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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Morse code


After establishing his reputation as a portrait painter, Samuel Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) devoted his middle age to creating a fast way of sending messages. He was prompted to do this after being told his his wife was ill via a horse messenger — but the letter had taken so long to reach him that by the time he arrived home, she was not only dead, but had also been buried.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse, 1840
While returning by ship from Europe in 1832, Morse encountered Charles Thomas Jackson of Boston, a man who was well schooled in electromagnetism. Witnessing various experiments with Jackson's electromagnet, Morse developed the concept of a single-wire telegraph.

Morse's system sent pulses of electric current along wires which controlled an electromagnet that was located at the receiving end of the telegraph system. A code was needed to transmit natural language using only these pulses, and the silence between them. Morse therefore developed the forerunner to the modern International Morse code.

At the Speedwell Ironworks in Morristown, New Jersey on January 6, 1838, Samuel Morse and his assistant Alfred Vail successfully used Morse Code to send a message. It read: "A patient waiter is no loser." This first public transmission was witnessed by a mostly local crowd.

Original Samuel Morse telegraph

On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse sent the first ever long distance morse code message down an experimental telegraph line that ran from Washington DC to Baltimore, Maryland. It read "What hath God wrought!," which is a quote from the Old Testament Book of Numbers. The discovery of electronic communication was attributed to God who had given the power.

Morse with his recorder, photograph taken by Mathew Brady in 1857

The Modern International Morse code, or continental code, was created by Friedrich Clemens Gerke in 1848 and initially used for telegraphy between Hamburg and Cuxhaven in Germany.

After some minor changes, International Morse Code was standardized at the International Telegraphy Congress in 1865 in Paris.

The International Morse Code encodes the ISO basic Latin alphabet, some extra Latin letters, the Arabic numerals and a small set of punctuation and procedural signals (prosigns) as standardized sequences of short and long signals called "dots" and "dashes", or "dits" and "dahs", as in amateur radio practice.

'SOS' is the Morse-code signal (…---…) used by shipping and the like in distress to summon immediate aid, hence any urgent appeal for help. This distress signal was first adopted by the German government in radio regulations effective April 1, 1905. It was recommended at the Radio Telegraph Conference the following year and officially adopted as the worldwide standard on July 1, 1908.

During World War II, the famous "Da da da daa" opening bars' suggestion of Morse Code became the powerful symbol of "V For Victory," the effective call-sign for the Allied Forces. Many relished the irony of a German's music galvanizing the Allied effort to defeat the Nazi war machine.

A typical "straight key". This U.S. model, known as the J-38, was manufactured in huge quantities during World War II.

An American POW in Vietnam blinked the morse code for TORTURE during a propaganda interview.

When the French Navy officially ceased using Morse Code on January 31, 1997, the final message they transmitted was "Calling all. This is our last cry before our eternal silence."


The S.O.S. letters are simply a convenient and readily recognizable combination, and are not an abbreviation, although they have subsequently been held to stand for "save our souls" or "save our ship."

Thomas Edison suffered from deafness and he taught his fiancée, Mary Sitwell, Morse code. He proposed by tapping out the message in her hand. She answered in the same way. After their marriage they often spoke to each other in Morse code.

When they attended a play, Thomas Edison's wife kept her hand on her husband's knee and Morse coded the words.

Due to his father's dislike of his immature hobby of Morse code, the 10-year-old Giuseppe Marconi set up a laboratory in the attic, where he fiddled around with his early electrical transmitters, making his signals travel further and further. All Marconi's early messages were in Morse code. He had no idea they would lead to radio broadcasting.

Early radio messages were sent in Morse code because voice transmission required more power and better signal control than were available at the time.

The BBC began broadcasting in Morse code to the French Resistance on March 22, 1942.

During his time serving in the Air Force, Johnny Cash was employed as a code breaker based in Germany, intercepting Morse Code transmissions from Russia.

When the telecommunications entrepreneur Robert A. Brooks had his corporate headquarters built in St. Louis, the arrangement of windows spelled out "Brooks Fiber Properties" in Morse code.

The Colombian army once made a song with Morse code in it and aired it in rebel-controlled territory to lift the morale of hostages held there. The message read "19 rescued, you're next. Don't lose hope."

The Nokia tone for an incoming SMS text message is the Morse code for 'SMS'.

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