MORSE CODE TIDBITS

 

Mike KL7R in Juneau notes a Little Known Fact: 73 + 88 = FB (in hex)

 
CW Bandwidth = wpm X 4 (e.g., 40 WPM = 160 Hz)  

Telegraphy operators developed a shorthand for commonly used phrases and words which have since become part of our language. Newspaper reporters still mark the end of their copy with 30, the morse code for "I have no more to send."

 
Amateur Radio Operators send 73 -- the code for best wishes.

There is good reason to believe that O.K. was first used in telegraphy -- as early as the 1840s, it was listed in telegraphy manuals -- O.K. was "That is correct."

The first Morse machines scribed the dots and dashes on a moving strip of paper. Operators of the day found that they could decode the sound of the scriber by ear, so the scribing machines were scrapped. 

Several codes have been devised in the past, notably American or landline and International or Continental. American Morse was used by railroads, Western Union, and other utilities in North America. It was superceded by International Morse which was used in Europe for the trans-Atlantic cable. Because the British Marconi Company supplied most of the early shipboard operators, International Morse became the standard for radio telegraphy.


An early telegraphic scheme before morse used 26 wires -- one for each letter of the alphabet!!! Originally, two wires were used for telegraphs, later when they found one tied to ground worked just as well -- only one wire was strung.

 
SOS was originally proposed as SOE by the Germans. A committee decided otherwise -- due to the possible loss of a single dit (E) 

 
Early telegraphic CQ was a general call -- hey every one listen up type of thing.

MORE LATER 73 Rod Compiled from several sources including "Two Hundred Meters and Down" by Clinton B. Desoto --- great reading. 

Subject: CW Notes With Character

by George F. Franklin, W0AV Kansas City, Missouri
Part 1
Back in the thirties, when I got started in ham radio, every CW signal had at least two, sometimes three, characteristics, not all of which could be described by using the RST system. Incidentally, RST then maxed out at 559, not 599 as now; easier to manage in those days.

First of all, there was the "fist", ie. the operator's manner of sending. The old pump handle straight key was pretty much the standard, and predominated on the bands. Next in popularity was the Vibroplex, commonly known as the "bug", with manual dashes and "automatic" dots. Here was where the individual sending style really came into play. There was the sea-going sparks sporting his "banana boat roll", with the exaggerated dash length. you could easily visualize "sparks" holding on for deal life in his shipboard shack as the vessel slowly listed from ports on starboard. Once acquired, the BBR was usually retained even after sparks returned to dry land; it was a badge of distinction, so to speak. Of lesser popularity, but even more distinctive, was the style of an operator using a classic "side swiper" key. The dots and dashes were both made manually by horizontal movement of the blade to which the finger grips were attached. The resulting CW, though eminently copiable, has to be heard to be appreciated as it defies word description. Yes, there are still a very few OT's on the bands using sideswipers, but they are most certainly a vanishing breed.

Editor Note: See  THE ART OF SIDE-SWIPERY by Jerry L. Bartachek KDōCA


No discussion of fists would be complete without mention of the so called "Lake Erie Swing", which originated with bug-using marine ops on ships plying the Great lakes. The LES was characterized by the very generous use of dots, usually much faster (relatively) than the dashes. It made for a somewhat fluttery, whimsical style of sending, not unpleasant to copy once one got the hang of it. This style was later adopted by many airline and police CW operators, with equal success. Vying for importance with the operator's fist, there was the matter of his rigs CW "note", the T in the RST system. Here you encountered an endless variety of sounds, ranging from the raucous to the coveted PDC (pure DC) to somewhat rare T9X (PDC, crystal). 

There were many one-stage, "self-excited" rigs used on CW in those days, in spite of the dire FCC and Handbook warnings against coupling simple rigs of this type directly to the antenna. Many of us thought that as long as you used a "blocking capacitor" between the lead-in and the tap on the rigs output coil you were OK. After all, it wasn't direct coupling, was it? Simple keyed Hartley oscillators using the popular type 210 or 45 tubes were generally identifiable by their pronounced "chirp", usually caused by poor supply regulation. Someone has said that they sounded like a stepped-on frog; an apt description.

