Multiplex Telegraph

A system of telegraphy by which a number of messages can be transmitted in both directions over a single wire. The principles underlying the systems are the following:

Suppose that at the two extremities of a telegraph line two arms are kept in absolute synchronous rotation. Let the arms in their rotation, press upon as many conducting segments as there are to be transmissions over the line. A transmitting and receiving set of instruments may be connected to one segment at one end of the line, and another set to the corresponding segment at the distant station. For each pair of segments two sets can be thus connected. Then if the arm rotates so rapidly that the contacts succeed each other rapidly enough each pair of sets of instruments can be worked independently of the others. In practice this rapid succession is effected by having a number of contacts made for each pair during a single rotation of the arm or equivalent.

The multiplex system has been perfected by the use of La Cour's phonic wheel (see Phonic Wheel), and brought into a practical success by Patrick B. Delany, of New York.

Two phonic wheels rotate at each end of the line. They are kept in synchronous motion by two vibrating steel reeds of exactly the same fundamental note, and the axle of each wheel carries an arm whose end trails over the contacts or distributor segments already spoken of. The reeds are adjusted to vibrate at such speed that the trailer is in contact with each segment about 1/500 second. The number of groups of segments required for each working is determined by the retardation of the signals owing to the static capacity of the line. To convert the rapidly recurring impulses of current into practically a single current, condensers are connected across the coils of the relay. One battery serves for all the arms.

Multiplex telegraphy can effect from two to six simultaneous transmissions over one wire. For two or four transmissions the method only distinguishes it from duplex or quadruplex telegraphy. The terms diode, triode, tetrode, pentode and hexode working are used to indicate respectively the simultaneous transmission of two, three, four, five, or six messages over one wire.

It will be seen that the multiplex process really assigns to each transmission separate times, but divides these times into such short and quickly recurring intervals that the work is executed as if there was continuous contact. In no case is there the popular conception of the sending of several messages actually simultaneously over one wire. Each signal in reality has its own time assigned it, divided into short periods of high frequency, and only utilizes the line when it is free.