Ham Radio History (G)
From Daryl Stout
@HURRICAN/THUNDER to All
on Sat Mar 4 10:15:00 2017
The Amateur Message Form
The amateur message form comes to us from a long tradition. The earliest telegrams were very formal, in the florid style of the last half of the
19th century. Even the train orders of that time began with Dear Sir, and
ended with yours truly. However, since telegraph companies charged by the
word, the text soon changed to the present style.
The preamble, however, has changed greatly. At first, the date and the
number of words were the only two items listed in this country. The
European telegram included the time and the office call, but it was not
until after the Civil War that Americans began using these as well. The
main reason for using the group count was to be able to calculate charges
for the messages, as well as to insure accuracy. Western Union still
prints on its message form certain requirements for making sure that the message is transmitted accurately: that there is no guarantee for the
accuracy of the message unless it is requested that the receiving operator repeat it as a check. There is still an extra charge for this service.
This provision was printed on the earliest Western Union blanks as well
as those of the Electric Telegraph Company in England, but the idea is
far earlier than either of these. It was used by the French semaphore
system before the wire telegraph.
The amateur preamble, of course, is derived from the early wireless forms.
The printed Marconigram blanks have much the same information which is
required for the heading of amateur messages, including the service
information at the bottom of the blanks.
Those ARL numbered texts have an interesting and even longer history. In
1844 Alfred Vail was concerned about preserving the secrecy of the message,
and therefore prepared a series of numbered messages which could be
selected for use by the public. Numbered texts are no longer used for
secrecy, they facilitate the rapid transmission of messages.
Two of our most commonly used service abbreviations --ASAP and GBA-- date
back to the 1840s when the early press telegraphers cut everything to the
most abbreviated form in order to bypass the exceedingly high rates
imposed by the telegraph companies.
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