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Morse Code’s Vanquished Competitor: The Dial Telegraph

In 1842, French watchmaker Louis-François Breguet invented a simpler to use but less efficient alternative

6 min read
Photo of Louis-François Breguet’s dial telegraph.
Photo: Technical University of Madrid

Over the years, I’ve played with interactive telegraph exhibits in science centers and museums. I can tap out the common ••• – – – ••• of the emergency distress signal, and I know the letters H (••••) and E (•), but beyond that, Morse code’s patterns of dots and dashes run together in my brain. Stories of telegraph operators who could decipher hundreds of characters a minute still amaze me.

Recently, though, I learned about the needle telegraph. On both the sending and receiving end, the needle or needles would simply point to the desired letter. Finally, a user-friendly telegraph system, provided the user knew how to read.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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