We herewith give, as promised, an extract from the Report of the President of the Western Union Telegraph Company, on the subject of “fast” telegraphy. It has a certain historical value and is of interest in other points of view. It is quite evident that this company, if the report of the President may be considered as a fair representation of the opinions of the Directors, do not have much faith in new improvements. This view we do not indorse. We hope to live to see the time when ten words shall be transmitted in the time now occupied in sending one. The opinions expressed as to the impracticability of doing telegraphic work faster than it is now done we deem to be without any solid foundation. But so long as telegraphic business is limited by high tariffs, and the capacity of the present system is ample to do the work required, the value of a system of fast telegraphy will not be appreciated by telegraph owners. We advise our readers, therefore, to remember that there is another side to this question, to which we perhaps will at some future time again re- recur. Mr. Orton in his report says : For many years past, efforts have been made to perfect a system of rapid telegraphing, which should be able to transmit several times as many dispatches per hour over a telegraph wire as can be done by the Morse instrument. The theory upon which all the experimenters in this direction have proceeded is that electricity has a definite velocity like light, and that all that is necessary to produce the most rapid writing at any distance is an instrument to record the signals produced by an automatic process, similar in principle to Professor Morse's original type and port rule transmitter. In 1844 Mr. Bain, of Edinburgh, devised a plan of perforating the dispatches for transmission through a strip of paper, in the characters of the Morse alphabet. The prepared paper was then passed between a metallic comb and roller, which were in connection with the line wire, the circuit being completed when the teeth of the comb passed through the holes in the paper. At the receiving station he used chemically prepared paper, upon which the messages were recorded in colored dots and lines. The apparatus, although very attractive in theory, has never been of any practical value, as the time occupied in preparing the messages for transmission is many times greater than that required for sending by the Morse system, and an equal, if not greater length of time is consumed in copying them, while the Morse operator, who reads by sound, copies his messages as fast as they are sent. Subsequently, Mr. Humaston and others invented instruments for more rapidly perforating the paper, which it was thought by some would bring the “fast system” into general use, but these anticipations have never been realized. Mr. Humaston's apparatus, although very ingenious in design, is of so complicated a character as easily to get out of order, while its capacity for producing the Morse char acters, when worked by an expert operator, is> only about one third as great as that of the ordinary hand key. Added to these difficulties are the still more serious ones that messages cannot be sent by this system at a faster rate of speed than by the ordinary Morse apparatus, except over comparatively short distances; that it cannot be used upon a wire strung upon poles with other wires; nor will it work during a magnetic storm, except by the employment of a double line. Taking all of its merits and demerits into account, it is so greatly inferior to the Morse, and other systems in use, that it cannot be profitably employed either in connection or in competition with them. When the fast method was invented the relative proportion of telegraphic facilities to the requirements of the public was very small; but during the score of years which have intervened the .rate of increase of the lines has exceeded that of the business, so that at the present time., there are not only enough wires to transmit all that is offered, but they are equal to tho performance of a much larger service, pro-- vided the messages could submit to a delay' as great as that required to prepare them! for transmission by the punching process. Therefore, the introduction of the complicated automatic system, even if it were prac;- ticable, is unnecessary. The bulk of the business is received at our offices for transmission between the hours of eleven A. M. and two P. M., and all must receive immediate dispatch—both law and custom requiring that every message shall be forwarded in the order of its receipt. This peculiarity of the service necessitates the erection of many more wires than would he necessary if the work could be spread over the whole day. In Belgium speed rates are established to compensate for the loss by the reduced tariff, and a telegram requiring immediate transit is charged threetimes the or dinary rate. This innovation is embodied in the so-called postal telegraph system sought to be introduced in this country. “Vere this plan inaugurated here, business men, to whom time is money, would be obliged to pay an extra price to secure that promptness and certainty of transmission without which the telegraph is of little value for all impor. tant transactions. The value of the telegraph does not consist in the amount of time which can be saved hy it over the mail or other means of communication, but in its practical annihilation of time. A telegraphic dispatch, for example, might occupy two days in going from New York to London, and yet reach there eight days in advance of the mail, but this would not be a proper performance of the functions of the telegraph. Instant and constant communication is what is required, and lience the introduction of any apparatus which interposes an unnecessary delay in the preparation of dispatches, either for transmission or delivery, is a change for the worse This is a disadvantage which the so-called ' “ fast systems “ labor under, and which will forever Jlreclude , their use. The automatic' system, however, is especially unfitted for the transmission of press reports, as this process enables but t, one station to receive at the same time, while the Morse,, wires can be connected throughout the country, and the newss sent to every office with a single manipulation. The prepa-- ration for transmission of so great an amount of matter by the punching process as we daily transmit for the pres.sj, would entail an expense for labor and machinery far greatelj than the entire receipts of this company for regular press reports. The double transmitter—an apparatus for working both ways over one wire at the same time—has also long occupied a prominent place among speculative telegraphers. and has recently been extensively .advertised by the promoters of various competing lines. During the past twenty years there have been several inventions for accomplishing this result, the first being that of Dr. Gintl, of Germany; but while it is possible, under certain exceptional circumstances, to transmit messages both ways at the same time, over one wire, the conditions under which this result is obtained are such as to render the general use of the system impossible. If there were, however, any practical value in this apparatus, its use —like that of the Morse telegraph—is freely open to all. THE following is given as the composition of a good bath for electro-plating metals with platinum: In a solution of chloride of platinum sprinkle finely powdered carbonate of soda until bubbles of carbonic acid gas cease to appear, add to this solution equal quantities of glucose and sea salt, until the coating of platinum loses all blackness and becomes of the natural color of the metal. The advantage of this bath is that it may be concentrated to any degree, and thus maintained for a long time. The articles to be plated are placed in a pierced zinc receptacle, and the bath heated to about 140°; after a few moments the articles are withdrawn, washed, and dried in sawdust. A COpy of the Declaration of Independence in Chinese and on silk is on exhibition in California. The silk on which it is written, measures about five feet in length and twenty inches in width. FLOATING ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH STATION' AND LIGHTSHIP. © 1869 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC. OCTOBER 30, 1869.] 277 Improved Knife Guard. This neat little device has for its object the provision of a rsimple. attachment to knives used for peeling fruits and vegetables, so as to gage the thickness of the paring; and it may ,also be advantageously used in slicing, perfect uniformity of Ithickness in the slicing being very desirable in properly dry' ing apples and other fruits. Fig. 1 shows a knife, with the guard attached; and the derail section in Fig. 2 shows the simple method of attaching it ; to the knife blade. The guard consists of a wire, bent twice, at right angles, so to leave a portion lying parallel to the edge of the blade ' !rhe edge of' the blade en, gages in nicks on the elbows ithus formed,these nicks being 'cut at uniform intervals at both ends of the guard, so that the latter may be adjusted to any reg uired thickness. After these bent portions of the wire pass across the edge of the blade, they are turned up again at right angles, and a thread is cut upon the extremities, upon which small thumb nuts are placed. The edge of the knife blade being placed in the <1esired nicks, above described, the thumb nuts are turned down to engage with the back of the Made, thus firmly fastening The guard. Simple as this invention is, it is one of that character which is, on the whole, most remunerative. Its advantages are obvious to the merest tyro in invention, and its expense must be a mere trifle. Patented, through the Scientific American Patent Agency, Oct. 5, 1869, by E.A. Goodes. For further information address 'the Philadelphia Patent and Novelty Co., 717 Spring Garden st., Philadelphia, Pa.
This article was originally published with the title "“Fast” Methods of Telegraphy" in Scientific American 21, 18, 276-277 (October 1869)