Become a Morse Code Expert

by Brett on October 9, 2008 · 61 comments

in Just For Fun, Manly Skills

Before cell phones even before telephones, people communicated through Morse code. Despite being a technology that is over 160 years old, it’s still used today among amateur radio users and on some ships. If you were in Boy Scouts, you might have messed around with Morse code or maybe you had a grandpa who used it on his ham radio. While you might not find any particular use for Morse code in your daily life, learning Morse is a fun and engaging hobby you can share with gramps and an interesting man skill to possess.

The History of Morse code

Morse code was invented by Samuel F. B. Morse in the 1830s. He began work on the electric telegraph in 1832, developed a practical system in 1844, and patented his technology in 1849. The code that Morse developed for use with his system went through a few transformations before arriving at the code we’re familiar with today. Initially, Morse code only transmitted numbers. The transmission’s receiver would then have to use a dictionary to translate the numbers into words. But that proved to be tedious. Soon the code was expanded to include letters and even punctuation.

In 1844, Morse appeared before Congress to show off his little machine. The first public message was transmitted on May 24, 1844. It was “What God hath wrought.”

The original telegraph system had an apparatus on the receiving end that spat out a string of paper with indentations on it. Short indentations were called “dots” and the longer ones “dashes.” As telegraph users became more proficient with the code, they soon dispensed with the paper tape and deciphered code by year. Self made tycoon Andrew Carnegie worked as a telegraph operator as a boy. He set himself apart by learning to decipher Morse code by ear.

Ten years after the first telegraph line opened in 1844, over 23,000 miles of line crossed the country. The telegraph and Morse code had a profound effect on the development of the American West. Railroad companies used it to communicate between their stations and telegraph companies began to pop up everywhere, shortening the amount of time needed to communicate across the country.

During this period, European countries had developed their own system of Morse code. The code used in America was called American Morse code or often Railroad Morse code. The code used in Europe was called Continental Morse code.

In the 1890′s radio communication was invented and Morse code was used for transmitting messages at sea. As radio frequencies got longer and longer, international communication soon became possible and a need for an international standard code developed. In 1912, the International Morse code was adopted for all international communication. However, many railroads and telegraph companies continued using Railroad Morse code because it could be sent faster. Today, American Morse code is nearly extinct. A few amateur radio users and Civil War re-enactors still keep it alive.

Morse code became extremely important in maritime shipping and aviation. Pilots were required to know how to communicate using Morse code up until the 1990s.

Today Morse code is primarily used among amateur radio users. In fact, up until 2007, if you wanted to get your amateur radio license in America, you had to pass a Morse code proficiency test.

Learning Morse code

Learning Morse code is like learning any language. You have to practice, practice, practice. We’ve brought together some resources to help you get started on the path to becoming a master telegraph operator. Who knows? Maybe you can start your own telegraph shop.

Get familiar with the code. The first thing you’ll need to do is get familiar with what the alphabet looks like in Morse code. Below I’ve included the International Morse code alphabet. Print it off, carry it around with you, and study it during your free time. (In order to download the image, right click it and hit “save.”)

For our Steampunk and Civil War re-enactor friends, we’ve also included the American Rail Road Code.

Start listening to Morse code. You’re going to have to actually listen to Morse code if you ever want to learn it. Head over to learnmorsecode.com and download some MP3s of some code. Listen to it and see if you can decipher any letters.

Use this nifty chart. Print off this dichotomic search tree to help you decipher code. Start off where it says “start.” Every time you hear a dit (or short sound) you move down and to the left. Every time you hear a dah (or long sound) you move down and to the right. Learnmorsecode.com has a dichotomic chart as well, except it’s the reverse of this one. (You go left on dah, right on dit). Use whichever one is comfortable for you.

Practice with this app. This is keen-o-reeno online app that lets you input any text and it will play it back in Morse code. Practice with it for 10 minutes a day and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a Morse code wiz.

You can also try out “The Mill.” It’s a downlodable app that not only allows you to use International Morse code, but also American Morse code.

Tips to make Morse code memorization easier

Count the number characters. Knowing the number of characters in each letter can help you narrow down your possibilities when you receive a message.

