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

Updated on December 8, 2017
8010 US Army WWI Field Induction Telegraph
8010 US Army WWI Field Induction Telegraph | Source
Source

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 | Source

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 | Source

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 By Sea

19th Century replica of British Marine Light
19th Century replica of British Marine Light | Source

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.

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

Do you know Morse Code?

See results

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Hooplahpro 

        2 weeks ago

        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.

      • profile image

        kermit the frog 

        3 months ago

        doesnt give much info

      • profile image

        Evangaline 

        4 months ago

        What is another form of Morse code use as?

      • profile image

        Hoodie 

        5 months ago

        Barton Cohen I totally agree with you!

      • profile image

        barton Cohen 

        5 months ago

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

      • profile image

        Choch 

        5 months ago

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

      • profile image

        barton Cohen 

        6 months ago

        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

      • profile image

        barton cohen 

        6 months ago

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

      • profile image

        Me Me Big Boy 

        8 months ago

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Novel Treasure 

        9 months ago from US

        Fixed. Thanks for the catch!

      • Novel Treasure profile imageAUTHOR

        Novel Treasure 

        9 months ago from US

        Thanks for the spelling check! Good catch!

      • profile image

        Fuckoff 

        12 months ago

        Good way to cheat on a multiple choice quiz.

      • profile image

        alirezaaghsam 

        13 months ago

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

      • profile image

        mooch 

        15 months ago

        love morse code ;)

      • profile image

        tom simons 

        17 months ago

        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.

      • profile image

        John Gooch 

        21 months ago

        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.

      • profile image

        pinky laura 

        21 months ago

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

      • profile image

        Deadpool 

        23 months ago

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

      • profile image

        Nick 

        2 years ago

        I learned morse code in 5 hours.

      • profile image

        joe 

        2 years ago

        it was a awesome thing to use for all my needs

      • Novel Treasure profile imageAUTHOR

        Novel Treasure 

        5 years ago from US

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

      • RonElFran profile image

        Ronald E Franklin 

        5 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Novel Treasure 

        5 years ago from US

        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 profile image

        Denise Handlon 

        5 years ago from North Carolina

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

      • Novel Treasure profile imageAUTHOR

        Novel Treasure 

        5 years ago from US

        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 profile image

        Denise Handlon 

        5 years ago from North Carolina

        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 profile imageAUTHOR

        Novel Treasure 

        5 years ago from US

        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.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)