Morse Code

Morse Code HeaderHave you heard of good old-fashioned Morse code? In 1999, Morse code was discontinued as the international standard for maritime distress calls. In 2007, the FCC removed knowing Morse code as a requirement for getting an amateur radio license. So why should anyone bother to learn Morse code today?

Well, there are still some good reasons to do just that.

It all comes down to having another option of which to send and to receive communications.

First of all, Morse code is a basic, widely-known system of using just “dots” and “dashes” in order to communicate. It was first developed by Samuel Morse in 1836 to fill the need of a faster long-distance form of communication. The simplicity of the method cemented its place and use within history, and it still can be employed in a wide spectrum of scenarios today. Because of the minimalistic form of Morse code, it can be tailored to fit the communication needs of different people by using a variety of methods.

One way Morse code can be utilized is by visual forms in the appearance of dots and dashes. In this manner, it can serve as a basic form of written communication. Examples of this use could be the spelling out of “SOS” to signal for help on a remote beach somewhere, or in the case of jotting down an encoded note to someone. Besides as a written form, one can also employ Morse code visually by flashing lights or by signal mirrors. When used in this fashion, one sends messages by a combination of short and long flashes which represent the “dots” and “dashes” respectively. This method has been used in many situations from signaling others from mountain tops, to seeking rescue from wilderness areas, to signaling ships from bows and lighthouses.

Of course, Morse code can also be transmitted through sound. This is the form which most people think of when picturing Morse code in action. In this form, Morse code is represented by short “dits” of sounds to represent the dots and by longer “dahs” to stand in for the dashes. In amateur radio, Morse code is still widely used in a form known as CW (continuous wave.) It is also historically the way telegraphs were sent by wire. If you had any way to make noise in a consistent form of shorter and longer bursts, you could employ Morse code to communicate to anyone who could hear it.

Besides visual and audio methods, another lesser-known way of using Morse code is kinesthetically by using a series of short and long physical contacts. This form has been successfully used to communicate with certain disabled individuals who were unable to communicate by other means. Using Morse code by contact could also be employed to communicate to someone next to you silently in the dark. All in all, if one thinks about it, if you could imagine a scenario where one could produce two different kinds of sensations which others could use their senses to perceive, you could communicate using Morse code. I have even read of a case where a prisoner of war had used Morse code to communicate his treatment by his captors by blinking on camera.

It should be apparent by now that since Morse code is so versatile and simple, it could still prove to be very useful.

Do you wish to learn Morse code?

Here is the internationally accepted form of Morse code in a nutshell:

Morse Code Samples

In addition the forms in the graphic above, there are a few basic guidelines to help keep things clear. If a dot is equals one time unit, then a dash should be equal to about three time units in length. A space of one time unit should be between each dot or dash, and there should be three time units between each “letter” or “number.” About seven time units should be between each word.

Besides memorizing these forms and guidelines, there are also a good number of smartphone apps available out there that could help one become more proficient in Morse code, and many these are for free. There are several good websites as well. One such website is This website has visual representations as well as mp3 files for learning the sounds. The ARRL also has a website with several resources listed that could help one learn. Their site for this is In addition, another option is available for those who would like to learn on their PC. The website offers a free software download for this purpose.

Whether or not you choose to learn Morse code is up to you. After all, it is likely that you would survive just fine without it. However, the ability to have one more option of communication available to you may make it worth the effort. Whatever the case may be, even though Morse code is considered old-fashioned these days, it still has enough going for it that it will likely be around well into the future.


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