Family copy originally published 1991

K M & G Clarke
Australian Capital Territory




The relaying of messages has been instrumental in human survival on the planet Earth. If, in the future, we have a need to settle other astral bodies, communications between Earth and those humans far away in space will probably be very different from our current concepts. Communications certainly will not rely on a thin, unbroken filament of metal stretching from Earth to its astral outposts. However, it was a thin, unbroken filament of metal or telegraph wire that revolutionized the relaying of messages around our planet.


The electric telegraph was first patented in 1837 and developed to a useable form by 1850. The simple telegraph and Morse code were the dominant means of communication for the next 100 years. By 1877 there were 23 474 miles of telegraph line in operation in Australia.


The era of the telegraph is all but finished yet its impact was rapid, far-reaching and had a dramatic effect on the everyday lives of people throughout the world. News and business intelligence were quickly relayed from place to place as the ever advancing telegraph wires spread a network akin to a gigantic spider's web.


The telegraph's collective influence was very powerful and affected every facet of our commercial and social activities. Profitable trade has always depended on the reliable flow of news. Instead of taking months by sea it became possible for that flow to occur within 24-48 hours across the world. Fortunes were enhanced for those in far flung places like Australia. Nonetheless, the influence of the telegraph on Australia has been almost forgotten.


The Beginnings

Throughout history messengers have been the chief means of passing information from one place to another. When their tidings were not to the liking of the receiver messengers sometimes suffered at the hands of the recipient. Fleetness of foot was at first a prime requirement for messengers. As animals were tamed and domesticated they became the carries for the messengers. Some animals themselves carried information - pigeons are a well known example. Physical messengers were not the only means of communication.


Signal fires on hilltops enabled information to be passed from one group to another. Smoke signals were an early warning of the approach of possible enemies. The Australian Aborigines developed a code of smoke signals that was acknowledged across the country - even where language was a barrier. In places of limited visibility, such as forests or jungles, other cultures utilised drums to great advantage - multiple drums, each with different tones, or single drums with coded patterns beaten by the drummer.


The use of flags, initially to distinguish friend from foe, on mast and wire has been wide spread among the navies of the world for some hundreds of years. Claude Chappe developed in the 1790s a system of flag signals or semaphores to relay messages across France by visual telegraphs.


Telegraph is derived from the Greek, tele - afar and graphein - to write. Development of efficient long-distance telegraphs had to await discoveries in electricity.


The Electrical Contribution

In 1819 Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851) of Denmark, discovered that an electric current can produce a magnetic field which will turn a compass needle.


In 1825 William Sturgeon (1783-1850) of England, invented the electromagnet.


Three men made use of these discoveries to develop successful telegraphs; physicists William F Cooke (1806-1879) and Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875), working together in England, and the American painter and inventor Samuel F B Morse (1791-1872).


The Cooke-Wheatstone Telegraph

Patented in 1837, the Cooke-Wheatstone telegraph worked by electromagnetism. The receiver consisted of a number (usually 5 or 6) of vertical magnetic needles mounted on a dial on which the letters of the alphabet were printed - a separate wire and coil that served as an electromagnet controlled each needle.


A sending device sent an electric current through the wires, producing a magnetic field in the coils. As each letter was sent, the magnetic field caused a needle to point to that letter on the dial. A two needle model was also developed. The Cooke-Wheatstone telegraph was used in Great Britain until 1870.



The Morse Telegraph

Samuel Morse's interest in telegraphs dates from 1832 when, after touring Europe, he returned to the United States and completed his first telegraphic device in 1836. Using an improved electromagnet developed by physicist John Henry he succeeded in 1837 in sending signals over 1 700 feet of wire. His receiving instrument was an electromagnet that, when energised, caused a pen to make V-shaped marks on a strip of paper moved by a clock mechanism.

Further developments; a relay device and a dot dash code by Morse; and, a receiving sounder in 1838 by his assistant, Alfred Vail, paved the way for Morse to patent his invention in 1840.


