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Morse Code

Written By: Youki on April 27, 2009 4 Comments

So I noticed today that Google had Morse Code on its front page.  “How interesting,” I thought to myself.  It’s Samuel Morse’s birthday — he was the inventor of Morse Code and one of the inventors/developers of the electric telegraph.

I actually learned Morse Code many years ago, when I was a Boy Scout.  That itself isn’t really that interesting.  What is interesting (to me!) is the system we used for learning Morse Code.  Every Morse Code character was transformed into an ideogram; that is, we used pictures to help us remember the Morse Code characters.  For example, the letter “A” which is represented in Morse Code as dot-dash, was an apple with a worm next to it.  “B” was a bee with three drops of honey.  Note that when “speaking” Morse Code, you don’t say “dot” and “dash,” you say “dit” and “dah.”  I’ll still use dash/dot to represent the characters, but dit/dah to represent the sound.

 An apple with a worm next to it.
 A bee with three drops of honey.
 A double-humped Camel.  neck (dash) – hump (dot) – body (dash) – hump (dot).
 A dog with 2 doggie “presents” next to it. 
 An egg
 Imagine a fish.  2 eyes ( .. ) a fin ( _ ) and a tail ( . )
 Two gold bars with a gold nugget next to it.
 The four dots mark the corners of a square, representing the square shape of the letter “H”
 Two eyes.
 The lowercase letter “j” — the dotted top and the stem (picture it sideways)
 Wright Brothers at “Kitty Hawk” — imagine an airplane from the front, the two dashes are the wings and the dot is the propellor.
 The ( ._ ) is a sideways lighthouse (the dot is the top where the light is, the dash is the building) and ( .. ) are two rocks at the base of the lighthouse.
 “Mickey Mouse” — somehow that was enough.
 A in reverse.
 This one is easy to remember, “SOS” is a distress signal (. . . _ _ _ . . .) with S being three dots and O being three dashes.  SOS is a backronym for “Save our Ship” (I’ve seen other variations but that’s the one I learned!).
 Two pea-shooters side-by-side.  Imagine the dot being a pea, and the dash being the pea-shooter handle.
 Similar to “H” and “J” – the dashes form an “O” and the dot is the Q’s squiggle.
 It’s a racecar – looking at it sideways, the dots are the wheels and the dash is the body of the car.
 You remember this from “SOS” (refer to “O”)
 This one was interesting.  “You want some tea?” “duh!”
 A unicorn!  Two eyes and the horn.
 From Veethoven’s (Beethoven’s) 5th symphony – dit dit dit dah! (watch the video and it’ll make perfect sense.  except the v/b part).
 Like the Warner symbol, but in reverse (wow this one is bad)
 Two xylophone sticks pointed at each other.
 Similar to “J” and “Q” – this was a representation of the letter “Y” – the three dashes represent the three “prongs” of the letter, and the dot is the center where they meet.
 Similar to fish and unicorn, this is a Zebra (looking to the right).  Two stripes and two eyes.


Such a method, of course, isn’t unique to learning Morse Code.  As Dave wrote in 漢字が怖いですか。On “The Horror of Ideograms” and jfboy.shieh wrote in Cultural heritage status for complex Chinese characters, we often associate images with characters.  It’s part of how we learn a new language — or how we learn anything, really.  We adapt new conceptual schema to old ones.  Whether it’s Piaget’s Constructivism, Selinker’s Interlanguage, or Lakoff’s theories on Conceptual Metaphors, the idea that learning occurs through the interactions between multiple knowledge systems is well-developed in many fields.

And that is Morse Code in a nutshell.

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4 Responses to “Morse Code”

  1. Usree Bhattacharya on: 28 April 2009 at 8:30 am

    .. / .-.. .. -.- . / – …. .. … / .–. — … – (i think)

  2. Youki on: 28 April 2009 at 1:05 pm

    thank you!
    yeah that was right, except consecutive dashes (dahs) need a space between them or else they join together, like in the “p” and “o”.

    _ . _ _ / _ _ _ / . . _ / _ . _ / . .

    on Facebook, Dave asked about the spacing convention, and I never really learned one because we didn’t write out Morse Code, we primarily spoke it (and once used a telegraph when we were tested). There were no pauses within a letter, a slight pause between letters, and a moderate pause between words. When writing it out, Wikipedia tells me that it’s one space within a letter, three between letters, and seven between words. However, I think with many sites auto-formatting text and removing extra spaces, multiple spaces doesn’t work very well in an online environment. So I’m going to say one space within letters, a slash (/) between letters, and a double-slash between words (//).

  3. Usree Bhattacharya on: 29 April 2009 at 4:13 am

    Thanks…good to know!

    I am rereading this now, and I have to now rephrase my earlier comment:

    ../.-.. — …- ./- …. .. …

  4. panku on: 28 May 2009 at 6:47 am

    I learnt it when I was studying Marine Radio 15 years ago. Your post reminded me of those days back 🙂

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