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From Telegrams to Computers

by Chandroo D.


Reminiscing the good memorable days, I was just thinking how our communication methods have changed in the past years. No matter how modern and convenient it has become today, we could still communicate with each other, way back then.  Life went on.. perhaps at a slower pace.  Sending out a letter or a Telex meant waiting for a week to a month for a response.  This of course is quite a contrast to today’s immediate response via  emails, iMessages, WhatsApp, Skype or FaceTime.


My memory goes back to ‘5os when the only way to communicate with overseas family or friends was by air or sea mail letters, expensive long distance phones via post offices or telegrams. Telegrams originated in the telegraph age when telecommunication consisted only of short messages transmitted over the telegraph wire. The Post offices charged for their service by the number of words in a message. The style developed to minimize costs but still conveyed the message clearly. The word ‘STOP’ was always used for a ‘full stop’ character. A typical telegram example by a student would read..”ARRIVED LONDON STOP EXTREMELY COLD STOP BUYING TOPCOAT STOP NEED EXTRA CASH STOP MISSING MUMMY”.  Receiving a telegram unexpectedly during the late hours would bring chills to the family wondering whether it was announcing good or a tragic news? (View a telegram below)


As years went by, Telex machines were introduced providing the first common medium for international communications using standard signalling techniques and operating system. Anyone on a telex exchange could deliver messages to any other, directly around the world. (View Telex Machine below)


The usual method of operation was that a message would be prepared off-line, using paper tape. All common Telex machines incorporated a 5-hole paper-tape punch and reader. Once the paper tape had been prepared, the message could be transmitted in minimum time. Telex billing was always by connected duration, so minimizing the connected time saved money. However, it was also possible to connect in "real time", where the sender and the recipient could both type on the keyboard and these characters would be immediately printed on the distant machine. In reality, this was a tedious way of transmitting messages. I remember sitting on the Telex machine clicking away and preparing the paper tape.  Whenever there was an error or revising to be done, I would tear up the tape and restart once again.  My dustbin was always full of paper tapes.


Years later communication was getting convenient and easy as the older type paper ticker tape telex machines were replaced by modern types eliminating the complicated messy paper tapes. (View modern Telex machine below)


Then came Fax Machines. In 1964, Xerox Corporation introduced (and patented) what many consider to be the first commercialized version of the modern fax machine.  By the late 1970s, many companies around the world (especially Japan), entered the fax market. Very shortly after a new wave of more compact, faster and efficient fax machines would hit the market.  This made life easier for many families and businesses.  Simply type in your message any way you wanted and transmit the page to your overseas love one or business associate. (View Fax Machine below)


With the continued advancements in communication, soon computers grew in popularity in the 2000s. The same developments that spurred the growth of laptop computers and other portable computers allowed manufacturers to integrate computing resources into cellular phones. These so-called smartphones and tablets now run on a variety of operating systems and have become the dominant computing device on the market.


Computers, mobile phones, connecting watches..these thus are the modern new communication systems. Today, we can flash our mobiles and pay for simple things like coffee too. Life is becoming too easy and comfortable.


What next? I am awaiting the future oncoming iRing which could be worn on the index finger and be controlled using the thumb. This would also include a microphone for dictating commands, as well as built-in vibration to alert the wearer of an incoming message.  Imagine me sitting in a restaurant with my hand under the chin quietly whispering into the ring and sending out a message to my love one. :)


Sample of a Telex message

Sample of a Telegram

Telex Machine

Telex Machine

Modern Telex Machine

Modern Telex Machine

Fax Machine

Fax Machine
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