The invention of Morse Code


Samuel Morse did not have any training in electricity, but he realized that pulses or bursts of electricity could carry information over wires. He started to get interested in telegraphy in 1932, and he experimented until he had worked out a way of sending these bursts along a wire.

In 1837 he demonstrated it to other people, but it wasn't working properly yet. He worked out a code that people could use to send letters making up words - this is what we call the Morse Code.

In 1840 he applied for a patent for his system, and the first message that was sent was in 1844, on May 24. A line was constructed between Baltimore and Washington, and the message was a quote from the Bible - "What hath God wrought".

Messages in morse are sent as dots and dashes - short bursts and long bursts. One message that many people know is SOS - the message that ships send out if they are in danger of sinking. It sounds like this: (dit dit dit) (dah, dah, dah) (dit, dit, dit).

When the Titanic began to sink, this was the message that was sent out to other ships in the area, in the hope that they could come to her rescue.

The photo on the right is of the officer, Jack Phillips, who sent this message. Sadly, he was one of the people who died when the Titanic sunk.

Even today, people learn and use the Morse Code. A good operator can send messages really fast. They rest their finger on a small lever, and send streams of dots and dashes so fast that most people cannot tell what the letters are.

At the other end of the wire, another operator is listening through headphones, and writing down the letters as fast as they come through the wire. People have to train for a long time to get fast at this job!

Back to Top