Communication over the years has not always been easy. Before mail service, the people sent messages via horse and riders, called post riders. I’m sure that messages were only sent in this way when the message was really important, because it would be silly to pay someone to send a simple letter, or notes like our text messages of today. Just imagine that cost if the messages went back and forth as much as texts do. Nevertheless, post riders were the only way to get a message out in 1791. Inventions happen at a time when they are least expected, and just because it was 1791, doesn’t mean that the next year couldn’t bring something amazing. In this case, that is exactly what happened.

After seeing the problems there were with communications, Claude Chappe of France invented a system of communication that he called the Semaphore Machine. In reality it was an early form of the telegraph system we all know about. The machine was used until the nineteenth century when the telegraph was invented. The Semaphore system was much faster than post riders for conveying a message over long distances, and also had cheaper long-term operating costs, once constructed. The system worked by conveying information by means of visual signals, using towers with pivoting shutters, also known as blades or paddles. Information is encoded by the position of the shutters. It is read when the shutter is in a fixed position. The lines were a precursor to the electrical telegraph. It was also considered more private, which seems odd to me. How could a message relayed from the top of a tower be private? Of course, not everyone knew how to read the messages, but it would seem like there would be a few people who learned the codes and so could read the messages. Still, I suppose that the people who translated the messages were sworn to secrecy.

The system did have its drawbacks. The distance that this optical telegraph could bridge was limited by geography and weather. It could not be seen in rain or snow, and could not be seen over a hill. That limited its practical use. The solution was to use relay stations to reach longer distances. Of course, the system couldn’t cross expanses of water, unless a convenient island could be used for a relay station. While the system had its problems, it did serve a useful purpose in its time. In some forms, it is still used today. One modern version of the semaphore system is a flag semaphore, or a flag relay system. Another is the heliograph, which is an optical telegraph using mirror-directed sunlight reflections. I think anyone who has watched a movie about ships might recognize that one. It was how they signaled from one ship to another. Maybe the Semaphore Telegraph system wasn’t so antiquated after all.

cheryl104Most of us have either sent or received a group text. Usually the reason is to get information to several people at once. The problem with a group text is that they usually start a series of group texts that, at some point will annoy at least one of the participants to the point that they ask that the group text move to another group that excludes them. Often this is because that participant is at work, or otherwise engaged, and the constant back and forth of a group text is interfering with whatever they are doing. While I understand the problems that group texts can cause, I have to say that such is not always the case.

In recent months, my sisters and I have carried on a series of group texts, that we all agree have been very fun. The texts might start as a way of passing information to the whole group, but before long, someone says something funny…usually teasing or picking on one of the other sisters, and the game is on. It’s all in good natured fun, and nobody gets upset, because we all know it’s just good natured fun, but then, that is the kind of relationship my sisters and I have. It is a blessing to be sure.

The texting often turns to teasing, as I said, and it is logical progression in our conversation, because after all, we have known each other all of our lives, and we have a lot of ammunition on each other. Good and bad ammunition. Nevertheless, our text play is never about seriously bad ammunition. We would rather tease about the goofy things we did as kids…with a little bit of “how did you manage to stay out of trouble, when I couldn’t” mixed in. Allyn Hadlock was the baby, and somehow never got into trouble…but then we all agree that she imagenever did anything to get into trouble either…hence the Polly Purebred comment. Alena Stevens was the curiously mischievous one, and always seemed to be mixing up some concoction designed to make a mess. The rest of us, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, and I fell somewhere in the middle, but I was probably more mischievous than the others…or at the very least, more sassy!!

I know that many people get upset with group texts, and I understand that, but my sisters and I always look forward to them. We have laughed and reminisced through all these, and it has been not only healing, but I think if it is possible, we are even closer to each other than we were before, and for sisters who have always been close, that’s really saying something. I know that many people would still say that group texts are annoying, and to them I would just have to say that maybe they are texting the wrong crowd. Group texting with my sisters is a new adventure every single time we do it.

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