The Morse Telegraph consisted of a switch, called a key, similar to a doorbell button. When pressed the key allowed a current to flow to a receiving sounder causing an electromagnet to attract a bar so that it made a clicking noise. When the key was released it broke the circuit, the electromagnet lost its magnetism and a spring pulled the bar back to a neutral position.


Morse Code consisted of individual characters being assigned a series of dots and dashes that were transmitted in a pattern that was recognized by the receiving person who interpreted the series of short or long sounds or clicking noises made when the electromagnet was attracted to and released from the bar.


Successful transmission on 24 May 1844 between Morse in Washington, D.C., and Vail in Baltimore - over a test line that Congress appropriated $30 000 to build - led to the acceptance and widespread use of the Morse Telegraph, particularly by newspapers.


Columns of telegraphic news appeared almost overnight. Co-operative news gathering agencies were formed to share among many newspapers the cost of stringing wires across the countryside. By 1851, over 50 companies were operating in the United States - 12 of these combining in 1856 to form the Western Union Telegraph Company which provided a unified coast to coast service.


Within ten years of the acceptance of the Morse Telegraph, Victoria led the way with Australia's first electric telegraph line between Melbourne and the nearby port of Williamstown. The first message was received on 3 March 1854 and later that year the line of wire was extended to Geelong and Queenscliff - the first message from Geelong being a brief account of the Eureka rebellion on the Ballarat goldfields.


Overseas Mail Route to England

Long before the Suez Canal was opened the Suez route was the fastest way to send urgent mail from England to India. In 1852 a subsidy from the Imperial government enabled mail to be over-landed across the narrow isthmus of Suez, a strip of desert separating the Mediterranean Sea from the Indian Ocean. The subsidy to overland mail was utilised by the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O).


Mail and passengers between England and India were carried in barely half the time taken by ships on the much longer ocean route. Regular steamers between Australia and Ceylon completed the mail link. The steamers were prone to mechanical problems. Sailing ships favouring the Great Circle route (via the Cape of Good Hope then homeward around Cape Horn) were often faster and more reliable carrying mail between England and Australia's southernmost ports.


The fastest trips by any sea only route up till 1870 averaged more than 60 days from England to Melbourne. The pilots that guided the vessels into port were the first to hear news of the outside world. Newsmen would swarm to the docks to board incoming ships to pore over the latest newspapers.


The European and Australian Royal Mail Company Limited sailed their steamers to Egypt, sent passengers and mail overland by caravan, and put them aboard another steamer for India and Australia. In 1857 they failed to meet time requirements for carrying mail and their contract was withdrawn. The Imperial government mail contract was finally shared between the competing Orient and P&O services. The Suez Canal was opened in 1869 and by 1891 the average time for mails between England and Australia was reduced to thirty three days.


From the Late 1840s as railways crossed Europe they enabled faster passage of mail and passengers to ports progressively nearer to the Suez isthmus. The telegraph wires followed close behind, but there were still the obstacles of language barriers, with repeater stations in various countries, and of wires crossing the seas before a direct, English telegraphic link could be forged.


Undersea Cables

Attempts to lay cables under water were unsuccessful in the 1840s. Cable makers eventually found that a rubber like substance called gutta-percha could be used as insulation. English brothers, Jacob and John Brett, laid a gutta-percha cable under the English Channel in 1851. A successful undersea cable was laid in 1856 across Cabot Strait, from Cape Ray, Newfoundland, to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, by a company headed by an American, Cyrus W Field.


Field organised the Atlantic Telegraph Company in 1856 with plans to lay a cable from Newfoundland to Ireland. The first two cables broke. His third attempt in 1858 did not break but the signals sent were weak and distorted and it failed completely after only four weeks of service. A further eight years passed before Cyrus Field finally succeeded, on 27 July 1866, in laying the first serviceable cable from Valencia in Ireland, to Hearts Content in Newfoundland.


