Goodbye Mr. Telegraph

The telegraph becomes an outdated communication system today but, before telephone, before internet, before computer and before electric telegraph, how did the communication system work among the countries? How did the telegraph become obsolete today? Is there any rival technology that has replaced telegraph?


Before telegraph, Drumbeats or smoke signals were effectively used to exchange information among the remote places. This communication system is still being used in Military, but the smoke signals and drumbeats took more time to transmit the message and became susceptible due to weather and night. It was replaced by Chappe telegraph invented in 1792 by Chappe and it was the world’s first telegraph system in the industrial age.


Chappe telegraph had a series of hill station consisting of a large horizontal beam and two small wings. The horizontal beam and two-wings considered as the regulator and indicators respectively. Each tower was equipped with a pair of telescope one pointing at either direction.

A telegrapher from the next tower read the visual signals and transmitted the message. This non-electric telegraph was expensive, needed more towers for every 20 kilometers, and was limited to weather, so it was not used commercially.



 In the industrial age, lacking of a revolutionized communication network paved the way to a bunch of scientists (William Cookie, Charles Wheatstone, Samuel Morse, Alfred Vail and Leonard) to do research using the principle of magnetism and invented a new information transmitting system. In 19th century, the development of battery and electromagnetism helped to replace visual telegraph by electric telegraph.


Samuel Morse invented Morse code which consists of series of dots and dashes arranged in way to represent the alphabets.  When the code is transmitted on the telegraph, it rendered as marks on a paper. The telegraph operator translated the codes back into English. The paper was replaced by a receiver and the operator understood the codes by listening to clicking of the receiver


In 1843, Samuel Morse received a fund from the US government and set up the telegraph system. In 1844, Morse demonstrated telegraph by sending a message “What Hath God Wrought?” between Washington, DC and Baltimore. The greatest telegraph usage spread across the world and became turning point to the communication system.


The rival technologies emerged day by day.  Finally, telegraph was replaced with the advent of telephone, internet, emails and chat. The usage of telegraph started falling and became outdated communication system today, but the invention of telegraph was a landmark in the human history.




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