Morse Code Alphabet Morse Code       
Samuel Finley Breese Morse, inventor of several improvements to the telegraph, was born in Charlestown, Mass. on April 27, 1791. As a student at Yale College, Morse became interested in both painting and in the developing subject of electricity

After his graduation in 1810, he first concentrated on painting, which he studied in England. He would later become a well-known portrait artist.
After moving to New York in 1825, he became a founder and the first president of the National Academy of Design. He also ran for office, but was defeated in both his campaigns to become New York mayor. Meanwhile, Morse maintained a steady interest in invention, taking out three patents for pumps in 1817 with his brother Sidney Edwards Morse. It wasn't until 1832 that he first became interested in telegraphy.

That year, Morse was traveling to the United States from Europe on a ship, when he overheard a conversation about electromagnetism that inspired his idea for an electric telegraph. Though he had little training in electricity, he realized that pulses of electrical current could convey information over wires. The telegraph, a device first proposed in 1753 and first built in 1774, was an impractical machine up until that point, requiring 26 separate wires, one for each letter of the alphabet. Around that time two German engineers had invented a five-wire model, but Morse wanted to be the first to reduce the number of wires to one.

Patented Telegraph Register, patent #6,420
Between 1832 and 1837 he developed a working model of an electric telegraph, using crude materials such as a home-made battery and old clock-work gears. He also acquired two partners to help him develop his telegraph: Leonard Gale, a professor of science at New York University, and Alfred Vail, who made available his mechanical skills and his family's New Jersey iron works to help construct better telegraph models.

Morse's first telegraph device, unveiled in 1837, did use a one-wire system, which produced an EKG-like line on tickertape. The dips in the line had to be de-coded into letters and numbers using a dictionary composed by Morse, this assuming that the pen or pencil wrote clearly, which did not always happen. By the following year he had developed an improved system, having created a dot-and-dash code that used different numbers to represent the letters of the English alphabet and the ten digits. (His assistant Vail has been credited by Franklin T. Pope--later a partner of Thomas Edison--with inventing this "dots and dashes" version). This coding system was significantly better, as it did not require printing or decoding, but could be "sound read" by operators. In 1838, at an exhibition of his telegraph in New York, Morse transmitted ten words per minute using the Morse code that would become standard throughout the world.

In 1842, Morse convinced Congress to provide $30,000 in support of his plan to "wire" the United States. Meanwhile, Morse also solicited and received advice from a number of American and European telegraphy experts, including Joseph Henry of Princeton, who had invented a working telegraph in 1831, and Louis Breguet of Paris. In 1844, Morse filed for a patent (granted 1849) of the printing telegraph. He had already proved that his device worked over short distances, and the Federal funds he raised had allowed him to string a wire from Baltimore to Washington. On May 11, 1844, Morse sent the first inter-city message. Soon thereafter, he gave the first public demonstration, in which he sent a message from the chamber of the Supreme Court to the Mount Clair train depot in Baltimore. The message itself was borrowed from the Bible by the daughter of the Commissioner of Patents and said, "What hath God wrought?" By 1846, private companies, using Morse's patent, had built telegraph lines from Washington to Boston and Buffalo, and were pushing further. The telegraph spread across the US more quickly than had the railroads, whose routes the wires often followed. By 1854, there were 23,000 miles of telegraph wire in operation. Western Union was founded in 1851, and in 1866, the first successful trans-Atlantic cable link was established. Though Morse didn't invent the telegraph and did not single-handedly create Morse Code, he may have been telegraphy's greatest promoter, and undoubtedly contributed to its rapid development and adoption throughout the world.

Morse died of pneumonia in New York on April 2, 1872. Late in his life, he shared his considerable wealth through grants to colleges such as Yale and Vassar, in addition to charities and artists.

The Alfred Vail/Samuel Morse Controversy:
Alfred Vail (1807-1859) is the true inventor of Morse code, as we know it today. The invention of the Morse code is generally attributed to Samuel F.B. Morse. Have we been mislead by historians? Remember Nikola Tesla? Same scenario. He is first and true inventor of radio.

From 1837 Morse gave the telegraph his full attention, having set up in partnership with Alfred Vail, Professor Leonard Gail, and congressman F.O.J. Smith. Vail provided funds and facilities at the family ironworks, and Smith legal expertise. There's an irony, therefore, that disagreements with Vail led to litigation; Vail provided funds for lawyers, too. The telegraph was eventually patented in Morse's name alone, an event granted by the US Supreme Court in 1854. Morse's decision to abandon painting was possibly due in part to his failure in 1836 to secure a commission to paint the Rotunda of the Capitol building, a commission he had expected.

The telegraph invented by Morse in 1832, and described in his caveat of 1837, has nothing in common with the essentials of the modern system of telegraphy which is known in the United States as Morse's; nor is the code of alphabetical signs now universally used in telegraphy throughout the world the same, either in principle, or in construction.

