What Is Morse Code?

Morse is a way of transmitting a message over the airwaves using a series of short and long tones. The shorter tones are known as dots and the longer ones are known as dashes. The entire English alphabet and numbers are represented by a different series of dots and dashes. The simple table below shows which series of dots and dashes represent which letter or number.



What Is Morse Code(79783)Credit: James Kanjo

The sound difference between a dot and a dash is obvious even to the untrained ear. The tone for a dash is three times longer than a dot. When morse code is sent there is a slight pause between the words, the pause left is equal in time to seven dots.

The speed in which morse code is transmitted is measured in words per minute or WPM. The code is designed in such a way that the most common letters are represented by the shortest of codes. Take for instance the most popular letter in the English alphabet which is E, the morse code for the letter E is just a single dot. This makes sending and receiving morse code much easier.

Morse code was initially invented as a way to allow communication over radio airwaves even when signals are relatively weak. When receiving a weak radio signal the morse code tones can be heard much clearer than a humans voice. This means that conversations that would be impossible by way of voice transmissions can still be held.

Morse can also be transmitted via a flash light, using longer periods of light for the dashes and shorter ones for the dots. Anything that can represent the dots and dashes of morse code can be used.

What Is Morse Code Used For Today?

By Hobbyists

Today morse code is still used all over the world. It is very popular with hobbyists in the  communication hobby called amateur radio. In fact it used to be the case that to become an amateur radio operator you would have to sit a morse code test and be able to send and receive morse code at the rate of 12 WPM. The requirement to sit an exam has now been dropped in most countries including the USA and UK. However some amateur radio operators still have a lot of fun communicating by way of morse code.

By Professionals

Pilots and ATC (air traffic control) are required to have a basic understanding of morse code as it is used very often by aeronautical navigation aids. The identifiers of many navigational beacons are transmitted periodically using morse code.

For Distress Signals

One of the most commonally known distress calls is SOS or Save Our Souls. This is often sent by morse code in the event of an emergency aboard a ship. The radio operator would send the following series of dots and dashes  · · · — — — · · ·

So the next time that someone asks you, what is morse code? You will be able to tell them.