It was in 1904-1905 that Horace Martin's Original Model made its
debut. Shortly thereafter, other models were introduced.
The Vibroplex Double Lever arrived on the scene in 1907. The one
pictured here was made in 1920 and sports a "bug" decal which was applied
before the logo was placed on the label itself.
1911 saw the appearance of the Vibroplex Model X. The Model X was
ingeniously designed to need only one contact for both dits and dahs.
This same mechanism would later be employed on the Vertical model.
The Vibroplex Blue Racer or No.4 entered the market in 1914. It was
the first Martin attempt at a small footprint, space saving bug. The
base is considerably narrower than that of all the earlier models. The
blue racer pictured is on a nickel base and was made in 1918.
The next bug to hit the market was also designed for a small footprint
on the operator's desk. It has been called the Vibroplex Vertical, the
Wirechief's Key, and the Upright. First available in 1917, few of these
remain in collections.
The Midget became available in 1918 and was yet another bug intended
to take up little space. Actually, it was advertised to fit in a vest
pocket and weighs in at 15 ounces. It originally sold for $15, alot of
money to a telegrapher in 1918! It was gone from the marketplace by 1920.
Electric light existed before Thomas Edison, mainly in the form
of the bright arc lights that were used to light city squares. But
arc lights are too bright for indoor use. While others had also
experimented with incandescent light, they had not been able to
produce a bulb that would last long enough to be useful. Thomas Edison is generally
credited with inventing the first practical bulb in 1879. Perhaps
his biggest contribution was the use of a thin filament, rather than
bulkier forms of conducting material. He experimented (just as you can
above) with thousands of materials for filament, including
fishing line, onion skin, leather, macaroni, and a friend's beard! The
first practical bulb used carbonized (heat-treated) thread as filament
in an evacuated glass bulb and
burned for about 48 hours. In 1911, the tungsten filament was introduced
and can burn for over 1000 hours. Heat-treated bamboo (in real time!) lasted
for about 600 hours, carbonized cardboard 16 hours, and platinum about 10
Horace G. Martin Chronology, data from Bill Holly's book
'The Vibroplex Co., Inc.'
The No.6 or Lightning Bug was a very successful model which had its
debut in 1927. It sported a redesigned support structure which I believe
is thought to have been patterned after the Boulter key. The vibrating
arm was flattened.
The Martin Junior is another narrow based bug which was first advertised
in 1934. The Martin Junior was only made up to 1939, but actually was
offered for many years before 1934 without being designated a separate model.
John La Hiff, who later bought the Vibroplex Company in 1965, designed
a model called the Champion which was one of two bugs to appear in 1939.
The Champion is widely considered to be the easiest Vibroplex bug to
The Zephyr is the other model which appeared in 1939. It was
essentially a Champion on a narrower base. It was offered in at least
two finishes, grey and black crinkle.
The Vibroplex Company went on to jazz up the Original with
a gold plate over the base, which was called the Presentation Model. The
Presentation also had an adjustable mainspring for several years. Thereafter,
Vibroplex entered the competition to produce a set of paddles to use with
electronic keyers. All in all, no make of bug ever enjoyed the success of