Samuel Morse and the
Today's Snack: There are very few
calories in those ice-cream cones you can buy in the grocery store. So make
Pudding In a Cone. Fill cones with low-fat pudding of any flavor, and top with
some low-fat frozen whipped topping, thawed. You can drop a few sprinkles or
chocolate chips on top just for fun.
Two copies of the Morse Code key,
Kids today are happily familiar with email, Instant
Messaging, cell phones and text messaging, so it might be hard to imagine a
world in which the fastest form of communication was on horseback.
But that's about the way it was
until Samuel F.B. Morse invented the telegraph. Morse, 1791-1872, was one of
the first in a great wave of American inventors.
Telegraphy was the first method of
allowing messages to be sent using electrical power, from one terminal to the
next, in pulses contained within wires. From that invention has come everything
we know today in the way of fast communications, including television, the
telephone, the Internet and satellite communications.
Morse's father was a minister who
was a geography expert and a friend of Noah Webster, who developed the great
American dictionary. Morse attended Yale University, where he developed a love
for painting and a keen interest in electricity.
Working as a painter, he was poor
when he heard about some developments in electromagnetics, and set to work on
an invention idea. Using an old artist's canvas stretcher, a homemade battery,
and some old clockwork, he came up with the basic idea for telegraphy - an
operator tapping out a series of dots and dashes, and someone on the other end
of the wire translating the sounds into English words.
The first time the idea worked was
Jan. 6, 1838. By May 24, 1844, the system had been perfected to the point where
a telegraph line was strung from the U.S. Capitol to Baltimore, Md. The
telegraph lines were strung on poles made from logs, very similar to the
telephone poles and power poles that you see today.
Morse sent the first message, a Bible verse (Numbers 23:23)
expressing the wonder that Morse felt about his invention: "What Hath God
Not long after Morse received his
patent in 1844, the United States began putting up telegraph poles with wires
between them. Communications by telegraph helped both the North and the South
plan and carry out their warfare more effectively in the Civil War of the
By 1883, the company founded by
Morse and a partner, Alfred Vail, was transmitting millions of messages every
year on more than 400,000 miles of wire strung throughout the country. That
company is still in operation today. It's called Western Union.
Telegraphy is closely linked to the
later invention and success of both the telephone communications network, and
the transcontinental railroad. It was one of the most important devices ever
To go along with the device, Morse also
invented what we call "Morse code" so that people of all ages could send and
receive messages. Each alphabet letter was represented by short or long pulses
sent out by making a series of clicks with pauses in between on a simple
transmitting key. For example, if a ship got in trouble out on the open sea, it
could send out an "SOS" for help:
S = Dit Dit Dit (three short clicks)
O = Dah Dah Dah (three long clicks)
S = Dit Dit Dit (three short clicks)
You can practice Morse Code on this
fun website: www.learnmorsecode.com
Note the shorter little dots called "dits" and the longer dashes called "dahs."
By varying the speed and the pauses between sounds, you can signify whether
it's a "dit" or a "dah" that you're sending. With a longer pause between words,
you can help the receiver translate an entire sentence.
Learn more about Morse and the
historic site and museum that's been preserved at his home in Poughkeepsie,
N.Y., on www.morsehistoricsite.org
Learn more about telegraphy by
visiting this online museum website: http://www.chss.montclair.edu/~pererat/telegraph.html
You and a friend could print out one
copy each of this Morse Code key, sit with your backs to each other, and take
turns tapping out short messages with a pencil. One can tap while the other translates
the sounds into alphabet letters. Start off with with your first names,
perhaps, and keep it slow to make sure the message gets across. Then start
sending short phrases on your favorite music groups, a weather report, or the
name of your favorite sports team.
Try this as your first message:
THIS IS FUN!