Before cell phones even before telephones, people communicated through Morse code. Despite being a technology that is over 160 years old, it’s still used today among amateur radio users and on some ships. If you were in Boy Scouts, you might have messed around with Morse code or maybe you had a grandpa who used it on his ham radio. Learning Morse is a fun and engaging hobby you can share with gramps and an interesting man skill to possess.
Morse code is a telecommunication method, named after telegraphist Samuel Morse, that encodes text characters, including letters, numerals and punctuation, into signals. With Morse code, the user can translate these characters into dots, dashes and spaces. You can then communicate the message's meaning through light or sound signals of varying lengths.
Morse code was invented by Samuel F. B. Morse in the 1830s. He began work on the electric telegraph in 1832, developed a practical system in 1844, and patented his technology in 1849. The code that Morse developed for use with his system went through a few transformations before arriving at the code we’re familiar with today. Initially, Morse code only transmitted numbers. The transmission’s receiver would then have to use a dictionary to translate the numbers into words. But that proved to be tedious. Soon the code was expanded to include letters and even punctuation.
While Morse code is essentially now obsolete because of innovations in technology that streamlined communication methods, employees in certain industries still employ it as a part of their roles. Those who work in aviation, such as pilots and navigators, may use Morse code to transmit identification letters for station names. In addition, amateur radio enthusiasts sometimes apply the code to initiate data transmissions and send messages across broadcasts. Over time, Morse code has also become an important assistive tool that helps those with mobility or speech concerns communicate effectively.
While Morse code has become somewhat less popular over the past few decades, you can still enjoy the following advantages when learning it:
Emergency communication: Morse code is an efficient way to communicate about emergency situations since you can send such messages via ham radio transmitters with little power and less bandwidth than other standard voice communication tools. Since these messages are only intelligible to people who are fluent in the code, it serves as a helpful tool for confidential communications.
When we encounter an emergency, carrying an Emergency two way radio is very necessary, when you encounter danger, you can promptly trigger the emergency alarm button, while for senior security departments, the use of Morse code to transmit information is very necessary, to a large extent to ensure the security of information.
Intellectual enrichment: While Morse code doesn't have as many professional applications as it once did, learning it can offer you a significant amount of enrichment intellectually. Challenging yourself to learn the code can allow you to engage in a mental activity that may strengthen your capacity to learn other useful skills.
Personal accomplishment: Learning new things, regardless of their relevance, can give you a sense of personal accomplishment and boost your confidence in your own abilities. With this, learning Morse code can help you find more self-assurance overall, which may benefit you in other areas of your life.
Learning Morse code is like learning any language. You have to practice, practice, practice. We’ve brought together some resources to help you get started on the path to becoming a master telegraph operator. Who knows? Maybe you can start your own telegraph shop.
The first thing you’ll need to do is get familiar with what the alphabet looks like in Morse code. Below I’ve included the International Morse code alphabet.
You’re going to have to actually listen to Morse code if you ever want to learn it. Head over to learnmorsecode.com and download some MP3s of some code. Listen to it and see if you can decipher any letters.
Print off this dichotomic search tree to help you decipher code. Start off where it says “start.” Every time you hear a dit (or short sound) you move down and to the left. Every time you hear a dah (or long sound) you move down and to the right. Learnmorsecode.com has a dichotomic chart as well, except it’s the reverse of this one.
This online app will help you practice with it for 10 minutes a day and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a Morse code wiz.
You can also try out “The Mill.” It’s a downlodable app that not only allows you to use International Morse code, but also American Morse code.