The Atlantic cable made it possible to send a message and receive an answer in only a few minutes. Meanwhile, the Brett Brothers cable under the English Channel provided a telegraphic service to Europe but language barriers hindered quick transmission of news to the Orient. The solution found was to progressively lay cables and overland wires connecting relay stations where English was spoken.


The route chosen was London - Land's End - Gibraltar - Malta - Alexandria - Suez - Aden - Bombay - Madras - Penang - Singapore - Batavia - Banjoewangie - Port Darwin and, finally, overland from Port Darwin to Adelaide.


About the time that the cable reached Singapore the Atlantic Ocean Link was complete. In 1866 it was then possible to send by relay telegraphic messages in the English language from San Francisco to Singapore. Slowly the cable was continued from Asia across the Indonesian archipelago to Port Darwin.


On 25 June 1872 the cable from Port Darwin to Banjoewangie joined with the overland wire from Batavia, the British cable in Java, and the first through telegrams were transmitted and relayed from London. There was, however, one hundred miles of wire that remained to be laid between two relay stations North of Tennant Creek. The precious messages had to be carried between the gap by men on horseback for retransmission.


On 22 October 1872 the South Australian telegraph line to Port Darwin was completed. For the cities on the Australian Eastern seaboard and Tasmania, cable communication and overland wire made the telegraph the fastest means of communicating with the rest of the world. The telegraph and Morse code reigned supreme for many years and then the telephone and later on radio gradually displaced the telegraph as the fastest means of communication. Nonetheless, the developments in telegraphic services provided the means of dissemination for most financial information until well into the 1970s.



Development of the Telegraph In Australia

Although Australia's first electric telegraph line between Melbourne and Williamstown was opened in the presence of Lieutenant Governor Latrobe, members of the Legislative Council and others, on 3 March 1854, there had been previous proposals that had not yet borne fruit.


The Morse electric telegraph link between Washington and Baltimore was barely one year old when there was a proposal, in 1845, to establish an electric telegraph between Sydney and Melbourne. The telegraph was first used in New South Wales on 5 December 1851.


An American telegraphist trained by Morse, Samuel Walker McGowan, came to Australia in 1852 to start his own telegraph company. He was persuaded to operate a government telegraph and construction commenced in November 1853 of an electric telegraph from William Street in Melbourne to Williamstown. Mr McGowan's advice was widely sought and he was appointed as the first Superintendent of Telegraphs in Victoria.


During the next few years many lines were started, opened and, after testing, began telegraphic services :


1856 Feb 18 - Adelaide to Pt Adelaide, 9 miles

1856 Jul 19 - Melbourne to Adelaide, opened

1857 Aug 2 - Telegraph established in Tasmania

1857 Dec 30 - Sydney to Liverpool, NSW, opened

1858 Jan 26 - Sydney to Liverpool, NSW, First message sent by Mr E.C. Cracknell

1858 Jul 19 - Melbourne to Adelaide, Telegraphic communication established

1858 Oct 29 - Sydney to Melbourne to Adelaide, Telegraphic communication established

1864 Apr 6 - Brisbane to Rockhampton, opened


Telegraph lines from Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide met at the respective state borders and on 29 October 1858 the early explorer William Hovell, then a sprightly 72 year old, sent the first instantaneous message between these cities.


An initially successful cable across Bass Strait was laid in 1859 from Cape Otway to King Island and thence to Tasmania. The first telegram between Victoria and Tasmania was sent on 30 September 1859 but the cable proved a failure in 1860 and was disbanded.


In 1869 a new cable was laid by the vessel Investigator from a site at Flinders in Victoria to Low Head Station, at the mouth of the River Tamar in Tasmania. The Tasmania and Victoria submarine telegraph was worked by the Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Company Limited, upon a guarantee by the Tasmanian Government.


