Friday, May 24, 2019

Telegraphers as human wormholes to the past?

Samuel Morse, 24 May 1844
Eventually the concept of communicating via dots and dashes will become a faded memory. Although it hasn't happened yet, it is happening. In the years to come, Morse Code will become an increasingly distant, increasingly abstract memory in grainy black and white.

Many who were expert in its use have faded from our ranks.

"Human wormhole" is a phrase coined by blogger Jason Kottke after learning that American president John Tyler (our 10th president) was born in 1790 and still, as of 2019, has two living grandsons - one in Tennessee, the other in Virginia at the old family home.

"To meet either of these two octogenarians would be like shaking hands with the 18th century - and someone needs to come up with a name for that concept - thus the term human wormhole".

President John Tyler
As hams with an interest and/or a developed skill in Dotdashology, perhaps it's not too far-fetched to think of ourselves as human wormholes, carrying on the increasingly old (ancient?) skill of communicating our thoughts via staccato bursts of energy.

We can't own radios as old as the Code for they had not yet been invented. Some keys are pretty old but they're expensive to buy if in operational condition. And the oldest you'll find is probably around 115 years old.

But the Morse Code, today on its unofficial birthday, is 175 years old and is available and at your service.

Although we use a different form on radio and a different medium than wires, the concept is the same and I hope to exchange lots of dots and dashes this weekend with stations near and far.

Good luck in the contest to my fellow human wormholes!


  1. The key on my desk at work is about 150+ years old, as it was originally used with a sounder set.

    It still has most of the Signal Electronic Mfg. Co. label from Menominee, Mich on the redwood base. It is also engraved on the loop switch arm.

    I purchased this key in the Dayton flea market from someone that had a large collection of keys a number of years ago for less than $50. It went for so cheap because of the damage to the label, and the small melted area on the edge of the key pad, which looks like it was melted by an operator's cigarette, when he perched it there.

    It all gives it character, and makes for a great conversation piece and a way of introducing my ham radio experience to visitors that come by my desk.


    Dave, N8SBE

    1. Here's some history of the Signal Electric Mfg. Co:

      Do you ever put it on the air? Yep, these old keys have character and one can't help but wonder what traffic they might have passed.

      John AE5X