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Page QR CODE 01/24Optical telegraph

Optical telegraph: First organised network of telecommunication

The first telecommunication network was created during the French Revolution.
War was raging, and the central government needed a fast and secure system to send information. 
The optical telegraph was presented by Claude Chappe on 22 March 1792 and adopted by the Convention on 1 April 1792. 

The first line of the optical telegraph was built between Lille and Paris.
The Strasbourg-Paris, Brest-Paris, Toulon-Marseille-Lyon-Paris, and Bayonne-Paris lines were subsequently installed. In 1834, the Avignon-Narbonne-Toulouse-Bordeaux transverse line was put into service.
Finally, in 1840, the line between Narbonne and Perpignan was equipped with the so-called “Flocon” system. 
At its peak, the Chappe optical telegraph system had 535 towers on a network of nearly 5,000 kilometres. Transmitting a dispatch from Paris to Narbonne by this system took about 4.5 hours. 

A Chappe telegraphy line consisted of two terminal stations between which were located intermediate stations, spaced 7 km to 20 km apart.
At the top of these stations was a mast with wooden arms that could be moved to different positions. Messages were relayed based on a pre-established code of the arms’ position.
With the invention of the electric telegraph by Morse in 1837, Chappe’s optical telegraph was abandoned..

Narbonne Jonquières Chappe Tower, "Flocon" system