Via a teletype machine, no less!!

From a 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
a similar message in Russian characters (that strangely, "was completely unintelligible to the United States operators")
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.

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.

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.
seems, by today's standards, almost comic.

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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