T, E= 1 character each

A, I, M,N= 2 characters

D, G, K, O, R, S, U, W= 3 characters

B, C, F, H, J, L, P, Q, V, X, Y, Z= 4 characters each

Reverse letters. Some letters are the reverse of each other in Morse code. For example “a” is “._” while “n” is “_.”

Here are the rest of the letters that are the reverse of each other:

a & n d & u g & w b & v f & l q & y

Do you have any experience with Morse code? Drop a line in the comment box and share with us.

Hat tip to Karmazon for starting the discussion about Morse code in the forums.

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave October 9, 2008 at 7:59 pm

The BIGGEST reason to learn morse (or CW, as the hams call it) is because its an extremely useful survival skill. We’ve all gotten out of practice with voice communications – but what happens when the phones and power go out? Morse can be tapped out with darn near anything, from flashlights to mirrors to tapping on a wall.

Furthermore because you are only dealing with “on” and “off”, radios can broadcast morse at much lower power, on much lower frequencies. If a natural disaster hits an area, hams can have communications running with a small radio and a car battery in a matter of minutes.

Definitely a skill that should NOT be lost.

2 digital_dreamer October 9, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Great article! I’ve never learned this code, but, perhaps, this article will provide just the motivation to do so.

BTW, the subtitle should be, “LeaRning Morse code” with the “r” in learning. ;-)

regards,
MAJ

3 pre October 9, 2008 at 9:30 pm

I was a naval radio operator in the 70′s and I look back fondly on my days sending and receiving CW. You could punch through your message with code in the worst conditions when no other method would work. However it has been superseded by satellite and digital technology. The time and the discipline needed to acquire and maintain Morse Code as a usable skill is likely not worth the effort. It does require almost daily practice to maintain your proficiency. The only reason I would pick it up again is if I got a ham license, and that would be for no other reason than nostalgia.

4 Captain Will October 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Aye, speaking as a General Class ham myself, KG4UZJ, I gotta say that while CW is really cool, it isn’t really needed. In fact, a lot of hams that still use it today actually use programs on their computers that key the code in for them as they type, as well as translate it upon recieving. That’s one of the big reasons the FCC dropped the Morse requirement to upgrade from a Technician to General license.

However, if anyone is interested, the ARRL (found at arrl.org) still sells cds that help you learn the code (if they don’t drive you insane like they did me) and you can pick them up pretty easily. You don’t even have to be a ham to buy them.

5 Captain Will October 9, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Oh, and Dave, if communications go down, that’s what we hams are for. Organizations like ARES (Amatuer Radio Emergency Service) and RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) are funded by the government and supported by volunteer ham radios working through your local community and are designed to keep lines of communication open. Heck, we even work with the National Weather Service through a program called SKYWARN to help spot and report severe weather activity while it happens.

It’s not just a hobby, it’s a service.

6 Alan October 9, 2008 at 11:14 pm

To learn morse you really have to hear it. You have to listen to it until you instinctively recognise the rhythm and pattern of each letter without having to consciously decode. I was taught through a series of slides which had the letter/number and the dots-and-dashes representation and as each slide was displayed the morse would sound. You could do something similar nowadays with a computer. It started with just say five letters, then added another five until we could recognise the whole alphabet. Then they started testing us with random character groups and phrases until we were decoding prose at 15 words per minute straight onto a notepad. Once you get into it you begin to recognise common words such as ‘and’ and ‘the’ in one, rather than via their component letters. And don’t bother trying to learn to send until you can receive well. Sending will be a piece of cake once morse is a part of you

7 Laurent October 10, 2008 at 12:48 am

In France, scouts learn morse code through practical exercises but get a little help with this memory tip :

http://img521.imageshack.us/my.php?image=morsewy9.jpg

It’s kind of rythmic gibberish associated to each letter, each syllable with “o” inside being dash, all the others (a, i, e, u) being dot. It works fairly well.

By the way, I just uploaded the whole excellent book from which this page was extracted, Manuel des éclaireurs unionistes, a dissent french scouting manual edited in 1941. https://www.yousendit.com/download/bVlBZUNwMHdiV3hFQlE9PQ (20 Mo, for 7 days).

8 F1JKJ October 10, 2008 at 5:07 am

If you REALLY want to learn it:
- FORGET the dots & dash thing
- FORGET the “E,I,S,H,5 / T,M,O,ch,0″… thing

The morse code is a matter of RYTHM, it must enter in your brain by your EARS, not your EYES.

