YOU might imagine the words ‘telex’ and ‘telegram’ had been consigned to business history.

But for one Dorset company, they are very much still in common currency.

Ferndown-based Network Telex still deals with tens of thousands of them as a way of delivering secure information around the world.

And it is seeking to bring back a touch of romance to personal communications by promoting the telegram as a special way to send a message.

The telex – short for ‘teleprinter exchange’ – was developed during the Second World War as a secure way of sending messages over long distances.

Network Telex started in Ferndown in 1991, selling telex machines in the days before email changed the communications world.

Within a couple of years, it had developed Telex-Net, a Windows-based program for creating telex messages.

Today, it turns over £1m a year, with 260 staff around the world.

The arrival of email and file transfer sites did not destroy the market for telexes. Unlike emails or faxes, telex has ‘legal document status’ in every country of the world, and each successfully transmitted telex counts as proof of receipt as well as sending.

Certain industries – including banking, aviation and maritime – still rely on it, as do secure users such as embassies, governments, post offices and military organisations.

Billions of dollars’ worth of financial transactions still pass through the telex network daily, while the maritime industry uses it for mission-critical purposes such as ‘ship in distress’ calls and warnings of pirate threats.

In 2005, Network Telex created a division in South Africa called E-telegram, which went on to replace the local post office service for hand-delivered legal documents.

Philip Clarke, CEO of the Network Telex Group, says a telegram in this sense is not the traditional few lines of text we might imagine.

Important messages such as bank statements and human resources letters are sent electronically and turned into hard copies near to their destination, ready for delivery.

“A telegram message could be a letter reminding people to pay their credit card, their mortgage, of that they’re in arrears,” he said.

“We should really call it an e-letter rather than a telegram.”

South Africa has to outsource this sort of communication to the west because of its unreliable power supply and frequent postal strikes.

“You couldn’t ever run this in South Africa. Their internet goes off daily and their power goes off,” said Mr Clarke.

All communications are routed through the serves at Network Telex’s Ferndown offices, which employs 10 people to support the global operation.

In recent years, the company came to realise that the telegram had a more informal application as a way of adding a sense of occasion to people’s interpersonal messages. The result was its division Network Telegram.

For a price starting at 15 US cents a word, a visitor to the company’s website can fill in a message, choosing from a range of visual themes, and click to have it delivered.

The company processes around 300 of these a month. A recent example is a message sent from Canada and hand delivered to Cameroon the next day.

“A telegram or cable has been used as a reliable and trusted global tool for personalised communications for over 100 years,” said Mr Clarke.

“The days of racing across the plains on horseback with message in hand may be gone, but nothing will beat the feeling of surprise or joy at receiving a personalised message, delivered in its unique global envelope to the doorstep or even to the desk of your friend, colleague, relation or business acquaintance.

“Sending a telegram shows that you care, or that you have an important message to say with a unique personalised meaning.”

“We believe that telegrams will remain and important, low cost, unique communication tool for many years to come,” Mr Clarke said.