Monday, February 02, 2009

Why Izzit

...Why is it people in movies, dictating a telegram, say "stop" at the end of sentences? Did real people really say it? Here's the inside dope from 1928.


Bob said...

Funny things used to happen with early telecommunications. During the Battle of Leyte Gulf in WWII, the following happened:

When the Seventh Fleet's escort carriers found themselves under attack from the Center Force, Halsey began to receive a succession of desperate calls from Kinkaid asking for immediate assistance off Samar. For over two hours Halsey turned a deaf ear to these calls. Then, shortly after 10:00 hours,[7] an anxious message was received — "Turkey trots to water. Where is repeat where is Task Force 34? The world wonders" — from Admiral Chester Nimitz, the CINCPAC, Halsey's immediate superior, referring to the battleship–cruiser force thought to have been covering San Bernardino Strait, and thus the Seventh Fleet's northern flank. The tail end of this message was intended as padding designed to confuse enemy decoders, but was mistakenly left in the message when it was handed to Halsey. The vaguely insulting tone of the message threw Halsey into a screaming fit. (Wikipedia entry, William F. Halsey)

Crucis said...

It's because in the original Morse code had no character for period. What we currently use in CW is continental code that was created a few years later, a derivative of Morse's original code.

AT&T & Western Union, however, use the "stop" practice long after it was no longer needed. Also, they charged by the word rather than the character. Each "stop" was another word.

Anonymous said...

And, both WU and AT&T had their own "wire code" book with common messages. More commonly referred to as "cable code" these very compact messages were widely used even for messages within the US.

I well remember the local telegrapher looking out the Rock Island depot, spotting a salesman, and saying "Another `wire money to Lawton'" message. The message consisted of a heading, salt lawton, and the name. But Salt in the delivered message was a fairly flowery funding request.

Pete Allen

Roberta X said...

"didit didit didit" is the old landline symbol for "." Puntuations -- originbally spelled out -- showed up not too long after ops started reading code by ear insead of from slip (paper tape).

Morse's orginal vision used mechanical presets to send and paper slip to receive. Alfred Vail invented the telegraph key soon after his involvement. Sounders were slower to develop.

Anon, don't forget the "Philips code" system of abbreviations; some of it lingers on, in "POTUS" for "President of the U.S." and "SCOTUS" (Supreme Court) and a fair number of ham radio shorthand terms. --These (along with Q-symbols and landline and radio telegrapher's slang) are all examples of the earliest forms of data compression.

Anonymous said...

Our penchant for ending trade names with "-ex" stems from the X abbreviation for Corporation.

That's an awfully colloquial article for 1928, obviously composed for club chums. Business text writing from the period seldom included jokes and vaudeville references. I'd wager the Postal Union send manual was dry as dust.