1869 Mar 15 - Rockhampton to Townsville, opened

1869 Apr 27 - Tasmania to Victoria cable laid

1869 May 1 - First message through Bass Strait cable

1869 Jun 21 - Perth to Fremantle, W.A., opened

1870 Sep 15 - Northern Territory - South Aust. Overland Telegraph commenced


The North-South Overland Telegraph Line

Under the charge of Charles Todd, Superintendent of Telegraph for South Australia, the contract for the construction of the North-South Overland Telegraph Line was let in three divisions :


-            From Port Augusta at latitude 31.30 degrees South to latitude 27 degrees South the line is 512 miles in length.

Mr Edward M. Bagot was the contractor for this portion of the work, and he erected his first pole on 1st October 1870.


-            The middle portion, from Latitude 27 degrees to 19.30 degrees, is 612 miles in Length, and was undertaken by the Government of South Australia.


-            The third portion, extending from Latitude 19.30 to its completion at latitude 12.30 - Port Darwin, is 629 miles in length.

This was entrusted to Messrs Joseph Darwent and William Dalwood. Their first pole was planted at the Darwin end on 15 September 1870.


The camel was used successfully by John McDouall Stuart in the exploration for the route and also in the building of the Overland Telegraph Line. The total length of the wire from Port Darwin to Adelaide is 1 976 miles. The wet season, floods and lack of supplies delayed Darwent and Dalwood in the north. Only 200 miles of wire had been laid by May 1871. Their contract was terminated and the government overseer took over this section.



After encountering extraordinary difficulties, the work was completed through the ability and energy of Mr Todd, Superintendent of Telegraphs, South Australia. Several construction workers were speared by Aborigines. Five men died during the construction of the line; one from thirst, one lost looking for horses, one drowned, and the other two from sickness. Small stone fortresses were built about 100 miles apart to house the telegraph operators and line repairers.


The middle section undertaken by the South Australian Government was completed by the 1st week of December 1971. Mr Bagot completed his section within the allotted time - 1st January 1872. Despite Mr Todd's high hopes expressed in a letter from the McDonnell Ranges dated 20th November 1871, the Northern section of the telegraph wire was not completed before the sea-link to Port Darwin came into operation on 2nd July 1872.


The Final Link

To lay the final sea-link the ships employed were the Edinburgh, Hibernia and the cable layer Investigator and laying commenced in early November 1871. The cable was laid from Banjoewangie to Port Darwin, a distance of 970 miles, and the rate of laying was approximately 100 miles per day. The newspapers of the day were optimistic that by the beginning of January 1872 telegraphic messages would flow between the Australian eastern seaboard and the major centres of both the old and new world.


Australian newspapers followed the reports of progress with enthusiasm although the time lapse between the origin of the report to appearance in print was frequently more than a month. The local telegraphic news was by this time a well entrenched part of every newspaper. Country papers were part of the Australian Associated Press Telegrams network and the through telegrams were eagerly awaited.


The Metropolitan dailies were only circulated to the major rail-linked towns and the odd copy would migrate further afield. The local country press frequently  quoted their city cousins. The Argus is quoted in The Creswick Advertiser of 3rd January 1872 as saying :


The time is rapidly approaching when the Australian Colonies will be brought into direct and daily communication with the western world by means of the electric telegraph. The cable which connects Northern Australia with Java and India has been laid since November 30, and at the Latest accounts was working satisfactorily and well. From the rapid rate at which the Landline is being pushed forward by the South Australian Government, that portion of the connection must soon be completed. Therefore it is impossible to say when and how soon a message may be received from England. Upon accomplishment of that event, the messages will immediately be disseminated through the country districts, and the various journals participating in the Australian Associated Press Telegrams wilt be promptly placed in possession of the news. Should a message be received at a late hour of night, after the ordinary time for closing of the various telegraph offices, some special arrangement will be necessary for keeping open the various offices by which the country journals will not be deprived of the advantage of receiving the first message sent by telegram from England.


