Morse Code does not need much introduction but for the case of argument it may be relevant to understand the cause of discovery before we address issues why this may be relevant now when more sophisticated methods of communicate are around us. What I will try to do in this article is outline few questions and arguments why Morse Code as a method of input might be considered as a more intuitive and effecting way of exchanging information then traditional keyboard. I will then go on to propose uses, which span beyond text replacement but rather in terms of opportunities in the modern day of exchange and interface with information.
Morse code, created forÂ Samuel F. B. Morse‘s electricÂ telegraph in the early 1840s,Â 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. The short and long elements can be formed by sounds, marks, or pulses, in on off keying and are commonly known as “dots” and “dashes” or “dits” and “dahs”. The speed of Morse code is measured in words per minute (WPM) or characters per minute, while fixed-length data forms of telecommunication transmission are usually measured in baud or bps.
The most popular current use of Morse code is by amateur radio operators, although it is no longer a requirement for amateur licensing in many countries. In the professional field, pilots and air traffic controllers are usually familiar with Morse code and require a basic understanding. Navigational aids in the field of aviation, such as VORs and NDBs, constantly transmit their identity in Morse code. Morse code is designed to be read by humans without a decoding device, making it useful for sending automated digital data in voice channels.
Here are some usage examples:
" ]-- --- Â·-Â· Â·Â·Â· Â· -Â·-Â· --- -Â·Â· Â·
M O R S E C O D E
" ]THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT MORSE CODE
- .... .. ... / .- .-. - .. -.-. .-.. . / .. ... / .- -... --- ..- - / -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. .
Traditionally, Morse code was extensively used for earlyÂ radio communication beginning in the 1890s. For the first half of the twentieth century, the majority of high-speed international communication was conducted in Morse code, using telegraph lines, undersea cables, and radio circuits. Vibroplex is a tool we should also be familiar with. The paddle, when pressed to the right by the thumb, generates a series ofÂ dits, the length and timing of which are controlled by a sliding weight toward the rear of the unit. When pressed to the left by the knuckle of the index finger, the paddle generates aÂ dah, the length of which is controlled by the operator. MultipleÂ dahs require multiple presses. Left-handed operators use a key built as a mirror image of this one.
Morse code has also been employed as anÂ assistive technology, helping people with a variety ofÂ disabilities to communicate. Morse can be sent by persons with severe motion disabilities, as long as they have some minimal motor control. In some cases this means alternately blowing into and sucking on a plastic tube (“puff and sip” interface). People with severe motion disabilities in addition to sensory disabilities (e.g. people who are also deaf or blind) can receive Morse through a skin buzzer.
More recently, with the massive SMS messaging adaptation there have been cases to prove Morse Code being a faster input than SMS. Â Jay Leno did a text off between two text messengers and twoÂ Morse coders who won the contest.Â Unfortunately the video is not longer available.
Another recent case is Fun with flashing lights (HOW TO – Build a morse code generator) Arbitraryuser writes -Â “Not sure if you’re interested, but I put this together as a social experiment to see how long it would take for someone to notice that the lamp flashing in my window was actually morse code… less than 24 hours later the cops were at my door…. aka How to build a Morse code signaler and see how long it takes before someone figures it out.” -Â Link.
a series of paintings in which the individual panels visually & aesthetically blur different abstract data sources, including satellite images, stock market charts, corporate logos, or morse code communications. infosthetics
What the above examples suggest is that Morse Code is an interesting alternative input method that not only allows information to be inputted in a quick and efficient way but also that is not limited to tap devices only but body as a whole. The way we navigate the environment and operate devices using our touch sense, the current way of inputting data in the form of touch interfaces is limited to our comprehension of interface, ie seeing the available options and using our fingers to control the flow of information. Morse Code offers an alternative methodology of reading and writing information. Not only limited to fingers, but the information can be inputted by our gestures, motion, exhalation and many more.
Because the system is based on rhythm, this information can be transmitted in many different ways independently from seeing the input or relying on feedback. Taking keyboard import for example relies on 3 elements; knowing the position of letters (seeing), typing the letters (fingers) and once again receiving the feedback of typing by looking at what we typed (seeing). Similarly, contemporary touch interfaces such as multitouch devices like the iPhone rely once again on knowing where the information is (seeing), tapping on the information (fingers) and feedback, ie whether you selection was correct (seeing). With morse code as the form of input this interaction between the devices and user could be reduced to two elements; typing the information (fingers, shake, footsteps) and feedback (seeing, hearing).
What should also be considered is that this could begin to suggest custom designed acronyms for interaction. Take for example “confirmations”. If the application offers a choice, an “accept” button (in tradition sense) could be replaced with a single morse code input, a short code or an acronym. Applications could begin to develop own interaction language using morse code as basis. Learning to use application would imply learning morse code shortcuts or acronyms as an optional (additional) quick way of interaction. Important to note that this would be available to everyone with or without disability whether the input is using fingers or the rest of your body. Devices such as the iPhone offer accelerometer data input as well as touch where for example registered motion could replace tap.
When we look at recent interaction projects, art installations the embody similar principles. Motion capture that tracks your movements, attempts to recognise your behaviour patterns could be built upon morse code behaviours, rhythms with app behaviour acronyms that are custom to the application.
Memo Akten refers to this as “creating new instruments”, tools for interaction. His recent body paint projects allow interaction between the view and canvas by capturing their motion and projecting paint effects on a virtual canvas. Whilst this interaction is about fun, it does provoke questions of input of information and whether one could begin to understand these gestures as words using Morse Code.
Microsoft of-course is (technologically) leading the way. Their current natal project builds a lot on custom behaviour patterns but not established methods like Morse Code, why not?
Many references and many projects, probably too many to mention. What is certain is that Morse Code presents an established communication method that can be still used / implemented in contemporary projects. We do not need to reinvent patterns of behaviour but rather build on established ones. Morse Code, however old, is a simple, easy to learn and easy comprehend method. Whether this be gestural or text based communication, patterns are here, we just need to use them. ‘Multitouch’ is so 1840′s!
How to learn it
I have come accross this site that seems to outline few ways to easily learn morse code in 1 minute (not convinced). Another alternative, if you have an iPhone, to jailbreak it and use TypingSebastian (AppStore) with plugin for iGitDahText. The learning process should be fun and engaging. Do note that this requires a Jailbroken iPhone which will void your warranty. Other alternatives are Francis Bonnin’s Morse-It (AppStore) and Mc Morse Code (AppStore).
See also Morse Code Translator
and, An Xiao on Twitter as an Artistic Medium:Â Morse Code Vs Twitter:
Posted on: 31/07/2009