Hiccupping communications in Java
Friday 19 August 2022
I recall those two half-hour morsecast days in Djakarta mentioned by Ernie Mendoza (Oriental compromise).
At one time before I arrived, the correspondents combined to rent a house in the Punjak hills south of Djakarta. It was much cooler there. They would gather for the weekends. One correspondent, in turn, would stay in Djakarta and file stories for each of the agencies if anything of note occurred.
Once a failed attempt was made on President Sukarno’s life. The AFP correspondent on duty quickly filed a story to AFP and handed it in to the PTT office. He was delighted to be first with the story. Then he wrote similar pieces for the other agencies and handed them in one by one.
They all went in a tray and, one by one, the ever so efficient PTT staff would take out a story, wait for that agency’s morsecast time and then file it. AFP’s story, at the bottom of the pile, was the last to leave. There was hell to pay. After that incident the correspondents’ cool weekends ended.
Reuters supplied Antara, the Indonesian news agency, with a Hellschreiber ticker tape of overseas news. This tape had light blue lettering printed on it. It was Reuters news service. Sometimes the lettering went off the side of this slender tape. Sometimes the ink gave out. My job was to monitor the tapes and advise Reuters of times when the tape service had deteriorated and been lost.
Apart from news stories, Reuters also sent me messages saying that another agency had filed a story and they wanted a matcher. I would see these messages. Sometimes I ignored them either because the other agency’s story was rubbish or had already been covered. On those occasions I would advise Reuters that the ticker tape had failed between such and such a time. Oddly enough that would be the time when Reuters had sent me their message. By the time my next morsecast arrived and I’d sent the message of the fault, some hours would have passed. The requests were rarely repeated.
Those were the days when hiccupping communications were fun. ■