It is also important to remember that the code of conventional signals which had been devised by Morse, and which, in connection with his machine, he proposed to use for the transmission of intelligence, were numerical and not alphabetical. According to his scheme, a specially prepared dictionary was required in which every word in the English language was represented by an arbitrary number. A separate type represented each numeral, having a corresponding number of projections or teeth. We reproduce a specimen of telegraphic writing by this numerical code. The numbers refer to words in the telegraphic dictionary. They are translated by counting the points at the bottom of the line, and then, by referring to the dictionary, the corresponding words are found and the communication translated.

On the 29th, Morse went to Speedwell for a few days, partly to observe the progress of the new machinery, and partly with the intention of painting the portraits of the members of Judge Vail's household, in fulfillment of a commission which had been given him. Where he met Alfred Vail.

Alfred Vail had planned to join the Presbyterian Church on graduating from New York University, until illness forced him to change plans and invest his future in the telegraph instead. He bought a stake in Samuel Morse's telegraph, and agreed to build the system's hardware and secure the American and foreign patents. After Morse returned to New York, Alfred Vail and his young assistant, William Baxter, were engaged night and day in pushing forward the construction of the new machinery.

Alfred was singularly modest and unassuming, while Professor Morse was very much inclined to insist on the superiority of his own plans and methods - if for no other reason; because they were his own. As we all looked upon him with the respect due to a professor, we were at first quite willing to defer submissively to his dicta. It resulted from this, that the first machine which was constructed at Speedwell was substantially a copy of the original model, although constructed of metal, in a more symmetrical and practical form.

As we become acquainted with Morse it becomes evident to us that his mechanical knowledge and skill were limited, and his ideas in matters relating to construction of little value. As the weak points in the apparatus were one after another developed, Alfred began to draw upon the resources of his own wonderful power of invention in substituting practical and commercially valuable mechanical combinations for the more or less impracticable designs of Morse.

The system had some problems printing out messages clearly, so Vail devised improvements. They didn't solve everything, and he was forced to create a completely new printing mechanism - and a new code to make it work. Alfred's brain was at this time working at high pressure, and evolving new ideas every day. He saw in these new characters the elements of an alphabetical code by which language could be telegraphically transmitted in actual words and sentences, and he instantly set himself at work to construct such a code. His general plan was to employ the simplest and shortest combinations to represent the most frequently recurring letters of the English alphabet, and the remainder for the more infrequent ones. For instance, he found upon investigation that the letter e occurs much more frequently than any other letter, and accordingly he assigned to it the shortest symbol, a single dot(.). On the other hand, j, which occurs infrequently, is expressed by dash-dot-dash-dot (-.-.) After going through a computation, in order to ascertain the relative frequency of the occurrence of different letters in the English alphabet, Alfred was seized with sudden inspiration, and visited the office of the Morristown local newspaper, where be found the whole problem worked out for him in the type cases of the compositor.

This was the first time 'Morse' code was created using dashes and dots, which actually wasn't much like Morse's original code at all. So in fact the true inventor of Morse Code was Vail, but Morse - being the better-known partner and personality - kept the glory himself!

Morse Code in our Time:
Today experienced operators copy received text without the need to write as they receive, and when transmitting, can easily converse at 20 to 30 words per minute. Morse Code will always remain a viable means of providing highly reliable communications during difficult communications conditions.

J-38 Straight Key Unfortunately, for a lot of clubs, code is no longer a popular item and used only by those who are experienced users and still use it daily. Or using a computer keyboard, which is not the same. It is so nice to get your 'Basic 5wpm' added to your call sign and start using the code. A whole new world will open up you never knew it existed. When that moment comes you will really feel like a real radio amateur, emphasis on 'amateur'. Morse code can be transmitted by sound or light. Like, banging code on a pipe or wall somewhere, or flashing code with light somewhere in an emergency. It all works and there are several life saving examples available on the internet. Just 'google' it.

For the Cambridge Amateur Radio Club 'code' is very much alive, and I think that's awesome. Morse-code has always been an integral part of amateur radio and letting it go because of declining interest in amateur radio was a debatable and arguable decision. On top of that, with the non-requirement of the 10-wpm required code at the time, the speed was down adjusted to 5-wpm to make it easier for a lot of folks. I find the 5-wpm a boring speed and tend to fall asleep listening to it.

This 2010 April spring another morse-code class will start with Steve as teacher. Steve has thought morse code for many years and has a lot of experience.
Steve teaches the "Farnsworth" method (invented by Donald R. "Russ" Farnsworth, also known by his call sign, W6TTB) which is composed of higher speed characters sent with longer than standard spacing between them. This means that the mind gets used to hearing the "right sounds" while having plenty of time to think about them. All the great code schools of the past used the Farnsworth method teaching.

