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Will and Kate Just Sent a Telegraphed Tweet from a Log Cabin in Canada

This might be the most Canadian thing that happened this week in tech.

by Kaleigh Rogers
Sep 28 2016, 7:20pm

The Duke and Duchess prepare to sent the inaugural tweet. Image: Twitter

In a very Canadian moment of tech history, Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, just sent the first ever telegraphed tweet from a log cabin in Yukon.

Kate and Will are currently on a royal tour of Canada with their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. They've been busy meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and posing for photo ops. But they also dabbled in some "new" technology by launching the inaugural telegraph tweet (note: the tourism office is simply calling this Yukon's first telegraphed tweet, but I couldn't find evidence this has been done anywhere else before).

The tweet was sent from the telegraph office that's part of the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse, Yukon. The territory's tourism office, in anticipation of the visit, wanted to do something stunt-y that would tie into its heritage. So a tourism officer called up MakeIT, a custom software company with offices in Calgary, Vancouver, and Whitehorse, to see if it was possible. Seamus Venasse, MakeIT's senior software developer who created the system, said "of course."

The machine works by recording the morse code message being tapped out on the telegraph machine using a microcontroller than can sense the duration of time the key is being pressed and released. Short taps are dots, and anything longer is interpreted as a dash. That recording is sent to a web server, where Venasse's software translates the signals and then sends them to the Twitter account to publish the message.

There are a few factors that make this event feel so distinctly Canadian to me (a Canadian). For one, the fact that they used a telegraph—it's a long-standing, if inaccurate, joke that Canada is somehow technologically lagging behind the rest of the world, so naturally we would send our tweets using a telegraph machine.

There's also the fact that this whole thing was set up for, and executed by, the Duke and Duchess. Although there are plenty of anti-monarchists in Canada (and a significant number of Canucks who are apathetic about the crown) there's also a pervasive fascination with the royals that seems to be symptomatic of most commonwealth nations. And when the royals come to visit—especially the young, pretty royals—everyone kind of loses their shit.

At the end of the day, this is a pretty cool little connection between old and new technology. From here on out, the telegraph-to-tweet machine will be used as a digital guestbook for the museum. But for many Canadians, it will be hard to top that first entry.

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