Long Wait for Through Telegrams

Some six months were to pass before the first message from England to Melbourne was received on 2 July 1872. The Creswick Advertiser editorial displays the disappointment of the contents of that first message :


The first of the long expected 'through telegrams' was flashed to Melbourne yesterday at 10 o'clock and before noon we had issued slips containing the whole of the intelligence. The event is of great significance, for although the date of the news reaches back to the 22nd ult, we may expect in a few weeks, or even days, the events transpiring one day in Europe flashed through for the information of our readers on the following day. We regret the first telegram so anxiously waited for, was not of more general interest, for it is scarcely conceivable that any agent could for a heavy wager, have got together a string of items more barren of interest than the telegram received yesterday. It looks more like a broker's hat than a telegram to the 'Australian Associated Press.' We trust to have no more of this sort of thing - it is bad enough to have to print it, much worse to have to pay, and heavily, for it.


The message was indeed a broker's hat for it contained little else other than the prices fetched in the London for various commodities and Stock Exchange dividends and prices of Australian stocks and debentures. These were, of course, of immense interest and importance to the financial and commercial community but of little interest to the average reader.


Gaps and Cable Breaks

In July 1872 there was still a gap in the wire of some 100 miles North of Tennant Creek where the message had to be carried by riders on horseback. Eventually the gap was bridged when the final join was made at Frew's Ponds on 22 August 1872.


Just before this date there was a break in the Indonesian cable that was finally repaired on 21 October 1872. The lonely operators were at their stone station fortresses, often more than one hundred miles from the nearest neighbour, all along the North-South telegraph line between Port Darwin and Port Augusta ready to relay the first through telegram.


On 22 October 1872 the first telegram was relayed by one operator to the next down the overland wire and was eventually received in Adelaide. This time the messages were of far more general interest and the congratulatory telegrams poured in from London, Berlin and Washington. The Overland Telegraph which had cost 370 000 pounds was complete and connected to the cable laid by the British Australian Company from Singapore via Java to Port Darwin.


Marking the line's centenary the Department of Interior's magazine Northern Territory Affairs, Vol.5, May 1972 states :


For 17 years that single strand of No.8 galvanised iron wire, swinging between slender poles - nearly 40,000 of them across 1973 miles of South Australia & Northern Territory - carried the entire overseas telegraph business of the Australian Colonies. In 1899, to cope with the increasing demand, a common line of copper was strung along the same poles.



Trans-Tasman Cable

The first New Zealand telegraph office was opened on 1st July 1862. The Trans-Tasman Sea cable from Sydney to New Zealand was laid from La Perouse, Botany Bay, to Wakapuaka on the South Island of New Zealand - a distance of 1 150 miles. From Wakapuaka the wire went overland to White's Bay - 88 miles - and thence by cable to Wellington on the North Island - 41 miles. The Trans-Tasman Cable began operating on 20 February 1876.


The East-West Overland Wire

The last of the capital cities to be Linked was Perth. A telegraph line between Perth and Fremantle, West Australia, came into operation on 21 June 1869. A period of eight years was to elapse before the East-West overland wire was completed. Extraordinary feats of exploration and engineering were endured and conquered in order to lay 2 000 miles of wire through dry, forbidding terrain.


The Adelaide to Eucla section was opened on 13 July 1877. With the completion of the overland telegraph from Perth to Eucla, 2 046 miles of line between Adelaide, South Australia, and Perth, West Australia, became available on 1st December 1877.


Maintaining the Overland Telegraph Lines

Ordinary galvanised wire was used in the construction of the lines in the early years. Faults occurred in the slender thread due to a variety of causes, such as lightning strikes, windblown debris, wilful damage or by Aboriginals who wanted wire to fashion into fish hooks. Repairers from the two telegraph stations nearest the break would ride horses along the line of poles – 36 000 in total - until they came to the point where the wire was broken. It rarely happened that the break was equidistant and so the repairers from their respective stations seldom met. It was a lonely life for both the repairers and the operators who dwelt in the small stone fortresses that served also as their office.


