Morse Code and the Telegraph
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Morse Code and the Telegraph
What is the Telegraph?
Before the telegraph was actually invented, it took American inventor Samual Morse three years to come up with the idea. His first device was built in 1835, which was an electromagnetic pendulum that carried a pencil in constant contact with a moving strip of paper. Along with that, Morse's partner Alfred Vail, came up with the idea of a lever at the transmitting end, while operating a armature at the other. All they had to do was somehow take these two inventions and make it so the opening and closing of the lever converted into numbers and letters. Although before Morse there were needle telegraphs invented in Europe, Morse and Vail are still credited with the discovery of what we use today. It was the first device to use electricity to send messages. According to dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=telegraph), it is a communications system that transmits and receives simple unmodulated electric impulses, especially one in which the transmission and reception stations are directly connected by wires. Samual Morse used pulses of current to deflect an electromagnet, which moved a marker to produce written codes on a strip of paper.
What is Morse Code?
With the invention of the telegraph came the need to create a language system, an alphabet of sorts, that would allow messages to be sent across long distances and that would be universal and understood by all who coded and decoded messages. This code would need to allow for messages to be understood by all who would send and receive messages. This need was fixed by the invention of Morse Code. Morse Code, developed by Samuel Morse, is a method of sending and receiving messages using a sequence of dits and dahs, or more commonly known as dots and dashes. The morse code is a amateur radio telegraphic communication device in which a dot is made by pressing a telegraph key up and down rapidly, while a dash is made by holding down the key for a longer amount of time. Each letter or number has its own special code that is sent over telegraph wires using a telegraph. This code became known as Morse Code, which due to the fact that it was transmitted in an on and off state it is considered an early form of digital code. Alphabet (http://www.wrvmuseum.org/morsecode/morse_code_alphabet.htm) Morse Code is measured in words per minute (WPM) much like how we measure the speed at which we type nowadays. The word “Paris” is used as the standard length of a word so that if you transmitted “Paris” three times you would be transmitting at 3 WPM.
Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872), was first recognized as a painter before he invented the telegraph. He graduated from Yale University in 1810 and then went to England to study painting and soon began painting portraits. He helped found the National Academy of Design and was the academies’ first president.
In the early, 1830’s, Morse developed a working model of the telegraph. He used household materials including a home-made battery and old clock work gears.
He soon developed an interest in electricity and in the mid-1830’s he and Alfred Vail developed the first electric telegraph. Alfred Vail allowed helped Morse in a more mechanical aspect. He allowed Morse to use his family’s New Jersey iron works to construct more complex models. In 1838, Morse gave a public demonstration of the telegraph to Congress but it wasn’t until 5 years later that Congress provided funding to construct a telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore. The first transmission over the newly constructed telegraph line was “What hath God wrought?” from the Supreme Court chamber in Washington to Baltimore in 1844. This was when congress gave Morse $30,000 to construct this experiment. The first message sent was sent a distance of 40 miles.Morse then received private funds to extend the telegraph line to Philadelphia and New York. Originally Morse Code was transmitted onto tape but the operators became accustomed to the sound of the dots and dashes that the tape became obsolete and the operators translated messages by ear. An experienced operator could translate 40 to 50 words per minute and when automatic transmission was introduced in 1914 it could translate more that twice that. By the year 1851, there were over 50 telegraph companies across the country and they were mainly controlled by the Magnetic Telegraph Company. In addition, by 1854, there were 23,000 miles of telegraph wire being used.
Functions of the Telegraph and Morse Code
With the invention of the telegraph and Morse code, all long distance communication became dependent on it. That is, until the invention of the telephone. Afterwards, the telegraph continued its use during the war efforts. Perhaps the most well known use of Morse Code is to send distress, or SOS, signals. With the advent of radio, Morse Code once again found a use. The sounds were transmitted over radio waves. But, with the radio a more international Morse code became used. International Code (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/92/Intcode.png)
Social and Economic Implications
The telegraph was successful in the United States because it was simple to operate. With practice and a good ear anyone could be a telegraph operator. It was also fairly low in cost which was beneficial to everyone. Also, the telegraph was accessible to the public. If you wanted to send a message, for a certain cost per letter, you could send a message to anyone across the country.
The telegraph revolutionized communication as we know it today. For the first time people could communicate over long distances. This took a once giant nation and made it seem much smaller simply by connectivity. The telegraph also had many social and economic implications.
The social implications of the telegraph were that it allowed for people to stay in touch with one another and also for information to spread quickly. People were able to find out news about relatives almost immediately where as they relied on longer, more exhaustive methods before. Due to the amount of now readily available information people were able to be more informed on current events and things happening all over the country.
Some economic implications affected businesses. One business greatly affected by the telegraph was the news or reporting agencies. These agencies were able to branch out and be linked to smaller news sources in towns all over the United States. This helped with the social aspect of sending and receiving up to date news and information.
How It’s Used Today
The telegraph and Morse code is fairly obsolete today. But it was found use in a few areas and for a few purposes. However, the Morse code that is used today is different than what was developed by Samuel Morse. What is used today is the International Morse Code and it consists of six elements. The first is a short mark or dot (.). Second is a dash (-). Third is an intra-character gap. Fourth is a short gap between letters. Fifth is a medium gap between words and sixth is a long gap between sentences. No other electric encoding system has had the life span of Morse Code and, until 1999, Morse Code was still the standard for maritime communication. Another use for Morse Code is with cell phones. Many Nokia phones have an option to been SMS in Morse Code when it receives a text message. Some cell phone manufacturers are looking into having the vibrating alert feature on phones to translate SMS messages to Morse code so that you don’t have to pick up the phone to read the message. You simply feel it and it’s all hands free and silent. In 2004, radiotelegraph operators were still receiving licenses which are still issued by the FCC. They are used mostly for operators on ships or on the coast, but these people are very few. Morse code is used mostly for assistive technology. What this means is that people who have a motion or sensory disabilities can use Morse code to communicate with the public. Not only can these people use Morse code to communicate with family and friends but they can even use the Internet and check e-mail. Even though the telegraph and Morse code has become relatively obsolete, it has still found a use in modern technology. Whether with some radio operators, maritime, or individuals with disabilities Morse code is still alive and well within a small market. Many predict that since Morse code has never really died out, that there is a chance that it could make a comeback in the modern market.
If someone were in need of translations according to the Morse code, there are websites that will do the complete translation. One substantial website which will translate for you is http://www.mistupid.com/military/morse.htm , a translator provided by Stephen Christopher Phillips. You can go to this site, type in what you want, a word, sentence, paragraph, etc. and the translator will play it back for you with the sounds of the dots and dashes, how it would sound using the code. Not only does the site list examples and show the translation, you can press the "play" button and it will play out exactly how the word or sentence would sound in Morse Code.