The growth of the railways from 1825 onwards brought with it a need for a new form of communications that could work over large distances and in any weather. Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke were two Englishmen who on 25th July 1837 demonstrated a system for sending messages using electricity. A set of magnetic needles could be deflected by an electric current such that the needles would point to a particular letter on a grid. The demonstration in the video below shows how a 4 needle telegraph – a slightly later model of the July 1837 original – operates and how letters could be communicated. The needle telegraph started a telecommunications revolution based on electrical communication.
Find out more by viewing this You Tube video by Professor Nigel Linge, University of Salford, UK. Our museums example is a “Single Needle Telegraph” and contains the complete English alphabet.