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"Glass Arm Syndrome and Battery Shock Afflicts Many Telegraph Operators"
Originally Published January 31, 1885 in 'Electrical Review' and reprinted in The Globe and Mail
"During the past three weeks I have been unable to use my pen," said a Superintendent of the City of Philadelphia's Electrical Department, "and I have been compelled to dictate my corres- pondence. I am suffering from telegraphers' paralysis. My right arm is useless, rendered so by working in and around batteries, testing their strength, and from the repeated shocks I have received. Any one handling the keys of an operator's board is subject to this ailment. "It is first observed in the muscles of the arm which become benumbed after a hard day's work. A few month's after the first shock the stoutest operator will succumb. "My physican has had me under treatment for a month, but as yet I have not benefitted from the rest much. Any muscular work such as lifting heavy packages, I can readily accomplish, but it is only with difficulty that I can button my coat." The Superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph Operating Rooms said that many men after serving the company for years were compelled to throw up their positions on account of this form of paralysis. Many mistakes have been traced to the same source, as the slightest pressure on the key will produce other than the letter an operator wishes to indicate. He will often charge the mistakes to a defect in the machinery but in the end must admit of his inability to work. When an operator is first attacked, he will simply attribute it to overwork, but he soon finds that his keen sense of touch has disappeared. In nearly every case it is a first-class operator that is afflicted. A good transmitter is paid a large salary, but must keep continually working at this board, while a second or third-rate man has many resting spells which allow him to stretch his arms. [ BACK to the HEADLINE INDEX | MAIN Telegraph Index ]