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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Morse code 'alive and well'

By Brady Haran
BBC iCan reporter

David Ramsey taps out Morse

Morse code seems to be the communication method that just won't die.

The maritime industry stopped using the code years ago and radio hams are no longer required to pass a Morse test to obtain a UK licence.

But a dedicated band of amateurs - and a large number of people with disabilities - are helping keep the dot-dash system alive.

Leicester-based radio ham David Ramsey told BBC News Online: "One country after another dropped the code, but on the amateur side it seems to be picking up again.

"People who mainly use their voice (on radio) like the idea of picking it up... they know there is a lot of Morse going on and they wonder what it is all about.

"It is curiosity that is bringing them back."

It is difficult to find a clear spot on many of the popular bands
George Longden
In a bizarre merger of technologies, there are even people sending Morse messages via the Internet.

Radio hams with disabilities are another group utilising Morse code.

Tapping out dots and dashes can sometimes be easier for people with physical or speech impediments.

John Hammond, from the Radio Amateurs Invalid and Blind Association, said some radio users used Morse keys which are modified to suit their disabilities.

"I remember a chap who couldn't speak and was totally paralysed, but he was able to use his Morse key with his tongue, which was marvellous.

David Ramsey
David Ramsey uses Morse code

"Another chap, known as Twinkle Toes, could use his big toe... I think that was the only part of his body that he could use."

George Longden, secretary of the Morse Code Preservation Society in the UK, said his dream would be for radio hams to be required to pass a Morse test.

He said: "My prime wish will never be granted - the resumption of a CW (Morse) examination for all amateurs aspiring to a licence to operate on all HF bands between 1.8 and 30MHz."

Despite this, the society is attempting to teach Morse to new radio users.

"We support an initiative which offers authenticated speed tests.

"It will provide for tests of varying speeds at rallies and conventions throughout the country and we are also endeavouring to encourage other countries to undertake similar services."

Mr Longden said the airwaves remain clogged with Morse users.

"(Morse code) is still very much alive and it is difficult to find a clear spot on many of the popular bands during an international contest.

"If you don't believe me then listen on most weekends."

Morse alphabet
A .- N -. Zero -----
B -... O --- 1 .----
C -.-. P .--. 2 ..---
D -.. Q --.- 3 ...--
E . R .-. 4 ....-
F ..-. S ... 5 .....
G --. T - 6 -....
H .... U ..- 7 --...
I .. V ...- 8 ---..
J .--- W .-- 9 ----.
K -.- X -..- . .-.-.-
L .-.. Y -.-- , --..--
M -- Z --.. ? ..--..

The BBC's Brady Haran
"It seems Morse code is still filling our airwaves"

Morse code signs off
02 Feb 99  |  Science/Nature
The end of the line for Morse Code
31 Dec 97  |  In Depth

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