You've Got...A Telegram - Decoding the Past [Part 1]

Published on September 18th, 2015

Right around the turn of the millennium, the telegram industry came to an end. The need for brief, abbreviated messages became futile as technology improved and made direct calling and long distance calling an affordable option

Plus, it was no longer necessary to purchase a code guide to find out that your message is an invitation to your friend’s party (unless it’s a detective-themed kind of party).

How did our ways of communicating from one house to another by the click of a button come to be?

Let’s crack the code: The story begins in France.

1791 – Claude Chappe invents the télégraphe (Greek for “far writer”). Using the coordinated movements between the hands of a clock and wooden panels painted white and black, a numeric code could be inscribed and read from an afar tower with a telescope.

1793 – Chappe updates his system to include a movable pair of arms on a movable bar which could be manipulated by an operator using a smaller version of the device attached by pulleys and cables. This design was capable of 98 unique positions.

1794 – Having impressed the French government with his model, state telegraph towers were built for military and political intelligence purposes.

1805 – Competitors jump in to the game to try to improve upon Chappe’s telegraphic mechanism in ways to make it more inexpensive (less manpower and towers) and practical (nighttime caused sight issues) methods of communicating across distances.

Tune in to the next Home History Friday for the continued story! Have questions or comments in the meantime? Feel free to contact our Housing Buzz Team today!

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