Advances in Design of Early Keys
The knife-trunnioned Victor Key by E.S. Greeley was patented December 26,
1882. Different trunnion or support assemblies were employed during this
time in an attempt to avoid the off-centering of the lever arm previously
caused by the wearing of brass on steel. The Bunnell Triumph key design
we are all familiar with eventually succeeded.
By the turn of the century, telegraphers were experiencing
a malady that came to be known as "glass arm." Inventors experimented
by changing the action of keys from vertical to horizontal.
sideswiper (above, left) was one way of changing to a side action and speeding up
the rate at which code could be sent. It helped prevent telegrapher's
glass arm by avoiding repetitive up and down motion. Other inventions,
such as the Foote Pierson 20th Century Key (above, right) and the Yetman typewriter were
less successful. The invention that took the telegraph world by storm
was the semiautomatic key or "bug" by Horace Martin
This Vibroplex Original, serial number 1571, was made
before 1910. The earliest known Vibroplex serial number is 400 and very
few under 500 are still in existence.
If a glass rod is rubbed vigorously with a silk cloth, it will
become positively charged. If a hard rubber rod is rubbed with a
piece of wool, it becomes negatively charged. These rods can then be
used to charge two small pith balls suspended by a fine silk thread.
Pretend your mouse represents the rods and click on the pith balls.
Your experiments will show that "like charges repel, and unlike charges
attract." From "A Treatise Upon Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony" by
C.I. Hoppough, 1912.
A Bug By Any Other Name?
In the 1920's, Bunnell introduced a semiautomatic key it called the
"Gold Bug". Vibroplex filed a lawsuit, claiming that it held a legal
Trade Mark awarding it exclusive rights to call its machine a "bug."
To outsiders, the suit must have appeared to be a war among the two
biggest telegraph key maker giants. The judge decided that the word
"BUG" was a term in common use and therefore could not alone be used as
a trademark. This was a victory for J.H. Bunnell & Co and Vibroplex's
lawsuit was dismissed. Click the question
mark to see the text of the judge's decision, which is only about a
Next page for more keys!
Back to the index...