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High-cost communications in the old days -- telegrams

Started by neirober 2 years ago10 replieslatest reply 2 years ago92 views

I've been reading a P.G. Wodehouse book (Right-Ho, Jeeves) that has several fictional telegrams in it.  For example:

Fink-Nottle, Brinkley Court, Market Snodsbury, Worcestershire

Lay off the sausages.  Avoid the ham.

- Bertie

To which the reply was:

Cipher telegram signed by you has reached me here.  Runs 'Lay off the sausages.  Avoid the ham.'  Wire key immediately.

- Fink-Nottle

To which the reply was:

Also kidneys, Cheerio

- Bertie

Now bandwidth is essentially free, yet modern-day Berties still avoid full sentences, not to save money, but to save typing.

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Reply by SlartibartfastJuly 25, 2018

I complain about this in aviation as a lot of text-based messages, like METAR weather reports, NOTAMs, etc., etc., are still heavily abbreviated and cryptic, which is a holdover from when everything was sent over teletypes and printed on paper.   Now it's just a tradition, and there are tools to automatically expand things (a bit).   I think it's a safety issue, personally, but it is another example of the same kind of evolution/devolution.

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Reply by kazAugust 3, 2018

IMHO the difference is in the amount of typing today. 

Everywhere people type on everything but ASA they "socialize" they stay quiet or just shout/swear at each other(apologies, my opinion here is based on movies on TV).

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Reply by neiroberAugust 3, 2018

For the elderly out there (I had to look it up):  ASA = as soon as

Neil

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Reply by Rick LyonsAugust 3, 2018

Hi Neil.

Thanks for the translation of "ASA." Like you, I don't understand most of the stunted, restricted, unexplained, infantile, cryptic, and confusing acronyms used by young people in their typed text.  

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Reply by Rick LyonsAugust 3, 2018

Hi kaz.

What does your word "socialize" mean?

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Reply by kazAugust 3, 2018

Hi Rick,


I meant normal interaction, not the one some may think...

Another analogy is that of young people driving their cars fast, reckless to arrive quickly at the party. At the party all they interact is just swear words. You would think the world will collapse if they don't get there in time.

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Reply by Rick LyonsAugust 8, 2018

Hi Neil.

Yes, in the ol' West the cost of a telegram was based on the number of transmitted letters in the message. That's why when Paladin (one of my boyhood TV heroes and America's first true "Social Justice Warrior") learned of someone who was the victim of some dishonest behavior, he would send the victim a *VERY* short telegram:


  Wire Paladin

  San Francisco

  Have Gun Will Travel

paladin_63164.jpg

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Reply by neiroberAugust 8, 2018

Ah yes -- the Old West, before the color subcarrier.

Neil

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Reply by Retired_ProfAugust 22, 2018

In the good old days, telegrams were priced at a fixed amount for ten or fewer words, and each additional word had to be paid for at a higher rate. Thus, Gussie Fink-Nottle's reply cost him a lot, whereas Bertie's were at a fixed rate.  The ten-word limit led to amusing stories such as that of the sailor who composed "I love you, I love you, I love you" as a telegram to his girlfriend, and when told that he could sent ten words for the same price, thought long and hard and added, "Regards".  The less pure of heart can ponder the use of

ANACIN HOSPITAL ADAMANT BITTER ASININE PLACES

to describe a young girl hospitalized as a result of insect bites suffered during a picnic.

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Reply by Y(J)SSeptember 12, 2018

Many years ago I purchased a copy of "Bentley's Second Phrase Code".

This book is a compilation of 5-letter "words" that represent partial or full sentences. Thus, "referring to your telegram of the 2nd" is encoded "vuzyc".

The words are carefully selected so that common mis-readings of Morse can be corrected. 

Such books (there was a Bentley's First Phrase Code, and the preface references competing schemes) were essential tools for commercial firms, and they had staff who were proficient in encoding an decoding using them.

Y(J)S