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Telegraphy and the Japanese railways.

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In December of 1869, the British Minister to Japan, Sir Harry Parkes, met there with members of the Japanese Government to discuss the introduction to Japan of the Western technologies of the railways and the electric telegraph.

On this forum we all know what effect these discussions had on Japan, we are writing about Japanese railways every day.

But the electric telegraph is little considered.

For effective railway operations, information must be rapidly transmitted from place to place on the railway.

This information would include such items as train delays, staff movements, wagons on hand, coal requirements and all the other information needed to run a railway.

The most successful electric telegraph used the code invented by Samuel Morse in 1837, and this code, comprising groups of dots and dashes, was based on the twenty six letters of the English language, the ten numbers from zero to nine, and some punctuation marks.

But, how could this be applied in Japan?

Morse code groups are arranged to be not more than five key strokes, dots and/or dashes, these being the greatest number of strokes in a group  that a trained operator could be expected to remember.

But there are over 5,000 Japanese Kanji, so there was no way that five stroke groups could cover all these characters.

So, Hiragana/Katakana characters were used.

There are forty seven of these characters, so there were no great problems in inventing additional code groups  for the extra characters above the English code, plus two groups for the Nigori and Maru marks.

Numbers stayed the same as the English code.

With this Japanese Morse code, information could be sent rapidly all over the Japanese railway network, wherever the telegraph wires ran.

Even after the invention and use of the telephone, Morse telegraphy continued to be used by the Japanese railways.

Each telegraph office had a sending key and a receiving sounder, and some also had a device that could mark on a narrow paper tape the dots and dashes, so there was a permanent record of messages sent and received, something that was not possible on telephones until recent times.Morse telegraphy lasted on the Japanese railways up till about 1964. probably because of this feature.

Japanese Morse Code was of course used not only by the railways, the Japanese postal service, commercial enterprises, and of course the Japanese military made use of this code, not only by wire transmission, but by wireless.

A web site on this subject is: www.ac6v.com/japmorse.htm









Edited by cteno4
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