–> Use http://lcwo.net/

73′s

Laurent, F1JKJ

9 Jeff Craig October 10, 2008 at 7:24 am

This “Today Morse code is primarily used among amateur radio users. In fact, up until 2007, if you wanted to get your amateur radio license in America, you had to pass a Morse code proficiency test.” isn’t quite true. You’ve long been able to get a “Technician” License without knowing code, but that license has a few restrictions not on the higher level licenses.

Though I’m only a Technician, and I’ve not learned code yet, I completely disagree with the decision to remove the code requirement from the General and Extra licenses. CW still has a place, and it’s still useful, and I think it was irresponsible of the FCC and ARRL to drop the requirement.

Jeff, KE7FEK

10 Barry October 10, 2008 at 7:37 am

I can’t say I’ll be spending my time acquiring this skill, but I do remember the code for SOS from my Boy Scout days.

11 John of Indiana October 10, 2008 at 9:46 am

I chuckled out loud when today’s entry loaded onto my screen.
I’ve been a Radiotelegrapher for almost 40 years now, and while I haven’t been active on the ham bands (I hold a pre-No-Code Extra-Class license) for several years I still “keep my ear in”, so to speak.

I miss the days when I could tune in the high seas stations sending weather forecasts and traffic lists at amazingly high speeds.

This website below came across one of my listserves a few weeks ago. I’ve been playing with it and am pleased that I can still handle 30 words per minute

http://lcwo.net/

Give it a try.

ZUT,
WB9OFG

12 Neil October 10, 2008 at 10:31 am

While I applaud your article on morse code, I have to reiterate what has already been said. The absolute worst advice you can give someone about learning morse code it to learn by sight. You hear the code just as you hear words. Nobody learned to talk by reading a book. You learn by listening and recreating the sounds.

That being said, I assume most of the readers are not amateur radio operators and will have no regular use of the code. In that case, carrying around a cheat sheet will be the only way to remember.

Thanks,

Neil – N4NI

13 Mike October 10, 2008 at 11:22 am

Back in the late 60′s, early 70′s I worked for the Army Security Agency as a “Morse Intercept Operator” (a.k.a. Ditty Bop) copying code from around the world and several “target” countries. The work was interesting and I got to listen in on some of the most proficient “brass pounders” of the day. This MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) no longer, to my knowledge, exists but it was great while it lasted.
To step it back a couple of generations, I had a Great Uncle who worked as a telegrapher for the railroad (his first “real” job after he came home from WWI)
I am sure many of us have these kind of ties to Mr. Morse’s dit’s and dah’s.

14 Mike October 10, 2008 at 11:36 am

Originally Posted By F1JKJIf you REALLY want to learn it:
- FORGET the dots & dash thing
- FORGET the “E,I,S,H,5 / T,M,O,ch,0″… thing

The morse code is a matter of RYTHM, it must enter in your brain by your EARS, not your EYES.

–> Use http://lcwo.net/

73′s

Laurent, F1JKJ

There is a lot of truth to this – I was taught to copy code by the Army at Ft. Devens, Mass where we spent weeks and weeks of shouting things like ” di-dah!” – “what is it?” – “Alpha!” — “Alpha!”-”what is it?”-”di-dah!” at the top of our lungs tell we got to the point it wasn’t so much that we knew it as it became a non-forgettable part of our brains! NOTE: The Army kept the “campus” of wooden buildings where the code was taught away from the rest of the Post as the sound of squads of G.I.’s screaming at the top of their lungs for hours on end can be very distracting. We finished up not only being horse for an extended periods of time but being able to touch-type Morse at some fairly impressive speeds.

15 jbay October 10, 2008 at 12:47 pm

I used to run CW traffic nets on 80 and 40 meters. Learning the basics of the code at the letter-level is useful to a point (and was certainly necessary when the speed testing exams consisted of random groups of letters and numbers) but for real-world proficiency and speed it’s best to try to quickly progress from the letter-at-a-time level to recognizing words. dah di di di dit dit — “the”…eventually, it becomes like working with a foreign language. You don’t “translate” what you’re hearing on the fly, you hear it just like somebody speaking to you in your first language.

alas, this is all only of nostalgic value now….

