Morse Code is named after Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872), a painter
and founder of the National Academy of Design, who, along with Alfred Vail
(1807-1859) a machinist and inventor, and the physicist Joseph Henry
(1797-1878) developed the electromagnetic telegraph and the code
that assigns a set of dots and dashes or short and long pulses to
each letter of the English alphabet. The first working telegraph was produced in 1836.
This made transmission possible over any distance. The first Morse Code
message, "What hath God wrought?", was sent from Washington to
Baltimore in 1844.
Today experienced operators copy received text without the need to
write as they receive, and when transmitting, can easily converse at
20 to 30 words per minute. Morse Code will always remain a viable means
of providing highly reliable communications during difficult communications
Morse Code can be transmitted using sound or light, as sometimes happens
between ships at sea. It is used in emergencies to transmit distress
signals when no other form of communication is available. The standard
international distress signal is •••---••• (SOS)
Since December 2003, Morse Code has included the @ symbol: it is a combination
of a and c: •--•-• and is the
first change to the system since before World War II.
Morse Code can be used to transmit messages in English and many other
languages. For languages not written with the Latin alphabet other versions
of Morse Code are used. There are versions of Morse Code for the Greek,
Cyrillic, Arabic and Hebrew alphabets, and for Japanese a version known
as Wabun Code (和文モールス符号),
which maps kana syllables to specific codes, is used.
The Chinese telegraph code is used to map Chinese characters to four-digit
codes and then those digits are sent using standard Morse code. Korean Morse
code uses the SKATS (Standard Korean Alphabet Transliteration System) mapping,
originally developed to allow Korean to be typed on western typewriters.