-end of file

Part 2
The TNT circuit (my favorite) was often a one-tube affair using a tuned plate tank circuit and an untuned grid coil, hense TNT (tuned, untuned). These rigs all to frequently emitted a rude sound which sounded like a nose being blown, or worse. A few made downright obscene sounds, probably because of inadequate power supply filtering. A TNT rig with poorly filtered, poorly regulated power supply was a frightful thing to hear on the bands. Strangely enough, the raunchier the note, the wider and more potent the offending signal seemed to become. One thing, though, it did attract attention from DX station. Unfortunately, it frequently annoyed the FCC monitors, who responded with the fearsome "Green Ticket". Of course, there were the purists who always managed to emit a T9X signal. 

They were sort of an elite bunch, however, who looked down upon the lowly users of Hartley and TNT rigs. They did stoop to respond to such offensive CW signals, but only if they originated off shore and could be classified as DX. And then there was the special breed of CW operator, usually a high- power fanatic in southern California who sported a crystal controlled KW+ rig the signal from which was modulated at 120 (or 100) cycles (there were very few Hertz around in those days). This resulted in a very distinctive note which seemed to cut through the pileups, assisted by the big jugs pumping out the KW's, of course. I was told that the modulation was the results of using "resonant filters" in
the power supply, in lieu of the typical brute-force filter capacitors, which cost big money at 5KV or so. These resonant filters did reduce the ripple significantly, usually just enough to meet the FCC criteria of the day. Sneaky but effective, wasn't it?


Oh, yes, there was the matter of S in RST, the signal strength factor. If you had sufficient power and a good antenna you could work the world on CW, even if the guy on the other end used a one-tube regenerative receiver and a pizmire transmitter. On the other hand, if your fist and/or your note were "distinctive" enough you could work plenty of stations, including DX, even if your signals weren't all that powerful. A good chirpy (birdlike or squishy) or buzz-saw signal could often cut right through a T9X pileup, especially if assisted by a good BBR or LES.


I suppose some mention should be made of the atrocious frequency drifting of those classic CW rigs. Well, look at it this way. There was a fifty-fifty chance that one would drift away from the QRM. On the negative side, it was not unknown for a drifter to slide right
out of the band and into outer darkness before the end of a long-winded transmission.
Ah, those were indeed the good old days of CW. Contrast those sounds with the sterile, electronically generated dots and dashes which dominate today's ham bands. No Character there!

-end of file

 

The Economist, Jan. 23, 1999 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ... --- ... .-. .. .--. (SOS, RIP) Morse code is being replaced by a new satellite-based system for sending distress calls at sea. Its dots and dashes have had a good run for their money "Calling all. This is our last cry before our eternal silence." Surprisingly this message, which flashed over the airwaves in the dots and dashes of Morse code on January 31st 1997, was not a desperate transmission by a radio operator on a sinking ship. Rather, it was a message signalling the end of the use of Morse code for distress calls in French waters. Since 1992 countries around the world have been decommissioning their Morse equipment with similar (if less poetic) sign-offs, as the world's shipping switches over to a new satellite- based arrangement, the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. The final deadline for the switch-over to GMDSS is February 1st, a date that is widely seen as the end of an era. For although dots and dashes will not die out altogether -- they will, for example, continue to be used by amateur radio operators, spies, and some members of the armed forces -- the switch to GMDSS marks the end of the last significant international use of Morse. 

