- the layers ranged from hardware to application, with redundancy
and several layers of coding, including addressable messaging
systems, in-between. The telegraph has its parallels in ascii, in
terms of bandwidth; visual telegraphy never really caught on. The
telegraph communality was celebrated in popular literature and song.
For a long time I've been interested in the apparatus itself as
well; recently in Omaha, I was able to buy a small station consist-
ing of a sounder and key. Soon I'll have a telegraph between my
table and Azure's desk, about twenty feet away. (sounds of 1880s key
and sounder with various adjustments for proper tuning:
documentary) (altered for the
sake of making a sound-work: docudrama)

documentation of telegraph station unit plus unmounted sounder
and key (the unmounted sounder is 1895, the key early-mid
twentieth century):

unmounted key: 37
mounted sounder: Western Electric
mounted key: Western Electric / AT&T

The best book I've seen on the subject: The Telegraph Instructor,
G. M. Dodge, Valpraiso, Indiana, 1908.

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