Morse Code

Morse code translator is a communications language originally developed by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail for use with the telegraph. Each letter of the alphabet is made up of combinations of dots and dashes that were originally sent over telegraph wires or by radio waves from one location to another. Morse is the earliest type of digital communication, as the code is made solely from ones and zeros (on and off). Before voice communications and two-way radios were able to do the job better, it was the only way to rapidly communicate over very long distances. The Morse Code communication protocol tolerates noise in the communication channel that would otherwise prevent voice (SSB, AM, or FM) communications.

The most famous Morse Code "word" is SOS. As popular belief holds, SOS does not mean "save our ship," although it has often been used for just that purpose. The three dots for S and the three dashes for O (... --- ...) create a clear and distinct distress signal that was chosen for the international Morse code distress signal.

Here is an example of the SOS sound:

Other radio distress signals existed before SOS became the standard. A CQ ("seek you") was a general call made to any station. D was internationally recognized as a prefix for urgent messages, so CQD (-.-. --.- -..) meant "urgent message to any station."

Telegraph Key

On the First Congress of Wireless Telegraphy in 1903, the Italians proposed SSSDDD (... ... ... -.. -.. -..) combining the distinct three dots of the S with the urgency of the D. German radio operators used SOE (... --- .) but quickly realized that the single dot of the E could get easily lost in the static noise. Therefore, they had already switched to SOS by the time the International Radio Telegraphic Convention of 1906 adopted it. SOS was not adopted by the United States until after the Titanic disaster in 1912.

They employed morse code as their standard alert tone when short message service (SMS) messages were received, of course, the morse code spells out SMS. This was implemented around 1985 (guess).

With the end of Morse Code transmissions in its maritime communications service in 1995, the United States Coast Guard formally ended an era in communications history.

While morse is nowadays no longer used commercially, nor is it read for radio licenses, it has widespread use in amateur radio, and the @ symbol was formally assigned as a Morse Code character in February 2004. Known as a "commat," the new sign consists of the signals for "A" (dot-dash) and "C" (dash-dot-dash-dot), with no space between them.

In 2008, a morse code key from WW2 was dropped into the Indian Ocean as part of a service for men who lost their lives on the sunk HMAS Sydney in 1941.


Wired Morse Telegraphy


There are several codes used for telegraph (not wireless) in Europe and the Americas. There are also variants of morse used in Japan.


Wireless Morse Telegraphy

Morse code symbols for wireless telegraphy are derived from those for wired telegraphy and are shown below. It is commonly referred to as CW (Continuous Wave) in wireless telegraphy. Using the morse code involves the use and recognition of many abbreviations, and as can be seen in the 1920s, there are 'short numerical' sequences defined.


The other abbreviations in Morse include TU for 'thank you," 73 for 'goodbye', PSE for 'please', WX for 'weather', and a whole series of three-letter letters "Q" codes. The QRZ abbreviation means "Identify yourself", QSY means "Please change your operating frequency". Other abbreviations depend on what is being said, such as K referring to a kilo of 1000, FNN signifying 599. 


Learning Morse Code


In the modern era, why would anyone want to learn an obsolete 'language'? Here are some thoughts:


  • Amateur radio operators still use Morse code for communications since Morse code signals can get through noise, whereas voice signals often cannot.
  • This is a novelty... did the Klingons use Morse code?
  • Quadriplegics have been able to communicate just by hitting their eyelids... using Morse code.
  • There are hidden messages in some music (yes, they exist), and it can be troubling when someone uses a swear word as their phone ring-tone, and you are the only one offended. Oddly enough, the "F" word is one of the most melodious in Morse.


To learn Morse, you should listen to it. To facilitate this, a variety of software programs can be downloaded on iPads, Macs, and PCs, and there are also radio beacons run by radio clubs to practice receiving Morse code off-air. The following suggestions are provided for the benefit of readers and are not endorsed in any way.

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