(Below are a couple excerpts from Chuck Adams page (see link below).
First let me pass on some philosophical points of interest. Morse Code is a language. Any language is learned by some memorization and then by using it a lot. Go back to the early days of your life and schooling. We all memorized the alphabet before we could read. You have to learn and memorize the alphabet for the Morse code language, so don't skimp on this part. It is very critical to what will happen to you for the rest of your life in using Morse. The reason some people hit a plateau on their code speed, a.k.a. a barrier, is most likely due to learning the code incorrectly.

Morse Code is a language of sounds. So throw away all the charts with dots and dashes and in fact you shouldn't look at any printed material of any kind until after you have memorized all the code characters. Forget all the charts that you have seen on the internet on web pages showing the Morse characters as a series of dots and dashes. I can guarantee you that you will ruin your upper limit on the code speed until you can completely erase the damage done. One of the nice things about the ARRL course and others is that you start out listening and you don't need a book in front of you.
Now I am attempting to teach a number of people, and I truly hope the number is large but I'll never know, via a medium that separates us by miles and to all parts of the world. So I can't stand up in front of you and lecture like I do as a instructor. So this task is difficult at best, but doable or I would not be making the attempt. I can't do the work. You have to. So first clear your mind of any evil thoughts and think positive. You can do this. Many have and many more will. Be proud and go forth. Set a goal of 30wpm. Remember what Alexander Pope said. "Not failure but low aim is crime."

How is the Morse Code 'Speed' Calculated?
The word PARIS is the standard for determining CW code speed. Each dit is one element, each dah is three elements, intra-character spacing is one element, inter-character spacing is three elements and inter-word spacing is seven elements. The word PARIS is exactly 50 elements.

Note that after each 'dit/dah' of the letter 'P' -- one element spacing is used except the last one. (Intra-Character). After the last 'dit' of 'P' is sent, 3 elements are added (Inter-Character). After the word PARIS - 7 elements are used.

P = dit dah dah dit = 1 1 3 1 3 1 1 (3) = 14 elements
A = dit dah = 1 1 3 (3) = 8 elements
R = dit dah dit = 1 1 3 1 1 (3) = 10 elements
I = dit dit = 1 1 1 (3) = 6 elements
S = dit dit dit = 1 1 1 1 1 [7] = 12 elements
Total = 50 elements
() = intercharacter
[] = interword

If you send PARIS 5 times in a minute (5WPM) you have sent 250 elements (using correct spacing). 250 elements into 60 seconds per minute = 240 milliseconds per element.

13 Words-per-minute is one element every 92.31 milliseconds.

The Farnsworth method sends the dits and dahs and intra-character spacing at a higher speed, then increasing the inter-character and inter-word spacing to slow the sending speed down to the overall speed. For example, to send at 5 wpm with 13 wpm characters in Farnsworth method, the dits and intra-character spacing would be 92.3 milliseconds, the dah would be 276.9 milliseconds, the inter-character spacing would be 1.443 seconds and inter-word spacing would be 3.367 seconds. The Farnsworth method is the preferred method of learning morse-code, since the faster speed eliminates the learning of the separate 'dits' and 'dahs' and rather focuses on recognizing a whole character.

Since December 2003, Morse Code has included the @ (at) symbol: it is a combination of a and c: �--�-� and is the first change to the system since before World War II.

Below are a couple good links:

Learn Morse Code
Chuck Adams, K7QO, ARRL CD set (2 cd #5811) ISBN 0-87259-581-1.
Morse Code Translator
Morse Code
The Simplicity of Morse Code Telegraphy
Samuel Morse
Morse Code Trainers
Good History of the Morse Code!

NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Alpha    Hotel     Oscar     Victor
Bravo    India     Papa      Whiskey
Charlie  Juliet    Quebec    X-ray
Delta    Kilo      Romeo     Yankee
Echo     Lima      Sierra    Zulu
Foxtrot  Mike      Tango
Golf     November  Uniform
Q-Codes Used For Morse-Code 
Q-Sig Message
QRA What is the name of your station? The name of my station is ___.
QRB How far are you from my station? I am ____ km from you station
QRD Where are you bound and where are you coming from? I am bound ___ from ___.
QRG Will you tell me my exact frequency? Your exact frequency is ___ kHz.
QRH Does my frequency vary? Your frequency varies.
QRI How is the tone of my transmission? The tone of your transmission is ___ (1-Good, 2-Variable, 3-Bad.)
QRJ Are you receiving me badly? I cannot receive you, your signal is too weak.
QRK What is the intelligibility of my signals? The intelligibility of your signals is ___ (1-Bad, 2-Poor, 3-Fair, 4-Good, 5-Excellent.)
QRL Are you busy? I am busy, please do not interfere
QRM Is my transmission being interfered with? Your transmission is being interfered with ___ (1-Nil, 2-Slightly, 3-Moderately, 4-Severly, 5-Extremely.)
QRN Are you troubled by static? I am troubled by static ___ (1-5 as under QRM.)
QRO Shall I increase power? Increase power.
QRP Shall I decrease power? Decrease power.
QRQ Shall I send faster? Send faster (___ WPM.)
QRR Are you ready for automatic operation? I am ready for automatic operation. Send at ___ WPM.
QRS Shall I send more slowly? Send more slowly (___ WPM.)
QRT Shall I stop sending? Stop sending.
QRU Have you anything for me? I have nothing for you.
QRV Are you ready? I am ready.
QRW Shall I inform ___ that you are calling? Please inform ___ that I am calling.
QRX When will you call me again? I will call you again at ___ hours.
QRY What is my turn? Your turn is numbered ___.
QRZ Who is calling me? You are being called by ___.
QSA What is the strength of my signals? The strength of your signals is ___ (1-Scarcely perceptible, 2-Weak, 3-Fairly Good, 4-Good, 5-Very Good.)
QSB Are my signals fading? Your signals are fading.
QSD Is my keying defective? Your keying is defective.
QSG Shall I send ___ messages at a time? Send ___ messages at a time.
QSJ What is the charge to be collected per word to ___ including your international telegraph charge? The charge to be collected per word is ___ including my international telegraph charge.
QSK Can you hear me between you signals and if so can I break in on your transmission? I can hear you between my signals, break in on my transmission.
QSL Can you acknowledge receipt? I am acknowledging receipt.
QSM Shall I repeat the last message which I sent you? Repeat the last message.
QSN Did you hear me on ___ kHz? I did hear you on ___ kHz.
QSO Can you communicate with ___ direct or by relay? I can communicate with ___ direct (or by relay through ___.)
QSP Will you relay to ___? I will relay to ___.
QSQ Have you a doctor on board? (or is ___ on board?) I have a doctor on board (or ___ is on board.)
QSU Shall I send or reply on this frequency? Send a series of Vs on this frequency.
QSV Shall I send a series of Vs on this frequency? Send a series of Vs on this frequency.
QSW Will you send on this frequency? I am going to send on this frequency.
QSY Shall I change to another frequency? Change to another frequency.
QSZ Shall I send each word or group more than once? Send each word or group twice (or ___ times.)
QTA Shall I cancel message number ___? Cancel message number ___.
QTB Do you agree with my counting of words? I do not agree with your counting of words. I will repeat the first letter or digit of each word or group.
QTC How many messages have you to send? I have ___ messages for you.
QTE What is my true bearing from you? Your true bearing from me is ___ degrees.
QTG Will you send two dashes of 10 seconds each followed by your call sign? I am going to send two dashes of 10 seconds each followed by my call sign.
QTH What is your location? My location is ___.
QTI What is your true track? My true track is ___ degrees.
QTJ What is your speed? My speed is ___ km/h.
QTL What is your true heading? My true heading is ___ degrees.
QTN At what time did you depart from ___? I departed from ___ at ___ hours.
QTO Have you left dock (or port)? I have left dock (or port).
QTP Are you going to enter dock (or port)? I am going to enter dock (or port.)
QTQ Can you communicate with my station by means of the International Code of Signals? I am going to communicate with your station by means of the International Code of Signals.
QTR What is the correct time? The time is ___.
QTS Will you send your call sign for ___ minutes so that your frequency can be measured? I will send my call sign for ___ minutes so that my frequency may be measured.
QTU What are the hours during which your station is open? My station is open from ___ hours to ___ hours.
QTV Shall I stand guard for you on the frequency of ___ kHz? Stand guard for me on the frequency of ___ kHz.
QTX Will you keep your station open for further communication with me? I will keep my station open for further communication with you.
QUA Have you news of ___? I have news of ___.
QUB Can you give me information concerning visibility, height of clouds, direction and velocity of ground wind at ___? Here is the information you requested...
QUC What is the number of the last message you received from me? The number of the last message I received from you is ___.
QUD Have you received the urgency signal sent by ___? I have received the urgency signal sent by ___.
QUF Have you received the distress signal sent by ___? I have received the distress signal sent by ___.
QUG Will you be forced to land? I am forced to land immediately.
QUH Will you give me the present barometric pressure? The present barometric pressure is ___ (units).

Note that Q signals can take the form of a question when followed by a question mark.

Mega Q-Signals A Listing of All Known Q-Signals. Many Apply To Maritime and Aviation Use -- Not for General Ham Use.

Last Updated on January 15, 2011
Copyright © 2010, Tony van Roon - VA3AVR