The code has, however, had a good history. From its origins in 1832, when an American inventor called Samuel Morse first started scribbling in his notebook, it grew to become the global standard for sending messages along wires and, later, over the airwaves. Morse code was, in effect, the network protocol for the world's first Internet: the international telegraph network, whose cables trussed up the globe in the second half of the 19th century. The mother of all networks: Appropriately for a technology commonly associated with radio operators on sinking ships, the idea of Morse code is said to have occurred to Samuel Morse while he was on board a ship crossing the Atlantic. At the time Morse was a painter and occasional inventor, but when another of the ship's passengers informed him of recent advances in electrical theory, Morse was suddenly taken with the idea of building an electric telegraph. Other inventors had been trying to do just that for the best part of a century. Morse succeeded and is now remembered as "the father of the telegraph" partly thanks to his singlemindedness -- it was 12 years, for example, before he secured money from Congress to build his first telegraph line -- but also for technical reasons. 

Compared with rival electric telegraph designs, such as the needle telegraph developed by William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in Britain, Morse's design was very simple: it required little more than a "key" (essentially, a spring-loaded switch) to send messages, a clicking "sounder" to receive them, and a wire to link the two. But although Morse's hardware was simple, there was a catch: in order to use his equipment, operators had to learn the special code of dots and dashes that still bears his name. Originally, Morse had not intended to use combinations of dots and dashes to represent individual letters. His first code, sketched in his notebook during that transatlantic voyage, used dots and dashes to represent the digits 0 to 9. Morse's idea was that messages would consist of strings of numbers corresponding to words and phrases in a special numbered dictionary. But Morse later abandoned this scheme and, with the help of an associate, Alfred Vail, devised the Morse alphabet, which could be used to spell out messages a letter at a time in dots and dashes. At first, the need to learn this complicated-looking code made Morse's telegraph seem impossibly tricky compared with other, more user-friendly designs. 

Cooke's and Wheatstone's telegraph, for example, used five needles to pick out letters on a diamond-shaped grid. But although this meant that anyone could use it, it also required five wires between telegraph stations. Morse's telegraph needed only one. And some people, it soon transpired, had a natural facility for Morse code. As electric telegraphy took off in the early 1850s, the Morse telegraph quickly became dominant. It was adopted as the European standard in 1851, allowing direct connections between the telegraph networks of different countries. (Britain chose not to participate, sticking with needle telegraphs for a few more years.) By this time Morse code had been revised to allow for accents and other foreign characters, resulting in a split between American and International Morse that continues to this day. 

On international submarine cables, left and right swings of a light-beam reflected from a tiny rotating mirror were used to represent dots and dashes. Meanwhile a distinct telegraphic subculture was emerging, with its own customs and vocabulary, and a hierarchy based on the speed at which operators could send and receive Morse code. First-class operators, who could send and receive at speeds of up to 45 words a minute, handled press traffic, securing the best-paid jobs in big cities. At the bottom of the pile were slow, inexperienced rural operators, many of whom worked the wires as part-timers. As their Morse code improved, however, rural operators found that their new-found skill was a passport to better pay in a city job. Telegraphers soon swelled the ranks of the emerging middle classes. Telegraphy was also deemed suitable work for women. By 1870, a third of the operators in the Western Union office in New York, the largest telegraph office in America, were female. 

Just as skilled operators found that they could recognise each other over the wires from their style of Morse code, many operators claimed to be able to recognise women operators. Inevitably, romances were initiated over the wires -- just as they are today by e-mail. There were even a handful of weddings by telegraph. In a dramatic ceremony in 1871, Morse himself said goodbye to the global community of telegraphers he had brought into being. After a lavish banquet and many adulatory speeches, Morse sat down behind an operator's table and, placing his finger on a key connected to every telegraph wire in America, tapped out his final farewell to a standing ovation. 

By the time of his death in 1872, the world was well and truly wired: more than 650,000 miles of telegraph line and 30,000 miles of submarine cable were throbbing with Morse code; and 20,000 towns and villages were connected to the global network. Just as the Internet is today often called an "information superhighway", the telegraph was described in its day as an "instantaneous highway of thought". But by the 1890s the Morse telegraph's heyday as a cutting-edge technology was coming to an end, with the invention of the telephone and the rise of automatic telegraphs, precursors of the teleprinter, neither of which required specialist skills to operate. Morse code, however, was about to be given a new lease of life thanks to another new technology: wireless. 

