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Updated: Feb 19, 2023

So what's new? Humans have been chiding, encouraging, abusing and singing the praises of their tools since time immemorial - that is, while using anything from a flint stone to a steam combustion engine or aeronautical instruments.

Here, Robert Carrick offers us a romantic take on recognising the ubiquitous intrusion of technology on one of life's greatest pleasures, the movement of the heart:

The excitement among the operators of the overland telegraph was palpable as they lolled about on the shady verandah of the Alice Springs repeater station in the still of the morning in the spring of 1872.

Betty hitched her horse to the post and rail fence shortly after 9 am and, as instructed in her letter from the postmaster, hurried towards the main building to prepare morning tea for the crew that had arrived to install a new Morse Inker machine. Wearing a long yellow cotton dress, she quickly brushed past the men and lit the kindling under the blackened kettle, which hung suspended in the fireplace.

As the kettle was coming to the boil, the double doors of the station were thrown open and a tall young man dressed in moleskins and a billowing shirt loosely constrained by a waistcoat walked into the room. He was sporting a handlebar moustache.

Behind him came two men who were carrying the new machine, and he directed them as they manhandled it into position on a table adjacent to the Morse key.

Betty briefly stopped setting out the cups and saucers on the sideboard to examine the machine, which had a large spool of paper tape positioned above it. She also took the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the dashing young supervisor, which did not go unnoticed.

‘It runs on a clockwork mechanism. Miss ...?’

‘Somers. Betty Somers. Would you like some tea, sir?’

‘Yes, thank you, Miss Somers. My name is Neville Coulson. I am supervising today’s test transmission. I must say I am surprised that someone so young would be interested in telecommunications.’

Betty blushed uncontrollably.

‘I’m twenty-two, sir. I’ll fetch your tea.’

Betty turned her attention to filling the teapot with boiling water from the kettle. She poured a cup of hot black tea, placed it on a tray and walked back over to Neville. He was concentrating on the machine, which had now begun to chatter.

‘Your tea, Mr Coulson.’

Betty felt herself blushing again and momentarily forgot to breathe. As she swooned, she heard a crash before she passed out.

Betty came round to find herself flat on her back, staring into the blue eyes of Neville Coulson.

‘Are you alright, Miss Somers? You gave me quite a shock.’

‘Yes, I’m fine, but I dropped your tea.’

‘I know. You spilled it all over the machine in the middle of the test transmission. It must have malfunctioned as it printed Morse code that corresponds to the words, "I fight with my email and txt autocorrect" on the tape.'

‘I’m so sorry, Mr Coulson. This misunderstanding is all my fault.’

‘Don't worry, Miss Somers,' Neville said with a smile. ‘I received your message loud and clear.’

'I said Morse code, not QR ...'

Copyright: story - Robert Carrick; photos - Wix.

This SSOA blog showcases the work of emerging writers attending our weekly writers' meetups. You can make contact via if you'd like to join us.


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