Wireless (Spark) Keys

Marconi "Rockcrusher" Key K4KEY Prepares to Take a Bite Out of a Gigantic Massie Wireless Key Hugh French Oil-Break Key by CGR


The Italian engineer and inventor, Guglielmo Marconi, invented wireless radio just before the turn of the 20th Century, leading to an explosive growth in wireless communication, and allowed the Navy to finally have the ability to communicate with ships at sea.

The early wireless transmitters were called "spark" transmitters because of the use of a Spark Gap which, as the name suggests, generated a high voltage spark.

Early spark transmitters used high voltages and currents in order to produce a signal. The telegraph keys used with these transmitters needed to be able to handle these voltages and currents, so spark keys were big keys with very large contacts compared to landline keys. Many had insulated sleeves over the lever or key knobs with large "skirts" to protect the operator in case he accidentally touched the metal lever. Some even had metal fins around the contacts to help dissipate the heat generated during use.

Click on the links to the left to see pictures of spark keys from around the world.





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