Category Archives: telecommunications

Before Zeroes And Ones, There Were Dots And Dashes

Ah hah, modern-day kids probably have not a  morsel of an idea what Morse Code — or telegraph — is.

I learned about this invention by Samuel Morse, from my primary school history textbooks.  I quickly fell in love with it, and could even memorize the codes for all the 26 alphabets + 10 digits.  Alas, now due to very Successful Ageing, I can remember only “SOS”.

Morse Code represented the very beginnings of digital electronics – though at that time no one had fully grasped the potential and implications.

The ill-fated Titanic had also been equipped with wireless telegraph.  After striking the iceberg, the distress signal of “CQD – Come Quick Danger” was sent out.  In Morse Code:- [−●−●] [−−●−] [−●●]. 

Later, the international community simplified the distress signal to “SOS”, which was much easier to remember, especially in panicky situations.

Thus, with much genuine remorse, it became:- [●●●] [−−−] [●●●]

Hallo ! Dialling…

“…Nice to see you,

 …It’s been a long time

…You are just as shiny

…As you used to be…”         remember that oldie ?

The last time I used a rotary dial telephone was in 1984, when I was working in the Purchasing Office of Motorola, Penang.  Dialling local numbers was bearable, but it was an agonizingly painful circle game when it came to calling places like Japan (we had a number of suppliers there). 

It was 00-81-xx-xxx-xxxx…something like 13 digits.  Gosh, often, in the midst of dialling, I would forget where I was and had to re-start. If the line failed to connect, then “oh-oh” my head would spin.

Initially  I used my index finger to ‘crank’ that dial, but after countless times of going round and round, it was “Finger Hurting Bad” (no point licking). Not to worry.  A pencil would come in handy.

That “Geram” Feeling Again

Many people have experienced the thrills or chills of receiving a telegram. As for me, I had only received two telegrams in my whole life, both of which heralded good news. 

The first was in the middle of July 1975, from the University of Malaya, telling me that I have been accepted into the Faculty of Engineering.   The second one was almost exactly 4 years later, from Motorola Malaysia Sdn Bhd, asking me to report for work as a Process Engineer.   Ah! The excitement that came via the green-bordered folded piece of paper, after days of feeling “geram” at having no news.

In those days, a telegram was the fastest way to send a written message to another party. But it was “expensive” and Jabatan Talikom charged by the number of words, (and distance, I suppose).   The service was discontinued on 1 July 2012.