smoke sign

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Frederic Remington : smoke signals from the Indians
Noon Gun in Cape Town since 1806
Smoke signal as an emergency signal

Smoke signals are a simple form of long-distance communication , more precisely optical telegraphy , which has become known especially through its use by the indigenous tribes of North America.

In addition to the intended smoke signals for communication, any smoke formation (both natural and artificial) can be read as signs that influence our actions. So z. B. a heavy smoke development in forest fires prompt to change his whereabouts.


In order to obtain the clouds of smoke required for this, North American Indians usually added wet grass to the open fire. Then the now heavily smoking fireplace was covered with a blanket. The accumulating smoke was released at certain intervals so that a sequence of “smoke” and “no smoke” was created, similar to Morse code , which were given different meanings. Other distinguishing features were the different sizes of the individual clouds as well as the color, which were influenced by the choice of smoke-forming additions to the fire. The transmission rate of smoke signals should be up to 8 characters per minute, which corresponds to a bit rate of 0.13 characters per second.

But not only the Indians of America communicated by means of smoke signals. Thus, for example, in the antiquity of the West and in ancient China smoke signals used for military purposes.


Smoke signal canister, as it is common in the seafaring. When triggered, thick red or orange smoke appears.


  • Walter Loeliger: From smoke signals to mail & SMS. The history of data transmission from earlier to today, Kohl Verlag, 2010, ISBN 978-3-8663-2280-6 .
  • Target-Film - & - Video-Produktion G (Ed.): Vom Rauchzeichen zum Handy. The development of modern telecommunications, Springer-Verlag GmbH, Berlin 2000, ISBN 978-3-540-14806-7 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Martin Werner: communications engineering. An introduction to all courses, 7th edition, Vieweg + Teubner Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-8348-0905-6 , p. 216.
  2. Volkmar Brückner: Optical communication technology: Basics and applications . 2003, p. 11.
  3. Old forms of telegraphy - are fire signals and co dying out? (accessed on January 5, 2018)
  4. Der Tagesspiegel: white or black - sometimes the color is not very clear (accessed on January 5, 2018)

Web links

Wiktionary: Smoke signals  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations