Talk:Semaphore line

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the sections "Article split?" and "Domel" have been moved to Talk:Semaphore, since the article has been split.
the sections "Semaphore code space", "Total rewrite", "Externa link cleanup", "Copyrighted signals?", have been moved to Talk:Flag semaphore, since the article has been split.

--Once in a Blue Moon (talk) 21:13, 30 December 2007 (UTC)


Someone should really add in distances between semaphore station to give readers an idea of how far and quickluy messages travelled. (talk) 20:44, 24 October 2015 (UTC)

References in fiction[edit]

Isn't it a bit weird that Alexandre Dumas and Ernest Hemingway are mentioned under 'Popular culture'? These would, by any account, be 'high culture'. Although I am not proposing a category 'References in High Culture' it might be a good idea to change the heading to something else like 'References in Art & Litterature' or something. Or just 'References in fiction', how's that??

Lord of the Rings[edit]

I think that semaphores where used in one of the Lord of the Rings novels/movies, although I need to verify this. Any LoTR buffs? GChriss 15:02, 16 March 2006 (UTC)

There was a series of beacons in The Return of the King, which are a much simpler type of 'optical telegraph'. JeffUK 10:52, 1 April 2006 (UTC)
They're actually more akin to those originally used on The Great Wall of China-- 12:13, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Reason for rewrite[edit]

edit summary by user:diza

no order ,one need to finish this article in order to know what it is about. mechnical arms are mentioned only 2-3 paragraph after they are introduced via ancient name ..etc'.)

--Dodo bird 18:41, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Relative Costs section[edit]

Where does the information in the section "Relative Costs' come from?
There's some missing context here - for instance, I presume these figures are adjusted in line with inflation, given the size of the wages in comparison with the "twenty five sous per day" described in the previous paragraph?
The timing "at most ten hours a day" is contradicted by the previous paragraph (where it says that the signalmen must work "at present from half past three till half past eight"). --David Edgar 11:39, 30 October 2006 (UTC)


The two pages Semaphore (comunication) and Semaphore (communication) are both based on the same article but have been copyedited into two different ways. They should be merged. -- JeLuF 10:17 Dec 31, 2002 (UTC)

I'm not sure we need disambiguation for this anyway -- see Talk:Semaphore -- Tarquin 10:28 Dec 31, 2002 (UTC)

I have also remove - A Manual of Signals: For The Use Of Signal Officers In The Field for being some thing about the army, not semaphore... 14:25, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

A "symbol" and "code" are different things. A "code" is a scheme to translate a string of "symbols" into natural language. I fixed the article. Also, the title is misspelled- "communication" has two "m"s. I don't have time to fix it. (gotta go).

I have found a great website (personal page) about french optical telegraph history. The Chappe telegraph site contains very interesting materials. I am going to contact the author to propose him to help writing the optical telegraph article. -- Valery Beaud

I think this page needs to be merged with optical communication. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus 21:09, 9 Jun 2004 (UTC)

196 symbols is equivalent to a (log(196) / log(2) =) 7.615-bit number. If 36 of these could be sent in 32 minutes, that is a signalling rate equivalent to 36*7.615 bits / 32 minutes = 0.143 bits per second. Not sure if this is relevant enough to put in. - Omegatron 03:04, July 24, 2005 (UTC)

Words and etymology[edit]

Something to note, perhaps in the lead-in or later in the historical section:

  • Telegraph first used in 1794, literally "that which writes at a distance," from the French télégraphe, from télé- meaning "far" (from Greek. tele-) + -graphe. The signaling device had been invented in France in 1791 by the brothers Chappe, who had called it tachygraphe, literally "that which writes fast," but the better name was suggested to them by French diplomat Comte André-François Miot de Mélito (1762-1841). The word was first applied in 1797 to an experimental electric telegraph (designed by Dr. Don Francisco Salva at Barcelona); the practical version was developed 1830s by Samuel Morse. Source: [1]
  • Semaphore first used in 1816, probably from the French word sémaphore, literally meaning "a bearer of signals," ultimately from the Greek sema meaning "sign, signal" + phoros meaning "bearer," from pherein meaning "to carry." Source: [2]

A few things that struck me as being included in the article:

  1. Telegraph was used first; semaphore was 20 years later (according to this source).
  2. The Chappe brothers originally named their invention tachygraphe.
  3. The word Telegraph was picked up for the electric telegraph.
  4. Apparently the french didn't use the word telegraph; instead going semaphore? I've been told that the French prefer their own terms for technical things instead of imported words (citing cultural pollution).

