The latest electronic gadget, straight from the 1890s to your desk: the Tworse Key, which digitally translates your telegraph-style Morse Code messages into regular Tweets. Image Source: Economist.
In their heyday, my parents and their friends were the last generation to travel by ship and communicate mainly by telegrams. Their collections of old private letters have wads of telegrams in them. We now see the seemingly obsolete brevity of telegraphy as romantic, and recall its peak as a form of global communication during the 1890s to the 1960s. There's even an Aussie company called Telegram Stop that lets you send old-styled faux telegrams to your friends; they say: "Our telegrams are made to look and feel like a classic telegram from the original days when telegrams were one of the only forms of national and international communications, we’ve taken great care to ensure the experience to the recipient is one that garners surprise and a sense of warmth." They've caught on like wild fire, and are especially popular in lieu of e-cards.
This all seems like a quaint example of Steampunk, wherein a 19th and 20th century historical artifact is revived in the new Millennium, until you realize that the exact same art of brief communication was revived wholesale by Millennial technology. Yes, Twitter is not new at all. On top of this, The Economist has an article comparing the two forms of communication and discussing a new electronic gadget called the Tworse Key, that combines micro-blogging with old-time Morse-Code-based telegraphy:
See all my posts on Retro-Futurism.A NASCENT industry links up ever larger networks into what becomes a global communications web. A relatively small group of experts then uses this web to dispatch short, condensed messages across the world. This, in a nutshell, is the story not just of microblogging and Twitter, but also of the telegraph. The 19th-century's Morse key was replaced in the 20th by the telephone (which is, in a sense, less efficient since the telegraph's format was inimical to rambling). Telephones required more wires but no real expertise, like being proficient at Morse code. Short text communications languished for 100 years.
As a consequence, Twitter has much more in common with telegraphy than it does with either broadcast media or with text messaging, with which it was initially designed to be compatible. This affinity is what inspired Martin Kaltenbrunner, at the Linz University of Arts, to create a functional, albeit obsolete, bit of kit. His Tworse Key project mixes open-source code and gorgeous gubbins. Plug the Tworse Key into a computer via an ethernet cable and let it find the internet. Tap away in Morse code, and the system converts messages into text and posts them via a Twitter account. The demonstration is wired to @tworsekey.
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