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How to Learn and Use Morse Code

Most people have heard of Morse code, but don’t really know what it is or how it is used.

Well, it is a really cool form of communication that had a major impact on history, and can still be of value today.

Learning how to read, write, and use Morse code is not nearly as hard as you may think.

Let’s look at exactly what this code is, why it is important, and how we can learn it.

Other awesome Morse code guides you may enjoy!

What is Morse Code?

telegraph morse code

Morse code is a coded communication system using dots, dashes, and spaces to represent letters, numbers, and punctuation symbols.

It can be communicated using varying lengths of light or sound signals.

A shorter signal is used for the dot and a longer one for the dash.

The value of this system comes from the fact it can be communicated in so many different ways.

Some of the more common ways include using flashing lights and auditory radio signals.

While this means of communication is rarely used today, it is still can be useful and fun to learn.

History of Morse Code

Learning the history of Morse code can aid in the learning process by helping you understand it better and gain an appreciation for it.

Morse code was originally invented by Samuel F.B. Morse in the 1830s mainly for the use with the telegraph.

This first version of Morse code was later upgraded and improved by Morse’s business partner Alfred Lewis Vail.

After a few tweaks and changes by other nations, the International Morse Code was created in 1865.

This version helped correct some issues with the code so it could be used internationally.

The use of this Morse code started to really get popular in the 1890s.

The international distress signal SOS was adopted in the early 1900s, and was chosen based on the fact that is was easy to recognize in Morse Code.

The code was used widely in major wars such as WWII, the Korean, and Vietnam.

It was also a major help for ships with communication and safety clear into the 1990s.

Today it is mostly just used by amateur radio operators as a hobby or for emergency preparedness.

Did You Know?

In 1858, after many failed attempts, a large copper telegraph cable was successfully stretched 2,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

This first transatlantic cable allowed U.S President James Buchanan and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to briefly communicate. However, this cable quickly broke and had to later be replaced by more sturdy ones.

Why Learn Morse Code?

Emergency Radio

The main reason you would want to learn Morse code today is for emergency communication.

It was created for communication and still has much value as a survival tool.

Morse code can help in situations where you cannot verbally communicate clear words.

As mentioned before you can communicate this code over the radio, by tapping on something, or flashing a signal.

In fact, a US prisoner of war in Vietnam once communicated he was being tortured by blinking the word "torture" in Morse code during a televised interview.

This helped the United States realize their soldiers were not being treated as properly as the Vietnamese claimed.

While this is just one extreme example, other more fun uses could include sending coded messages to friends in class, or to co-workers in a meeting.

How to Learn Morse Code

Learn the Basic Signals

morse code signals

There are two main signals used with the code, dots and dashes.

The dots are basically periods, and the dashes look simply like a hyphen.

When these signals are written they are both written at the same height on the line, where a hyphen usually is put.

There is a representation of dots and dashes for every letter in the alphabet as well as numbers and some punctuation.

Study The Alphabet

When learning or just memorizing one simple trick to make it easier is to use catchy phrases to help you remember things.

For example, the letter “E” is simply one dot in Morse code, so you could remember this letter with a phrase like “E is easy.” Or if you look at the letter “T” you could remember the phrase “cross your t”, to remember it is one dash in Morse code.

Google has an awesome Morse code training program that will help you get started in this way.

This program will teach you each of the letters one by one and give you ideas on how to remember them.

If you are on a phone you may need to download the Gboard app to get access to the Morse code keyboard.

Once you have gotten the letters down you can move to the available numbers, punctuation, and special characters.

Morse Code Timing Rules

Knowing the timing rules is critical for receiving and sending messages in Morse code.

There are five easy Morse code rules to remember when transmitting dots and dashes:

  1. The length of a dot is 1 unit of time.
  2. The length of a dash is 3 units of time.
  3. The space between the dots and dashes in the same letter is 1 unit of time.
  4. The space between letters is 3 units of time.
  5. The space between words is 7 units of time.

Practice Speaking It

morse mnemonic chart

Morse code can be spoken and the pronunciation rules are pretty simple.

The dot is pronounced like the letter "d"or written "di" unless it is the last dot in the character, then it is "dit."

EXAMPLE: The letter "H" is four dots so it is written "di-di-di-dit."

Then the dash is pronounced and written "dah."

Speaking it is probably the least common way to communicate morse code, but it is an option.

Start Spelling Easy Words

You can use the google morse code program just mentioned, or just start writing simple words.

If you start by actually writing the dots and dashes to spell simple words, it may help you learn faster.

When you do this you are translating it in your brain and repeating the action with your hand.

You can also challenge yourself by writing not only the signals but also spelling them all the way out.

For example for the letter "R", you can write "di-dah-dit" along with the actual dots and dashes.

Listen To Morse Code

Listening to Morse code will be critical in helping you get your dot and dash timing down.

While it is not too difficult, this can help you not go too fast, but rather keep a proper and steady pace.

This will be more useful if you plan on ever using Morse code over the radio.

It can also be a great way to try and challenge yourself once you have gotten a decent understanding of the language.

You can slow down or speed up Morse code recordings to see how fast you can accurately translate a coded message.

This video will let you hear Morse code while learning some letter tracing tricks to remember each letter's translation.

Practice on Your Phone

Instead of hopping on mobile games, you could use some of your free time to practice morse code on an app.

There a quite a few good apps that can help you learn it in a way that isn't super boring.

You can also download the app Gboard on IOS or Android to use it to type messages on your phone.

It will only allow you to type the dots and dashes while it converts them into your desired letter.

This will help you learn fast, especially if you text a lot. It will take a lot longer to type up a message, but it is a great way to learn Morse code.

Invite Someone to Learn With You

Part of the fun of knowing a coded language is having someone else who knows it with whom you can communicate.

Morse code is a pretty easy language to learn, but just hard enough that not a ton of people know it.

Not only can it allow you to send coded messages and signals, but this neat skill may come in handy during an emergency situation.

So if you really want to learn, invite some friends or family to learn with you.

Maybe you could start by learning how to say "I love you" in Morse code!

When you learn and use it together it becomes more fun, and you are more likely to remember and use it.

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