16 karmazon October 10, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Thanks for the hat tip. You should’ve mentioned the Koch method http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_method which makes you learn morse code by sound and to know it by reflex.

17 karmazon October 10, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Oh and I think Morse code has a great value even today. I, for example, go hiking alone in the woods a lot, where there’s no cell phone signal.

18 Mike October 11, 2008 at 3:39 am

Originally Posted By jbayI used to run CW traffic nets on 80 and 40 meters. Learning the basics of the code at the letter-level is useful to a point (and was certainly necessary when the speed testing exams consisted of random groups of letters and numbers) but for real-world proficiency and speed it’s best to try to quickly progress from the letter-at-a-time level to recognizing words. dah di di di dit dit — “the”…eventually, it becomes like working with a foreign language. You don’t “translate” what you’re hearing on the fly, you hear it just like somebody speaking to you in your first language.

alas, this is all only of nostalgic value now….

Pattern recognition definitely has (had?) it’s place and came naturally once you had mastered the code – especially with such things as routine skeds using Q & Zs, etc. However you have to be able to turn it off and revert to strictly letter-at-a-time, very accurate reflex response (when banging on a mill or taking down messages by hand) when doing high-speed commercial type work like copying long lists of characters (weather grids, shipping lists, etc.) , typing long messages in a foreign language you may not know (like with message code using cyrillic characters, etc.).
However you are correct in that proficiency with Morse remains little more than a skill of nostalgic value – sort of like being able to chip a beautiful arrowhead out of flint with on another piece of bone or stone – something to wonder at but of little practical use in the modern day (sigh).

19 Matt October 14, 2008 at 8:50 am

Remember: Morse code is MUCH faster than texting! You can usually get a Morse input app for your phone. I don’t know Morse, but it’s on the list. In fact, when I bought my Arduino (incidentally at the same convention where I took my ham test), my first real app was a text->morse program! Wasn’t that big a deal: morse decoder is going to be a bit more involved. Figured it would help me practice!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhsSgcsTMd4 (Jay Leno world-record texter vs. Morse operator)

–Matt
KB1QZK

20 Robert Bertolet October 15, 2008 at 6:48 am

I’m facinated by Mores code and learning it. The founders of our organization were telegraphers in 1901. I’m curious how Mores code is tapped out (from say a sunken ship or mine shaft) without the ability to tap a dash?

21 Mike October 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

@Robert Bertolet – When you can’t define your “dit’s” and “dahs” by their length you can define them by the spaces between them.
The longest spaces break up words, long “spaces” break up characters, medium spaces between one click/tap and the next define a dash, shortest space between one click/tap and the next define a dot.
Example:
tap.tap.tap…..tap…tap…tap……..tap.tap.tap

This is an “SOS” — note the shorter character spacing after the last tap in the first “S” and the last tap in the “O” – this lets you know whether or not the character ended with a “dit” or a “dah”. A similar relationship exists for the last click/tap in a word.

Mike

22 Mike Sullivan October 24, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Like a lot of us I learned cw in the service. I was a Radioman in the Navy. After Radioman School I went to 2304 School which gave me the title of intermediate speed code operator. To pass the class we had to receive around 25 wpm. It was mind numbing. Listening and typing out cw all day long. After a few weeks I was thinking in Morse Code. When I would drive home on weekends I would be spelling out road signs on my car horn. It was fun, late at night on the mid watch
talking to guys hundreds or even thousands of miles away. CW has a long range. I still play with it once in a while but I’m no where near the speed I used to be.
Regards, Mike Sullivan RM3 USN.

23 Gary Hammack November 10, 2008 at 1:47 pm

I to went to morse code training at Ft. Devens. Of course Devens has longed closed and the MOS of 05x has changed to 98x (05H is now 98H; 05K is now 98K). Not sure where they do morse code training anymore (I heard at one time and don’t remember). Morse code training is still very important for the military. Many countries in the world still use morse code! Even if you are sending data and wish to change frequencies, you may do so using morse code.

I did morse for many years and could 25 WPM in my sleep while having two conversations. It’s a mental thing……….you can’t think about it, you must hear and react instantaneously……. If you think about what you heard, your already behind.

