Edison His Life And Inventions / Frank Lewis Dyer / 5. THE ELECTROMOTOGRAPH

IN solving a problem that at the time was thought to be insurmountable, and in the adaptability of its principles to the successful overcoming of apparently insuperable difficulties subsequently arising in other lines of work, this invention is one of the most remarkable of the many that Edison has made in his long career as an inventor.

The object primarily sought to be accomplished was the repeating of telegraphic signals from a distance without the aid of a galvanometer or an electromagnetic relay, to overcome the claims of the Page patent referred to in the preceding narrative. This object was achieved in the device described in Edison's basic patent No. 158,787, issued January 19, 1875, by the substitution of friction and anti-friction for the presence and absence of magnetism in a regulation relay.

It may be observed, parenthetically, for the benefit of the lay reader, that in telegraphy the device known as the relay is a receiving instrument containing an electromagnet adapted to respond to the weak line-current. Its armature moves in accordance with electrical impulses, or signals, transmitted from a distance, and, in so responding, operates mechanically to alternately close and open a separate local circuit in which there is a sounder and a powerful battery. When used for true relaying purposes the signals received from a distance are in turn repeated over the next section of the line, the powerful local battery furnishing current for this purpose. As this causes a loud repetition of the original signals, it will be seen that relaying is an economic method of extending a telegraph circuit beyond the natural limits of its battery power.

At the time of Edison's invention, as related in Chapter IX of the preceding narrative, there existed no other known method than the one just described for the repetition of transmitted signals, thus limiting the application of telegraphy to the pleasure of those who might own any patent controlling the relay, except on simple circuits where a single battery was sufficient. Edison's previous discovery of differential friction of surfaces through electrochemical decomposition was now adapted by him to produce motion at the end of a circuit without the intervention of an electromagnet. In other words, he invented a telegraph instrument having a vibrator controlled by electrochemical decomposition, to take the place of a vibrating armature operated by an electromagnet, and thus opened an entirely new and unsuspected avenue in the art.

Edison's electromotograph comprised an ingeniously arranged apparatus in which two surfaces, normally in contact with each other, were caused to alternately adhere by friction or slip by reason of electrochemical decomposition. One of these surfaces consisted of a small drum or cylinder of chalk, which was kept in a moistened condition with a suitable chemical solution, and adapted to revolve continuously by clockwork. The other surface consisted of a small pad which rested with frictional pressure on the periphery of the drum. This pad was carried on the end of a vibrating arm whose lateral movement was limited between two adjustable points. Normally, the frictional pressure between the drum and pad would carry the latter with the former as it revolved, but if the friction were removed a spring on the end of the vibrator arm would draw it back to its starting-place.

In practice, the chalk drum was electrically connected with one pole of an incoming telegraph circuit, and the vibrating arm and pad with the other pole. When the drum rotated, the friction of the pad carried the vibrating arm forward, but an electrical impulse coming over the line would decompose the chemical solution with which the drum was moistened, causing an effect similar to lubrication, and thus allowing the pad to slip backward freely in response to the pull of its retractile spring. The frictional movements of the pad with the drum were comparatively long or short, and corresponded with the length of the impulses sent in over the line. Thus, the transmission of Morse dots and dashes by the distant operator resulted in movements of corresponding length by the frictional pad and vibrating arm.

This brings us to the gist of the ingenious way in which Edison substituted the action of electrochemical decomposition for that of the electromagnet to operate a relay. The actual relaying was accomplished through the medium of two contacts making connection with the local or relay circuit. One of these contacts was fixed, while the other was carried by the vibrating arm; and, as the latter made its forward and backward movements, these contacts were alternately brought together or separated, thus throwing in and out of circuit the battery and sounder in the local circuit and causing a repetition of the incoming signals. The other side of the local circuit was permanently connected to an insulated block on the vibrator. This device not only worked with great rapidity, but was extremely sensitive, and would respond to currents too weak to affect the most delicate electromagnetic relay. It should be stated that Edison did not confine himself to the working of the electromotograph by the slipping of surfaces through the action of incoming current, but by varying the character of the surfaces in contact the frictional effect might be intensified by the electrical current. In such a case the movements would be the reverse of those above indicated, but the end sought—namely, the relaying of messages—would be attained with the same certainty.

While the principal object of this invention was to accomplish the repetition of signals without the aid of an electromagnetic relay, the instrument devised by Edison was capable of use as a recorder also, by employing a small wheel inked by a fountain wheel and attached to the vibrating arm through suitable mechanism. By means of this adjunct the dashes and dots of the transmitted impulses could be recorded upon a paper ribbon passing continuously over the drum.

The electromotograph is shown diagrammatically in Figs. 1 and 2, in plan and vertical section respectively. The reference letters in each case indicate identical parts: A being the chalk drum, B the paper tape, C the auxiliary cylinder, D the vibrating arm, E the frictional pad, F the spring, G and H the two contacts, I and J the two wires leading to local circuit, K a battery, and L an ordinary telegraph key. The two last named, K and L, are shown to make the sketch complete but in practice would be at the transmitting end, which might be hundreds of miles away. It will be understood, of course, that the electromotograph is a receiving and relaying instrument.

Another notable use of the electromotograph principle was in its adaptation to the receiver in Edison's loud-speaking telephone, on which United States Patent No. 221,957 was issued November 25, 1879. A chalk cylinder moistened with a chemical solution was revolved by hand or a small motor. Resting on the cylinder was a palladium-faced pen or spring, which was attached to a mica diaphragm in a resonator. The current passed from the main line through the pen to the chalk and to the battery. The sound-waves impinging upon the distant transmitter varied the resistance of the carbon button therein, thus causing corresponding variations in the strength of the battery current. These variations, passing through the chalk cylinder produced more or less electrochemical decomposition, which in turn caused differences of adhesion between the pen and cylinder and hence gave rise to mechanical vibrations of the diaphragm by reason of which the speaker's words were reproduced. Telephones so operated repeated speaking and singing in very loud tones. In one instance, spoken words and the singing of songs originating at a distance were heard perfectly by an audience of over five thousand people.

The loud-speaking telephone is shown in section, diagrammatically, in the sketch (Fig. 3), in which A is the chalk cylinder mounted on a shaft, B. The palladium-faced pen or spring, C, is connected to diaphragm D. The instrument in its commercial form is shown in Fig. 4.

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