‘Speaking’ Morse Code

Signalling Morse Code

Signalling Morse Code

Apart from any Hamsters (HAM international radio operators) out there, most of you probably know Morse Code as ‘that code made out of dots and dashes’, like the famous SOS: … — … (that is, di di dit / dah dah dah / di di dit)

But for those of us who used it, it’s more the universal language of sound and touch, with which we were able to communicate with the outer HQ base and other parties.

When I learned the Morse Code alphabet, it was to sound out a dot as a ‘di’ (or ‘dit’) and a dash as a ‘dah’ and I practiced doing those on the Morse Code ‘key’ (pictured above). When I received messages, the short and long radio beeps translated into letters in my head. With practice this soon became automatic, and I was able to reach approximately 25 words per minute, which was about the medium level of competence!

Just like texting today, we had many abbreviations of words and phrases to speed up communication. So, some examples were:

V: Hello!
QCT: Anyone listening out there?
SLI: Shall I go ahead?
K: Yes – proceed!
IMI: Repeat please.
AR: Finished!

Although a dot is a ‘di’, and a dash is a ‘dah’, it is fascinating that I could identify the person signalling me just by their style of transmission: one person was so quick with his signalling it was hard to keep up, while another person sounded slow and drawn out!

AWA Radio Operator at HQ Port Moresby. He had a slightly bigger radio!

AWA Radio Operator at HQ Port Moresby. He had a slightly bigger radio!

Similiarly, a receiver could also recognise my style.

The first letter of the alphabet, A (. -), sounds like ‘di dah’ when spoken. When I became a grandfather, instead of becoming ‘Grandad’ or ‘Grandpa’, I nominated A (which also stands for ‘Ace’!), that is, ‘di-dah’ so that’s what my grandkids call me: Didah.

For those who are interested, here are some examples of the Morse Code alphabet:

A .-       di dah
B -…    dah di di dit
C -.-.    dah di dah dit
E …..    di di di di dit (or briefed: dit)
X -..-     dah di di dah
Y -.–     dah di dah dah
Z –..      dah dah di di
1 .—-    di dah dah dah dah (or briefed: di dah)
2 ..—     di di dah dah dah (or briefed: di di dah)
5 …..     di di di di dit (or briefed: di)
9 —-.     dah dah dah dah dit (or briefed: dah dit)
10 —–   dah dah dah dah dah (or briefed: dah)

The briefing was to save time for more experienced operators to use! The messages were coded and decoded, and sent (or received) by Morse Code in a series of groups of five letters of the alphabet.