Tales from the Morgue: A marvelous invention

2012-08-22T10:15:00Z 2016-01-26T15:22:32Z Tales from the Morgue: A marvelous inventionJohanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 22, 2012 10:15 am  • 

We're never happy. We always want more.

How often have you stood beside the microwave frustrated at the time it takes to heat a frozen entrée, oblivious to the fact that it wasn't all that long ago that we were forced to make our meals from scratch instead of pulling them from the freezer?

The telegraph was a milestone invention that allowed almost instant communication around the world. It was a miracle.

Then we wanted to be able to send messages at the same time we received messages. This meant the cable had to carry two signals at once. It was done.

Now we feel someone is behind the times if his mobile phone only sends and receives phone calls but does not take video or access the internet.

Tucson was one of the first cities to get a rotary repeater, enabling a higher message capacity on the telegraph.

From the Arizona Daily Star, June 6, 1920:




Marvelous Invention, Now Being Installed, Will Increase Western Union Wire Capacity One-Third; Instrument Probably Will Be In Operation Today

Tucson will be on of the first cities in the United States to have a rotary repeater, which to telegraphy is what the linotype is is to printing. 

The rotary repeater, a comparatively new invention, will increase the carrying capacity of the telegraph wires by one-third. Where three messages were carried before it will now be possible to carry four with the same effort. The presidential election and the great amount of news that is constantly "breaking" all over the land will be more adequately carried by this new invention.

Only Three Others

The Tucson office of the Western Union Telegraph company is one of the first four offices in the United States to have the new invention installed. The other three that already have or are now installing the rotary repeater are Grants Pass, Oregon; Fresno, California; and Elko, Nevada. Ultimately every office of any size in the country will have this new machine.

When Morse invented the telegraph it was thought a wonderful thing that a message could be sent over hundreds of miles of wire. Next came the duplex, which allowed a message to be sent from each end of the wire at the same time. This greatly facilitated the transmission of telegrams and opened a sphere of usefulness to the telegraph hitherto undreamed of. There followed shortly after that an invention that allowed two messages to be sent from each end at the same time, making it possible for the same wire to be the vehicle, simultaneously, of four messages. This was called the quadruplex and it is still used. But the latest thing in the telegraph sending apparatuses is the machine that allows four messages to be sent each way. Now comes the rotary repeater which which will add one-third to carrying capacity of the eight-power wire. 

Will be Used Today

O.J. Nourse, general inspector from New York and D.H. Kister, general equipment supervisor from Los Angeles, are in Tucson overseeing the installation of the new machines in the Western Union operating rooms. They are working in conjunction with Chief Operator W. Butler and hoped to have the work completed by last night. The new appliance will be in use today and speed up the service.

It is thought that the new invention is particularly timely, just at the present time when the telegraph business is growing by leaps and bounds as so many business men are using telegraph instead of mail to transact their business. Heretofore it has been the usual thing that day letters would be held up for considerable periods during the day  when business was particularly heavy and straight messages had to be given right of way. Now with the new rotary repeater, it will be possible to send everything through to its destination, making the low-rate day letter almost as rapid as the straight messages.

"It is the earnest aim of the Western Union to give the very best possible service," Said Manager E.C. Johnson of the Western Union yesterday. "That is our business and this new appliance will help us immensely in living up to our motto of 'service.' "

Large Force Required

Probably few persons realize the size of the local office of Western Union. It does most of the relaying for Arizona and is the largest telegraph office between El Paso and Los Angeles, either north or south. Twenty-five girls and twenty-five men operators work in the operating room on the second floor; there are fifteen messenger boys and a force of ten clerks downstairs to render service. A school for multiplex  operators is maintained by Western Union here, with six pupils at which girls are taught to operate the machine over which the messages are sent and received, practically elimitating the old method of hand sending.


The Morgue Lady bristled when she saw that the male operators were referred to as men, yet the female operators were "girls," yet they were likely of similar ages.

However, she realizes that this was 1920, the same year these "girls" were first permitted by the U.S. Constitution to vote. Times were changing.


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