In 1999, the last official Morse code message was sent out from the Globe Wireless master station south of San Francisco. It was the end of an era for a form of communication that lasted well over 163 years. To put this into perspective, early forms of ARPANET email are about 47 years old and SMS text messaging has been around almost 26 years.
Today, only ten Airmen a year learn the craft of reading Morse code and it’s more of a history lesson than a practical one. You can still find the occasional radio enthusiast who picked it up as a party trick or a conversation starter. Once you learn the skill, however, you start realizing how many other Morse code nerds there are out there. Hell, even the original Nokia SMS notification chime was just “SMS” written in Morse code as (…/- -/…).
1. It’s an easy skill to learn that blows people away
You see it in the movies and on television all the time. In some tense action scene, someone blurts out, “oh my god! It’s Morse code!” Suddenly, everyone looks at the guy who figured it out like he’s a genius.
It’s really not rocket science. Once you realize that the letters are organized in a way that the most common letters in the alphabet, like ‘E’ and ‘T,’ have the least amount of dots and dashes (‘E’ is just one dot and ‘T’ is just one dash), it starts to make sense. Conversely, the rarer a letter, the more dots and dashes it requires. Numbers are five dots and dashes and punctuation marks are six. Standard guides are nice, but flowcharts like the one below make things so much easier.
2. Doesn’t always need electricity
Using an actual telegraph requires electricity. It was called the “electric telegraph” after all. But you can just as easily knock on things or even blink to get your message across.
A famous use of Morse code in military history was in the Vietnam War when Commander Jeremiah Denton was taken as a prisoner of war. He was forced into an NVA propaganda film and made to explain how “well” his captors were treating him. So, he said exactly what his captors wanted him to say while also blinking “torture” (-/- – -/.-./-/..-/.-./.). He got his message across while leaving the NVA completely unaware.
(Parker’s Video Portal | YouTube)
3. You can talk about people in front of them
On that note, because learning Morse code isn’t that common, you can also mock people in front of them if you take the time to learn it.
There’s no subtlety in pulling out your cell phone and telling someone that, “this is bullsh*t.”[dailymotion //www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x2pduoh expand=1]
4. ‘K’ actually means something
One of the most infuriating text messages you can receive after writing out paragraphs is just, ‘k.’
If you send out the message (.-.), or ‘k,’ in Morse code, you’re also saying in short-hand that you’re ready to receive the message from the other person.
5. There are no emojis.
I mean, technically, you can still make old-school emoticons, like “:)” as (- – -…/-.- -.-), but no one will get what you’re saying.
But as emojis get more elaborate, conversations start getting dumber. There isn’t any of that crap in Morse-code conversations.