00 What is the Wheatstone Cooke Telegraph?

Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph – Wikipedia

The Cooke and Wheatstone 5-needle telegraph was an early electric telegraph system invented in the 1830s by English inventor William Fothergill Cooke and English scientist Charles Wheatstone.

It was the first telegraphy system to be used commercially.

The receiver consisted of a series of needles that could be moved by electromagnetic coils to point to letters on a board.

This feature was appreciated by early users who were unwilling to learn codes and by employers who did not want to invest in training their employees.

Overall there were three types invented:

  • 5-Needle Telegraph
  • 2-Needle Telegraph
  • 1-Needle Telegraph


The needles point in the direction to the respective letter.


2-Needle Telegraph

Each character is coded by the combination of the deflections of two needles. The change of direction is coded with a small stroke, which is executed first in each case.

DNeedle 1
Needle 2
no deflection
UNeedle 1
Needle 2

1-Needle Telegraph

Each character is encoded by a sequence of deflections of the needle.