WHAT CAME BEFORE TEXTING?

ImageFor most people, the answer is obvious. People wrote letters and notes to each other. But there was a way of communicating abbreviated information in real time before texting was even dreamt of.

In the Nineteenth century, when Samuel Morse’ code was adopted, telegraph operators found that they kept sending the same phrases over and over. I’m not sure who decided to make up abbreviations for these repetitive phrases but I know that amateur radio operators adopted and adapted the system in the ?Twentieth century.

Since sending Morse code was the same when sent through wires or the air, amateur radio aficionados adapted what they called the Q code. For example, instead of sending, “What is your location?” they would send “QTH?” Instead of asking for a confirmation that the conversation, called a QSO, took place, they would send, “Pls QSL.”

Hams, as they came to be nicknamed, also adopted a few numbers to represent phrases. Instead of sending, “Have a good day,” They’d simply send, “73.” To indicate the quality of the signal from another station, they used the RST code (readability, signal strength, and tone of the code).

Though amateur radio has plenty of competition from cell phones and the Internet, It comes into its own during emergencies. When the cell towers are overloaded with calls and the power goes out, hams come to the rescue with portable stations and generators. They act as relays of information between emergency service personal and the public. Texting might seem cool but in an emergency, Samuel Morse’ system still works well.

By the way, hams had their own over-the-air e-mail system during the nineteen eighties. Packet radio was a system which sent packets of data from one computer to another. Individuals had their own mail boxes on packet servers where they could send and receive messages. The Internet has put an end to that but other digital modes are now used by hams to send digital QSOs in real time to each other. It’s like a vast chat room on the air.

I wrote about my own amateur and CB radio activities in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Amazon and Barnes & Noble distribute the e-book version while Virtual Bookworm stocks the Paperback edition.

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Author: bruce Atchison - author

I'm a legally-blind freelance writer as well as the author of three memoirs and scores of articles. Contact me for details.

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