|S.O.S. in Morse Code|
In cases where attempts are made to rescue dying language, technology such as computers and audio recordings are the tools being used to help turn the tide. When it comes to Morse Code, though, advancements in technology and audio broadcasting/recording are leading to its death.
Morse Code is a method of transmitting text data as a series of tones, lights, or clicks that can be understood by a skilled listener or observer. The International Morse Code encodes the alphabet, numbers and punctuation as standardized sequences of signals called "dots" and "dashes". It was developed in the first half of the 19th century and was used extensively during the first half of the 20th century, particularly for communication with the front lines during World War II.
Now, with smart phones, satellite technology, the internet and texting, the Morse Code language has become obsolete. Until a few years ago, it was mandatory for people taking amateur shortwave radio exams to know, but that section has been removed from the test. The Coast Guard stopped seeking and translating Morse Code distress messages in the late 1990s.
The slow death of Morse Code was partly the inspiration for George Campbell to record memories of his life as a landline commercial operator in a book entitled "Good Night Old Man." He was only 19 years old in 1945 when he passed on the coded message that Germany had surrendered. His aim with the book was to bring awareness of the language to younger generations, who no longer have need to learn it.
Though some might argue that Morse Code shouldn't be counted out yet, technology continues to rush forward. The LOLs and emoticons of texting are drowning out the dits and dahs of Morse Code. It is probably the only language quietly slipping into extinction that the world won't someday miss (but certainly don’t quote me on that).
[Update: The book "Good Night Old Man" can be purchased through Dream Write Publishing.]