I haven’t done morse code for 25 year now and found a program the other day. I was scared to see how much I had forgotten, but when I did the 25 WPM test, it was like riding a bike. No problem……

I rather miss it.

24 David G. January 26, 2009 at 12:03 pm

We still teach Morse in the military, though not to the degree we used to. The school is currently at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, for the Army and Air Force, while the Navy teaches it at Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida. The Marines have just recently curtailed regular Morse training. Morse intercept is an additional skill for a portion of our advanced signals analysts.

From the approximatley 1600 students a year we put through the school in the early ’90s, we train less than 100 per year now. A slowly diminishing skill, it still has importance and relevance in today’s high tech world.

25 CPT Jas March 3, 2009 at 9:38 pm

- …. .. … / .. … / .- / .–. .-. . – - -.– / –. — — -.. / .- .-. – .. -.-. .-.. . .-.-.- / .— .- … — -. / .— — .-. -.. .. – …. / .- – / -.– .- …. — — / -.. — – / -.-. — –

26 Looseleaf March 23, 2009 at 9:57 am

So, you’re out in the wilds… no cell phone coverage… you need to get a message to someone… Wait! you think to yourself, I know CW! So? How do you send such a message, bang on a hollow log? And if you figure that part out, what are the chances that the person who hears it also knows CW and can understand you?

No, I’m afraid that my old CW skills are very nearly useless, like speaking Middle English — fun, maybe, but few if any people to communicate with.

27 JACKY July 17, 2009 at 2:39 am

im only 14 years old. i want to grow up and save lives. And i think the morse code is a great to do so. i want to be an expert so when im a detective i’ll be able to know it and it will work in my advantage.

28 Jim Pierce December 5, 2009 at 9:16 am

When I completed my COC as Watch Keeping Mate Unrestricted, one had to be able to send and receive at 5 words per minute by sight. As of this past January Morse code is no longer part of the communications exam (in Canada).
It is easier to learn by hearing than by sight. While preparing for my test my father always made sure that I couldn’t hear his flashlight. Only see the flashes. He hadn’t used Morse code since he was tested on it back in ’70. He found that it came back very quickly despite the 30 year span since he last used it.
The international code of signals allows you to quickly send a great deal of information and is worth familiarizing yourself with. Generally it’s considered good to memorize the singe letter codes and know which parts of the code to go to to look up multiple letter codes.

Have fun.

Jim

29 Gina January 24, 2010 at 1:01 am

Thanks for the great post – sorry it took me so long to find it. I am seriously thinking of trying to teach morse to my six year old son who has little to no vision and is very severely physically disabled. He can currently use foot switches for yes/no answers so am thinking if I teach him left foot is dit (& NO) and right foot is dah (& YES) and then if timing is a problem he could have a third switch possibly behind his head as an ‘enter’. To me it seems like it would be much quicker than many auditory scanning methods he could use. He won’t need to interpret morse, just use it as a sending method. Then he could have a morse to text to speech translator…

Mac’s level of cognition seems to be age appropriate so I think he is capable of learning – now just to work out how to teach and in what order…
Would love to hear what people think.
If you are interested in Mac’s story it is here at http://inkyed.wordpress.com
Gina

30 Ben Maddox March 5, 2010 at 7:19 am

In 1966 I went through the morse code training at Ft Bragg. I was in Special Forces, and we had to receive at 22 wpm, and send about 20. 104 students started the class and 7 of us went straight through. We had students “rotate” back to our class from those before us, and we had guys fail a test or drop behind the pace they set for us who were rotated back. Great school–included several types of radios, including one called the “black boxes” used by the OSS in WWII; learned some crypt and changed MOS from 11B to 05B. I sold my last radio about 20 years ago. I used to enjoy talking and listening to the South Pole.

31 Andy "Chieftain" Cawston March 5, 2010 at 9:13 am

Excellent article. I have always wanted to become proficient at Morse Code, and now this article (and its comment section) has given me several different useful ways to learn. Thankyou!

32 NotoriousRoscoe March 7, 2010 at 6:46 am

My dad was a whiz at Morse Code. He’d been the radio man on a Navy PBY just after WW II, and he could zap messages out in his sleep — literally. Sometimes he’d nap on the couch where his right hand would curl into the shape for his key, and he’d start tapping out code on his belt buckle. He was always frustrated with my lack of interest in it, and I believe I really disappointed him by failing a test in it at the Boy Scout Jamboree back when I was 11. I misread the code for the comma, and that killed my grade. Truly, the code is a mystical skill for the initiated.

