Catherine Dorman is a BYT editorial intern. We’re having her try at least one new thing each week.
I’ve kind of wanted to learn Morse code since that episode of The Office where Pam and Jim learn it to mess with Dwight, but I never cared enough to actually learn a single letter. Thanks to MorseCode.io I’ve learned all 26, and know about 12 confidently. That may not sound great, but I only tried it for an hour so that’s pretty impressive.
According to the site, traditional Morse Code education requires you to chart out the dots and dashes and memorize the sounds. This website, on the other hand, allows you to hear the different lengths of beeps while typing out specific letters and seeing a physical display of dashes versus dots. The only key you need is the space bar and you simply hold it down for shorter or longer intervals depending on if you want a dot or a dash. Nothing crazy. This felt intuitive and reminded me of computer games and exercises that taught me how to type in elementary school, minus the fun graphics.
I don’t know how brain wiring works or if that’s even really a thing, but if it is, mine’s not wired for computer-y, regulated things, so I’d be lying if I said my brain didn’t get really angry at certain points during this exercise. Every time it switched from 2 letters to 3 or from 4 to 5, I felt overwhelmed for a second, but pushed through it and eventually managed to type every word the site threw at me, eventually.
The setup of the site is really great because it lets you type words pretty early on as opposed to forcing you through the whole alphabet before combining letters. This emphasizes the importance of pacing letters so that they’re clearly audible. It’s also super important to have the sound turned on so that you can hear the beeps because it gives you a sense of rhythm for forming letters and words.
Unfortunately, the word I struggled with the most was “help” (…. . .-.. .–.) which sucks because I feel like in a lot of TV, films and books using Morse code to signal danger ended up being a life saver. Unlucky for me though, that combination of dots and dashes won’t stay in my brain, so I’m as good as dead.
My other main struggle was pacing. I had a really hard time timing the spaces between letters. The beeping sounds were definitely helpful, especially since they’re the main aspect of actual Morse code, but I would just get on a roll and try to type faster and faster and then it would just make gibberish. Also, as the site is still in beta it’s a little glitchy and sometimes spaces out and gets my letter wrong, even though I swear I’m doing it right.
It’s interesting that sometimes the Morse code write out looks a bit like the letters it represents, like for example K which is -.- Maybe that doesn’t look that much like a K in hindsight, but it worked as a memory tool while practicing the code. The J write out might be a better example – – -. Doesn’t that look like a J on its side? X looks like a fun cartoon alien face which is exciting and brightened my mood when I was growing weary of repeatedly hitting my space bar for 45 minutes.
It got frustrating about 40 minutes in, but I took a water break and recovered for about 10 minutes. For the last 10 minutes, though, I wanted to die. Now my brain has a definite fog over it, probably because it’s been learning a completely new language which it hasn’t had to do since I was 6. Those last ten minutes I was learning letters R through Z, and of them I only remember R through T, but that’s still way more than I knew a couple hours ago.
It’ll be interesting to see how much, if any, of this I retain if I come back tomorrow or the next day and try to pick it back up. My guess is I’ll still remember A and E and B and T as those were used the most frequently on the site.
I have absolutely no idea how people understand this code based purely on sounds or flickered lights, I would get so lost, probably mostly because of my poor understanding of spaces. I’ll probably start telling people I know some Morse code and then write “ I am Godlike” (.. / .- — / –. — -.. .-.. .. -.- .) because those are all words I learned over the last hour. No one will doubt me then right?
As with 750 words, if I had more time I would definitely try to do this regularly because it can’t hurt to know Morse Code, and then I could feel more like an old timey spy, and who doesn’t want that?