CW history question....

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KB4MNG, Jun 23, 2019.

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  1. KB4MNG

    KB4MNG Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was reading on the vibro plex page that there was an era when many people made money using cw. They would buy their own bug, take to work, and make a living. When and how long did this last? Did they make good money compared to the other occupations of the time? What was interesting is that many ops were female at the time.

    History is very interesting, just progression with technology in our society.

    NQ1B and K1LKP like this.
  2. KJ4RT

    KJ4RT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can imagine this could have been Western Union Telegraphers or Railroad Telegraphers. I can imagine they made better than anyone else of that day and age because telegraphy used to be classified as skilled trade. I delivered telegrams for WU as my first paid job in the lated 50's like 59 & 60 and the telegraphers (using teletype by then) made more than others in the office.
    G7UQN likes this.
  3. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    This was most prevalent during the land-line telegraph days.
    As a small nit-pick, the land-line telegraphers did not work with CW, as they keyed DC.

    Ship-board telegraphers did not work CW either, until the vacuum-tube transmitter made their debut in about 1915 and started to replace spark transmitters.

    Maybe the wages for telegraphers were better in the US than in Europe, but being especially a ship's Radio Officer became a "white collar proletariat" job in many countries.

    It was somewhat sought after by younger people that could substitute adventure for wages, and then often went ashore to a better paying job especially if the unpaid crew duties were accounted for.

    K1LKP and KE4OH like this.
  4. W6MK

    W6MK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here's a novel thought for ya: long before "technology" there was a very significant human endeavor
    known as "history." Have you heard of a book of history (among other topics) known as the "Bible?"

    Technology is a chapter in many books of history.

    Sometimes reading beyond what one finds in advertisements (or the Vibroplex web site), can be interesting!.

    There was a recent century in which world trade depended mostly on ships at sea. As it does today, but with
    technological changes. From the early 1900s until the 1980s (and later) ships communicated with one another,
    and with shore stations, via a technology known as radiotelegraphy. How did people communicate around the
    world before the days of satellite phones, cellphones, undersea cables, etc.? Hint: via marine radio stations, aboard
    ships and on shore. What kinds of keys did those ops use: bugs.

    A website with some of this history can be found at

    History can be fun.
  5. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were two telegraph operators you may have heard of. They did other stuff later in life.
  6. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thomas Edison once was a telegraph operator, but Albert Einstein certainly was not.

    He got an entirely theoretical education, starting with Realgymnasium in Munich, and the Eidsgenössiche Technische Hochschule in Zürich, intending to qualify as a science teacher. After graduation he eventually found employment as a patent examining engineer at the Swiss patent office.

    During this tenure, he wrote his doctoral dissertation "Eine neue Bestimmung der Moleküldimensionen" which was successfully defended at the University of Zürich in 1905.

    After this, he got docentures at Central European universities, finally becoming professor of mathematical physics at the Humboldt University in Berlin and later director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute where he remained until 1933.

    The closest to telegraphy that Einstein came in his professional life was probably explaining Heaviside's Telegrapher's Equation to his students.

    K1LKP, M6GYU, N2EY and 1 other person like this.
  7. M6GYU

    M6GYU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm not sure everyone used 'bugs'. I never knew any military folk in the UK use bugs and along with most of the NATO ships I communicated withy didn't either. If you look on the FB 'Maritime Radio Group', which has hundreds of photos of commercial ships/stations, radio rooms, the majority show straight keys.
    G7UQN and AJ4GQ like this.
  8. KF5LJW

    KF5LJW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ma Bell killed that occupation.
  9. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    The use of "bugs" usually was a matter of preference.
    Some commercial telegraphers used their own "bugs", and in some
    Armed Forces there were issue "bugs". The Swedish Air Force was one that made a copy of the McElroy pre-war "bug".


    But sea-going R/O:s in general did seldom use "bugs".

    The electronic keyer was however somewhat more common with coast station R/O:s, and some conscript R/O:s (among them 'yours truly') did
    use the Danish "Squeeze-Key".


    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
    M6GYU, K1LKP, N0NC and 1 other person like this.
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've made a lot of money using CW.

    But first, you have to travel to some remote island where nobody lives and get permission to operate from there without being shot at by the local authorities. Then, once you're set up and on the air, make lots of contacts but ask everybody to send $2 with their QSL card if they want a confirmation.:)
    KY6L, N6MST, N2AMM and 2 others like this.

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