We were surprised and amazed by the enthusiasm with which Mark jumped into the topic of “telephone keys/vanity”. Should it be possible to increase that? Hardly.

And yet …

It started with an entry in the issue tracker on Github: Edelcrantz Code · Issue #681 · S-Man42/GCWizard (github.com) and the hint that this would be an optical telegraph that could also be displayed graphically.

My interest was aroused. After the experiences with Cistercian numbers, Braille and several other tools this should be feasible. But the devil, as always, was in the details.

In search of Edelcrantz

Basically, the English Wikipedia entry and the graphical tool would have been enough to complete the new feature. However, there was also a reference to a codebook from 1809 as well as other interesting codes such as Wig Wag and needle telegraphs. This piqued my curiosity.

After some questioning with Google and Bing I found

  • in the Internet Archives a scan of the book by Holzmann, Gerard J.; Pehrson, Björn, The Early History of Data Networks with a page of the Edelcrantz code from 1796 – but of poor quality and
  • a master thesis for the construction of an interactive model for a Finnish museum.

Still, two small steps further along the way. With two polite e-mails, the breakthrough was achieved:

  • Gerard Holzmann owned a copy of Edelcrantz’s book and sent me an improved scan of the code table.
  • The supervising professor, Markku Turunen, put me in touch with the curator of the Swedish Museum of Technology, Anders Lindeberg-Lindvet, who scanned the complete codebook from 1809 and made it available to me. At this point, my warmest thanks for their support to Jaako Hakulinen and Erika Tanhua-Piiroinen.
    In addition, Anders pointed me to the Norwegian further development by Ole Ohlsen. But of that later.
    After several hours of patient typing, all three codebooks were deposited and the tool was ready.

That can’t be everything …

That’s right. After the success with Edelcrantz I got cocky: why not write a tool collection for Telegraph? The graphical implementation was basically similar and the tables were available.

So the way was marked:

  • Chappe telegraph
  • Murray-Telegraph
  • Ohlsen telegraph
  • Prussian optical telegraph
  • Winker alphabet
  • Wig Wag
  • Punched tape for CCITT-1 and CCITT-2

In addition there were a few additions

  • Schilling von Canstatt had a faulty code table – C and H were coded the same way
  • Wheatstone-Cooke had built several needle telegraphs

And a challenge: finding the code tables and code books and getting permission to use them!

While I started to program the graphical representation of the respective telegraphs on the one hand, the search for the tables started in parallel. By Google, Bing and of course e-mail.

Schiling of Canstatt telegraph

After some research, where I always found only the same erroneous table, I came across a publication by Volker Aschoff about Paul Schilling von Canstatt and the history of the electromagnetic telegraph. It was only a short further step to buy this booklet used via Amazon.

Of course, the correct table was found here. But also the hint that this table could be invented by T.P Shaffner in his book from 1867.

Ohlsen Telegraph, Norway

The fastest reaction was from the Norwegian Museum of Technology. Anne Solberg contributed with a detailed overview and scan of the 1808 codebook on the operation and codes of the Ohlsen telegraph.

Murray telegraph, England

While the programming was easy – with Braille there was a good model – the tables were a challenge. On the one hand, there were various versions:

  • Helmar Fischer
  • Omer Roucoux
  • Geocaching Toolbox
  • etc.

On the other hand Helmar Fischer pointed out on his internet page to the flap telegraph that he was not happy about the use of his tables by geocachers – without asking.

Japiejoo from Geocaching Toolbox could be contacted directly via his profile and agreed immediately.

Helmar Fischer was already more difficult. Several mail attempts came to nothing. But finally I could establish a contact via the school and after a little explanation what the GC Wizard is and what I intend to do, I got permission here as well.

What was difficult was making contact with Omer Roucoux. The reason was as simple as it was sad. After a detour through Bedforshire Libraries and the Dunstable and District Local History Society, I was told by the chairman, John Buckledee, that Omer Roucoux had died but that his widow had no objection to the use of the tables.

The optical Prussian telegraph – the supreme discipline

Again, the Wikipedia entry and the graphical tool would basically have been enough to complete this feature. However, there was also a reference to a codebook. This again aroused my curiosity.

Interestingly, although there were numerous internet sites about this telegraph, there was only one since with more information about the codebook used: – History (optischertelegraph23.de).
Unfortunately, I have not received an answer from Wilfried Han until today.

But as so often: the good is so close. More successful was the way via Josef Köhne and the Telegrafenverein Entrup, which led me to Manfred Menning on the Telegrafenberg near Potsdam. He encouraged me to contact the Museum of Communication in Frankfurt.

Frank Gnegel, head of the collections department, confirmed that the books were in Frankfurt, but unfortunately not digitized.
However, Veit Didczuneit, head of the collections department in Berlin, put me in touch with the library there. Although an interlibrary loan was not possible, there was at least a digitized version, which was made available to me by Ms. Sandy Lang via the media server.

After a first look, however, it was the instruction manuals. A short mail later, Ms. Lang also found and transmitted the codebook.

Now only 33 pages had to be typed out …

And the moral of the story …

… you can’t give up!

A lot can be achieved with patience and a polite demeanor.