History and Information about Morse Code

History and information about Morse Code a system of communications based on dots and dashes, the international and American alphabet included.

Morse Code

In 1844, S. F. B. Morse demonstrated to the U.S. Congress the feasibility of sending a message ("What hath God wrought") over a wire from Washington to Baltimore. Today there are 2 versions of Morse's original code: the General Service or International Morse Code, and the American Morse Code.

These codes have an alphabet made up of dots and dashes in various combinations which stand for individual letters. The Morse Code is so widely used that it does not qualify as a "secret" language, but it can be very mystifying to one who does not know it. It has a definite advantage over the Semaphore Code in that it can be sent in many ways--by whistle, buzzer, tapping, flags, or even by using the clenched and open hand during daylight hours. By night, lights of any kind can be used.

The flag is generally a square with a smaller square of a 2nd color in the center. White with a smaller square of red shows up well against dark backgrounds (woods, for instance) while red with a smaller square of white shows up well against light backgrounds (such as sky or a light wall).

There are 3 motions used with the flag and all start from and return to a perpendicular position in front of the sender. To make a dot, the flag is swung down to the right and brought back to position. To make a dash, the flag is swung down to the left and brought back to position. An interval is made by swinging the flag down directly in front and returning it to the original position. "Fouling" is avoided by making a figure "8" with the point of the stick while swinging. There are no pauses between dots and dashes, but a pause is made to indicate the completion of a letter. One interval, front, means end of word. Two intervals mean completion of sentence. Three intervals mean end of message.


International American

A .- .-

B -... -...

C -.-. .. .

D -.. -..

E . .

F ..-. .-.

G --. --.

H .... ....

I .. ..

J .--- -.-.

K -.- -.-

L .-.. -(=5 dots)

M -- --

N -. -.

O --- . .

P .--. .....

Q --.- ..-.

R .-. . ..

S ... ...

T - -

U ..- ..-

V ...- ...-

W .-- .--

X -..- .-..

Y -.-- .. ..

Z --.. ... .

1 .---- .--.

2 ..--- ..-..

3 ...-- ...-.

4 ....- ....-

5 ..... ---

6 -.... ......

7 --... --..

8 ---.. -....

9 ----. -..-

0 ----- -(=7 dots)

period .. .. .. ..--..

comma .-.-.- .-.-

quotation marks .-..-. .-..-.

colon ---... ---...

semicolon -.-.-. -.-.-.

question mark ..--.. ..--..

To use a flashlight, use a short flash for the dot and a longer flash for the dash. There is a 3-dot pause between letters and a 5-dot pause between words. A longer pause indicates end of sentence. With a whistle, a short blast indicates a dot, a long blast a dash. The same pauses are used as with a flashlight. A lantern is used more or less like a flag: for a dot, it is swung to the right; for a dash, to the left; and for the interval, it is moved down and up in a vertical line in front of the sender.

The 1st letters to learn are E, I, S, H (. , . ., . . . , . . . .) and T, M, O (-,--,---), and these 7 letters can be used to form many words such as: is, it, sometimes, this, them, home, see. Accuracy is more important than speed, and speed will come with practice anyway!

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