Listen&Learn: The History of Morse Code

Jaksyn Peacock
Learn about the international communication system.

Pre-listening vocabulary

  • telegraph: a machine that communicates a message by sending out pulses
  • frequently: often
  • transmit: to send something somewhere else
  • variation: a different version of something
  • obsolete: no longer useful
  • distress: danger

Listening activity

Gapfill exercise

Morse code is an alphabet that uses combinations of dots and dashes to represent . American inventor Samuel Morse created the code in the 1830s as a way to communicate through an electric telegraph. He designed it so that letters used frequently in English would be easier to transmit. The letter ‘E’ was the , represented by one dot. As the telegraph became in many countries, a variation of Morse code with accented letters was created so that people who didn’t speak English could use it. Eventually, the invention of the telephone made the telegraph obsolete in everyday communication. However, continued to use Morse code in wartime through the 20th century. In fact, SOS became a universal distress signal because it was easy to transmit through Morse code.

Comprehension questions

See answers below

  1. The inventor of Morse code was
    a. British
    b. Canadian
    c. American
  2. The simplest letters in Morse code were
    a. letters near the beginning of the alphabet
    b. letters often found at the beginning of words
    c. letters used frequently in English
  3. Through the 20th century, Morse code was still used in
    a. everyday communication
    b. military operations
    c. business

Discussion/essay questions

  1. Why might it be useful to know a universal code? Do you think there are any modern uses for Morse code?

Transcript

Morse code is an alphabet that uses combinations of dots and dashes to represent letters. American inventor Samuel Morse created the code in the 1830s as a way to communicate through an electric telegraph. He designed it so that letters used frequently in English would be easier to transmit. The letter ‘E’ was the simplest, represented by one dot. As the telegraph became popular in many countries, a variation of Morse code with accented letters was created so that people who didn’t speak English could use it. Eventually, the invention of the telephone made the telegraph obsolete in everyday communication. However, militaries continued to use Morse code in wartime through the 20th century. In fact, SOS became a universal distress signal because it was easy to transmit through Morse code.

Answers to comprehension questions

1c 2c 3b

Written and recorded by Jaksyn Peacock for EnglishClub

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