Cooke and Wheatstone Telegraph

The Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph was an early electrical telegraph system dating from the 1830s invented by English inventor William Fothergill Cooke and English scientist Charles Wheatstone. It was the first telegraph system to be put into commercial service. The receiver consisted of a number of needles which could be moved by electromagnetic coils to point to letters on a board. This feature was liked by early users who were unwilling to learn codes, and employers who did not want to invest in staff training.

In later systems the letter board was dispensed with, and the code was read directly from the movement of the needles. This came about because the number of needles was reduced, leading to more complex codes. The change was motivated by the economic need to reduce the number of telegraph wires used, which was related to the number of needles. The change became more urgent as the insulation of some of the early installations deteriorated, causing some of the original wires to be unusable. Cooke and Wheatstone's most successful system was eventually a one-needle system that continued in service into the 1930s.

Cooke and Wheatstone's telegraph played a part in the apprehension of the murderer John Tawell. Once it was known that Tawell had boarded a train to London, the telegraph was used to signal ahead to the terminus at Paddington and have him arrested there. The novelty of this use of the telegraph in crime-fighting generated a great deal of publicity and led to increased acceptance and use of the telegraph by the public.

Read more about Cooke And Wheatstone TelegraphInventors, History, Operation, Codes

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Cooke And Wheatstone Telegraph - Codes
... Two additional buttons were provided on the telegraph sets to enable the common return to be connected to either the positive or negative terminal of the battery according to ... However, codes for Q, Z, and J are marked on the plates of later needle telegraphs, together with six-unit codes for number shift and letter shift ... The codes used for the four-needle telegraph are not known, and none of the equipment has survived ...

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