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Usually the spark transmitter very low power and the high voltage was supplied by an air-driven generator that was mounted in the struts of the landing gear. Communications was primarily for aiming ground artillery during late-WWI.The J-6 key is mostly brass construction and is mounted on a hard rubber base that was mounted by screws to the wooden frame work of the airplane.Also, other types of equipment may have voltage levels or current levels that could cause sparking when the key breaks contact.This could present a problem in areas where flammable fuel vapors might at times be present, such as airplanes, tanks or ships during or after an attack where fuel tanks or fuel lines may have been ruptured and leaking. The key in the center is a Navy flame-proof key, the CAQZ-26026 built by Brelco Co. It was a LANGUAGE that was understood by both young and old radio operators who had the interest, the desire and the discipline to learn and become accomplished at conversing in this most reliable of communications modes.International Morse Code's ability to allow 100% copy in the most difficult of conditions that would leave any spoken language incomprehensible is legend.
Used by professionals and amateurs alike, these types of telegraph keys date from the nineteenth-century up to the present time.During WWII, they produced hand keys for the military, like this Type M-100 key.This key is fitted with a rubber cable and PL-68 connector which indicates it was going to be used with military equipment. Many of the military keys were used with transmitters that were cathode keyed and sometimes had significant voltage on the key itself.The knob became the standard for early radio telegraph keys for the Signal Corps, especially those keys from Brach - see the Brach J-5-A below in "Flame-proof Keys." Made for U. Shipping Board in 1920, these large keys used .625" diameter silver contacts to handle the high currents of spark transmitters.
The brass ring around the lower contact is a "cooling ring." The base is made of hard rubber.
This particular style of hand key was also built and sold by other manufacturers, like the Standard Co. This key doesn't have the Navy style finger rest and has smaller 5/16" contacts. Most of these types of keys are brass construction with a gold lacquer "wash" applied.