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Antiques of Science & Technology
W26-18. A Rare and Important ABC Telegraph Transmitter
This fine instrument is from the laboratory of one of the inventors, Professor Charles Wheatstone's, Kings College Laboratory on the Strand England. "KCL" is stamped on the top of the base and "KCL WB" is stenciled on the bottom.. The wood screws securing the base cover are pre-1856 technology. Charles Wheatstone, one of the more famous English inventors and scientists, made contributions to a broad range of fields in the mid 19th century. On 21 Jan. 1840, C. Wheatstone & W.F. Cooke were granted the earliest English alphabetic telegraph patent. A copy of this patent is included with the unit. The ABC telegraph was popular in England and Europe in mercantile and public establishments because it did not require a trained telegraphist to read or send the messages.
This instrument has a 7 1/2" diameter mahogany base supporting a spoked brass wheel on which the alphabet is printed in black lettering on its perimeter. To operate the instrument, the sender simply rotates the wheel until the desired letter is displayed under the index arm. During rotation the instrument sends out the proper number of electric pulses to an electromagnetically controlled pointer on a remote synchronized slave receiver with a similarly lettered wheel which moves to the sender's letter.
Electric telegraphs of the 1840-50's are of special historic importance as the earliest practical application of serial binary coded digital communication. They are one of the first bricks in the technology that led to the digital electronic "information highway" evolving today.
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