Morse Code is a method for transmitting information, using standardized sequences of short and long marks or pulses — commonly known as “dots and dashes” — for the letters, numerals and special characters of a message. Originally created for Samuel Morse’s electric telegraph in the mid-1830s, it was also extensively used for early radio communication beginning in the 1890s. However, with the development of more advanced communications technologies, the use of Morse Code is now largely obsolete, although it is still employed for a few specialized purposes, including navigational radio beacons, and by CW (continuous wave) amateur radio operators.
What is called Morse Code today actually differs somewhat from what was originally developed by Morse and his assistant, Alfred Vail. In 1848 a refinement of the code sequences, including changes to eleven of the letters, was developed in Germany and eventually adopted as the worldwide standard as “International Morse”. Morse’s original code specification, largely limited to use in the United States, became known as Railroad or American Morse code, and is now very rarely used.
More @ Wikipedia.
Here’s a better description of what “the code” sounds like [everyone recommends not to memorize dashes and dots]:
Minimal proficiency with Morse Code is required for a General Class amateur radio license. I’ve been having a very hard time learning “The Code”. There is about as many methods and techniques to learn and practice the code as there are dits and dahs in the Morse alphabet:
(1) Dr. Wheeler’s Code Quick: “Code Quick could teach a tree stump the code!” Says Bruce Kizerian KK7QP of Centerville, Ut. [I guess I wish I was more like a tree stump.] Here’s what Code Quick promises – Code Quick goes to your speech center. Only Code Quick sends the code to the language part of your brain for instant recognition, permanent memory and no plateaus. You hear each code symbol as an English sound-alike.
With a little practice you will recognize code as easily as speech. Only Code Quick walks you through each character with fun and humor to make learning fast and exciting. Unforgettable cartoon cards, and unique learning activities lock the image to the code symbol instantly and forever in your mind. One new ham said, “I just couldn’t get them out of my mind. From the first time I heard them, they kept going around and around in my head!” This highly acclaimed course works for beginners but also for those who are stuck on a nasty plateau along the way. End your struggle and move up in the Ham community. You will never regret your decision to treat yourself to this amazing program. [When I was having a problem with the registration key for the software portion, Dr. Wheeler actually called me and fixed my problem.]
(2) Ham University: Mathew, KD6MSI writes “After almost ten years of being a ham, I have finally gotten up the fortitude to learn Morse Code. Well, truth be told, I really am enjoying the process. I have Ham University to thank for this. Let me just start by saying that I *love* this program. It is quite simply the best bit of learning software I have found.
Ham University provides you with three ways to learn Morse code. First there are formal lessons which introduce the code one letter at a time. Then there are exercises — a set of typical transmissions to practice on (you set the speed). And finally there is Pentode®. This highly motivating game (inspired by Tetris) makes acquiring the code effortless. [The cat on the screen keeps mocking me.]
(3) ARRL’s Your Introduction to Morse Code: Don’t just learn the code–master it! This set includes two audio CDs (for your audio/music CD player) with nearly 2-1/2 hours of practice. Follow the proven ARRL Morse code teaching system. Sample exams included! Includes 2 audio CDs and instruction booklet. [The guy on the CD has a serious nasal tone].
(4) Tyler Larson’s Smart Morse: I mentioned this application on October 1st as a program I use with my Palm Pilot. The main feature that separates Smart Morse from other programs of this nature is the fact that this program learns about you as you practice. It takes note of which letters you’re struggling with and which ones you know well. It then focuses more attention on your problem areas while still continuing to practice the others. [I enjoy using this, but as my Palm doesn’t have a plug for headphones (I haven’t resuscitated my Tungsten 3 yet) the beep beep beeping annoys people around you].
(5) Sigurd Stenersen’s Just Learn Morse Code: designed to make it easy to learn morse code, as well as improve the skills of those who already know the code. The basic methods used to achieve this are The Koch method and Farnsworth timing. [This is a pretty slick application – as you copy code, the program also checks to see if your putting spaces in the correct spots, and after its done sending, it gives you a roll up by character letting you know the percentage of accuracy.]
(6) [Far and away my favorite]: The Rhythm of the Code! “BY POPULAR DEMAND,
The Rhythm of the Code is now available ON CD and for your listening pleasure. Just click the link and you can hear for yourself a sample of this amazing new code practice CD.
An independent research program has proved that students that use The Rhythm of the Code method have learned code in half the time as students that do not have the CD.Thousands of Ham radio operators have learned code with The Rhythm of the Code method – Get your copy today to unleash the awesome power of this PAK 1 CD and supercharge your brain!” […. supercharge your brain?]
(7) AA9PW Morse Code Practice: This page is designed to help you learn and practice Morse Code. There are also other pages which cover the morse code itself and a few hints on how to approach learning the code. This page will generate morse code consisting of groups of random characters and there are 25 characters per group (5 sets of 5 characters). You can pick which group of characters you wish to be tested on: the alphabet, the numbers or punctuation (inc luding prosigns) or all three. The computer creates a .au audio file and sends that to your browser so your browser (or helper application) needs to be capable of handling these files. You will also need a sound card or similar to be able to hear the morse.
In addition to the numerous amount of Morse teaching methods, there are also many websites dedicated to Morse:
PA3BWK’s Ultimate Morse Code Web Site: http://www.morsecode.dutch.nl/index2.html
Beginner’s Guide to CW: http://www.netwalk.com/~fsv/CWguide.htm
…. But I’m still not ready for my code test.