The Greatest Invention: The Relay or Switch (?)

from “Lightning Man, the accursed life of Samuel F.B. Morse” by Kenneth Silverman

While working on my Inverted L switched transformer circuit:

And simultaneously reading how Alfred Vail helped Morse create a way to make the Telegraph viable, it occurred to me that without a relay – an electromagnetic switch – Telegraphy would not have taken off. The relay is what let you daisy chain circuits together that could power each segment with batteries up to a certain distance, and that the distance was greatly increased because the relay was the link between chained circuits.

One thing leads to another, and my circuit has logic to it – and so I started remembering that computers are nothing but massive chained circuits that is a set of switches. The switches being tiny inside semiconductors, and programmed just as I have programmed my little antenna matching circuit to behave based on chaining relays:

Some may say the battery – DC power – or AC electricity was the greatest invention, but without a switch, these would not be practical. The relay and Telegraph are certainly two of the most important inventions in human kind..

I grew up near the very historic Morristown, NJ and Speedwell Village, home of the Speedwell Ironworks where Morse’s first relay circuits were perfected by his assistant Alfred Vail – and with a design based on Joseph Henry’s work.

I am almost sure we went to Speedwell Village in Morristown on a field trip – we went to Morristown a lot and also went to Menlo Park, NJ where Edison had his lab. In fact, the first three semesters of College were spent at County College of Morris – also very close by. Synergy? There were so many great inventions from NJ – Bell Labs and AT&T, and the work by Major Armstrong in Alpine, NJ, etc, etc

Living history, when combined with building stuff in the Ham Radio hobby has a way of giving some very interesting perspective on the achievements and evolution of technology.

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