The Telegraph Office

The Wizard and the Dinger !

Two Unusual Keys manufactured by D&K Mfg. Co.

by Neal McEwen, K5RW

Copyright © 1996, Neal McEwen

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In the engraving shown below, there is a Wizard key and a Dinger bug. This was and advertisement in the May, 1908 issue of "The Railroad Telegrapher". There has been some speculation about the vintage and the maker of the Wizard; this should help clear up some of the mysteries. More is known about the Dinger because of the patent and the markings on the bug itself. These keys were made by D&K Manufacturing of Cleveland, Ohio

It is interesting to note that the Wizard is sort of a key for a key. It attaches to the primary desk mounted key in the same manner as the wedge of a bug. It appears that each operator was capable of having his own Wizard, much like each operator was capable of having his own bug. This probably eliminated a lot of friction between operators. As was the case with a bug, the operator can now adjust his Wizard to his liking and take it with him at the end of a shift. No one gets in trouble for adjusting the primary key!

A photo of a Wizard appear in Lou Moreau's "Story of the Key". However, the accompanying text is lumped in with a discussion of 19th century railroad keys and is not as informative as one would wish. The Wizard seems to be quite scarce.

The Dinger has several interesting features. Notice that the weight is fixed on the pendulum, much like the Mecograph. The Mecograph controlled the speed of the dots by moving the fulcrum on the spring and hence changing the natural frequency of the pendulum. The Dinger, does not move the fulcrum; it applies tension to the pendulum spring, thereby changing it's natural frequency. The tension adjustment, whose axis in coincident with the pendulum axis, is characteristic of Morse relays and some older sounders. Like the Mecograph, dots are made by releasing tension on the spring. (The Martin Vibroplex bug make dots by applying pressure to the spring.)

The Dinger is unique in that it is the only bug ever made to have moving parts under the base. The dot return spring adjusting screw actually protrudes through the back of the hollow base. The dash stop is controlled by an adjusting screw in the vertical axis running through the base to a dash arm on the underside; it also attaches the seat of the circuit closing lever and can be seen in the 'cut'. More than half the moving parts are on the underside.

On the circuit closing lever is "PAT. APR. 27, 09". The base is 'japanned'. Surviving Dingers have serial numbers in the 9,XXX range. However, the number of Dingers around today do not suggest anywhere near that number were made. No evidence has been discovered to indicate that D&K made any other telegraph instruments.

The original text of the advertisement is included beside the image. It may be difficult to read on some monitors.

Wizard: "THE WIZARD -- A REVELATION IN TELEGRAPH KEYS -- Key lever and contacts operate separately and independently. Regular circuit closing lever serves for both keys. By giving the screw at the back a mere twist, you can send very heavy, very light or mediocre signals over the longest circuit with no extra effort whatsoever. You may work the key as "close" or as "wide" as fast or as slow as you like, without in any way affecting its carrying qualities and though the circuit carries but very little current, it will respond with a snap that is truly gratifying, and every impulse will reach the distant end as though it were in an adjoining room. No lagging of the relay and sounder, which in itself, is one of the chief causes of telegrapher's paralysis. Impossible to produce light signals if adjusted to send heavy and vice versa. Can be connected or disconnected instantly with any telegraph key, sets perfectly rigid on the table and can be carried in the vest pocket. If you have lost or are losing your "grip", get The Wizard, A positive remedy, THE KEY WITH A VELVET TOUCH. Made of attractively polished metal, containing flexible, pure platinum contacts throughout. Mailed postpaid to any address in the U.S., Canada or Mexico upon receipt of $2.25"

Dinger: "THE DINGER TRANSMITTER -- WITHOUT A DOUBT, the PREMIER of all SENDING MACHINES -- Universal adjustments, contains pure platinum contacts throughout, every part is strong, rigid, accessible and will NOT get out of order. It sets rigid on the table and can be connected or disconnected instantly with and telegraph circuit. The adjustments for heavy, light, fast and slow signals are similar to and as simple as those of a telegraph relay. It has a "touch" that is simply superb, operates as smoothly and accurately as a watch, its carrying qualities are PHENOMENAL and it is rust-proof. We give an absolute guarantee with each and every instrument, also hold the users immune from liability. Price......... $5.00"

Side note: Notice the "very heavy, very light or mediocre signals". Ninety years ago, the meaning of "mediocre" was average. Since that time, "mediocre" has come to mean something not as good as average! 

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Neal McEwen,