Charge imbalance in early cables: the influence of language

D. de Cogan, G. J. Janacek, A. Al-Ajllan, S. C. Carter, D. Claflin, C. Collins, M. R. Cutlack, P. Davies, F. Galaasen, M. Hubee, D. C. Love, O. O. Meduoye, A. Merritt, T. Nash, T. L. Newell, S. S. Patten, T. R. Pierson, A. L. Pluck, J. Radford, T. RajaM. P. Salisbury, S. Walker, P. Willows

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The basis for this paper was initiated by observations that were made by a group of undergraduate students (the co-authors listed above) as part of a coursework exercise in an elective unit (CMPS2S22 "The Information Revolution and its origins") which is taught at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. It concerns a technical problem that must have beset the early operators of cables who used a sensitive galvanometer with a light-spot, so that deflections one way were identified as dots and the other way as dashes. If Morse code had been designed for use on long distance cables, then it would have been balanced, so that the number of dots in an average message would equal the number of dashes. This would generally leave the light spot in the middle of the screen. But Morse code was not designed this way and the sum of dots generally exceeds the sum of dashes. In the case of the imbalance in Morse code messages, there are linguistic effects, but we may be certain that operators would, with experience, have developed coping strategies, so that the spot did not go off the scale. However, the authors are not aware of any record of such operational procedures
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2004
EventIEE History of Technology Conference - University College London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20043 Jul 2004


ConferenceIEE History of Technology Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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