The History of Morse Code

Anyone who has ever seen a spy movie knows the Morse code distress call S.O.S.  Three short dots, immediately followed by three long dots and another three short dots signal the listener that someone needs help. Originally used by Germans in the early 1900s, SOS became a worldwide standard in radio and remained the maritime radio distress signal until 1999.  It quickly became associated with phrases like “Save our ship” and “save our souls” but was actually adopted because of the simplicity of the sequence.  It was agreed that three dots, three dashes, and three dots again with no spaces in between would be an easy way to recognize distress without misinterpretation.

But the term S.O.S did not appear out of nowhere as a way to signal distress.  This alert is just one of many signals and phrases in Morse code, a communication system developed in the mid-1800s by Samuel Morse, who also helped invent the telegraph.  Although the telegraph now seems like an ancient device, it was actually one of the first inventions for long distance communication and laid the ground work for telephones, fax machines, and even our beloved internet.

The code is based on the Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals, but has been adapted to include additional letters and therefore adapt to more languages.  Here are some examples of common sayings, just for fun:

Hello:  .... . .-.. .-.. ---

Good Morning:  --. --- --- -.. / -- --- .-. -. .. -. --.

Goodbye:  --. --- --- -.. -... -.-- .

Happy Birthday:   .... .- .--. .--. -.-- / -... .. .-. - .... -.. .- -.—

Morse Code:  -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. .

You probably don’t need anything translated to or from Morse code, but for all your other translation needs, come over to  .-.. .. --- -. -... .-. .. -.. --. . / --- -. -.. . -- .- -. -.. (Lionbridge onDemand)