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Title: Vibroplex  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Morse code, Telegraph key, Bug, Amateur radio companies
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Industry Amateur radio
Headquarters Knoxville, Tennessee, United States
Key people
Scott Robbins
Products Morse code keys
Website Vibroplex Co., Inc.

Vibroplex is the brand of side-to-side mechanical, semi-automatic Morse key first manufactured and sold in 1905 by the Vibroplex Company, after its invention and patent[1] by Horace Greeley Martin of New York City in 1904. The original device became known as a "bug", most likely due to the original logo, which showed an "electrified bug".[2] An alternate explanation is that novice and low-skilled operators were known as "bugs;" even skilled "straight-key" operators, when switching to semi-automatic keys, needed practice (and adjustment of the weights and springs on the key) before they were also to send Code properly. Thus, the Vibroplex key made a temporary "bug" of even expert operators, thus became known as a "bug key."

The Vibroplex Company has been in business continuously for 109 years, as of 2014. Amateur radio operator Scott E. Robbins, also known by the call sign W4PA, became the 8th owner of the Vibroplex Company on December 21, 2009. The company is located in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Vibroplex "Original Bug" model

The most common Vibroplex models have a single lever with a flat thumbpiece, or paddle, on the left side and a fingerpiece, or knob, on the right side. A left-handed version is also made, which is the mirror image of the standard model (including in the description below).

When the knob is pressed from the right, it makes a continuous contact suitable for sending dashes (or dahs, as most operators call them). When the paddle is pressed from the left, a horizontal pendulum at the opposite end of the lever is set into motion, intermittently closing a set of contacts, sending a series of short pulses (dits) at a speed that is controlled by the position of the pendulum weight. A skilled operator can achieve sending speeds in excess of 40 words per minute with a bug.

The Vibroplex Original Bug key has been in continuous production for over 100 years, with only minor cosmetic changes. Numerous Vibroplex keys are available to this day; the company presently markets and sells 27 variations of Morse code keys, including the Original Bug, iambic paddles, the Vibrokeyer (an electronic variant of the Original Bug) and traditional straight keys.


  1. ^ U.S. patent 767,303 [2]
  2. ^ John Ceccherelli, N2XE (January 2003), Vibroplex—The Company and its Classic Key,  

External links

  • Vibroplex Co., Inc.
  • The Vibroplex Collector's Page
  • Flash animation made by AE4RV demonstrating the operation of a Vibroplex
  • Scott E. Robbins purchases Vibroplex Company, ARRL webpage, December 7, 2009
  • Vibroplex mechanical bug key history
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