One of the most influential technologies in the 1800s was the Morse code. It changed how wars are fought and how society functions. Even today, in the age where technology has advanced tremendously, people still want to learn more about this type of communication.

Navy pilot and prisoner of war Jeremiah Denton used Morse code blinking to tell the United States that he was being tortured by the North Vietnamese in 1966. Just by blinking, he managed to communicate his message properly and save his own life.

The world can sometimes be a crazy place, and you don’t know what seemingly impossible and bizarre situations you will find yourself in the future. There are many reasons to learn Morse code, and having the skill to say a few words without actually speaking can mean survival.

In this article, we will go over Morse code’s history, how to learn it, how to do SOS in Morse code, and what are the benefits from Morse code.

History Of Morse Code

Before we continue, it’s best we define Morse Code. Morse code is a system for telecommunication that encodes text characters into a series of dashes and dots. Instead of being a language, Morse code is a system of encoding a language.

In the past, it was a challenge to communicate with someone long-distance. Messages that people sent to each other were transported by messenger birds or horsebacks. When it came to communicating with someone who is in closer proximity, signals that were visual were used, such as fire, flags, and smoke.

All of this changed when Charles Wheatstone and William Fothergill Cooke developed the first commercial electrical telegraph in 1837. However, there was a big disadvantage to the telegraph. It needed six cables in order to function which made the installation process and the device pretty expensive.

Samuel Morse and his assistant Alfred Vail developed a new telegraph in 1837. This telegraph could receive messages only by marking dashes and dots with a stylus on a piece of paper that is moving, and it only required one wire in order to operate. Samuel and his assistant created a system that was coded and it represented the entire alphabet and all the numbers.

how to do sos in morse code

International Morse Code

The system developed by Samuel Morse and his assistant became known as the American Morse Code. However, when other countries of the world decided to use it, there were some issues that came across. The main issue was the Morse code is a code made according to the English language and in order to work with other languages, it needed to be changed.

This problem was solved by Friedrich Gerke in 1848 when he introduced a version of this code system that removed spacing rules and different length dashes – aspects that made the American Morse code pretty complicated. Several languages and alphabets could now use the international Morse code.

However, there were some countries that couldn’t adapt to the international Morse code because of their language, so they needed to make their own version of the code. 

These were the Greek Morse code, the Russian Morse code, the Japanese Morse code also known as Wabun code, the Spanish Morse Code, the Korean Morse code also known as SKATS, and the Chinese Morse code.

Since its inception, the international Morse code has remained the same, except for some small changes that happened in 1938. During the Korean and the Vietnam wars, as well as World War II, the international Morse code was used. Up until the 90s, it was used very heavily for the safety of the seas and by the shipping industry.

How to Do SOS in Morse Code

The alphabet in Morse Code is made out of two basic signals: dashes and dots. Periods symbolize the dots and the dashes represent a rapid and quick signal. Dashes on the other hand are longer, and a hyphen symbolizes them. They represent a signal that is slow. A very simple way is used to represent these dashes and dots, and that way is the time spent blinking.

how to do sos in morse code

The thing that guarantees that the receiver of the message won’t get the dashes and the dots confused with one another is the difference in timing between the two. The dots are three times shorter than the dashes. In addition, the time between dashes and dots should be the length of a doth.

Signaling SOS in morse code is pretty simple. First, you need to signal an S with three quick blinks. Then, use three extended blinks in order to signal an O. Lastly, you need to signal an S again with three quick blinks. So, you need to signal three dots, three dashes, and then three dots again.

One of the ways that Morse code is still being used today is to send a signal for SOS. For instance, the Titanic probably wouldn’t have any survivors if it hadn’t sent out an SOS signal.

Pros and Cons of Morse Code

Even though Morse code was largely used in the past, this system is still relevant in the modern age. In this section, we will go over some of the advantages that Morse code offers.

  • Secret Communication – One of the biggest benefits when it comes to Morse code is that it isn’t known by many people. The reason why this is a benefit is that you can use it without people being able to understand what you mean since there are very were people that know this coded system.
  • Wireless – The application of Morse code was made diverse thanks to the lack of wires the system has. You are able to silently receive and send messages.
  • Cheap – When you’re trying to get a message across a longer distance, using Morse code is a pretty cheap way to do that.
  • Adaptive – Morse code is a way of communication that is incredibly versatile and adaptive. What this means is that just like any other language, Morse code can also be spoken, read, and written. However, Morse code can also be communicated through blinking, tapping, and light. 

Now that we’ve gone through the benefits that Morse code offers, we’re going to go over the disadvantages of this system.

  • Isn’t Bilingual – Morse code is made out of symbols, and each of the symbols represents a type of punctuation, a number, or a letter in the alphabet. The reason for this is because Morse code is a code system and not a language, and it is used to encrypt messages between people who speak the same language.
  • Difficult to Learn – Learning Morse code will come with some challenges, just like learning any other language would. Learning Morse code requires a lot of time put into it, practice, research, and it will also be challenging to find a person with whom you can practice Morse code together, since not so many people actually know it. 
  • Ineffective – The time it takes to decode and to transmit a message in Morse code is one of the main reasons why Morse code isn’t such a popular method of communication nowadays.
MORSE CODE. How to learn and make radio contacts: New step-by-step manual, from the basics, easily. By EA7HYD
  • González EA7HYD, David Gonzalez (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 96 Pages - 10/11/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Morse code?

Morse code is a technique used for communication in which the characters are arranged in two different signal durations, and this is done by using dashes and dots. The Morse code was created by Samuel Morse and his assistant Alfred Vail.

Is Morse code still being used today?

Amateur radio operators still use Morse code, even today. In addition, Morse code is also being used to send out emergency signals.

What is the machine for Morse code called? 

The name of the machine that is used to receive Morse code is a telegraph. 

How is Morse code read?

In order to read Morse code, you need to know that it is made out of two signals, and those include dashes and dots. You need to know how to recognize the spaces between these signals and the signals themselves in order to efficiently learn Morse code. The dishes look like hyphens and are long horizontal lines, while the dots are just periods.

How do you use Morse code? 

Morse code is used by tapping the combination of dashes and dots and pausing for the proper duration for the gap between the symbols.   

Final Thoughts

Even though advanced technology such as the Internet, telephones, and radio began to replace Morse code pretty quickly throughout to years, this doesn’t mean the Morse code has died. 

Besides the aviators who communicate abbreviated identifiers through Morse code, the International Morse Code Preservation society, and the United States Navy intelligence specialists, Morse code is still kept alive today thanks to enthusiasts that keep using this type of communication.

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