Another day, another Breguet
One more dubious unbuilt telegraph
based on the dial design. This one was American, and the inventor wanted us to know it was American.
Lucius Curtiss of Cincinnati invented this in 1848,
and proudly titled it The American Indicating Disc Telegraph.
It certainly would have worked
, but it would have been unnecessarily hard to use because it didn't make proper use of the Breguet-style dial. Curtiss had one distinctly French idea. Following Chappe
instead of Morse, he intended to make phrases and words the major unit of information. He also tried to incorporate the idea of letter frequency, which most early telegraphs ignored.
The dial had 25 segments, but they weren't letters. They were 5 repetitions of 01234. Sending required you to rapidly hit the key until you saw the dial reach the desired number, then vibrate the key again to the next number and so on. You would pause between sequences.
A single number meant a vowel; two digits between pauses covered the consonants and punctuation; and three or four digits would encode common words.
Each key impulse would trigger the magnets to tick the escapement, and the weight would gradually pull the wheel around.
You'd watch your numberwheel to form the sequences, which would also appear on the numberwheel of the receiver.
Curtiss was clearly a deeply religious man who lived by the Bible. His suggested list of common words included eg chance, church, God, good, give, except, accept, shall, shalt, should.
Unfortunately real telegraphs, from Chappe to the Web, are primarily used by stock swindlers. So a more practical list of common words would include eg short, long, corner, monopoly, evade, tax, cheat, gyp, steal, kill, slaughter, exterminate, Negative, Externalities.
I've resisted the temptation to 'correct' the mechanism,
because I feel a strong empathy for Curtiss and his futile attempt to use technology for good purposes. Nevertheless, the original Breguet dial
could have been relabeled to send a similar numbergroup code with a lot less uncertainty and a lot less wasted motion.
Labels: Morsenet of Things