Morse code lives on


Click to enlarge the Morse Code alphabet

Back in the 1830s, Samuel Morse and a couple of his mates were experimenting with sending electrical pulses over wires. To send messages they needed a language, and so was invented what is now called Morse code.  It’s very simple, consisting of only two things: dots and dashes. Each letter of the alphabet is allocated a unique series of these dots and dashes. Devices are attached to the line allowing operators to send and receive the dots and dashes.

Morse code was a standard form of communication in the ensuing decades, and was an essential part of communication from the American Civil War through to the Second World War. Although it was still an official form of maritime emergency communication until the end of the last century, it has not been widely used for decades. Probably children under 20 today would not know anything about its role in keeping the world running over such an extended period.


A Morse code transmitter

Hundreds of thousands of people were trained to send and receive Morse code in the 20th century. Today in Australia there are still many organisations called Morsecodians who communicate with each other using Morse code and who regularly get together to reminisce and practise their skills.

And here’s the most amazing thing: at the annual general meeting of the Australian Morsecodians the entire meeting is held in Morse code. Can’t you just picture a room full of mostly aging war veterans, each with a Morse key, talking to their mates in the same room with dots and dashes? The clatter of the keys, the laughter and the applause as someone sends something witty or blue.

And I bet the minutes of the meeting are in Morse code.

What a marvellous bunch of people they must be!

How do I know about this? Our ABC or course. This morning on 702 Sydney, Linda Mottram was talking with some of the fabulous Morsecodians.

Here’a link to the Morsecodians:

And this is a video of a message being sent:

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