Ever wondered what it would feel like to be a spy? Well, I would definitely want to know. Today let’s explore one of the basic things every spy has knowledge of. The Morse Code. Although, having the word “code” in its name, it cannot be completely labeled as one, since in theory, it is closer to enciphering, which also makes it a cipher.
Morse Code is essentially a system of representing a letter of the alphabet, numerals and punctuation marks by a predefined arrangement of dots and dashes. Co-developed by Samuel F B Morse in 1837, this code was initially intended to be used only for numerals and to use a codebook to look up the words depending upon the numbers that were transmitted. Later in 1840, Alfred Vail expanded the code to add letters and special characters in an attempt to generalize the code. The letter with the most frequencies was assigned the shorter mix of dots and dashes.
The Original Morse Code was later found to be difficult to use for non-English text because it did not have any combination for diacritics. This led to the formation of the Conventional Morse Code, with contained arrangements for letters with diacritic marks. The Conventional Morse Code went on to be known as the International Morse Code as we know it today and the original code was known as the American Morse Code. The International Morse being more simple, precise and of fixed length became more efficient to use and therefore was accepted worldwide. Eventually, due to the high density of dots, the American Morse also became unsuitable to be used on the cable, which further led to its extinction.
The interesting part about Morse is that apart from being used by spies, it has made its importance evident throughout history since its development till today. It was initially developed to be used by the Electric Telegraph, invented by Samuel Morse. The Telegraph used electric pulses and the silences between them to convey dots and dashes. The short pulses were dots while the long ones were considered to be dashes. Later in the 1890s, it was extensively used in radio communications. The use of radio signals as a mode of transmission extended well till World War II when radiotelegraphy was a major mode of communication between the warships and the naval bases. Apart from military use, it was also used as a maritime distress signal until 1999, when it was replaced by the Global Maritime Distress Safety Signal.
These dots and dashes also are known as dits and dahs can not only be transmitted by electric pulses and radio signals but, also via audio tones and mechanical or visual signals. Looking into the more general applications of Morse code . . . _ _ _ . . . is the universal code for SOS to be known by civilians and military. Rescue workers communicate by Morse code as well. They use short tugs and long tugs on their ropes to convey dots and dashes.
Although the code is not as widespread today as it once was but is still of great interest among amateur radio enthusiasts. It is also majorly prevalent in the field of aviation and aeronautics as radio navigation aids are still identified in Morse. Learning Morse might not be in the know and how today but it did revolutionize the communication system around the globe.