The roots of computer code lie in telegraph code Unlike Samuel Morse's one-key telegraph, Baudot's used five keys. (Wikimedia Commons/Markus Spiske/Flickr)
The roots of computer code lie in telegraph code
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Famously, the first long-distance message Samuel Morse sent on the telegraph was "What hath God wrought?" When it comes to digital progress, it's a question that's still being answered.

The telegraph was a revolutionary means of communication in itself. But it's also connected to the development of modern computer languages. Like any new technology, its creation had a ripple effect. It provoked a wide range of other innovations. Engineer Jean-Maurice-Émile Baudot was an important telegraph innovator. His telegraph system helped lay the groundwork for modern computers.

Baudot had been a telegraph operator since 1869, write Fritz E. Froehlich and Allen Kent in The Froehlich/Kent Encyclopedia of Telecommunications. When he was training, he learned how to operate Samuel Morse's original telegraph. He also learned to use other telegraph models. He practiced on the Hughes telegraph, an early printing telegraph that had a keyboard like a piano. He also practiced on the Meyer telegraph, which was the first to use paper tape with holes in it to record telegraph signals. That's according to author Anton A. Huurdeman. Baudot built on these innovations, adding his own touch.  

Baudot Code

Morse Code was first used in the 1840s. Baudot Code's biggest advantage over it, and other earlier codes, was its speed. Earlier systems sent characters of information by using different lengths of character distinguished by a short gap. An example of these is the "dits" and "das" of the Morse code system. 

"Baudot's code sent characters in a synchronized stream," writes author Robin Boast. "As each character code was exactly the same length and had exactly the same number of elements." 

Although some of the ideas he used had been pioneered before, Baudot was the first to connect them all in a system, Boast writes. He goes on to explain, "most significant for us is that Baudot was the first to recognize the importance of a simple five-bit binary code. A digital code." Baudot's fixed-length binary code is a direct predecessor of some of the digital codes used today. 

ASCII is the most widely accepted code for translating computer information into the words you see on your screen. It is based on Baudot code, which itself went through several permutations after Baudot's original innovation. Baudot's code itself "laid the first brick in the road to our digital universe," writes James Draney for Review 31. 

"Baudot's Printing Telegraph was an encoding system that ran off five-bit binary code. It was not the first binary code, of course, but it was the first to be properly considered digital. And its essence still exists in our computers, tablets and mobiles today."

Printing on paper tape

Having already patented his printing telegraph in France, England and Germany, Baudot secured an American patent for his printing telegraph. That was on August 21, 1888. The inventor wasn't the first to use a paper-punch system to record telegraph signals. But because Baudot Code and his custom-built telegraph machines were widely embraced they helped keep the system alive. His printing telegraph was a predecessor to computers because it ran without human intervention. Once the data (codes) were input it presented the information to the receiver in a readable form-paper tape with coded holes in it. 

Baudot's teletype machine was also called a teletypewriter. It used a five-key keyboard, write Froehlich and Kent. 

"Borrowing from Meyer, Baudot developed a distributor that allowed five instruments to share the same wire," they write. 

His prototype was tested in the later 1870s and widely adopted in France: "by 1892," the pair write. "France had 101 Baudot-printing multiple telegraphs in operation."

Digital printing using perforated paper was still used in the twentieth century, Boast writes. It was "one of the first recording media used for electronic computers in the 1940s and '50s." Think punch cards and ticker tape.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do you think it's important to study precursors to today's computer code?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (13)
  • ashlynns-pay
    11/04/2019 - 01:07 p.m.

    Because,it teaches us how today's computer code was created, and without it today's computer code wouldn't have been created.

  • UW-bad1
    11/06/2019 - 09:01 a.m.

    I think that it is important to study precursors to today computer code is because I think that you can do something like fix it see the Leigh and things so i think that it is cause that important .

  • ZinP-bad1
    11/06/2019 - 09:01 a.m.

    I think because teachers us today computer code was created and different look of computers because they have different code at will.

  • BraunsenW-bad
    11/06/2019 - 09:01 a.m.

    So if you have a virus you now how to code it to stop

  • SoeM-bad
    11/06/2019 - 09:04 a.m.

    Because if we need it in the future because if some thing happens then we might die or something might happen

  • SaMeN-bad
    11/06/2019 - 09:05 a.m.

    I think its important to study precursors to today computer code because The inventor wasn't the first to use a paper-punch system to record telegraph signals. But because Baudot Code and his custom-built telegraph machines were widely embraced they helped keep the system alive. His printing telegraph was a predecessor to computers because it ran without human intervention.

  • AhZeeM-bad
    11/06/2019 - 09:06 a.m.

    I think that is different because later 100 years ago they have different computers because they don’t have petty thing and now they have different look of computer.

  • ChomaL-bad1
    11/06/2019 - 09:07 a.m.

    I think it’s important to study precursors to today’s computer mode because it’ll let us compare and contrast with the essences of our computers today. It’ll help make us think of ideas to make our inventions better, or know the similarities from before and now.

  • LatoyaH-bad1
    11/06/2019 - 09:07 a.m.

    I think it is important because you never know what’s code could do and some people use codes to hack computer so it is to uses codes

  • HamasarA-bad
    11/06/2019 - 09:09 a.m.

    People now days can hack and steal and more so it’s important yo have codes and more.

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