Signalman Sam's
Morse Code Course

Table of Contents

Overview of Morse Code
Morse Code was invented by Samuel F. B. Morse for use with his telegraph. The first demonstration of long-distance telegraphy took place on May 24, 1844. Samuel Morse sent the telegraph message "What hath God wrought?" from the Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to the B & O Railroad Depot in Baltimore, Maryland.

Morse Code is still valuable to know today, particularly for use in emergencies. Because the code is so simple - a sequence of just two different types of elements - and because it can readily be sent either sonically or visually, there are almost unlimited ways that you can devise in an emergency to send it.

In recent years Morse Code has also been used for communication by people having many types of physical disabilities. Often a person who can control only one single movement can use that to communicate Morse Code. It is being used both to communicate with other people and, more and more, to communicate with computers.

Overview of This Course
Signalman Sam's Morse Code course divides the alphabet into seven letter groups, which are taken from the BSA Signaling merit badge pamphlet. The course uses Signalman Sam's Morse Code Transmitter to send the individual letters in each group as well as words and messages made up of only the letters in the groups you have already seen. After you are comfortable with receiving each message, use the BACK button on your browser to return to this course page.

As you progress through the six letter groups you will learn the entire Morse Code. You can change the speed at which Signalman Sam sends his message, and you can have Sam send the same message again as many times as you wish. For more of a challenge, speed him up. To make receiving easier, slow him down. At the very beginning you may wish to turn on the display of each letter as Sam sends it. If Sam has not displayed each letter as he sends it, the complete message will appear after he finishes sending, and you can check what you received. For an even greater challenge, use Sam's ability to send the letters of his message backward or even in random order.

The best way to make progress learning a code is by regular, steady practice. Keep track of your progress through this course and you should quickly become a proficient receiver. Just a short session every day should let you make good, rapid progress. Don't forget to practice sending, too. You can send along with Sam's messages by moving your mouse pointer to the telegraph key on Sam's Morse Code Transmitter page. Then you can key the blinker with your mouse button.

Signalman Sam was implemented by Boy Scout Troop 52, Cranbury, New Jersey. This Morse Code Course was also implemented by Troop 52.

Good luck! Practice well!

Morse Code Basics
Morse Code is a completely general code. Like Semaphore Flag Code, you can use Morse Code to convey any type of message because the individual codes represent single characters which you use to spell out your message. International Morse is somewhat richer than Semaphore Code, since it has explicit codes for all the digits as well as for common punctuations. Morse code also includes a number of procedural codes listed in the last section. Variants of Morse Code have been defined for other alphabets as well. However, those are beyond the scope of this course.

All Morse Code characters are combinations of just two types of elements. The shorter element (called "dot" or "dit") is conventionally one third the length of the longer element (called "dash" or "dah"). There are also spaces of three different lengths between these elements. First, the element space, conventionally the same length as the dot, separates the elements within a character. Second, the letter space, conventionally the length of the dash, separates letters within a word. Third, the word space, about twice the length of the dash, separates the words of a message. When you practice sending, try to keep the lengths of your elements and spaces regular and in about these proportions. This will make it much easier to copy your message.

Signalman Sam's Morse Code Transmitter, which is used to send the exercises in this course, allows the "Farnsworth Speed" to be set slower than the letter speed. This effectivly stretches out the letter spaces and word spaces to be longer than they conventionally would be based on the letter speed. Donald R. Farnsworth, an amateur radio operator in California, invented this system about half a century ago based on his theory that it would be easier to master the Morse Code at higher speeds if the letters were learned at higher speed from the outset.

If you make an error while sending, use the error code in the last section, seven consecutive dots, to indicate this to the receiver. Then start the current word over again.

Letter Group 1 - E T A O I N S

Letter Group 2 - H R D L U C 5

Letter Group 3 - M P F W V 0

Letter Group 4 - Y B G J Q 4

Letter Group 5 - K X Z 2 . ,

Letter Group 6 - 3 6 7 ? /

Letter Group 7 - 8 9 - @

Common Procedural Signs
... Error
. Pause - Wait
.- End of Section - Break
.- End of Message
...- End of Transmission