In the early to mid-1800s, Samuel Morse, together with other inventors, developed codes that could be used with telegraph systems that were starting to link major towns and cities around the world.
Long-distance communications made possible using Morse Code
Telegraphs used an electric signal to transmit messages over cables so Morse developed a code that allocated sequences of dots and dashes (called dits and dahs in the communications world) to each letter in the alphabet. When transmitted dits used a short electric pulse, whilst a dah used a longer pulse of electricity.
The code that now bears his name allowed for messages to be transmitted around the world with a degree of reliability.
The first message sent using Morse Code was delivered from Washington DC to Baltimore in 1844 and it wasn’t long (1866) before a trans-atlantic telegraph cable had been laid and messages were able to be transmitted at the speed of light over distances of thousands of miles.
The Victorian Internet links cities around the world
Telegraph stations started popping up all over the world, the foremost of which at the time was the Eastern Telegraph Company. Soon, the ‘Victorian Internet’ was criss-crossing the globe and the world started to shrink in terms of the time that news and commercial information was able to be propagated.
In competition with the Eastern Telegraph’s cable business was Marconi who was developing a global network of wireless radio communication stations. In the early days the technology required to enable wireless voice communication was not available so Morse Code was adopted; the simple keying of the transmitter (turning it on and off) for short and longer periods of time being used to represent dits and dahs.
Morse Code still robust and reliable; even today
Morse Code remained the most popular method of communication for many years and, as technology advanced, it was slowly replaced by faster communications modes that were capable of sending more data in a given time. However, Morse Code remained popular for wireless communications as it is very reliable and robust and can be received when many other modes are affected by interference and corruption caused by natural phenomena such as ionospheric conditions which vary over long distances on an eleven year cycle and due to solar activity on the sun.
Whilst it has been relegated by armed forces around the world in favour of more modern communications modes, it remains a credible backup and is still popular with amateur radio communicators around the world due to its robustness.
Morse Code workshop
The Morse Code workshop will enable you to discover how to send and receive short messages using this mode under the expert guidance of one of our specialists; combined with our Code & Cypher workshop, you’ll learn what it’s like to be a real spy out in the field.
Have a look at the following web sites if you want to know more about Morse code…