Orestes RATT Code Machines

Orestes KW-7 Code MachineDo you remember that part of each underway watch dedicated to keeping the Orestes KW-7 radioteletype machines in sync and receiving the Navy broadcasts? The things were tricky beasts and the heart of the unit was a 'code block' with 30 wires and seemingly endless combinations of routing from the primary block of 30 to the secondary block of 30.

Orestes KW-7 Code BlockWe would sit with a ComTac pub in our laps, or another watchstander would simply call out the pair; "Plug 1 to plug 27. Plug 2 to plug 15." The first few pairings were easy, but as you got further into the sequence it was difficult to find an easy way to slide some of the wires around into the plugs without creating a rats nest. It didn't take long for us to look forward into the instructional sequence to find the pairings that made best 'fit' and sort of wrap from low to high. It would sometimes take 20 minutes to get it right, and we had to set TWO blocks each day.

The new blocks would be set into the machine at 0001Z and the machine then had to be 're-phased' or synced with the transmitter/receiver. If we had good atmospheric conditions this took seconds. If we encountered skywave interference it made the phasing a long and frustrating task. This usually happened when there was broadcast traffic pending for NRUF that the Comms officer knew was inbound. He was okay with the delay, but the RM Chief was a different story.

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