Émile Baudot and his Telegraph

Èmile Baudot
(1845-1903)

On September 11, 1845, French telegraph engineer and inventor of the first means of digital communication code, Èmile Baudot was born.

As the son of farmer Pierre Emile Baudot, Jean-Maurice-Èmile Baudot attended primary school and was to work at his father’s farm right after. At the Age of 24, he joined the French Post & Telegraph Administration, where he completed his apprenticeship. He learned to work with the Morse telegraph and got to know the printing telegraph system by David Edward Hughes, which he was later assigned to improve. Noticing that the line of most printing telegraphs was mostly idle, he built an application of time-division multiplexing. Through this system, it was possible to transmit several massages at the same time and Baudot earned a great reputation after the French Post & Telegraph Administration adopted the system.

In 1874, Baudot was finally able to patent his own telegraph code, which he had worked on for several years. The code depicts the predecessor of the International Telegraph Alphabet No. 2, in which every single character is represented by a bit series. The 5-bit code by Baudot counts as the first of its kind in the field of telecommunications. The code was transmitted through a keyboard with five buttons and it was possible to send 30 words per minute. The system was soon used by the company he was operating at and shown at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1978. Baudot was soon known globally due to the invention which he won the gold medal for.

After his great success, the engineer was given the chance to establish communication over just one cable from between Paris, Vannes and Lorient, which he managed in 1890. He was then a famous engineer who had achieved major improvement in the field of telecommunications and his system was used by Italy, the Netherlands , Switzerland, and later Germany.

At yovisto you can learn more about historic telegraphy technology in the 24C3 presentation ‘Steam-powered Telegraphy‘.

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