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Is Morse Code Used Today? — The Brief History and Importance of Morse Code

8010 US Army WWI Field Induction Telegraph

8010 US Army WWI Field Induction Telegraph


What is Morse Code?

According to the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, Morse Code is defined as, "either of two codes consisting of variously spaced dots and dashes or long and short sounds used for transmitting messages by audible or visual signals."

Basically, Morse Code was a means of early communication using dots and dashes or long and short sounds that correlated to each letter of the Latin alphabet. These messages were typically sent by electric telegraph (also known as a straight key) or by light signals.

The first Morse Code is known as the American Morse Code because that is where it originated, but there are now multiple versions of Morse Code, such as the International Morse Code for languages that also use the Latin Alphabet, the Japanese version the Wabun Code, or the SKATS which is the Korean morse code.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse creator of American Morse Code

Samuel Finley Breese Morse creator of American Morse Code

Who Invented American Morse Code?

Samuel Finley Breese Morse is credited with the creation or invention of Morse Code, who it is named after. He was an American inventor who was also a well known painter. He was born on April 27, 1791 in Charlestown. He graduated from Yale in 1810 and began his career as a painter. Samuel Morse helped found the National Academy of Design before he pursued his passion of invention.

In the 1830's, Morse began work on the first electrical telegraph, which was a means of communicating using electricity. He received his first patent for the electrical telegraph in 1837.

8040 Telegraph

8040 Telegraph

How does it work?

Morse Code was used to send messages over long distances. Morse code messages can be sent using light or by pulses. In Samuel Morse's time, the most common way to send a pulse message was via a telegraph. A telegraph, also known as a straight key, sends pulses in the form of electrical current based on the message that was "tapped out" using the telegraph key.

Telegraph operators would then key messages using a series of clicks based on the spelling of the words of the messages. An operator on the receiving end would hear the clicks and translate them back into words.

With Morse Code, each letter of the alphabet was translated into short and long signals (also known as dots and dashes). The pulse length of a dash is equal to the pulse length of three dots. Eventually, when Morse Code was adapted to radio, the dots and dashes began being referred to as "dits" and "dahs" based on the sound of the radio pulses.

Morse Code Telegraph

Morse Code By Sea

19th Century replica of British Marine Light

19th Century replica of British Marine Light

What was the Importance of Morse Code?

Before the invention of Morse Code and the telegraph, messages were still handwritten and carried by horseback. Morse Code changed the way we communicated. In the time of its invention, it was the fastest long distance form of communication.

Morse Code allowed for ships at sea to communicate over long distances using large lights. Morse Code was especially pivotal during the second World War because it greatly improved the speed of communication. Naval war ships were able to communicate with their bases and provide critical information to each other. War planes also used Morse Code to detail locations for enemy ships, bases, and troops and relay them back to headquarters.

Women Spies and Morse Code

The Universal Code for SOS

The most commonly used signal for distress is SOS in Morse Code. It is represented as

. . . - - - . . .

(Three dots, followed by three dashes, followed by another three dots)

Is Morse Code Still Used Today?

Morse Code is still widely recognized, even if it is not as widely used as it once was. Morse code is still popular among amateur radio enthusiasts, although proficiency in Morse Code is no longer a requirement to obtain your amateur radio license.

Morse Code is most prevalent in Aviation and Aeronautical fields since radio navigational aids such as VOR's and NDB's still identify in Morse Code. The US Navy and Coast Guard still use signal lamps to communicate via Morse Code.

Morse Code has also been used as an alternative form of communication for people with disabilities or whom have their abilities to communicate imparied by stroke, heart attack, or paralysis. There have been several cases where individuals have been able to use their eyelids to communicate in Morse Code by using a series of long and quick blinks to represent that dots and dashes.

How to send an SOS using Morse Code

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the benefit of morse code?

Answer: Morse code is a way to communicate using tones and clicks when you are unable to speak or do not want your conversation to be detected. However, the latter only works if others that could be listening in don't also know morse code.

Question: Is Morse Code still used by soldiers?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Does morse code use spaces?

Answer: Letters of a word are separated by a space equal to three dots and words are separated by a space equaling seven dots.

Question: Is morse code used in India?

Answer: Morse code can be used anywhere around the world. You just have to be able to translate the code into letters to spell out words.

Question: how did the invention of morse code impact society?

Answer: It changed the way we communicate, and not just in war times.

Question: Where besides the military is Morse code used today?

Answer: Boys scouts have used Morse code as well as maritime fisherman if they were trapped below hull. Scuba divers and underwater welders use it to communicate on the inside and outside of structures they are building.

Question: If Morse Code can be used on letters and numbers, then what about symbols?

Answer: At this time, Morse code can't be used for symbols themselves but could spell out the symbol. For example # could be spelled 'pound sign' or 'hash tag' depending on what you intended the symbol to mean.

Question: Was morse code used during the Cuban missle crisis?

Answer: Yes, there is documentation that morse code was used for sonar signals.

Question: Who is the author of this article?

Answer: Novel Treasure

Question: Why did they use morse code?

Answer: It was the first means of communication before the invention of the telephone, email, etc... It was faster than mail at the time and could also be used as a means of sending coded messages.

Question: Why is morse code used by soldiers?

Answer: Because it is a covert form of communication that doesn't require any telecommunications equipment. You can make the noises with anything.

Question: Can you tell me some uses of Morse Code in our daily life?

