Do you know anyone who hasn’t seen the movie The Hunt For Red October? It’s old, but thrilling; all high tech cowboy action. Red October has one scene where an ancient communication method is used between two submarine captains.
These days we use instant messaging, text messaging, even the ancient art of email, but back in the day it was all dots and dashes, or dits and dahs and characters per minute.
An Ancient Art of Communication
My kids an I sat up late a few weeks ago watching Red October for the umpteenth time. All those flashes of light back and forth prompted the inevitable teenage question, “Dad, what are they doing?”
It was the seemingly ancient art of Morse Code.
That prompted a scramble to the Mac and Wikipedia to find out what this ancient communication method actually was and how it worked.
After a few minutes browsing through the history and usage of Morse Code, my kids also found a Mac app called Morse Mania which actually teaches you to use Morse Code.
Morse code is a type of character encoding that transmits telegraphic information using rhythm. Morse code uses a standardized sequence of short and long elements to represent the letters, numerals, punctuation and special characters of a given message.
That means Morse Code can be electronic, or printed, or sent via sounds, or even flashes of light, as in the Red October movie. Morse Mania teaches you how to use Morse Code.
It’s not as easy as just remembering long or short dashes, either. Morse Mania teaches you how to learn the character and displays them on the screen. It also lets you guess a character as they are played, and keeps track of your score.
I was surprised to learn that there are different modes to Morse Code. Farnsworth is good for learning—longer pauses between characters, but characters sent at a higher speed.
The Koch mode is also in Morse Mania allowing users to learn at full speed, one letter at a time, but the learning method starts of with just two letters. As your rate and score improves, more characters are added.
A few minutes of Morse Code in Red October began an adventure.
Think of Morse Mania as a teaching tool for Morse Code for Mac users. What I haven’t figured out is this—will learning Morse Code be like learning to ride a bicycle?
They say you never forget how to ride a bike. Do you ever forget Morse Code?