33 Scott Wolfertz March 7, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Learn the vowels first.
The letters that are either all dit or all dah e.g. e/i/s/h/t/m/o, 3 which are vowels
Then learn opposites a/n b/v d/u e/t (which by now you already know) g/w i/m k/r l/y and p/x
Now there’s only 6 letters left
HOW HARD IS THAT?

34 Benjamin Arie March 29, 2010 at 7:20 am

On a whim a few weeks ago I decided to start learning Morse code. Now, I’m addicted! Using Morse for communication is truly fascinating — if you look into early telegraph keys, the signal lamps used on Navy ships in all those WWII movies, etc etc — the history behind it is just so interesting.

I don’t think it’s a useless skill. At the very least, it’s a good hobby to keep your mind sharp. And I think every man should have a few crazy skills that he can pull out of nowhere when needed. There’s something very “MacGyver” about knowing Morse.

Side note — Any here a fan of “J.A.G.?” Remember that old episode where Harm was being held hostage, pretended to be lighting a cigar, and sent a Morse signal with his lighter? Kickass.

35 Gina April 19, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Ok, so we are well on the way to teaching our son Morse Code. I only ever considered it as in input method (if you look on our blog at Morse the Movie you can see how I started teaching him (this was for him to take to school with him and more for the benefit of the teachers).

But now I wonder, if he learned to translate it, could he listen to texts, books etc quicker than having to listen to an audio book in normal spoken language speed. Mac is vision impaired so reading is out of the question, but I wonder how you actually translate, is it similar to reading where you hear it in your head, but don’t have to say it out loud? We read silently much quicker than we read out loud – I wonder if it is worth pursuing?

36 Ed Kiser May 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Banging a wrench on a bulkhead is TAPPING. Pressing a telegraph key is KEYING. Not the same thing. To distinguish that wrench bang dash from the dot, the dash is made by a double bang, quickly, similar to “double click” on a computer mouse. To use “pause” after a bang to identify that last bang as being a dash leads to ambiguity. How can one tell if that pause meant that is the end of the character, or that last bang was a dash AND was at the end of a word. Too easily confused. The BANGBANG of dash takes just as much time as BANG of dot. Let PAUSE separate characters and words. The signal become much more easily undestood this way.

37 old crusty ham August 1, 2010 at 4:45 am

If you’re interested in code, just study for your amateur radio license. Most countries don’t have a code requirement anymore. If you get your license you can practice to your heart’s content on the air. Don’t be shy. Everyone had to start somewhere. Go 1 or 2 WPM if that’s as fast as you want to go. Some hams only operate CW and enjoy helping newbies out. Ham radio is a disproportionately made hobby, so maybe CW shouldn’t be a manly skill. Women should get involved as well.

In the US, the beginner’s license (Technician) usually takes a week or two of study. The other two license classes might take a month each, less if you already know basic electronic theory and can manipulate simple algebraic equations. This description also applies to Canada (two license classes) and the British exams.

Brett — I think your article rocks, but just one point. The “dot-dash” system is useless. It’s better to show a chart using the “dit-dah” system. A number of posters have pointed out that the “sound it out” method is the best way. I agree — I never learned my code looking at a chart. Better yet, just put up an mp3 file of the letter and number sounds. Sight charts are nigh useless in learning the code.

dadadididit didididadah dadidadit didadidit didididadidah!

38 richard1941 November 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm

As has been said, morse is a great survival skill. With it you can always get a text message out, as that Vietnam POW who did it with blinking eyes. If tapping is used, just add a final “dit” at the end of each letter. That is how you would do it banging an a log. Two people holding hands could be having a very private conversation immune to all forms of electronic or acoustic bugging by using a finger as a morse key on the partner’s hand. Works best with a partner of the opposite gender, of course.

I think morse and the rudiments of cryptography should be high school graduation requirements.

Custer’s last stand happened because he did not post officers on hilltops to communicate by code (semaphore flags can do morse). Well, the Injuns are greatful for Custer’s incompetence.