Answer: It's still used in the armed forces today as a means of communication.

Question: How long has morse code been used?

Answer: Since the 1830s.


Varsha on February 10, 2020:

I have a question has the the morses code changed over the years.

Linda on October 05, 2018:

Funny..was just speaking to a friend whose 2017 honda crvs dashboard started flashing lights by radio and then sounded like morse code.....now i'm wondering if they are tracking us in our cars......interesting

Hooplahpro on September 07, 2018:

I was an Amateur Radio operator for years (call sign KD6G) and at my best hit 40 WPM in competitions as in Field Day which still occurs every 4th weekend of June. The rest of the year the code allowed me to talk to other Amateurs reliably across the globe because a tone is much easier to receive versus voice and requires much less power to get to the destination. Learning Morse code is a language/skill just like muscle memory with a joystick HOTAS to get good at a game, texting away on a smart phone not even thinking about what to type next and driving a car not even realizing the adjustments you are making while eating a Big Mac (not advised). One starts with letters, then words, then phrases we don't stop to think about because the subconscious mind in doing the work.

Alas technology moves on and Amateurs can download programs and talk to others online using VoIP and Skype technology. No expensive radios and antennas required but is still fun meeting others. Still if WW III ever happens look me up.

kermit the frog on May 25, 2018:

doesnt give much info

Evangaline on May 22, 2018:

What is another form of Morse code use as?

Hoodie on April 24, 2018:

Barton Cohen I totally agree with you!

barton Cohen on April 01, 2018:

keep up the good work about morse codes do not text, morse code is better and faster

Choch on March 30, 2018:

Was a Morse Intercept operator in the U S Army, Korea in the early 1950 s.

barton Cohen on March 23, 2018:

I am intrgued by morse code what is amazing is young folks do not know who invented it or what the helll it is morse code beats texting every. day by a mile old men beating 15 yr old kids

barton cohen on March 04, 2018:

i read a book the victorian internet by tom standee fastination that is where i started to gain interest in the morse code

Me Me Big Boy on January 23, 2018:

Can you send me a source to where you got this information "Morse Code has also been used as an alternative form of communication for people with disabilities or whom have their abilities to communicate imparied by stroke, heart attack, or paralysis. There have been several cases where individuals have been able to use their eyelids to communicate in Morse Code by using a series of long and quick blinks to represent that dots and dashes."

Novel Treasure (author) from US on December 10, 2017:

Fixed. Thanks for the catch!

Novel Treasure (author) from US on December 08, 2017:

Thanks for the spelling check! Good catch!

Fuckoff on September 24, 2017:

Good way to cheat on a multiple choice quiz.

alirezaaghsam on August 01, 2017:

I learned morse code in two days. I was wondering if it is useful today or not.its intersting...

mooch on June 08, 2017:

love morse code ;)

tom simons on April 13, 2017:

yes, morse code is in uve for aviation dme devices

distance measuring equipment, once you find the beam, tune in and morse will tell you it's designation on your air or wac chart.

John Gooch on December 04, 2016:

I have heard, recently, that the US navy, have considered reprioritiseing Morse code. This is from a concern, that computers may not work well in critical times. I have also heard that their air craft carriers, carry wooden models of air craft, to help them land the airborne craft, during computer failure.

pinky laura on December 02, 2016:

soooo, heve you learned the morse code yet? it will be pretty hard (or at least for me) to study the whole thing. C:

Deadpool on October 06, 2016:

i am finally able to secretly talk to my friends without my psrents understanding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nick on July 02, 2016:

I learned morse code in 5 hours.

joe on February 01, 2016:

it was a awesome thing to use for all my needs

Novel Treasure (author) from US on March 08, 2013:

I wish it was something that was offered as an elective in school. I think it would be interesting.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 08, 2013:

I was into ham radio growing up, and learned morse well enough to pass my Advanced license test. I still every once in a while find myself whistling the code for messages on signs along the highway. I guess I qualify as an old timer since I'm actually sorry morse is no longer required for amateur licensing. There are still internet sites for learning and practicing the code, so it seems people are still interested. Thanks for your hub. Morse lives!

Novel Treasure (author) from US on September 29, 2012:

That's a good question. It's probably one of my biggest regrets that I didn't choose to serve my country. I didn't meet my husband til I was older and by that time I was told I was too old to enlist. But as a senior in high school I pursued the marines, passed all the tests and met with the recruiter, but it was right during the time when the movie "General's Daughter" came out and my mom was scared for me and begged me not to. So I didn't. By the time, the desire came around again I was engaged and not wanting to be deployed early in my marriage, so I chose not to.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on September 28, 2012:

I read that your husbands family was military, why didn't you pursue your interest in being a Navy SEAL?

Novel Treasure (author) from US on September 28, 2012:

That's just too funny...I was also fascinated with being a spy when I was younger. I also wanted to be the first female Navy Seal. I am sad to admit that I did not know any morse code until I started researching this hub.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on September 27, 2012:

The only morse code I now know is the SOS I used to study it when I was a girl b/c the idea of being a spy fascinated me. Nice job with the history: UP and I / U

Novel Treasure (author) from US on September 27, 2012:

Pretty much my husband's entire family is military representing multiple forms of the armed forces. His grandfather was Navy and would tell us stories of using the ship lights to blink morse code back and forth. I myself don't know it, but think it would be a fun thing to learn. I hope that it is not something that we let go to the wayside, because I think it represents a great advancement in our history of communication.

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