Morse Code Day on April 27 honors the inventor of the Morse code, Samuel Morse, who was born on this day in 1791. Apart from this, Morse Code Day also celebrates this pioneering method of communication and the invention that was first used to transmit encoded messages — the electric telegraph. Morse code is a precise, concise form of communication that played a role in wars and influenced Western life in general when Morse invented it.
History of Morse Code Day
Before we enjoyed instant communication via cell phones and email, the world communicated with tranquility. Messages were sent via post and were hand-delivered to the recipients, often weeks or even months later. Then, people began to wonder if there was a faster means of communication. One such group of people, three Americans – the artist and inventor Samuel Morse, scientist and businessman Alfred Vail, and scientist Joseph Henry began devising a way to communicate using the electric telegraph in 1836. Morse initially came up with the idea — electric currents would pass through the telegraph as the person typed, leaving indentations on a paper tape. They couldn’t type complete words or messages, and so, substituted a code to represent the message. There were dots, dashes, and even spaces that represented different numerals from zero to nine.
Initially, this code only transmitted numerals. By 1940, Vail realized this method was limited and further expanded the code to include letters and special characteristics too. This code was initially dubbed the ‘Morse landline code,’ ‘American Morse code,’ or ‘Railroad Morse.’
Soon, the use of this system spread across the sea to Europe. People using the code reported one major challenge. The symbols that the Morse code represented were all in English, making the original Morse code inadequate for non-English countries that had letters with various diacritic marks like ë, ç, and more. A group of European nations took it upon themselves to create their variation of the Morse code which was released in 1851. Called the International Morse Code or the Continental Morse Code, this new version of the code gained widespread appeal and was used across shipping, aviation, and other industries globally.
Morse Code Day timeline
Samuel Morse is born in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
Samuel Moore tests his new invention and sends the biblical phrase “What hath God Wrought?” — suggested by an onlooker — to his assistant Alfred Vail in Baltimore.
The Point Reyes KPH station signs off with Samuel Morse's original 1844 message, “What hath God Wrought?”
Morse code, once a requirement for a 'ham radio' (a.k.a. amateur radio) license, is not mandatory anymore.
Morse Code Day FAQs
Why do we celebrate Samuel Morse?
This established painter, who was also an inventor, thought up an invention that allowed people to communicate through great distances using the electric typewriter. It was the first such invention of its kind. Morse did not come up with an advanced version, but he is credited with innovating this idea in the first place.
How is Morse code used today?
Many ham radio operators around the world still use Morse code. It is used in emergency signals and also used in technology to help disabled people communicate easily.
Does the military still use Morse code?
Morse code has largely been phased out of all military operations, although the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard use it to communicate securely with other ships when radio silence is needed.
Morse Code Day Activities
Learn Morse code
You can choose from free online courses, YouTube videos, or even special websites created for just this purpose. Impress loved ones with your knowledge of various Morse signals and spread the learning.
Send coded messages to people
Have fun sending Morse messages to people and encouraging them to decode the meaning. It's also a great way to play harmless pranks, send secret messages, or even vent to others without fear of repercussions.
Challenge yourself to speak Morse code
Sound out the Morse code using various online tools, and practice saying them aloud. This is also a recommended way to practice your Morse knowledge, according to many experts.
5 Secret Facts About The Morse Code
Morse code gives us the 'SOS'
As sea traffic increased, people realized they needed an international distress signal — enter the SOS, which is the simplest and easiest Morse code to remember.
Morse code becomes standard
The International Telecommunication Union (I.T.U.) establishes the International Morse Code as the standard means of digital communication; American Morse is (mostly) limited to the U.S. and Canada.
Samuel Morse the painter
Before inventing the Morse code he was already pretty well-known as a painter.
The 'iddy-umpty' code
In the early 20th century, Morse code began to be called 'iddy-umpty' in slang; 'iddy' was a nickname for the dots and 'umpty' was for the dashes.
The American telegraph industry's loyalty
The U.S. telegraph industry continued using the American Morse code until the 1920s and 1930s.
Why We Love Morse Code Day
It has a seriously long history
It's been around so long — almost 160 years — that even historians agree it takes the top spot as the world's first digital code. No other electrical coding system came close.
Morse code was vital to win WWII
It was the only way soldiers could send messages back to base camps about enemy movements. These encrypted messages have often helped turn the tide in wars, including the Vietnam and Korean wars.
Morse code changed the world
Before Morse code, people didn't even know electrical impulses could be used to send messages miles away almost instantaneously. It signaled a turn in communication systems everywhere, and the world has only advanced since that time.
Morse Code Day dates