- Davandron | Talk 18:21, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

Relative cost[edit]

I notice the cost breakdown is in US dollars of an unknown era. Is there some way to discover the actual costs or, second best, to identify when the conversion was made or whether it was on the basis of wages or other kind of comparison? Jim.henderson (talk) 14:17, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

Map of French system[edit]

Is a map of the French system available anywhere? I think this is such a map, but no information is given as to its licensing and so on. I think it'd be great to have a map showing the extent of the system. TastyCakes (talk) 22:20, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

History and France[edit]

The article as a whole is written with acceptable organization although the description of the Chappe design is misleading and out of place. The format of the article being broken up by country of origin and use is helpful. The sources and credibility are lacking due to the small amount of references, none of which are used in backing the section on France which is the backbone of the article. The references used are credible and from scholarly locations, however vague they may be.

The illustrations of Chappe and his semaphore tower are accurate although the picture of the tower near Saverne is misleading and doesn’t properly represent what an actual example looks like. The pictures is misleading due to the simple fact that the towers rarely stand alone and the picture fails to show the pivoting beams used for signaling because of the angle at which the photo was taken. The proper names for the arms are not used either, the main and vertical beams are called regulators and indicators respectively.

The section on History is a little vague and fails to mention or credit the Romans and the rest of the Mediterranean countries for their use of optical telegraphy while also leaving out the Native Americans and their deep history in signaling. The section on France is thorough, although the article says the first optical telegraph arrived in 1792 which is not totally accurate. The article as a whole has pretty solid information with the exception of History section. One positive aspect of the article is that it has not been marred by conflicting information and multiple contributors. HIST406-10110425205Brownley (talk) 20:29, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

But how does it work?[edit]

The article does not actually describe how it works. Is it like visual morse code? Reading this, I have no idea. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:51, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

Yup, you've got the right idea with "visual Morse code". Any set of distinctions visible from a distance can potentially work (with or without telescopes; you can work without them if the stations (or ships) are close enough to each other). All you need is to know the code. For [simplistic] example, if two 2 black panels and 1 white panel means "A", you can begin spelling "apple". You'd use other panel combinations for the other letters. Some of this is suggested (if not deeply explained) in the section "Description".
Before radio communications were developed (radiotelegraphy, radiotelephony), ships (especially naval ships) often communicated this way. People with flags would stand there and wave them in certain combinations. The receiver would see them by either naked eye or telescope. Check out the pictures in the article flag semaphore to see how they made each letter or digit.
One neat thing about semaphores is that it only takes one visible distinction to successfully communicate, such as light/dark, on/off, white/black, etc, if you're willing to communicate in binary, like a computer network does. Morse's code in a sense uses only one distinction, dot/dash (ignoring on/off for the moment), although it only takes 4 bits to make a unique letter, which makes it easier for humans to use than 8-bit (or higher) computer-speak.
One other neat thing about communicating using only bits is how incredibly clever and complicated you can get by layering many levels of simple ideas. This is what makes fields like information theory, computer science, software development, and network engineering so damn hard for all of us non-geniuses to master, even though "it's all very simple in principle". — ¾-10 00:17, 29 June 2011 (UTC)

Timeball Tower[edit]

Surely this is a type of semaphore as well, according to the description? (talk) 08:09, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

History of Chappe system[edit]

The section on the development of the Chappe system looks reasonable but is unreferenced. This BBC reference, How Napoleon's semaphore telegraph changed the world, tells this story well, and supports the Lille and Conde statements, but needs to be incorporated, if the original reference for the para is not known. Onanoff (talk) 13:09, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

Link from the Optical Telegraph[edit]

caution should be used when using information from the map on as the locations are slightly wrong. Woodcock Hill is shown as being south of St Albans when in fact it just north! There was no Semaphore Station in St Albans, I think what has happened is that someone has displayed the location address from being Woodcock Hill near St Albans to Woodcock Hill, St albans and hereby thinks they are two separate locations see The Lilley Hoo station is also actually Telegraph Hill, being over a mile north of Lilley Hoo. Pandaplodder (talk) 13:18, 24 October 2013 (UTC)