history of Morse code

The Morse system of telegraphy was invented by Samuel Finley Breese Morse in the 1840s in the United States. "Morse Code" is essentially a simple way to represent the letters of the alphabet using patterns of long and short pulses. A unique pattern is assigned to each character of the alphabet, as well as to the ten numerals. These long and short pulses are translated into electrical signals by an operator using a telegraph key, and the electrical signals are translated back into the alphabetic characters by a skilled operator at the distant receiving instrument. It has also been acknowledged that Morse's partner Alfred Vail very likely assisted in the development of the code and the instruments used to transmit and receive it.

Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) was a painter and founder of the National Academy of Design. In 1832, while on a ship returning from Europe, he conceived the basic idea of an electromagnetic telegraph. Experiments with various kinds of electrical instruments and codes resulted in a demonstration of a working telegraph set in 1836, and introduction of the circuit relay. This made transmission possible for any distance. With his creation of the American Morse code, the historic message, "What hath God wrought?" was successfully sent from Washington to Baltimore.

The Morse code used in those days differed greatly from that which is used today. Morse code originated on telegraph lines and the original users did not listen to tones but instead to the clicking sounds created by sounders. They used the American Morse code as opposed to today's International Morse. When sending dahs (Morse code is composed of dits or short key closures, and dahs or longer key closures) the user simply sent two close-together dits. This was created by using a conventional code key.

With the advent of radio communications the international Morse became more widespread. Users of the international Morse created dahs with a longer key closure, instead of two close-spaced dits. In order to increase transmission speed on early landline circuits and later on radio circuits, semi-automatic "bug" keys were invented in 1902 and were widely adopted. Bug keys used a vibrating pendulum to create dits and the user still manually creates the dahs.

In more recent times, the user can employ keyers that electronically create dits and dahs. Iambic keyers have a memory so that the user can operate a mechanical "paddle" quicker than the keying rate of the keyer. This makes for very comfortable and nearly effortless keying.

Today experienced operators copy received text without the need to write as they receive, and when transmitting, can easily converse at 20 to 30 words per minute. Morse code will always remain a viable means of providing highly reliable communications during difficult communications conditions.

History shows us how important Morse code is; remember the R.M.S Titanic's SOS distress call in 1912. What does SOS really mean? - "Save Our Ship". Before the year 1912, ships at sea used the Morse code distress signals "CQD", which means, "Call To Quarters - Danger!" As you can see, a few letters transmitted in International Morse code make it possible for effective conversation between operators of different nations.