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Communications IT

In India, the Dot Dash Is Done 86

cold fjord writes that, as promised last month, telegraph service in India is being honorably retired: "Only 7 years behind the US. From Forbes: '... in India, where I'm now sojourning, telegraph service has survived as a basic means of communication since the British East India Company sent the first telegram from Calcutta to nearby Diamond Harbor in 1850... As of July 15, the state company that runs the telegraph service is shutting it down. ... "For long, the telegraph was eyed with suspicion as an emblem of imperial rule," editorialized The Indian Express ... "Yet it brought various parts of the country together and eventually entered the traffic of everyday life. When the telegraph winds up, one of the oldest markers of a modern India will be lost. Stop" — the word that typically ended brief telegraphic phrases rather than periods. Until fairly recently, several hundred thousand messages a day moved over the wires of the telegraph system ...' From NBC: 'When it was completed in 1856, the Indian telegraph stretched over 4,000 miles ... Tom Standage, author of "The Victorian Internet" writes, the early telegraph networks were responsible for "hype, skepticism, hackers, on-line romances and weddings, chat-rooms, flame wars, information overload, predictions of imminent world peace."'"
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In India, the Dot Dash Is Done

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  • Re:Chat rooms? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ozoner ( 1406169 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @02:41AM (#44282065)

    > I'd like to know how a chat room worked on a telegraph.

    On most Telegraph lines there were many operators spaced at intervals along the line and its branch lines.
    So when there was no traffic to send, the bored operators would chat.

    And of course there were many amateur telegraph circuits, some connecting dozens of enthusiasts in a town or suburb.

    And then of course Amateur Radio came along.

  • Re:Chat rooms? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @07:03AM (#44282675)

    I'd like to know how a chat room worked on a telegraph.

    I'd like to know what the flame wars were about.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @07:16AM (#44282707) Journal

    Landline penetration was low because it is expensive to run cables. In the 1990s I visited a company who were making fixed phones for houses in Chile. These were big analogue mobiles and dirt cheap compared to stringing cables through the mountains.

    It's not just for the sticks and/or brutal terrain anymore: Verizon [] is looking to move a bunch of Hurricane Sandy-damaged landline customers to 'Verizon Voicelink', essentially a tethered cellular-to-copper bridge. Whether this is a statement on the economics of copper/fiber buildout, or an end-run around the regulations affecting wireline POTS service is a matter of some contention...

  • by quetwo ( 1203948 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @07:49AM (#44282813) Homepage

    Telegrams were prefixed with a routing number (telex number), similar to a phone number, and name. The telex number was usually the number of the receiving office... Most telegram systems used worldwide employed a "store and forward" type of system where they would get the telegram from the originating office, wait for the the trunks to be open to the larger offices that consolidated multiple regions together, and then sometimes sent it to the larger office via other trunks. Then the process would reverse sending the message down trunks as they opened up to the smaller offices.

    Of course, most of this became moot when the old copper lines were decommissioned in most countries in the late 1990's and early 2000's. The US and most of Europe switched to routing the telex messages over the internet. Many countries quickly moved to the same platform after. I don't think anything lives in Western's telecommunication office on 60 Hudson in NYC anymore..

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:22AM (#44282955) Journal
    Combined hand is the term used by Indian Posts & Telegraph Department to describe postal workers certified in morse code. He got his certificate in Chennai in 1957 or so. Most common telegraph traffic was rural merchants exchanging price information and harvest forecasts with district and state commercial centers. Usually in the evening and usually obfuscated in terms unique to each trading family.

    But out side business most common people got telegrams bearing death notices. India is a very hot country and usually bodies are cremated within 24 hours. Certain religious ritual need a certain relatives to be present at the cremation. Usually the wife's family (whether the husband dies or the wife) plays an important roles in the rites and the property settlements that follows soon after. Husband's brothers would usually be in the same village, but again sometimes they need to be sent for. Sons/daughters also need to be sent out for urgently. It is not uncommon to actually send messengers out for very important relatives. So for most common people only death notices are important enough to use the expensive, so many rupees per word, messages.

    Middle class folks would also send congratulatory telegrams for weddings they could not attend. The custom again requires certain relatives must be present for weddings, but if they could not be, spending money to send telegrams carries the subtext, "sorry I could not attend, see I am spending expensive telegram, so it shows that I value the relationship a lot, I beg forgiveness for being able to attend". I have heard of people sending double telegrams.

    In a PGWodehouse novel Betram Wooster and his aunt Dhalia exchange some 10 telegrams or so in one afternoon. I found that to be a lot more hilarious than most other people because my prior notions about what a telegram signifies.

    Once the commercial messages went to SMS basically the market disappeared for telegrams.

  • Re:Chat rooms? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crackspackle ( 759472 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @10:05AM (#44283933)

    For an interesting take on why the telegraph led in part to the modern computer and how both work, read Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software" [] by Charles Petzold. He argues all the ideas needed to build a modern computer were known around the time telegraph use took off, and he uses those ideas to describe logic gates and put them together into a working computer.

    In short, the relay was invented in 1835 as a way to extend telegraph runs further without requiring operators. Morse code, as the primary way to communicate, happened to also be a binary code that mapped letters to the equivalent of ones and zeros, dots and dashes. In 1854, George Boole published “An Investigation of the Laws of Thought”. Petzold stops there and essentially uses only those ideas to build his modern computer. It wasn’t recognized formally by anyone until 1937 when Claude Shannon published “A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits”. Even Charles Babbage had known of Boole’s work and the telegraph but did not see how it could have been better used to build his Difference Engine.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @11:22AM (#44284905) Journal

    That is the root of the suspicion that Verizon has reasons other than repair costs to not re-run the lines that were cut by the hurricane, to ensure that the area has no copper to any premises, and that whether your phone looks like a landline or not, you are at the tender mercy of Verizon Wireless.

  • Re:Telex Machines... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @11:52AM (#44285317) Journal
    Probably in USA. In India regular dot-dash telegraph was operational well into the 1970s. I have visited post offices with my dad and been "shocked" by the telegraph equipment. There key-hammer instruments were not insulated and if you touch it you will get a shock. The voltage is not as high 110V but high enough to feel the tingling and make muscles twitch but not painful. I don't know the actual voltage used. I remember the telex machines being introduced to state capitals in 1970s. I have seen the telegrams telegrams written by the hand of the operator in pencil. Telex messages will have lines and line of tape cut and paste literally on to the same form.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.