Following the invention of radiotelegraphy by Guglielmo Marconi in 1896, its potential for use at sea quickly became apparent. For the first time, ships could communicate with each other, and with the shore, whatever the weather and even when out of visual range. In 1897 Marconi successfully sent Morse code messages between a shore station and an Italian warship 19km (12 miles) away. The first sea rescue after a distress call sent by radiotelegraph took place in 1899, when a lightship in the Dover Straits reported the grounding of Elbe, a steamship. 

Two years later, Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio signal: three dots, the letter "S" in Morse code. By 1910, Morse radio equipment was commonplace on ships. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912, however, highlighted the need for radio operators to listen at all times for distress signals. After the disaster it emerged that the liner Californian had been only a few miles away, and that hundreds of lives might have been saved had the Californian's radio operator been on duty and so able to receive the Titanic's "SOS" distress call. At the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), held in London in 1914, it was agreed that large vessels should maintain 24-hour radio watch. 

This rule has remained ever since, with subsequent SOLAS conventions gradually introducing new rules to keep pace with the development of technologies such as radiotelephony. The advent of satellite technology led the International Maritime Organisation to amend the SOLAS convention in 1988 to introduce GMDSS, an automated emergency communications system based on satellite and radio links. Optional since 1992, GMDSS equipment will be compulsory worldwide from February 1st on all ships that exceed 300 tonnes, carry 12 or more passengers, or travel in international waters. (Owners of smaller vessels can install the equipment if they wish.) 

Under GMDSS, anyone on board a ship in distress merely has to press a button to send a distress call containing the vessel's identification number and its precise location -- there is no need for a skilled Morse operator. And so, after nearly 170 years, Morse code will finally slip beneath the waves. Over and out: As communications protocols go, Morse has lasted a surprisingly long time - -- admittedly with a few tweaks here and there. So how might its modern descendant, the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), fare in comparison? TCP/IP was devised in 1973 by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf (a man with Morse-like stature in the Internet world who is often known as the "father of the Internet"). 

As with Morse code before it, TCP/IP is being improved to respond to new challenges and technologies. Its addressing system is now being overhauled to make room for billions of additional connections, to allow for the wireless devices expected to proliferate over coming years and to enable even household appliances to go online. Mr Cerf is also working on how to extend the Internet to such other places as the moon and Mars, since the time delays as radio signals travel through space make the current protocol unsuitable. Further improvements will follow: indeed, since it is spoken by computers, not humans, TCP/IP is easier to adapt than was Morse. Even so, in today's fast-changing computer world, it seems unlikely that TCP/IP will remain in continuous use for anything like as long as the century and a half managed by Morse code, its distant digital ancestor. 

 


Published on February 2, 1999 A FINAL CALL FOR THE MORSE CODE By Steve Wiegand SCRIPPS-MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE SACRAMENTO -- Sometime Monday, somewhere in the world, a sentinel on some far- flung coast will tap out a series of dots and dashes on a wireless telegraph key -- and an institution will "SOS." In this case, that stands for "Sink Out of Sight." After a century of serving as the communications lifeline for thousands of ships and millions of sailors and passengers, the use of Morse code as the standard means of sending a distress call will officially end. 

As of today, passenger and cargo ships around the world will rely on a high-tech, satellite-linked communications system called the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). "It's kind of sad," said Cliff Simonsen, a U.S. Coast Guard chief warrant officer at the Communications Area Master Station, Pacific (CAMSPAC) at Point Reyes. Simonsen still keeps a telegraph key, or "bug," on his desk and tapped out a few mournful words during a recent telephone conversation. "For those of us who have been at it a long time -- I've been doing it 30 years -- it's a little sad to see the end of it." More than the end of a seagoing safety system, it also marks the demise of the last significant use of the world's first information superhighway -- and serves as a sic transit gloria warning for apostles of the Internet. "It shows that everything gets out of date," Simonsen said. "The GMDSS is not only more effective, it takes fewer people, which means less money, which keeps Congress happy when they get the bills. So it's good for the taxpayer too." 

