Home:  Morse Keys: WWII BUG OR PADDLE MORSE KEY, 1942


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Known as a 'Bugs' key and originally developed as the 'Vibroplex' or semi automatic key.
The word Bug comes from a telegraphers insult to those who were poor at the craft.
A common problem with telegraphers was an affliction known as 'Glass arm' or 'Telegraphers paralysis' caused by repetitive strain, this type of key was to help sufferers but originally was too slow (pre Vibroplex), however with future designs this problem was overcome and eventually keys of this type were being sold as 'Speed keys'.

Your comments:

  • The term "bug" refers to the Vibroplex trade mark, a red beetle.
    .......... Bill Lawlor W60MQ, Fairfax, California 94930, 16th of March 2015

  • The information regarding the Vibroplex 'Champion' model is incorrect. This Lionel J-36 is a clone of the Vibroplex 'Lightning' Bug, which is the model Vibroplex used for their J-36. The 'Lightning' Bug always did have a circuit closer switch.
    This particular model of bug was chosen for Signal Corps use in preference to the Vibroplex 'Original' design (which makes use of castings for various components), so the keys could be repaired in the field with minimum engineering.

    .......... Colin Waters, Northumberland, UK, 17th of November 2011

  • This a clone of the Vibroplex 'Champion' model. The key was made by Lionel for WW2 use as Vibroplex could not produce the quantity required at the time. The only design difference is the addition of a shorting switch which allowed the operator to send a continuous signal if necessary. The Bunnell company also made this key under licence. The US Signal Corps designated this as the J36.
    .......... Pat Allely, Rhiw, Gwynedd, 6th of December 2010

  • The word bug was coined by the vibroplex company, LID is poor operator. comes from when the newbies put tin lids on the telegraph receiver to hear the noise above the skilled ops
    .......... Max, Christchurch England, 31st of January 2010

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