A Swedish Telegraph Machine

“Titanic’s Radio Room was operated by two Radio Officers (or, as they were known in those days, ‘Marconi Wireless Operators’ or ‘Telegraphists’).

In charge was 25 year old John George Phillips – better known as ‘Jack’ or ‘Sparks’, with 22 year old Harold Bride as the Deputy or Assistant Radio Operator.

‘Touch the spark. . . Sound the tone’ (a line from ‘Titanic’—the musical) sums up beautifully how the wireless apparatus operated these days. Because of this, all wireless operators were nick-named ‘Sparks’.

A wireless operator employed by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd., had to be between the age of 21 and 25 and able to send and receive at least 25 words per minute in Morse. The age restriction was rarely enforced and most wireless operators started their seagoing career already at the age of 19 or 20. After passing their civil service examination, the wireless operators had to finish their training at the Marconi Training School in Liverpool. After the five months final training, they were ready to be stationed on a vessel. In 1912, Jack Phillips could tap out 39 words per minute, ditto that for Harold Thomas Cottam (‘Carpathia’s’ wireless operator), and Harold Bride’s speed was 26 words per minute.

Marconi Wireless Operators often became snippy in regards to Non-Marconi operators—claiming they were ‘incompetent’ and ‘didn’t know how to use Morse properly’ (the United States Navy bore the brunt of such attacks).

Both Radio Operators remained at their posts until about 3 minutes before the Titanic foundered, even after being released from their duties by Captain Smith.

Harold Bride remarked that water could be heard flooding into the wheelhouse as he and Jack Phillips abandoned the Radio Room. Jack Phillips was still sending as the power supply to the Radio Room failed.The Titanic Radio Operators did great honor to their profession.

Both Radio Operators earned very little for the amount of work they were required to do. John George Phillips earned £4 and 5 shilling per voyage. Harold Bride earned £2 and 2 shilling and sixpence per voyage.

Jack Phillips died of hypothermia on or near collapsible lifeboat B, his body was never recovered. Harold Bride left the sea after WW1, and faded into obscurity. He died in Scotland in 1956.”Great Yarmouth Radio Club

Yesterday, while roaming the shops of El Dorado Shopping Mall, I encountered a brand new Swedish telegraphy machine marketed by a company operating under the name of Icom.  One of the employees was kind enough to pull the machine from the window and place it on the counter so I could take a picture of it.  In my mind, I had the remembrance of the heroic radio operators of the Titanic who remained at their posts until about three minutes before it was swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean.

Below are two shots of a Swedish telegraphy machine being offered to the Panamanian hobbyists who still enjoy communicating in Morse Code for the sake of entertainment.  I had no idea people were buying these machines in this day and age to use as a personal hobby.  Good Day.

Shot taken with a Canon DSLR EOS Rebel T2i camera with an EF 50mm f/1.8 II fixed lens.  Notice the soft bokeh on the background of the picture.  You can’t even distinguish the filing cabinets.  I love the  “nifty-fifty” lens. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Shot taken with a P&S Canon PowerShot A720 IS camera.  Please take notice of the deep depth of field of this small compact camera. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

8 thoughts on “A Swedish Telegraph Machine”

  1. The telegraph was a great invention in its time. Without it, communications at long distances would have been impossible. The other option was sending smoke signals like the Indians did in the West.

    Boston is a great place, I always wanted to visit Boston. It’s still a dream I have to visit this historic city before I go upstairs.

  2. I’ve never sent Morse Code, but had to learn to receive in order to get my HAM radio operator’s license. I don’t think Morse Code’s a requirement even for the Coast Guard now, but there are very many HAM operators who still use it, and more than a few hobbyists in our area. They even have a club!

  3. That is so true in our country as well. I had no idea it was so popular. For me Morse Code was something that only existed in History books and museums. I was so wrong. It’s still very much alive and wagging its tail.

  4. Sorry Jim and Nena, but your comment came out blurry and unreadable. Could you please resend it? I’m always interested in reading your comments. Will be waiting in the wings. Thank you.

  5. Buenas Tardes Omar,

    It was supposed to be Morse Code for:
    “I think there’s an app for this.”, but the formatting in wordpress replaced 3 dots with an ellipsis and some en dashes with em dashes.

    Here’s the website for Morse translation:

    Clearly, Morse code is a better method of communicating than the web! haha

  6. Hola Jim & Nena:

    You got me there. I had no idea what those weird signs were. Okay, now I understand. I’ll bet the guys on the Titanic had no idea this website existed. Their job would have been a lot easier, and maybe more people would have been saved.

    Take Care,


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