Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The Wall Street Journal reports: [edited]
From his high-desert home crammed with computers, radio receivers and a very patient wife, Mr. Adams uses homemade software to download online books with expired copyrights, convert the typed words into Morse code tones and record them on compact discs he sells on the Internet.
"I do it because it's fun, and to keep it going, but I have no delusions of grandeur that I can save Morse code from extinction. I'm not Don Quixote. I'm not going to go out and fight windmills."
Morse code is the creation of a painter, Samuel F.B. Morse, who needed a way to transmit messages over the telegraph that he and Alfred Vail had invented. In 1844, the men famously sent a transmission from Washington to Baltimore that read, "What hath God wrought?"
The telegraph replaced the pony express. As late as World War II, ham operators found themselves using their Morse skills as radiomen in the military. During the Vietnam War, POW Jeremiah Denton, later a U.S. senator from Alabama, blinked "T-O-R-T-U-R-E" in Morse code when his captors put him on television.
Mr. Adams and other Morse aficionados don't speak of dots and dashes; that imagery is too visual, and Morse is an aural language. So they prefer to describe the language in dits and dahs, the sounds of the short and long tones. A, for instance, is dit dah. B is dah dit dit dit, or simply dah dididit. Between two letters, the sender allows a three-dit silence. Between words it grows to seven dits.