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Samuel Morse, Electric Telegraph Inventor
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Morse’s original telegraph used an artist’s canvas pulled taut over the wooden stretcher


Morse’s original telegraph used an artist’s canvas pulled taut over the wooden stretcher



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Drawing of an artist’s canvas pulled taut over the wooden stretcher
Drawing of an artist’s canvas pulled taut over the wooden stretcher











What Did Morse Use To Build His First Telegraph?

Lacking both money and technical skill, Morse used art materials and items from his brother’s print shop to build the telegraph. He used a canvas stretcher for the frame of his original telegraph receiver. The transmitter design was based on a printer’s composing stick, and his coded lead slugs were based on printer’s type.

Morse had to make do with less-than-ideal materials.

Transmitting electricity required wires, and a readily available and inexpensive type of wire was copper hatmakers’ wire--used to shape the fashionable “skyscraper” bonnets of the day. The wire held its shape and conducted electricity, although the cotton insulation was less than perfect for the job. Still, Morse bought as much of it as he could find for his experiments with the telegraph.

Morse also used a homemade battery to power the telegraph and the works from an old clock to move the paper strip.

And he had to simplify his invention.

The telegraph had potential, but the original coding system was too hard to use. In 1837 Morse and his assistant Alfred Vail developed a dot-dash code to represent numbers, a dictionary to change the numbers into words, and a set of type to send the signals. By 1838 Morse and Vail had eliminated the number-word dictionary and used the dot-dash code to represent letters directly instead.

Next: Continue to next section,“Borrow from Nature”›





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