A year later, it was in use by Great Western Railway on the line from Paddington to West Drayton.Wheatstone later patented the first practical automated system using Morse Code typed on to a perforated tape using a keyboard with messages transmitted at a rattling pace of 70 words a minute.One third of the workforce was made up of women: 2,214 based in London.Operators could listen in to other messages, essential so they knew when the wire was clear for them.This system didn’t use Morse Code, then in its infancy.Instead it employed needles on a board that could be moved to point to letters.
Telegraphy was really the first time people at a distance, who hadn’t met, could fall in love."Telegraphy was more or less instantaneous, unlike posting a love letter.’”Writers first began penning telegraphic romances for magazines, which functioned like trade periodicals but were full of heaving hearts and gossip.
The first women telegraphists in England joined the Electric Telegraph Company in the 1850s and such was the demand for these roles that in 1860 the Telegraph School for Women was set up in London to train them.
Jennifer Phegley, author of Courtship And Marriage In Victorian England, says that by 1897 London alone had more than 300 telegraph offices open from 8am to 8pm, dealing with 30 million telegrams.
Telegraph operators themselves used the opportunity to fl irt anonymously down the wire – the first people to seek love online a century before Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web.
These young men and women who left farms and fi shing villages to take up this new high-tech profession became unlikely icons and spawned a new genre of fiction: the telegraphic romance.