The quadruplex was the tempting goal toward which Edison now constantly turned, and after more than a year's strenuous work he filed a number of applications for patents in the late summer of 1874. Among them was one which was issued some years afterward as Patent No. 480,567, covering his well-known quadruplex. He had improved his own diplex, combined it with the Stearns duplex and thereby produced a system by means of which four messages could be sent over a single line at the same time, two in each direction.
As the reader will probably be interested to learn something of the theoretical principles of this fascinating invention, we shall endeavor to offer a brief and condensed explanation thereof with as little technicality as the subject will permit. This explanation will necessarily be of somewhat elementary character for the benefit of the lay reader, whose indulgence is asked for an occasional reiteration introduced for the sake of clearness of comprehension. While the apparatus and the circuits are seemingly very intricate, the principles are really quite simple, and the difficulty of comprehension is more apparent than real if the underlying phenomena are studied attentively.
At the root of all systems of telegraphy, including multiplex systems, there lies the single basic principle upon which their performance depends--namely, the obtaining of a slight mechanical movement at the more or less distant end of a telegraph line. This is accomplished through the utilization of the phenomena of electromagnetism. These phenomena are easy of comprehension and demonstration. If a rod of soft iron be wound around with a number of turns of insulated wire, and a current of electricity be sent through the wire, the rod will be instantly magnetized and will remain a magnet as long as the current flows; but when the current is cut off the magnetic effect instantly ceases. This device is known as an electromagnet, and the charging and discharging of such a magnet may, of course, be repeated indefinitely. Inasmuch as a magnet has the power of attracting to itself pieces of iron or steel, the basic importance of an electromagnet in telegraphy will be at once apparent when we consider the sounder, whose clicks are familiar to every ear. This instrument consists essentially of an electro- magnet of horseshoe form with its two poles close together, and with its armature, a bar of iron, maintained in close proximity to the poles, but kept normally in a retracted position by a spring. When the distant operator presses down his key the circuit is closed and a current passes along the line and through the (generally two) coils of the electromagnet, thus magnetizing the iron core. Its attractive power draws the armature toward the poles. When the operator releases the pressure on his key the circuit is broken, current does not flow, the magnetic effect ceases, and the armature is drawn back by its spring. These movements give rise to the clicking sounds which represent the dots and dashes of the Morse or other alphabet as transmitted by the operator. Similar movements, produced in like manner, are availed of in another instrument known as the relay, whose office is to act practically as an automatic transmitter key, repeating the messages received in its coils, and sending them on to the next section of the line, equipped with its own battery; or, when the message is intended for its own station, sending the message to an adjacent sounder included in a local battery circuit. With a simple circuit, therefore, between two stations and where an intermediate battery is not necessary, a relay is not used.
Passing on to the consideration of another phase of the phenomena of electromagnetism, the reader's attention is called to Fig. 1, in which will be seen on the left a simple form of electromagnet consisting of a bar of soft iron wound around with insulated wire, through which a current is flowing from a battery. The arrows indicate the direction of flow.
All magnets have two poles, north and south. A permanent magnet (made of steel, which, as distinguished from soft iron, retains its magnetism for long periods) is so called because it is permanently magnetized and its polarity remains fixed. In an electromagnet the magnetism exists only as long as current is flowing through the wire, and the polarity of the soft-iron bar is determined by the DIRECTION of flow of current around it for the time being. If the direction is reversed, the polarity will also be reversed. Assuming, for instance, the bar to be end-on toward the observer, that end will be a south pole if the current is flowing from left to right, clockwise, around the bar; or a north pole if flowing in the other direction, as illustrated at the right of the figure. It is immaterial which way the wire is wound around the bar, the determining factor of polarity being the DIRECTION of the current. It will be clear, therefore, that if two EQUAL currents be passed around a bar in opposite directions (Fig. 3) they will tend to produce exactly opposite polarities and thus neutralize each other. Hence, the bar would remain non-magnetic.
As the path to the quadruplex passes through the duplex, let us consider the Stearns system, after noting one other principle--namely, that if more than one path is presented in which an electric current may complete its circuit, it divides in proportion to the resistance of each path. Hence, if we connect one pole of a battery with the earth, and from the other pole run to the earth two wires of equal resistance as illustrated in Fig. 2, equal currents will traverse the wires.
The above principles were employed in the Stearns differential duplex system in the following manner: Referring to Fig. 3, suppose a wire, A, is led from a battery around a bar of soft iron from left to right, and another wire of equal resistance and equal number of turns, B, around from right to left. The flow of current will cause two equal opposing actions to be set up in the bar; one will exactly offset the other, and no magnetic effect will be produced. A relay thus wound is known as a differential relay--more generally called a neutral relay.
The non-technical reader may wonder what use can possibly be made of an apparently non-operative piece of appara- tus. It must be borne in mind, however, in considering a duplex system, that a differential relay is used AT EACH END of the line and forms part of the circuit; and that while each relay must be absolutely unresponsive to the signals SENT OUT FROM ITS HOME OFFICE, it must respond to signals transmitted by a DISTANT OFFICE. Hence, the next figure (4), with its accompanying explanation, will probably make the matter clear. If another battery, D, be introduced at the distant end of the wire A the differential or neutral relay becomes actively operative as follows: Battery C supplies wires A and B with an equal current, but battery D doubles the strength of the current traversing wire A. This is sufficient to not only neutralize the magnetism which the cur- rent in wire B would tend to set up, but also--by reason of the excess of current in wire A--to make the bar a magnet whose polarity would be determined by the direction of the flow of current around it.