Some of the telegraph men at the Barrow Creek office, 1 200 miles from Adelaide, were attacked by Aboriginals in February 1874. News of the attack was transmitted south to the next telegraph office and relayed down to the Adelaide. A doctor was hastily summoned to the Adelaide office and medical advice was transmitted by relay to Barrow Creek. Unfortunately too late for one man who was already dead but in time to provide some solace and comfort for another who lay dying and whose wife had been hurried to the office in Adelaide to exchange final messages.


The High Cost of Messages

Initially there were only about fifteen short messages per day sent by telegraph between England and Australia. A message of 20 words cost 10 pounds - equal to five weeks' wages for a working man. The charges were slowly reduced - in 1878 by 50% for government and by 75% for newspaper messages - and some twenty years later a 20 word message cost a newspaper 2 pounds instead of the earlier 10 pounds.


To send ten words ten miles cost 1s 6d in the early years. However, by 1865 NSW and Victoria were sending more than half a million messages a year over their 5 000 miles of line. Practically every country producer who had dealings outside his own area came to rely on the service in one way or another.


By 1891 the charges had been heavily reduced - in Victoria to 6d per six words sent anywhere in the state - and in that year Victorians alone sent more than three million messages along their 7 000 miles of line. In 1891 NSW was employing eighty telegraphists on a 24 hour service at the Sydney GPO.


The Telegraph Changed the Quality of Life

As communications improved, the quality of life of those in the country areas, both rich and poor, changed dramatically. Farmers could communicate easily by telegraph with agents and market their produce and stock at optimum times. Employees became less isolated and were able to move with the changing labour market.


Goods and services were more readily obtainable as suppliers became quickly aware of potential markets. Supplies from overseas were accessed when and where prices were favourable, and most importantly, knowledge of world markets enabled primary producers to better manage their properties and holdings.


The ability to anticipate the needs of customers on the other side of the world was greatly enhanced by the now swift and reliable flow of telegraphic news. Merchants, farmers, mine-owners, pastoralists, bankers and ship-owners directed their activities more profitably.


Merchants in England could supply orders to the Australian market more quickly when goods were scarce here. They no longer had to gamble on future markets based on stale news already some months old.


Return cargoes were more readily obtained when ship-owners could direct the master of a ship by telegram where best to proceed. Mine-owners could govern their output to world prices, and bankers were able to attract international investment to further development.


International Investment

The telegraph gave British investors access to swift news of where they were risking their savings. Banks and governments benefited as the building of railways, pastoral houses, reservoirs, and the development of Australian mines became attractive to international financiers. British speculators gambled heavily in Australian mining shares as the telegraph wires carried news from mines to the share market regularly and swiftly. Australia's gold output in the 1890s exceeded that of the peak in the golden 1850s.


Employment Opportunities

The telegraph offices opened up new opportunities for employment, particularly for women. With little industrialization in Australia there was only a handful of openings for women - very evident in Tasmania where in the 1870 census of a total population of 99 328 there were 46 475 females.


Female occupations in the 1870 census were given as :

Teachers - 246 (Male Teachers - 70);
Annuitants - 79 (Male Annuitants - 42);
Laundresses and Washerwoman - 286;
Dressmakers, Milliners, Needlewomen, etc - 573.


It is recorded that the Hon. JF Burns, Postmaster General, first employed ladies in 1875 in the Electric Telegraph Department at the General Post Office, Sydney, NSW. However, it appears that ladies were employed as Telegraph Operators in some of the Tasmanian Stations earlier than 1875.


In 1877, of the 56 Tasmanian Telegraph Stations, 22 were operated by women ­many of them single women. These stations were mainly in country areas and some of the women were able to combine teaching with their telegraphic operator duties. The duties included being present to receive and send messages during office hours from 8.30 am to 8 pm six days per week and on Sundays from 8.30 to 9.30 am and from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm.



Some Developments in Telegraphic Communications

The business world was quick to realize the advantages of the electric telegraph and was a major user from the inception of the new method of communication. The first ticker machines appeared in American Stock Exchanges as early as 1867. The stock tickers marked a paper tape with coded information about the price of shares. This information was transmitted by telegraph wire to various financial centres equipped with stock ticker machines. This system came into use in 1868 in America.


