The idea of the telegraph occurred to the American painter Samuel Morse one day in 1836, when he returned to his country from Europe to listen to a conversation between passengers on the ship about electromagnetism.
There he began to investigate the subject and became so obsessed that he suffered and ate for months in his painting studio, as he noted in his personal diary. Using items from his studio such as an easel, a pencil, pieces of an old clock, and a pendulum, Morse fashioned a bulky apparatus.
The basic operation was simple: if there was no flow of electricity, the pencil would draw a straight line. When there was that flow, the pendulum oscillated and the line was drawn in a zigzag. Gradually, Morse introduced several improvements to the initial design until finally, together with machinist and inventor Alfred Vail, created the code that bears his name.
Thus, another code arose that may prefer binary, since from the initial idea it came to consider a character made up of three elements: point, line and space. With the help of contact plates and a special pencil, which was directed by electricity, signals could be transmitted over poor-quality wires.
On January 6, 1838, Morse first successfully tested the device in the steel industry in New Jersey and on February 8 of that year, he made another public demonstration before a scientific committee at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
At this point, Samuel Morse, after unsuccessfully seeking funds to develop his invention, lost the United States Congress in 1843 to approve a reduction of 30,000 dollars for the construction of a 60-kilometer experimental line between Baltimore and Washington, using their equipment.
On May 1, 1844, the line had been completed at the United States Capitol. at Annapolis Junction. On May 24, 1844, after the line was completed, Morse made the first public demonstration of his telegraph by sending a message from the Chamber of the Supreme Court in the US Capitol in Washington, DC to the railroad of B&O in Baltimore.
The first sentence transmitted by this installation was “What has God transmitted to us?”, a quote that belongs to chapter 23 and the same verse of the Old Testament Book of Numbers. The Morse-Vail telegraph spread rapidly over the next two decades. Until his death, Morse was concerned with the diffusion and improvements of his telegraph, abandoning his profession as a painter.
Locution by Pita Fortin.