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Understanding Morse Code as Telegraphic Communication

Morse Code

When I was a Boy Scout, one of the things that we would work on in the winter was understanding Morse Code. Morse Code is a method of transmitting telegraphic messages. It was created in the early 1840’s by Samuel Morse. It was used for the electric telegraph to send messages over the wire. Beginning in the 1890’s, it was also used over the radio. For the first half of the 20th century, it was used for international high speed communication. It has since been replaced by the Baudot code and the ASCII.

Today it is mainly used by radio ham operators. It is also used as a land beacon at night by blinking lights. It is also used by ships at sea the same way. The standard signal for help is the SOS. It is 3 quick lights followed by 3 long light’s, and then 3 quick lights again. It is the most recognizable signal of all.

Morse Code can be beat out by a drum or wood on wood as well. The short tone is a dot and the long tone is a dragged out dah or dash. When the telegraph was developed by Morse and Alfred Vail, they had to figure out a code that would send a message across the countryside. At first everything just went by sound. However, over time they were able to develop a way with electricity and electromagnets to develop print characters in readable form. This eventually lead to what was known as ticker tape. The code was adjusted to the English language to keep it uniform.

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Even though it is used less today, it is still the longest used code than any other electronic coding system. Until 2003 the ITU (International Telecommunication Union made it mandatory radio license operators knew and could use the code. In 1991, an operator had to spell out a total of five words in one minute to be an operator. Good skilled operators can understand words up to 40 a minute. The record 75.2 words per minute in 1939 by Ted McElroy as he recorded that many. The most ever sent by use of a single digit transmitter was 35 by Terry Turner in 1942.

Recently there have been contests in cellphone text messengers and Morse Code operators to see who is the fastest. In every contest Morse Code operators have won. There has been some speculation that cellphone companies might be on the verge of going to Morse Code if it means quicker application of messages. They could do this by building an interface of Morse Code with cell text messaging.

Through the years, Morse Code has been a great help for people with disabilities. It has been used as an assistive technology for them. Individuals with minimal motor abilities have been able to use it as a form of communication. Products are available that allow computer operation systems to be used by Morse Code to access email as well as the Internet.

Three special events stand out in the use of Morse Code. First it was used by the Titanic to radio for help before it sunk. The people in the life boats were saved by it’s use. A patient who lost the ability to speak or write because of a stroke was able to communicate by blinking his eyes to his doctor in Morse Code. However, in 1966 a POW, Jeremiah Denton being held in North Vietnam, used his eyes to continuously blink out the word “TORTURE” on national television. This let others know about what he and other prisoners were experiencing.

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Here is the alphabet and how it is used by signals. A =dot dash, B=dash dot dot dot, C=dash dot dash dot, D=dash dot dot, E=dot, F=dot dot dash dot, G=dash dash dot, H=dot dot dot dot, I=dot dot, I=dot dot, J=dot dash dash dash, K=dash dot dash, L=dot dash dot dot, M=dash dash, N=dash dot. O=dash dash dash, P= dot dash dash dot, Q= dash dash dot dash, R=dot dash dot, S= dot dot dot, T=dash, U=dot dot dash, V=dot dot dot dash, W=dot dash dash, X=dash dot dot dash, Y=dash dot dash dash, Z=dash dash dot dot.

Number digits are 1=dot dash dash dash dash, 2=dot dot dash dash dash, 3= dot dot dot dash dash 4=dot dot dot dot dash, 5=dot dot dot dot dot, 6=dash dot dot dot dot, 7=dash dash dot dot dot, 8=dash dash dash dot dot, 9=dash dash dash dash dot, 0=dash dash dash dash dash.

That is your code both alphabet and numbers. Gaps are used between the words.