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This action sent the electric signal across a wire to a receiver at the other end.
All the system needed was a key, a battery, wire and a line of poles between stations for the wire and a receiver.
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These limitations also lessened the effectiveness of the semaphore, a modern precursor to the electric telegraph.
Developed in the early 1790s, the semaphore consisted of a series of hilltop stations that each had large movable arms to signal letters and numbers and two telescopes with which to see the other stations.
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SOS, the internationally recognized distress signal, does not stand for any particular words.
Instead, the letters were chosen because they are easy to transmit in Morse code: "S" is three dots, and "O" is three dashes.