The GMDSS system was established in 1988 by the International Marine Organization, a United Nations agency that oversees international shipping safety, and it was required to be on all passenger ships and cargo ships over 300 tons and all commercial ships that travel in international waters by today. Under the new system, someone on a ship in distress can push a specific button for a specific problem -- sinking, capsizing, dead in the water. The continuous signal is automatically relayed and sets off alarms at listening posts and other ships in the region. The signal also gives the vessel's international identification number and the exact position of the ship. Unlike the Morse system, which required a trained telegrapher to send the SOS, anyone on the ship can activate the GMDSS distress call. The sender also need not stick around to keep operating the call, but can abandon ship or get to a safer area. 

According to an IMO document, "it will mean that a ship in distress anywhere in the world can be virtually guaranteed assistance, even if the crew does not have time to radio specific details." Most countries have already made the switch, perhaps none quite so poetically as the French. "Calling all," a French signal operator at Brittany tapped out two years ago, as he or she signed off. "This is our last cry before our eternal silence." The first time the code was heard in public was on May 24, 1844, when inventor Samuel F.B. Morse demonstrated his invention to members of Congress by tapping out "What hath God wrought?" on a line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. It was the beginning of a worldwide communications revolution. The telegraph radically changed national and international business, the ways wars were fought and the way news was gathered and disseminated. By 1872, the globe was wound by more than 650,000 miles of overland telegraph wire and 30,000 miles of submarine cable. Top telegraphers could send and receive messages at 45 words per minute, and an estimated 20,000 communities were "wired to the world." 

With the invention of the wireless radio telegraph in the 1890s, the reach extended to ships at sea. The first rescue at sea as a result of a wireless distress call came in 1899 off the coast of England, and the use of maritime wireless spread rapidly. But there was a flaw in the system, which was dramatically demonstrated on April 14, 1912. A huge English passenger liner, called the Titanic, hit an iceberg. The ship's telegrapher broadcast a cry for help. But on the Californian, a ship only a few miles away, the radio operator had gone off duty and never heard the Titanic's messages. 

More than 1,500 people died. Shaken by the disaster, an international conference decided three months later that at least some ships should be required to have 24-hour radio watches, and adopted "SOS" as the international distress call. (By the way, the International Maritime Organization says SOS never stood for "Save Our Ship" or "Save Our Souls" or anything else. It was just decided that "...---..." (you know, dit-dit-dit, dah-dah- dah, dit-dit-dit) was easy to remember. As time sailed on, the telegraph faded in importance. Western Union, for example, quit using Morse code in the 1960s. By 1981, radiotelephones were mandatory for commercial ships. 

And now, a network of four satellites will be used to bounce pinpoint signals between ships and land-based stations. Which is not to say Morse code will be forever silenced. U.S. Navy ships, for example, continue to use it for ship-to-ship signal light communications. And then there are the estimated 670,000 ham radio operators in the United States. Still, as a widespread and practical means of communication, it's all but over for Morse code.
(Steve Wiegand is a reporter for the Sacramento Bee in California.) 

 

Rescue at Sea (1 hour) Broadcast Date: Monday, February 15, 1999 Web Site Launch Date: Saturday, February 13, 1999 On January 23, 1909, two ships -- one carrying Italian immigrants to New York, the other, American tourists to Europe -- collided in a dense fog off Nantuckett Island. Suddenly, more than 1500 lives became dependent on a new technology, wireless telegraphy, and a 26-year-old wireless operator who sent a steady stream of distress signals for 36 hours. Courage and luck saved the day, and a week after the collision, a bill requiring wireless on every ship with than 50 passengers was introduced in Congress. This site will include: A "disasters at sea" timeline An interactive game that puts you in the postition of Jack Binns, the ship's radio operator Scott Anderson 

