Tworse Key – A Twitter Telegraph

Tworse Key

In recent decades, and perhaps nudged by the exponential growth of new technologies, media artists have demonstrated not only an increasing interest in the history of technology, but also with the non-synchronous merging of incongruous technologies in their artworks. Vintage futurism and steam-punk have thrown up a myriad of anachronistic and era-hybrid artworks. Martin Kaltenbrunner has created a communication system that combines vintage telegraphy, using Morse Code, with the contemporary network protocol Twitter. Both Twitter and Morse, share a common requirement and model for sharing information – they are both (and were) interested in sending information in tiny packets. These compressed streams of data, which define to some extent the way messages are composed syntactically, make this hybrid system all the more concise conceptually. This affinity between the protocols inspired Martin to create Tworse Key. Using an open source, open hardware framework, Martin has hard-wired a classic Morse Telegraph key-switch to send Twitter messages via a standard LAN network cable. Morse signals, created by analogue tapping gestures on the Telegraph key, are converted to digital format ready for transmission to the Twitter API using a built-in Arduino Ethernet board. In the spirit of hardware hacking and open source philosophy Martin also supplies detailed instructions, schematics, software configurations and general requirements on how to build your own Tworse Key on his website. The quasi-musical nature of Morse code has been exploited in much current experimental electronic music. The staccato rhythmic beeps have acted as percussive refrain for those exploring data-infused soundscaping. Typing a twitter message is a percussive action on a standard keyboard – inputting the same message through Tworse Key accentuates the percussive quality of digital communication in such a way that a 150 character tweet is heard as a kind of minimal binary-bit step music. Telegraphy is a long gone technology but Morse, as a communication protocol, is still popular with HAM radio enthusiasts to key transmitters on and off and calibrate their systems. Not surprisingly these radio enthusiasts have been to quick to pick up on Tworse Key and some of their tweets, as well as other examples of telegraphic tweeting, can be accessed at Tworse Key . Tworse Key gives Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail’s invention, which is around 170 years old, a new, albeit tiny kiss of life and a due salute.

Paul Prudence