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Posted By: Walt Mathers on: 06/20/2002 11:20:59 CDT
Subject: One Of Your Re-enactor 'USMT' Training Documents, A Few Notes Concerning

Message Detail:
Hi Ted,

I truly like the telegraph dot code training format you have created up at I have no doubt that it will certainly help students, apprentices and those who wish to brush up on their sending. I'm sure that many can't wait to get out there with what you are about to offer that they may begin to communicate via wire telegraphy on the re-enacting field. These operators, arm'd with your excellent and easy-to-understand course, will bring with them the hope for expanding the operating opportunities throughout the entire re-enacting community. I remember the many times when you as SCARD webmaster, and I, oftimes discussed the technical aspects of the army dot code via telephone? Well I readily see that some of our mid-night oil efforts are coming to fruition.

I'm so pleased that you have been able to continue SCARD's dream of setting the pre-event stage with such well thought out and easy-to-understand guidlines for prospective telegraphers. Along with the initial development of this telegraph code, the framers of SCARD also saw a need for uniformity in message transmission protocal. I see you do too. We both realize that without certain guidlines, there is but chaos.

Therefore, I was wondering if you would possibly consider a few minor changes to your Dot Code training page wording (now that we can address this early on) so that what you are working on might gel with many of the existing practices? Again, before I forget, thanks for the compliment on the recent stutter code explanation here at SCARD's forum. And thanks for the mention by you and Chuck Lee. You're both right; we do need to firm up a booklet on re-enacting code proceedures. Now back to my thoughts......


You have it titled, "USMT DOT Code Beginner Page". SCARD originally chose this code to serve as a communication vehicle for those portraying both the USMT and CSMT re-enactors who did not immediately possess a proficiency in American Morse Code. I could recommend a title of "Telegraphic Dot Code for Beginners". But USMT is your site so its your call.

Secondly. Your information says:

"To see if someone is at their station, click the telegraph key once. Be READY with pencil and paper! If someone is on the wire, they will respond with their "sine". WRITE IT DOWN when it
is sent."

For many years, re-enacting operators at re-enactments have been taught to send a series of three sets of "fives", i.e. "5.5.5." when calling a station. This is done since the receiving operator is not always sitting at his instrument continuously during his tour of duty but may be conversing with a customer, giving route directions to a foot messenger or conducting other business.

If an operators is briefly called away from his instrument, as is oft times the case at a busy single or multiple station office, an attendant can know, by the sounding of multiple groupings of clicks, that someone is calling. In other words, the "5.5.5." allows that an operator, or office attendant will hear a definite call (like a doorbell) instead of a nearby noise sounding similar to a relay clicking once, like the single click of a musket hammer or twig snapping under the weight of a man's foot.

In the "USMT DOT Code Beginner Page", you go on to say that,

"... common sense dictates that if you are at an event with only two telegraph stations, you probably KNOW who is at the other end. Don't think it's necessary to exchange sines if you already know who is at the other end."

This is a very statement and is well that you point it out. Should a new operator sit down at the key, however, it would be a common courtesy (thought sometimes not thought of initially) to spell out the name of the sender and add "SNDG" after the name. If you are certain that the opr on the other end knows you by "WFM" no need to go futher. Likewise, if a receiving operator is unsure as to who is manning the key at the other end (or at one of the office keys along a multiple office circuit) he needs only to send the Telegraph Numerical Code combination of "28". "28" stands for "Who is at the key" and is part of a reconstuted code published in 1864. Although not difficult to comprehend for beginners (and this will save untold keystrokes), I think the numeric information might be added to another, more advanced, course description. These numeric codes, incidentally, go back much earlier in time than 1864. I'm sure you'll agree that what we'd all eventually wish to see (at least those posting here with SCARD) is the establishment of an on-the-field uniformity whether it be in telegraph service or by signal flag operations.

This brings me to the next point. You say:

"Remember, we are demonstrating history here, not doing it for real in a real context. If something gets left out or you make a mistake, so what! The world isn't going to come to an end."

Through experience (a lot of it) I realize that at any time, we may be called upon to appply ourselves for-real (especially with just a few quick words along a mile of telegraph wire). We never know when, and in what way, we, as event communicators, may be pressed into service. In fact, a lot of the traffic we do at the numerous yearly mega-re-enactments is in handling event or scenario scheduling. A loyt of hub-bub occurs with regularity during these events. As time goes by, and our event participation grows, so does the possibility to attain greater distances between the seperate telegraph and signal stations. It ought to equally be the responsibility of operators of the line to serve as efficiently as possible (and especially when called upon "for real in a real context" . Of course we don't want to frighten off prospective operators do we? But it may be the opinion of some on this forum that practice (like charity) begins at home (and not out on the re-enacting field).

Your electric telegraph training effort (like the excellent one you have already produced for signal flagging), I'm certain will be available to future operators sitting at their home PC's. Man! Ain't this internet GREAT? Your recent SCARD postings have been extremely refreshing.

Let me close by saying that truer words couldn't have been spoken when you said:

"Know the basics, that's most important. Everything else is icing on the cake. And, remember, we don't EXACTLY know some of the telegraph operations. DOT code is modeled after the signal corps service code....we are trying to use it with sound, not flags. "Your "sine" is also referred to as your handle."

We won't be operating our lines EXACTLY the same as they did in the early 1860's. To the best of my knowledge, the Dot Code iteslf was never employ'd by either the US or CSMT. We have stong supportive evidence that it was the intention of the US Signal Corps to use it on their Beardslee machines but this was short-lived. Then again, when would an early numric code combination for 'What is the weather?' be employed during the largest contained re-created event? Never?

I hope you don't mind but I ask that you be mindful of putting words like 'sine' and 'handle' in your training text. Beginniners are sponges and will pick-up on all of your modern words as well as the period ones. The word is 'call'. This happened back in the eighty's when one enterprizing signallist didn't know the particular term used to order the motion for which a signature was to be made. He thought that since the triangular sweep-like-movement resembled the Greek letter "D" he'd call out the command "DELTA". This call was perpetuated throughout the mid-west and eventually came East again (something like a rumor). Some mis-informed members of certain detachments can still be heard uttering this modern call created out of want.

I hope in everything we do to re-enact what they did, we might be able to do it in word as well as in deed.

Hope these few comments will help. Keep up your excellent and worthy work,

Walt ~ "30"

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