After 88 years (but not continuous), all radiotelegraphy services from VBA Thunder Bay MCTS were ended. The final Morse code message, transmitted by MCTS Officer Robert C. Mazur, on 4 November 1998 (1345 UTC) read as follows:
"AS OF 4 NOVEMBER 1998, RADIOTELEGRAPH SERVICES HAVE ENDED, AND THE HANDKEYS AT VBA THUNDER BAY WILL BECOME SILENT. THE STAFF WISHES
YOU FAIR WINDS, SMOOTH SEAS, AND BON VOYAGE. 73"
Later, I learned the first Morse code transmission (using spark-gap) was sent 88 years earlier (almost to the day) from the original Port Arthur Marconi wireless station, callsign MUG (later VBA). Had we known the historical significance perhaps the station and regional headquarters would have made it more of an event. Fortunately, I had brought my camera to work and MCTSO John Anderson snapped a couple of pictures for posterity.
The navy-knob handkey belonged to my good friend John Michalik, who's a graduate of the Red River Community College commercial radio operator course. In the early 1980's we worked together at Thunder Bay combined air/marine station as dual Flight Service Specialists and Coast Guard Radio Operators. When the divisions split (1986), John stayed with the airside and I went to the coast guard (ships move a lot slower).
A few years later, John found his old Red River handkey and gave it to me to use, but I had switched over to paddles and the key didn't
get much use. However, my co-worker Lori Bedford, VE3VAI, (another Red River Community College alumni) uses a hand key, and he's very
good and fast with it, so I passed the key on to him. From one “Sparks” to another, then to another; the legacy of the old-time “Morse
men” is still alive and doing quite well in the 21st century.
Morse code is still used by more than 50% of all Amateur Radio operators
(Hams), and use for adaptive control technology, to identify radio repeaters and air/marine beacons, and by navies of the world (using
Morse lamp) for silent running. These are just a few modern day uses for this “obsolete” 19th century form of digital communications
both man and machine still use to communicate with each other.
The Morse code has been in continuous use since the 1840's, but its newest character '@' (commat), used in email addresses was only
"born" in May 2004. The prosign (procedural sign) AC (the characters are run together as one) was created by the ITU specifically
for this purpose, but most operators prefer to use the word "AT" since it's faster to send.
It's a modern example of how radio operators can and do the shape signals. Such was the case with the dual-purpose ITU prosign CT used
at the start of messages and to call specific stations, but there was no general or "All Stations" telegraph signal, so the 18th century
landline telegraphers just morphed CT into "CQ" (each character sent separately). It was/is very distinctive from all other prosigns
and its sound made all stations stop and listen as it still does today, and we now only use CT for the start of message signal.
Now, if you don't belive me about telegraphers "bending" or "inventing" new procedures, it has happened in recent times with the changes in the radiotelphony (voice) "MAYDAY RELAY" call. For years, we all tended to say "MAYDAY RELAY (x3) ALL STATIONS" (x3), but this was "wrong" according to the regulations. Long story short, what was once wrong has now been adopted as the correct and current international practise!
(Note: The underlined prosigns were/are normally shown with a top or overscore bar, but most modern home computers can reproduce this, so I and many others tend to use the underline.)
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