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Getting the Message: The Telegraph & The Crystal Radio

Neill-Cochran House Museum
Event organized by Neill-Cochran House Museum

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In or around 1900, the Cochran Family had telephone service installed at their house. Austin’s telephone network only required three-digit dialing at the time: the Cochrans’ phone number was 627.

In imagining how much their lives changed once they could make a phone call from their home, we can also think about how much our lives are shaped by how easy it is to communicate at a distance using words, images, data, and sound.

We’ll be making our own telegraph switches (powered by 9V batteries and entirely take-home-able) and learning how to use them to send messages in morse code. A ‘crystal set’ (a radio which uses a simple circuit including a mineral crystal) requires no battery or mains electrical power and can even be improvised with found materials. This made it accessible to many people, including soldiers in the field during World War II. Our telegraph station will have the ability to communicate by radio, mimicking the advent of radiotelegraphy (wireless telegraph). Will wireless be better than cable? Let’s find out!

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