Ever seen a war movie where someone from inside the city under siege does something
from a high place with a light and the next day reinforcements arrive? Or a movie where ships drifting in the sea somehow seem to communicate using lanterns at night?
Ever wondered how that can be possible? Or whether that is even possible?
Well, what those movies show actually is possible!
What they use is quite an old technique of communication. They use Morse codes.
Using Morse codes is simple enough, although it is a painstaking performance.
It is a bit like Braille method, except there are two symbols in this method: dots and dashes. Each letter of the language is represented by a certain combination of dots and dashes. For example, a single dot indicates the letter ‘E’, where ‘X’ has two dashes and two dots.
The order of these dots and dashes also carry great significance, otherwise the
symbols you make can mean an entirely different thing. The letter ‘G’, for example, is two dashes first and then a dot; but reverse the order and anyone will read it a ‘W’.
Making sentences using Morse codes is really a lot of work. First, you will have to make letters with dots and dashes. All the letters of a word must have “pauses” or empty spaces (of adequate size, so the message does not get more confusing!) among them.
Again, words of a sentence are to be separated by proper spaces. If they are not
placed properly, you may very well make a weather report out of a military message!
When the whole thing is done, it turns out impossibly lengthy. Good luck writing all of that!
Although it has been named after the American artist Samuel Finley Breese Morse alone, physicist Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail was working together on the electrical telegraph system while this was invented around 1836. As the machine they were developing sent electric pulses, they needed a system of communication that had only two fundamental units.
So, Morse code was born!
Now, you must be wondering exactly how light can be used to convey messages that are made of letters.Well, that is simple, too. The dots and dashes are converted into flashes of light. An instant flash of light is understood as a dot. And for a dash one just needs to keep the light turned on a little longer. And, the pauses between letters and words can be determined by the period of time the light is kept turned off.
Besides written dots-and-dashes and lights, sound can also be used to convey messages using Morse code!
Over the centuries, Morse code itself and its idea have been used in innumerable sectors. Telegraph and communicating between ships are some of the most common examples.
Movies showing teenage neighbours using light to communicate at night were not at all rare.
Learning Morse codes is so easy anyone can do it if they just spend a little time. It can easily be a cool thing to show off to other children in school.
Surely it is a handy way to pass notes to your best friend that are unintelligible to others. Morse code can be your little secret!
So, what are you thinking?