 

The Economist, Jan. 23, 1999 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ... --- ... .-. .. .--. (SOS, RIP) Morse code is being replaced by a new satellite-based system for sending distress calls at sea. Its dots and dashes have had a good run for the money "Calling all. This is our last cry before our eternal silence." Surprisingly this message, which flashed over the airwaves in the dots and dashes of Morse code on January 31st 1997, was not a desperate transmission by a radio operator on a sinking ship. Rather, it was a message signalling the end of the use of Morse code for distress calls in French waters. Since 1992 countries around the world have been decommissioning their Morse equipment with similar (if less poetic) sign-offs, as the world's shipping switches over to a new satellite-based arrangement, the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. 

The final deadline for the switch-over to GMDSS is February 1st, a date that is widely seen as the end of an era. For although dots and dashes will not die out altogether -- they will, for example, continue to be used by amateur radio operators, spies, and some members of the armed forces -- the switch to GMDSS marks the end of the last significant international use of Morse. The code has, however, had a good inning. From its origins in 1832, when an American inventor called Samuel Morse first started scribbling in his notebook, it grew to become the global standard for sending messages along wires and, later, over the airwaves. Morse code was, in effect, the network protocol for the world's first Internet: the international telegraph network, whose cables trussed up the globe in the second half of the 19th century. 

The mother of all networks Appropriately for a technology commonly associated with radio operators on sinking ships, the idea of Morse code is said to have occurred to Samuel Morse while he was on board a ship crossing the Atlantic. At the time Morse was a painter and occasional inventor, but when another of the ship's passengers informed him of recent advances in electrical theory, Morse was suddenly taken with the idea of building an electric telegraph. Other inventors had been trying to do just that for the best part of a century. Morse succeeded and is now remembered as "the father of the telegraph" partly thanks to his singlemindedness -- it was 12 years, for example, before he secured money from Congress to build his first telegraph line -- but also for technical reasons. 

Compared with rival electric telegraph designs, such as the needle telegraph developed by William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in Britain, Morse's design was very simple: it required little more than a "key" (essentially, a spring-loaded switch) to send messages, a clicking "sounder" to receive them, and a wire to link the two. But although Morse's hardware was simple, there was a catch: in order to use his equipment, operators had to learn the special code of dots and dashes that still bears his name. Originally, Morse had not intended to use combinations of dots anddashes to represent individual letters. His first code, sketched in his notebook during that transatlantic voyage, used dots and dashes to represent the digits 0 to 9. Morse's idea was that messages would consist of strings of numbers corresponding to words and phrases in a special numbered dictionary. But Morse later abandoned this scheme and, with the help of an associate, Alfred Vail, devised the Morse alphabet, which could be used to spell out messages a letter at a time in dots and dashes. At first, the need to learn this complicated-looking code made Morse's telegraph seem impossibly tricky compared with other, more user-friendly designs. 

Cooke's and Wheatstone's telegraph, for example, used five needles to pick out letters on a diamond-shaped grid. But although this meant that anyone could use it, it also required five wires between telegraph stations. Morse's telegraph needed only one. And some people, it soon transpired, had a natural facility for Morse code. As electric telegraphy took off in the early 1850s, the Morse telegraph quickly became dominant. It was adopted as the European standard in 1851, allowing direct connections between the telegraph networks of different countries. (Britain chose not to participate, sticking with needle telegraphs for a few more years.) By this time Morse code had been revised to allow for accents and other foreign characters, resulting in a split between American and International Morse that continues to this day. 

