Posted in History & Literature

Morse Code

In 1825, an artist by the name of Samuel Morse was travelling to a city far from his home to paint a commission. While working on his painting, he received a letter from his father, which informed Samuel that his wife was ill with an infection. The next day, another letter came, but this time detailing his wife’s sudden death. Upon receiving the letter, Morse immediately returned to his home as fast as possible, but he arrived after they had already buried his wife. This was the age before fast long-distance communication, where messages could only be sent as fast as the horses that carried them.

Frustrated by the inefficient communication methods of his time, Morse became dedicated to devising a better way to send messages over long distance at a much faster speed. After intensive studying of electromagnetism, Morse eventually developed the first concept of a single-wire telegraph. The telegraph could send electrical signals of variable length at fast speeds down wires with a simple button.

Together with the telegraph, Morse devised a code alphabet so that messages could be sent encoded into short and long signals on the telegraph. A dot (“dit”) represents a short press, a dash (“dah”) represents a long press (three times longer than a short press). Each letter is separated by a space the length of 3 dots. Words would be spaced out by a slightly longer pause – the length of 7 dots. Morse designed the code to be efficient and so he made the most common letters (E, I, S, T and so forth) the shortest in length.


Posted in History & Literature


Mayday is the universal phrase for requesting emergency assistance in a crisis situation on the sea or in the air. 

It was first created by Frederick Stanley Mockford, who was a senior radio office trying to figure out a simple distress call sign. As he worked at Croydon Airport, London, and dealt with traffic mainly between England and France, he decided on the word mayday, which is derived from the French words venez m’aider, meaning “come help me”.

Another famous distress call is SOS, or  … – – – … in Morse code. It was first used by German radios but then became the worldwide standard in 1906. Although it is often thought to stand for “save our souls”, it is in fact a backronym that was made decades after it came to be. Instead, it was chosen as it is simple to remember (the backronym may have been devised to help people remember the letters) and easy to signal via Morse code. It was most famously used by the RMS Titanic

The reason why mayday was created (and set as a standard in 1927) was due to the need for a spoken word as the audio radio transmitters were developed.