23 responses

  1. Jon the Geek
    August 10, 2010

    I’d guess that “Wl hrs a fu” is “Well here’s a few.”

    Thanks for writing about this. Very interesting stuff. …. ._ …. ._ indeed :)

  2. Bill
    August 12, 2010

    Wl hrs a fu -> Worked long hours, a few.

    There is a song I can’t remember with very similar lyrics, it means he has worked a few long days/nights in a row.

  3. Danny
    August 12, 2010

    “Wl hrs a fu” = Well, here’s a funny.

    He’s implying there’s a joke afoot, a necessary phrase since the emoticon was not successfully implemented until the OSS discovered its usefulness in WWII.

  4. Scrotch
    August 13, 2010

    I agree with Jon the Geek, ‘Wl hrs a fu’ = \Well, here’s a few (messages to transmit)\

    makes sense in the context of the rest of the message, where the operator is complaining about work

  5. Jeremy
    August 14, 2010

    This was absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for posting it!!

  6. Ryan
    August 14, 2010

    I believe ‘Wl hrs a fu’ is “Well, hours are few,” which people even now say when they’re trying to get off the phone and get back to work.

  7. George
    August 16, 2010

    Amateur radio operators use hi-hi for laughter in Morse code. It’s a teensy bit shorter to send than ha, and perhaps sounds a bit like tee-heeing laughter. Ha=di-di-di-dit di-dah, Hi=di-di-di-dit di-dit.

    Although much code these days is keyed with precision by computers, people sending by hand often have very distinct styles.

    Although sending and receiving Morse Code is a dying art, it is an enjoyable skill, and the only human readable digital communications.

  8. Anon
    August 18, 2010

    @George: how about braille?

  9. Hatoy Butch
    August 20, 2010

    ROFL was originally RIDSMHA — Rolling in the dust slapping my horse’s ass.

  10. Dan Fingerman
    August 22, 2010

    Tom Standage took a close look at the telegraph culture in his book, The Victorian Internet, and his perspective was similar to yours. This NYT article sounds a lot like his description; I wouldn’t be surprised if this were part of his source material.


  11. Ricky
    July 27, 2011

    Everyone I know says “ha” instead of “LOL”. Not exactly sure why… maybe because lol seems too internety/fake/the kind of thing mom writes on facebook

  12. Kenneth Trent
    July 27, 2011

    Loved this article. Great insight into the way things used to be. Sort of makes me appreciate how far we’ve come.

    July 27, 2011

    As a retired USN brass pounder I used TTY a large majority of the time. Interesting article. An operator’s individual keying style is referred to as their fist.

    Kenneth: Is almost impossible to comprehend how far comms have advanced. In the 60’s an average Morse operator probably averaged around 25 WPM with a straight key. Using a speed key increased that quite a lot. TTY was 45, 60, or 100 WPM. Now we easily talk about GigaBytes per second. GGGG

  14. Amanda
    July 28, 2011

    I think Jon the Geek is right. The prior sentence says that messages started to come in, “Well here’s a few”, followed by the reciever saying he’s testing the pen and then “Go ahead”.

    Really interesting article!

  15. FPM
    July 28, 2011

    I used to be a homeless rodeo clown but now I am a world class magician !

  16. Robin
    July 31, 2011

    Is it just me or is this article trying to romantize about LOL, ROTFL and other unacceptably dumbening netspeak? Yuck.

  17. Kirsten Winkler
    July 31, 2011

    Thank you for sharing, great research. Was a fascinating read with my Sunday morning coffee!

  18. Sasha Volokh
    July 31, 2011

    Of course the article is trying to romanticize LOL, ROTFL, etc. They deserve to be romanticized as long-lost ancestors of treasured (apparently) new arrivals to the English language!

  19. Ky5u
    August 2, 2011

    I still use those abreviations in amateur radio telegraphy we call “cw” for continuous wave. We still use International Morse Code. Telegraphy is only dying because todays amateurs are lazy and want instant gratification. Its old and its old tech, but it still works well.

  20. AJ Sikes
    April 2, 2012

    What a splendid read this morning. Very happy to have stumbled across it in my searches.

  21. Dabitch
    April 14, 2012

    The old man in Albany with the cock, that’s hilarious. Or shall I say •••• •−

  22. Dabitch
    April 14, 2012

    Repeating comment sans emb. spelling mistake: The old man in Albany with the clock, that’s hilarious. Or shall I say •••• •−

  23. My Book Affair
    November 3, 2012

    I really enjoyed this article. I recently read a novel called ‘Wired Love – A romance of dots and dashes’ ~ by Ella Cheever Thayer, who was once a telegraph operator herself. She describes the conversations and life-styles of the operators in such a lively, funny and modern way that it almost impossible to believe that the book was written in 1879! I discuss the book at length here on my blog if you are interested. The novel itself is a fascinating and well worth the read. While I have a hard copy, I know it is available free on-line due to lapse of copyright.

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