On international submarine cables, left and right swings of a light-beam reflected from a tiny rotating mirror were used to represent dots and dashes. Meanwhile a distinct telegraphic subculture was emerging, with its own customs and vocabulary, and a hierarchy based on the speed at which operators could send and receive Morse code. First-class operators, who could send and receive at speeds of up to 45 words a minute, handled press traffic, securing the best-paid jobs in big cities. At the bottom of the pile were slow, inexperienced rural operators, many of whom worked the wires as part-timers. As their Morse code improved, however, rural operators found that their new-found skill was a passport to better pay in a city job. Telegraphers soon swelled the ranks of the emerging middle classes. 

Telegraphy was also deemed suitable work for women. By 1870, a third of the operators in the Western Union office in New York, the largest telegraph office in America, were female. Just as skilled operators found that they could recognise each other over the wires from their style of Morse code, many operators claimed to be able to recognise women operators. Inevitably, romances were initiated over the wires -- just as they are today by e-mail. There were even a handful of weddings by telegraph. In a dramatic ceremony in 1871, Morse himself said goodbye to the global community of telegraphers he had brought into being. After a lavish banquet and many adulatory speeches, Morse sat down behind an operator's table and, placing his finger on a key connected to every telegraph wire in America, tapped out his final farewell to a standing ovation. 

By the time of his death in 1872, the world was well and truly wired: more than 650,000 miles of telegraph line and 30,000 miles of submarine cable were throbbing with Morse code; and 20,000 towns and villages were connected to the global network. Just as the Internet is today often called an "information superhighway", the telegraph was described in its day as an "instantaneous highway of thought". But by the 1890s the Morse telegraph's heyday as a cutting-edge technology was coming to an end, with the invention of the telephone and the rise of automatic telegraphs, precursors of the teleprinter, neither of which required specialist skills to operate. Morse code, however, was about to be given a new lease of life thanks to another new technology: wireless. Following the invention of radiotelegraphy by Guglielmo Marconi in 1896, its potential for use at sea quickly became apparent. For the first time, ships could communicate with each other, and with the shore, whatever the weather and even when out of visual range. 

In 1897 Marconi successfully sent Morse code messages between a shore station and an Italian warship 19km (12 miles) away. The first sea rescue after a distress call sent by radiotelegraph took place in 1899, when a lightship in the Dover Straits reported the grounding of Elbe, a steamship. Two years later, Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio signal: three dots, the letter "S" in Morse code. By 1910, Morse radio equipment was commonplace on ships. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912, however, highlighted the need for radio operators to listen at all times for distress signals. After the disaster it emerged that the liner Californian had been only a few miles away, and that hundreds of lives might have been saved had the Californian's radio operator been on duty and so able to receive the Titanic's "SOS" distress call. 

At the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), held in London in 1914, it was agreed that large vessels should maintain 24-hour radio watch. This rule has remained ever since, with subsequent SOLAS conventions gradually introducing new rules to keep pace with the development of technologies such as radiotelephony. The advent of satellite technology led the International Maritime Organisation to amend the SOLAS convention in 1988 to introduce GMDSS, an automated emergency communications system based on satellite and radio links. Optional since 1992, GMDSS equipment will be compulsory worldwide from February 1st on all ships that exceed 300 tonnes, carry 12 or more passengers, or travel in international waters. (Owners of smaller vessels can install the equipment if they wish.) Under GMDSS, anyone on board a ship in distress merely has to press a button to send a distress call containing the vessel's identification number and its precise location -- there is no need for a skilled Morse operator. 

And so, after nearly 170 years, Morse code will finally slip beneath the waves. Over and out As communications protocols go, Morse has lasted a surprisingly long time - -- admittedly with a few tweaks here and there. So how might its modern descendant, the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), fare in comparison? TCP/IP was devised in 1973 by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf (a man with Morse-like stature in the Internet world who is often known as the "father of the Internet"). As with Morse code before it, TCP/IP is being improved to respond to new challenges and technologies. Its addressing system is now being overhauled to make room for billions of additional connections, to allow for the wireless devices expected to proliferate over coming years and to enable even household appliances to go online. 

