Automatically translated from Basque, translation may contain errors. More information here. Elhuyarren itzultzaile automatikoaren logoa

Red phone and lazy dog

  • Washington, Moscow, 20 June 1963. They launched the direct line of communication between the two major powers of the Cold War, the Red Telephone. But was it really a phone?
Jimmy Carter museoan dagoen ezkerreko telefono gorria ez zuten sekula erabili, objektu sinboliko hutsa da. Aldiz, eskuineko teletipoa 1967ko “telefono gorria” da. Argazkia: Jimmy Carter Museum / Lyndon Johnson Museum.
Jimmy Carter museoan dagoen ezkerreko telefono gorria ez zuten sekula erabili, objektu sinboliko hutsa da. Aldiz, eskuineko teletipoa 1967ko “telefono gorria” da. Argazkia: Jimmy Carter Museum / Lyndon Johnson Museum.

In October last year, the Cuban missile crisis highlighted the need for a more direct and secure channel of communication between the Soviet Union and the United States; then, Nikita Khrustxov’s message took twelve hours to arrive decoded to the White House, during which the crisis was about to provoke a more serious conflict.

Reporters named him Red Phone, but it was never a phone. They decided that telephone communication was dangerous. Written communication would allow greater coldness, a space for reflection and to avoid hot flashes and improvisations. In addition, each one preferred to write in their language and then translate messages well to avoid misunderstandings. So they decided to use teletype.

Reporters named him Red Phone, but it was never a phone. They decided that telephone communication was dangerous. Written communication would make it possible to act colder

This line was not entirely correct: the messages departed from Washington and passed through London, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki before reaching Moscow. However, the number of “stops” was significantly reduced compared to existing routes and thus the risk of the message being captured by another person. Messages via Red Phone were also encrypted, but the complex prior encodings were not necessary.

In 1971 they began to communicate by satellite, in 1985 they began to use the fax and now the Red Telephone is an email, but in recent years, despite its validity, they have not used it, for example, when Russia attacked Ukraine.

The Red Telephone was used for the first time to report on the murder of Kennedy in November 1963. But before they did a test. This was Washington's first message to Moscow: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890”. That is, “the fast brown fox jumped at the back of the lazy dog,” Hainbatek wanted to see behind the phrase the enigmatic secret message, but the explanation is much simpler. The technicians who were testing the line wanted to check that all the keys on the teletype worked properly. They could just put the alphabet in order, like in the end with the numbers, but somewhere they were playing and they came up with a naive phrase that would pick up all the letters in the alphabet.

The world feared nuclear war, and those in charge of the Red Phone decided to put some humor. The Soviets responded with a poetic description of the afternoon sky in Moscow.


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