An electrical telegraph was a point-to-point text messaging system, used from the 1840s until the mid 20th century when it was slowly replaced by other telecommunication systems. At the sending station switches connected a source of current to the telegraph wires. At the receiving station the current activated electromagnets which moved indicators, providing either a visual or audible indication of the text. It was the first electrical telecommunications system and the most widely used of a number of early messaging systems called telegraphs, that were devised to communicate text messages more rapidly than by physical transportation. Prior to the electric telegraph, semaphore systems were used, including beacons, smoke signals, flag semaphore, and optical telegraphs for visual signals to communicate over distances of land.

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