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Author Topic: Magic of Morse  (Read 3397 times)
KD4AL
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Posts: 26




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« on: June 24, 2010, 05:49:32 PM »

My Uncle Charlie was a professional telegraph operator for Western Union.  He told me some great stories about land Morse operators.  One trick they had, they used a tin from a Prince Edward tobacco can attached to the telegraph souder bent in a certain way so they could identify their own sounder from anyone elses.

This one fellow had come to work on a piece of equipment but had forgotten the manual.  So they transmitted the manual via telegraph to their station.  This operator sat there copying the manual on a typewriter. But he decided he needed a smoke break.  Instead of breaking the sender to wait while he smoked, he just stepped away from his typewriter to the window a few feet away, smoked his cigarette, went back to his typewriter and CAUGHT UP. 

I have no reason to think that Uncle Charlie was embellishing. These guys wer just amazing.

Bill KD4AL
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20603




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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2010, 07:11:01 PM »

Wow!  Is he still alive?  I think WU changed their keyed telegraphy operations over to teletype in 1923, that's 87 years ago!

Cool story.
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VE3CX
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Posts: 44




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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2010, 09:46:26 AM »

I have heard similar stories where a radio operator typing out incoming messages are a few minutes(!) behind the incoming CW.  I just never realized how difficult is must have been to operate a manual typewriter.... Cheesy

Tom
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KD4AL
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Posts: 26




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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2010, 06:45:29 PM »

Unfortunately Uncle Charlie is no longer with us. He died in about 1999. He was born around 1922 or so.  He started out with Western Union as a delivery boy.  I don't know when WU gave up the key operated telegrahy. But I doublechecked with my Dad (born in 1932.) He clearly remembers watching Charlie send Morse on "one of those thumb and forefinger keys", which I assume refers to a Vibroplex of some sort.  I never got the chance to watch him send. But I loved his stories. In addition to copying on a typewriter, Charlie had the most magnificent penmanship of any man I know. One of the older operators taught him.
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K0RS
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Posts: 718




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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2010, 08:35:09 PM »

One trick they had, they used a tin from a Prince Edward tobacco can attached to the telegraph souder bent in a certain way so they could identify their own sounder from anyone elses.

Bill KD4AL

Which of course was the origin of the term "tin ear."
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K7KBN
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Posts: 2805




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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2010, 11:33:46 AM »

Which might lead to tinnitus...
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
AA4PB
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Posts: 12856




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« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2010, 11:38:15 AM »

It might also be the origin of the question "tin you hear me now?"
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WX7G
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2010, 03:45:20 PM »

Western Union used telegraphy until 1964.
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STAYVERTICAL
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Posts: 873




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« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2010, 09:54:58 PM »

First, morse is a language, and a modulation scheme.
Just as the songs of whales,clicks of dolphins and the calls of birds are forms of language,
morse is similar to these in concept.
To the initiated, who have taken the time to learn this language, it is the same as listening to
a common language, in that once you have entered competency, you actually see the meaning
and not the tones.
To the uninitiated it is a relic of the 19th and 20th century which has reached its use-by date.
Trying to explain the fascination of morse to the rational minded is a study in futility, the same as
trying to explain the allure of space flight to those who cite the worlds problems waiting for solution.
Morse, becomes music to its listeners, a combination of art and science which is sadly lacking in
todays utilitarian texting systems.
In the same way that old buildings installed ornate carved lintels and sills, providing beauty and
function, morse belongs to that era.
Who, if they heard the rasping tone of the Titanic sending her desperate appeals would be unmoved
as the tone slowly faded away?
That is the magic of morse.
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N2EY
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Posts: 3880




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« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2010, 10:29:19 AM »

One trick they had, they used a tin from a Prince Edward tobacco can attached to the telegraph souder bent in a certain way so they could identify their own sounder from anyone elses.

This is the origin of the term "lid". A tobacco-can lid was often used for the purpose,

73 de Jim, N2EY
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W0XI
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Posts: 67




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« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2010, 07:28:06 AM »

 Shocked Hey All. Have a buddy who used to work at a ham store in Nebraska back in the 1980s; yea NE had a store! Anyway, they got in one of the first electronic Morse keyboard and he way playing with it at the counter sending at > 50 wpm. An ole dude sat at the store bench by the door, watching the day go by. When Ken was done typing, the ole guy said (true story), "Ain't heard nuth'in so pretty since they took the wires down!"

"DIDDAT make sense DIDDIT?" Phil in KS.
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N2EY
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Posts: 3880




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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2010, 09:42:55 AM »

A telegraph story:

There was a railroad which had an important position open at the
division office. Applicants were told to show up on a certain day in
the outer waiting room, and wait to be called into the
Superintendent's private office for an interview.

The outer waiting room was a busy place, with a telegraph sounder
going continuously, various employees doing all sorts of tasks, and
the Superintendent inside his private office with the door shut.

A number of applicants showed up, most with years of experience. Each
handed their papers to the clerk, took a seat, and waited.

After all the chairs were occupied, a young man arrived - obviously
not nearly so experienced as the others. He paused for a moment,
papers in hand. Then he walked straight to the door of the
Superintendent's private office, opened it, and walked right in,
closing the door behind him!

The other applicants looked at each other in surprise and some
amusement. Barging in on the Division Superintendent was the best
guarantee of never getting any job! One waiting applicant said the
word "greenhorn" and the others all nodded.

But a few moments later, the door of the Superintendent's office
opened, and the Superintendent came out, followed by the young man.
The Superintendent said: "Thank you all for coming, but the position
has been filled." It was obvious that the young man had gotten the job
they all wanted.

Some of the applicants started to protest, but the Superintendent just
pointed to the telegraph sounder. It wasn't on an outside line. It was
playing the same message over and over:

"If you can read this, come into my office"

73 de Jim, N2EY
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