Like many of the “great inventors” in the history of the United States, a more suitable title for Samuel Morse would be a great salesman. It is revealed time and time again that some of the people we glorified to be the great inventors of “life- changing” technologies were in fact simply people who were good at making a sale and networking. Moreover, these men and women were quick to get a legal patent before anyone else could and then they held a monopoly on
this product where they could sell as much of the new invention as possible. Also, this would result in these “great inventors” to indeed be coined with this title as they ensured they were the “face” of the product/invention. Nonetheless, some of these great marketers did allow for the commercial sales of these new technologies throughout history, which resulted in a lot of profit, which sometimes resulted in the opportunity for newer technologies to be discovered. Also, with these new inventions being excessively advertised to the public, this sparked the ideas for many other inventions in the minds of its audience. For example, Samuel Morse the apparent inventor of the “Morse code.”
It is written in many historical documents and essays that Mr. Morse himself did not, in fact, invent the Morse code, nor the apparatus in which the code was transmitted. However, Mr. Morse, again, being a great marketer and networker, was able to not only sell his idea to colleagues for assistance, but was also able to sell his idea to the public. It is said that Morse was influenced by the newest technologies and scientific discoveries at the time, which led him to the idea of his most prized possession: The electromagnetic tele- graph. Although Morse himself did not invent the telegraph, he and his many assistants reinvented a telegraph system that facilitated communication; Most notably, international and railway communication. One of the largest innovations that the Morse company introduced to telegraph communication was the introduction of recordable messages.
With the creation of Morse code, Morse and his most notable colleagues Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail would eventually come to create an unprecedented invention that would change the world dramatically. This technology introduced, for the first time ever, a recordable message from a distance. This communication system could then be used to innovate many industries such as transportation, finance and journalism. The Morse code system eventually became internationally transmittable.
The Morse telegraph system used electromagnetism and currents to send pulses from one end of the machine to the other. The pulse would then trigger several components on the receiving end of the machine resulting in an indentation on a piece of paper. These indentations, or “dots” and “dashes,” could then be translated into letters or numbers and finally, messages. Each dot-and-dash-sequence is translated into a letter or number depending on the amount of dots or dashes between each “break.” For example, the letter A is one dot and one dash.
We have come such a long way from dots and dashes being indented onto a piece of paper. However, it is interesting to think back on the history of communication and how this great industry once never even existed. We take our almost-instantaneous communications technology for granted these days, as it is something that has become so normalized to each and every one of us. However, I urge you to consider the thought, even for just a moment, of how different your life would be without the ability to communicate via technology. Imagine how lost or disconnected you feel - not to mention, uninformed.
Here is the International Morse Code:
Photo by Rhey T, Snodgrass & Victor F. Camp, 1922