The Telegraph Key iHorn is made from an antique telegraph key on an antique slide top box. Developed in the 1830s and 1840s by Samuel Morse (1791-1872) and other inventors, the telegraph revolutionized long-distance communication. It worked by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations. In addition to helping invent the telegraph, Samuel Morse developed a code (bearing his name) that assigned a set of dots and dashes to each letter of the English alphabet and allowed for the simple transmission of complex messages across telegraph lines. On May 24, 1844, Morse sent his first telegraph message, from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland a distance of 38 miles, stating, “What hath God wrought!” Suddenly, communication could occur from distance.
By 1866, a telegraph line had been laid across the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. to Europe. Although the telegraph had fallen out of widespread use by the start of the 21st century, replaced by the telephone, fax machine and Internet, it laid the groundwork for the communications revolution that led to those later innovations. To transmit messages across telegraph wires, in the 1830s Morse created what came to be known as Morse code. The code assigned letters in the alphabet and numbers a set of dots (short marks) and dashes (long marks) based on the frequency of use; letters used often (such as “E”) got a simple code, while those used infrequently (such as “Q”) got a longer and more complex code. The electric telegraph transformed how wars were fought and won and how journalists and newspapers conducted business. The telegraph also had a profound economic effect, allowing money to be “wired” across great distances.
The Telegraph Key iHorn represents the first text messaging device and the movement of communication which is today taken for granted.