Various methods were developed to send a number of messages over one wire :


1872 - an American duplex system

1874 - Thomas Edison developed a quadruplex system

1875 - Emile Baudot (1845-1903) multiplex system - 5 messages

1915 - Western Union using a multiplex system was able to transmit 8 messages at one time.


Messages in Printed Form

The multiplex system assisted the development in the late 1880s of messages being recorded in printed form. A number of methods were developed and by the early 1900s systems utilising holes punched in paper tape were in widespread use. Teleprinters were generally adopted in 1927. Teleprinters can read or decipher the punched paper tape and type out the message on an automatic typewriter.


The reverse process also became possible - to type a message on a teleprinter and have it recorded both on hard copy and paper tape. The paper tape was fed into a machine which translated the holes into electrical impulses for transmission over the telegraph wire and finally read by a teleprinter at the receiving end.


Facsimile were sent by telegraph wire in 1924 and were in general use by the mid-1930s. News services used facsimiles to send pictures and handwritten or printed material by wire and later on by radio. Banks, railways and other organisations have adopted facsimile for business purposes and today they are commonly transmitted by telephone services - currently termed by FAX.


The development of the telephone was very dependent on the existence of telegraph wires. Invented by the American Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 the telephone was initially operated by private enterprise and in many parts of the world telephone services are still privately owned. Telephones had to be sold to local communities where local telephone wires were erected to join subscribers to a telephone exchange. Long distance calls between exchanges were mostly over telegraph wires.


As the telephone gained in popularity there was less distinction between telegraph and telephone wires. However, telegraph wires and the early undersea cables could not carry the wide frequency of vibrations that make up speech. The invention of coaxial cables with built in repeaters made possible long distance telephoning by cable.


The first coaxial transatlantic cable was laid in 1956. Other undersea coaxial cables were laid in the next few years. Since 1959 international telegraph companies have had channels allocated to them on most coaxial cables. Most of the international press pictures we see in our newspapers are transmitted through these channels.


Other Communication Methods

Since the early 1920s radio has played an increasingly important part in our communication systems. The Launching in the 1970s of satellites into permanent orbit was largely responsible for enhancing the quality of radio-telephonic communication. The everyday or common wireless radio is now both amplitude and frequency modulated - AM and FM. Pictures and sound are transmitted through the ether and we have witnessed live television coverage of moon landings and other events that have occurred in space.


Television channels are growing in profusion. Vision-phones are available. Radar, infrared and Laser technology allow many computer assisted operations to be performed that were beyond our comprehension yesterday. Tomorrow offers the promise of as yet undreamed of possibilities.


Meanwhile, that thin metal thread continues to play a large part in our day to day communications that are so dependent on electricity wires, telephone wires and coaxial cables. In 1991 some Australians are eagerly looking forward to the early introduction of cable television!


Tasmanian Telegraph Stations

There were 743 miles of telegraph Lines in Tasmania according to Walch's Almanac of 1877 and there were 56 telegraph stations under the charge of Mr Frederick Augustus PACKER, Superintendent of Telegraphs.


Office hours were from 8.30 am to 8 pm six days per week and on Sundays open 8.30 to 9.30 in the morning and again 8.30 to 9.30 in the evening.


Scale of Charges in 1877

Inter-Tasmanian Telegrams

Ten words and under, 1s.; every additional word. 1d. Address and signature must not exceed ten words.

Press messages for publication, half these rates.


Intercolonial Telegrams

Ten words or under, from Tasmania to Victoria, 6s.; each additional word, 7d.

From Tasmania to South Australia or New South Wales, 7s.; each additional word 8d

From Tasmania to Queensland 8s.; each additional word, 9d.


Press telegrams for publication, 3s. for the first ten words, and 3.5d. for each word in excess. Address and signature must not exceed ten words.


To London - 10s. 6d. each word, the address and signature being charged for at per word.


Sunday messages, at special extra rates. Messages in cipher are charged double rates.