Been a ham a long time, but just recently got extra class… cuz I could never get to 20 WPM.

Finally, I am looking for the extended code that has the accented letters used in european languages… particularly the ñ and the accented vowels used in french, spanish, and the umlauted letters used in german.

Is there a morse code for Arabic, Persian, and Urdu?

39 Maroun Khoury November 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm

@richard1941
There is a morse code for Arabic, I once got a “cheat sheet” from my uncle, it contained morse code in english and arabic. Though it seems that i misplaced it.

40 Zak Keczkemethy November 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm

My Poppop, a Navy Chief and radio technician on a blimp, is a fan of hitting his ear, which makes his hearing aide beep, and speaking in code.

41 Wolf November 23, 2012 at 10:15 am

In a situation where no power existed , maybe due to an EMP, Morse Code may be one way to communicate, if you had protected some equipment with batteries. Thanks for the reminder and primer. Preppers and survivalists will add (If we haven’t already) the morse code info to our libraries.

42 Dave A. December 23, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Interesting article, but the first public message is quoted with two words transposed. It was really “What hath God wrought,” from Numbers 23:23.

43 Easy Ed January 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm

How, in WWii did the Japanese use code to transmit a message with a languag that used diagrams to represent words?

44 Mark January 16, 2013 at 3:49 am

–. ..-. .-.-.

45 Mr. Mac February 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm

1952-53 – Korea: 15th RSM
Monitored enemy radio frequentcies tracking,
direction finding
triianglulation Vectoring signal to aircraft for elimination.

46 Craig S March 17, 2013 at 2:26 am

I am a yeoman with the RNZN and morse iss still alive and well for tactcal communications between ships.
lamps are faster than flags and far harder to intercept than radio.

learning morse depends on wether you are a visual or aural learner.
I found it much easier by sight.

47 David May 3, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Learned CW at Imperial Beach, Cal and was subsequently assigned to Adak, Alaska. After that went to Bremerhaven, Ga. What an experience!!!!
Wouldnt trade it for anything

48 Denny May 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I also went to Ft. Devens Mass. However I was burnt out after 4 yrs. don’t care if I never here it again.

49 Gil June 20, 2013 at 11:35 am

Morse Code can be used in many different ways, using radio, flashlights, touch, banging on something, eye blinking, etc. I use it every day with a radio the size of a pack of cigarettes that reaches as far as Eastern Europe.. A great site to learn it is lcwo.net. Then get your Ham radio license, it’s easy!

50 Aviatrix July 4, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Darn, I did it the wrong way. I got my ham license THEN signed up for lcwo.net. :)

Regardless of how antiquated Morse code is, everyone should know the sequence of three short bursts (dits, light flashes, taps), three long bursts, three short bursts. This is SOS. In fact, three of anything is considered a distress signal – piles of branches on a beach, flashes off a signal mirror, horn honks from the bottom of a ravine, what have you.

The hiker could have a radio weighing less than 2 lbs (1 kg) running on batteries and transmitting with 5 W power using a wire antenna – no need to bang on logs. Why would a hiker make room for such a rig? Because someone who knows code can have a blast with it in the middle of nowhere.

51 Bill G August 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Few people communicate with it anymore? I disagree. I and thousands of other amateur radio operators around the world communicate with it every day. Get on a shart wave receiver and listen between 14.00 to 14.07 Mhz or 7.0 to 7.07 Mhz (and on many other amateur radio bands) and you will hear at lot of Morse code at varying speed levels. It is still absolutely the most reliable mode of radio transmission in adverse radio propagation conditions! Doesn’t sound obsolete to me!

52 Bill G August 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm

By the way, the U.S. Navy still uses Morse code for tactical communications between ships, primarily because it is still the most reliable and effective mode of radio transmission for adverse radio propagation conditions ever developed!