Mr Cerf is also working on how to extend the Internet to such other places as the moon and Mars, since the time delays as radio signals travel through space make the current protocol unsuitable. Further improvements will follow: indeed, since it is spoken by computers, not humans, TCP/IP is easier to adapt than was Morse. Even so, in today's fast-changing computer world, it seems unlikely that TCP/IP will remain in continuous use for anything like as long as the century and a half managed by Morse code, its distant digital ancestor.

Tadd Torborg - Editor for North East Digital Association 
 

If you were in the market for a watch in1880, would you know where to get one?   You would go to a store, right?  Well, of course you could do that; but if you wanted one that was cheaper and better than most of the store watches, you went to the train station!   Sound a bit funny?  Well, for about 500 towns across the northern United States, thatís where the best watches were found.  At the train station.  But not for the reason you might think.   The railroad company wasnít selling the watches, not at all.  The telegraph operator was.   And most of the time, the telegraph operator was located in the railroad station because the telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks from town to town.  It was usually the shortest distance and the right-of-ways had already been secured for the rail line.   Also, most of the station agents were skilled telegraph operators, and that was the primary way that they communicated with the railroad.   They would know when trains left the previous station and when they were due at their station.  And it was the telegraph operator who had the watches.  As a matter of fact, they sold more of them than almost all of the stores combined for a period of about 9 years.   And mostly, this was arranged by Richard, who was a telegraph operator himself.  He was on duty in the North Redwood, Minnesota, train station one day, when a load of watches arrived from the east.    A huge crate of pocket watches.  No one ever came to claim them.   So Richard sent a telegram to the manufacturer and asked them what they wanted to do with the watches.  The manufacturer didnít want to pay the freight back, so they wired Richard to see if he could sell them.  Richard did that.  He sent a wire to every agent in the system, asking them if they wanted a cheap, but good pocket watch.  He sold the entire case in less than two days and at a handsome profit.  That started it.   He ordered more watches from the watch company and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in the station and start offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all the travelers.  That worked!  It didnít take long for the word to spread to all kinds of people; and before long, people other than travelers came to the train station to buy watches.   Richard got so busy he had to hire a professional watchmaker to help him with the orders.  He did, and that person was Alvah.  And the rest is history, as they say.   The business took off and soon expanded to many other lines of dry goods.   Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to Chicago.  And itís still there.  ITíS A LITTLE KNOWN FACT that for a while in the1880's, the biggest watch retailer in the country was at the train station.  It all started with a telegraph operator, Richard Sears, and his partner: Alvah Robuck!
 

Hi, Rod.  I don't know where you might put this on your site, but Morse appears in the movie, "Alien v. Predator."  In an early scene of the movie, when the strange activity in Antarctica is first discovered, lab personnel are watching a monitor.  Two Morse streams can be heard.  One one is sending a stock Morse sound byte that I've heard in many movies.  The second one is sending an alliterated version of the movie's advertising tag line. 
 
The film was advertised with the phrase, "Whoever wins we lose."  The Morse in the movie sends, "Whoever wins we woose." 
 
I was pleasantly surprised to hear that in there, since I keep hearing that the code is dead.  I guess it just proves that the answer to Morse's famous question, "What hath God wrought?" is now known.  He hath wrought that, after 160 years, pounding brass still kicks .- ... ...   N8CPA
Mr. Marconi would not have used "IE" or any other of those "ditty"
American Morse characters.
 
Rather, he would have used the "Continental Code". It was developed over
"on the continent" (Europe) ca. 1844 by the Germans and Austrians who
thought Morse's code of dots, double dots, short and long dashes was
inefficient and disorganized. Germans can't stand that. This explains
why the letter C, less frequent in Deutsch, is longer than it would be
if developed by English-speakers. It is what we use today, now called
International Morse. American Morse was used by the railroads and
Western Union until 1866 when the new trans-Atlantic cable forced use of
the continental code for all international traffic. American Morse
survived on the US railroad's wire lines until the early 1950's.
 
Dick Frey, k4xu    ...amateur Morse historian.

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