The different Morse code characters have been in use since the 1860s when the Morse code was developed. The code which is today called the International Morse code was the second code developed by Samuel Morse.
The International Morse Code refined the first one which had varying character lengths, and the new one was far easier to use. As a result it has been in use for sending telegraph messages as well as radio communications.
These days the greatest use of the Morse code is for ham radio or amateur radio. The use of Morse code enables ham radio operators to use their equipment to contact other ham radio stations over great distances.
The advantages arising from the simplicity of the use of Morse code, allow many ham radio enthusiasts to construct their own equipment as well as allowing contacts to be made when signal strengths are low and interference levels are high.
Morse code logic
The Morse code was devised in a fashion that the more commonly used letter were allocated shorter sequences to send.
The original Morse code devised by Samuel Morse was not as easy to use as the later International version, but it still embodied the same basci principles of making common letters easier and faster to send.
In the table of the International Morse code seen below, the letter "e" which is the most commonly used letter int he English language is assigned the symbol of a single dot.
Another common letter "T" is given a single dash as its symbol, and "A" is dot dash, agin these are both easy to send.
Conversely less common letters are given longer symbols: Z is dash, dash dot, dot, and X is dash dot, dot, dash. Both are much longer to send.
By carefully assigning symbols in this way, it makes the Morse code faster and easier to send.
Morse code chart / table
|A||. _||N||_ .|
|B||_ . . .||O||_ _ _|
|C||_ . _ .||P||. _ _ .|
|D||_ . .||Q||_ _ . _|
|E||.||R||. _ .|
|F||. . _ .||S||. . .|
|G||_ _ .||T||_|
|H||. . . .||U||. . _|
|I||. .||V||. . . _|
|J||. _ _ _||W||. _ _|
|K||_ . _||X||_ . . _|
|L||. _ . .||Y||_ . _ _|
|M||_ _||Z||_ _ . .|
|1||. _ _ _ _||6||_ . . . .|
|2||. . _ _ _||7||_ _ . . .|
|3||. . . _ _||8||_ _ _ . .|
|4||. . . . _||9||_ _ _ _ .|
|5||. . . . .||0||_ _ _ _ _|
|1||. _||6||_ . . . .|
|2||. . _||7||_ . . .|
|3||. . . _||8||_ . .|
|4||. . . . _||9||_ .|
|5||.||0||_ (sometimes a long dash is used)|
|Comma ,||_ _ . . _ _|| Full stop . |
|. _ . _ . _|
|Question mark ?||. . _ _ . .||Semicolon ;||_ . _ . _ .|
| Colon : |
or division sign
|_ _ _ . . .|| Slash / |
|_ . . _ .|
|Dash -||_ . . . . _||Apostrophe '||. _ _ _ _ .|
|Inverted comms "||. _ . . _ .||Underline||. . _ _ . _|
|Left bracket or parenthesis (||_ . _ _ .||Right bracket or parenthesis )||_ . _ _ . _|
| Double hyphen = |
|_ . . . _|| Cross + |
|. _ . _ .|
|Multiplication sign X||_ . . _||Commercial at @||. _ _ . _ .|
|Á||. _ _ . _||Ä||. _ . _|
|É||. . _ . .||Ñ||_ _ . _ _|
|Ö||_ _ _ .||Ü||. . _ _|
|Start of work (CT)||_ . _ . _||End of work (VA)||. . . _ . _|
|Invitation to transit (K)||_ . _||Invitation for a particular station to transmit (KN)||_ . _ _ .|
|End of message (AR)||. _ . _ .||Wait||. _ . . .|
|Error||. . . . . . . .||Understood||. . . _ .|
Some letters and procedural characters are those in common use, but the ITU recommendations have also been used. This may result in Morse characters having two slightly different meanings. VA, i.e. End of Work, also is given by the ITU as understood.
Additional Morse code characters
The ITU gives recommendations for a variety of other Morse code characters and occurrences that need to be sent. The ITU defines methods in which these may be sent in Morse code:
- Percentage and per-thousand signs: To indicate the % or per thousand, the figure ), the fraction bar and the figures 0 or 00 shall be successively transmitted (i.e. 0/0 or 0/00).
A whole number, a fractional number or a fraction followed by the % or per thousand sign shall be transmitted by joining up the whole number, the fraction number or fraction to the % or per thousand sign by a single hyphen.
For 3%, send 3-0/0 and not 30/0
For 4 1/2 percent, send 4-1/2-0/0 and not 41/20/0
- Minute and second signs: To transmit the minute ' and second '' signs, when such signs follow figures. For example in the case of 1'15'', the apostrophe signal ( . _ _ _ _ . ) shall be transmitted once or twice as appropriate. The signal ( . _ . . _ . ) reserved for inverted commas may not be used for the sign.
- Sending whole numbers and fractions: A number that includes a fraction shall be transmitted with the fraction linked to the whole number by a single hyphen.
For 1 3/4 , send 1-3/4
For 3/4 8, send 3/4-8
Length of Morse code characters
In order that the Morse code characters are easy to read, it is necessary to ensure that they are the correct length. Too long or too short, and the Morse code messages can be very difficult to read as the rhythm of the different characters is destroyed. Part of the International Morse code "standard" is an agreed definition of the various lengths of dots, dashes and spaces.
- A dash is equal to three dots
- The space between elements which form the same letter is equal to one dot.
- The space between two letters is equal to three dots
- The space between two words is equal to seven dots
By keeping to these lengths the Morse code characters are much easier to read.
The Morse code is still widely used for amateur radio or ham radio applications. It enables ham radio contacts to be made all over the world with ease, especially when using low powers or more modest antennas. While the Morse code is not generally widely used, it still has applications for ham radio, and the above Morse code chart or Morse code table is useful to identify the main symbols used.
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