Via a teletype machine, no less!!
page on the New York Times web site, we learn that it was on this day, 42
years ago (yes, that's in 1963), that "a diplomatic 'hot line' between Moscow
and Washington went into operation".
Altogether, this is a fascinating report. It appeared on the front page of the
Times, and from the wording of the article there can be little doubt that the
opening of the hot line was seen as a technological achievement. And what did
that achievement entail?:
a text message consisting of The quick brown fox
jumped over the lazy dog's back 1234567890, and
Apparently, before the inauguration of this machine "hours are often required
before a message reaches its destination", and now, even with the admittedly
important considerations of encoding, messages could be conveyed in minutes.
a similar message in Russian characters (that strangely, "was completely
unintelligible to the United States operators")
Today, of course, a report such as this, and the technological pride that it seems
to engender, seems quaint. The teletype machine, after all, was able to send what
seems to be considered a crowning achievement: 66 words a minute. And the route:
The two terminals are linked by cable and radio circuits, with the two sides sharing the cost of leasing the circuits from commercial companies. The cost is expected to range from $80,000 to $90,000 a year.
seems, by today's standards, almost comic.
The principal circuit is a land-line and ocean cable connection running from
Washington to London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and Moscow.
It is a duplex telegraph circuit capable of handling two simultaneous Teletype transmissions.
In addition, there is a duplex radio circuit going from Washington to Tangier in North Africa and from there to Moscow.
The truth is that I have absolutely no idea how today's "hot line" messages
are transmitted. If they're sent via e-mail (as I trust they are) there's still
undoubtedly a great deal of encoding involved, and it's not the same as simply
clicking on "new message", entering the Kremlin address into the "TO"
field and typing away. Still, it's hard not to see this report as coming from
a totally different era.
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