53 Mike VE1ASE September 14, 2013 at 9:36 pm

The original “digital” system (using fingers!); generating dots and dashes (ones and zeros). It is actually a more efficient code that present digital code because in addition to off-on we have length of characters (dots dashes). Morse was a very wise man; unsurpassed for code elegance. Originally; I learned some introduction at grade 5 from my dad; an RCAF combat veteran air-crewed in B24 bombers as a WAG (Wireless Air Gunner) in WWII. Increased my speed to 6 then 12 wpm (words per minute) through cash incentives for young army cadets when in mid sixties high school. Then got ham licence and worked speeds up to about 35 to 40 wpm now. I have always said you could drop me anywhere in the world with cw and I would get the message out with very minimum equipment. I lived by a lakeside in the wilderness for 8 weeks in a tent during a cabin construction project; me and the coyotees. I couldn’t chat on a cell phone (no service) but routinely chatted on cw all over the world just for the entertainment and company while the coyotees howled on the nearby beach each night. CW (morse) just gets in your blood; it can’t be beat for simplicity, elegance and effectiveness in the worst conditions. It is like a musician who misses a session and feels with-drawel from music; CW is music to the ears; each letter is really a different tune not just dashes and dots; that is the way to learn it.

54 Mike VE1ASE September 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Folks; I thought I should return with this link put up by the good people at the Salvation Army who tirelessly work through so many disasters. Please see their input on the very effective use of CW (Morse Code). I have heard their radio nets in action; they are superb at it; everything they say about cw is so true in this great article:

http://www.emergency-communications.org/the_case_for_cw/the_case-for_cw.htm

55 Dave H November 18, 2013 at 10:13 am

There was an incident of a small plane that crash landed in Northern Canada. The pilot tried to communicate with airliners going over but realized that the mic would key but his voice couldn’t be heard. He sent a distress message via Morse code. At that time all pilots had to know how to send and received. He was rescued shortly thereafter.

56 Joe February 17, 2014 at 10:29 am

So cool. I was interested in this subject and did some research. One of the better morse code / radio guides I found was actually this link:

http://www.techwholesale.com/morse-code-radios-kids.html

It says it’s for kids, but really had the basics as far as teaching.

57 Gary Johanson February 20, 2014 at 7:09 am

Just to touch base with the subject, cw, bugs, mills, &c. are still very much alive and still very active. I would recommend considering an Amateur Radio License for practical code-use reasons, and, of course, for the fellowship in a fraternity that is over a century old, loaded with skill based legacy and tradition, and which, frankly, requires logic, brains, and for us guys, a good dose of Manliness! (awesome YL es XYL ops, too!) 73, de wd4nka k

58 Charles March 17, 2014 at 11:41 am

CW can be very useful.
Dad was a retired navy CT. Worked with the Windtalkers at Iwo Jima. He had macular degeneration and was legally blind. His hearing was all but gone, especially in noisy rooms. But those pure CW tones could still get through. When he asked who walked into the room and could not understand the spoken answers, I whistled morse code and got through to him just fine. I could talk to him when no one else could.

59 Craig April 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Well, in case anyone is still reading this page…I am actively using Morse Code on a daily basis. I’ve been a ham radio operator for many years, and prefer using Morse over voice at any time. I’m not sure why, but my guess is that it challenges by brain and keeps me young. I work at receiving and sending for about a hour per day as part of my routine. My goal is to be able to just listen and “head copy” at higher-than-normal speeds. I’m getting there. It takes time. But it is fun. I also have a portable radio, 5-watts, that I bring up to hilltops, mountaintops, or to the beach to see who will be able to hear me, and from where. Morse Code sending and receiving is just one aspect of Amateur Radio, a great worthwhile hobby! Now get out there and learn the code and start talking! It’s great fun!

60 Cameron April 14, 2014 at 9:42 pm

The way I learned it in 3 days or so:
a = aGAIN .-
b = B-123 (or BOOT to the head) -…
c = COcaCOla -.-.
d = DOG did it -..
e = .
f = did she LIKE it (f***)
g = GOD DAMNit (or gosh darnit) –.
h = holiday inn ….
i = in it ..
j = .—
k = KANgaROO -.-
l = linOLeum .-..
m = MAMA –
n = NAvy -.
o = OH MY GOSH —
p = paRADE PAnel (weird, but just remember it) .–.
q = GOD SAVE the QUEEN –.-
r = roTAtion .-.
s = suck it up …
t = (if you like, “TEA”) -
u = underSTAND ..-
v = …-
w = a WET ONE (or a WORD BANK for imgur folks) .–
x = X on the SPOT -..-
y = YIP-ee-DOO-DAH (or YANKee DOO-DLE) -.–
z = WHO USes IT (rarely used :P) –..

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