If ever you need to send a secret message to someone in the next room using a spanner and a pipe, you might have reason to thank Samuel Morse.
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Morse code wasn’t invented to help people in dire emergencies but to send messages along a telegraph wire (this was in the 1830s, way before Instant Messaging).
Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail had developed an electric device that could send signals from one machine to another, but couldn’t send readable letters.
Morse came up with a method of sending signals that could be received by a machine and marked on to paper as dots and dashes. Different combinations of dots and dashes correspond to letters and numbers.
After a while, telegraph operators could translate the messages just by listening to the sounds made by the machines, a dot was a short click and a dash was a longer one (this is why your spanner and pipe could come in handy).
Messages can also be transmitted in Morse using a light (short and long flashes for the dots and dashes), so the code was used for sending messages from one ship to another. In fact it was the international standard code at sea until 1999. Now satellite communication is used instead.
Morse code might look complicated and time-consuming, but some experiments have proved that it’s quicker than texting (if you’re a Morse expert). Maybe it’s time for Morse code to make a comeback! Did you find learning/reading Morse Code difficult? Did the person receiving the message understand it?
Making a dramatic exit: When the French navy stopped using Morse code in 1997, the last message they ever transmitted was rather profound in tone: ‘Calling all. This is our last cry before our eternal silence.
Morse code comprises the following components:
1. a dot (or dit) – a short audio tone (represented as .)
2. a dash (or dah) – a longer audio tone than a dot (represented as ‘-‘ ) 3. a very short gap between each dot and dash
4. a slightly longer gap between each letter 5. a mid-length gap between each word (represented as ‘/’ )
6. a long gap between each sentence (represented as ‘//’
You can send your messages as a series of audible tones or by flashing a light, using long and short flashes. Alternatively, you can write it out, as shown above. Below is a key to each letter and number in the Morse code alphabet. Make a copy for a friend and start practicing. You could even send text messages to each other in Morse code!