malta broadcast during the suez war.wav

 

This is what 30 words per minutes sounds like [click above].  Can you imagine a man [several of them in big ships sitting alongside one another] sitting for up to six hours at a time, with a typewriter #, a pair of earphones and a radio receiver, listening to Morse Code, concentrating hard and not daring to miss any character*.  The very nature of 'communicating' in those days depended wholly on the ability of a man's brain and speed of dexterity in transcribing what he heard onto paper with split-second accuracy and without a break. After about an hour of this continuous 'bombardment' of sound and transcription, a relief operator would don a pair of earphones plugged into the receiver, and, at an opportune time usually between messages [which was 5 seconds or so] would slide into the seat vacated by the fatigued operator,  ready to transcribe the next message and subsequently to do his stint of an hour or so, with his mind focused and polarised, trained to ignore all other environmental goings-on.  After many weeks of this type of stimulation, the brain does react quicker and the 'see', 'hear' and 'touch/feel' senses are honed to a sharpness not readily demonstrated by other sailors.

# Telegraphists were taught three types of typing skills. Touch typing; copy typing and morse reception typing. Whilst the end product was the same, getting it required three very difference concentration patterns, with  morse reception typing demanding the severest of self discipline.

* The English language has much redundancy, meaning that many characters could be missed but the 'flow' could be maintained by adding in a suitable character which would make sense. This applied to plain language only. Characters, especially alphanumeric [for example P-318A/6 {1952}], which were missed had no 'guess-at-add ins' and missing these meant that the signal was virtually useless [unless the missing information could be ascertained from a ship in company] until the shore Communications Centre re-ran the signal.  The latter option was not guaranteed and depended on the amount of data awaiting its first transmission; this meant that the ship had to ask for a retransmission.