1840: Samuel F.B. Morse receives a U.S. patent for his dot-dash telegraphy signals, known to the world as Morse code.
The code Morse devised with Alfred Vail uses a system of dots and dashes to represent letters and numbers. It went into practical use in 1844, after producing a working electromagnetic telegraph transmitter. The original code was a little different than the one in use today. What we recognize as Morse code is actually an international variation of the original, or “American,” code. The American code contained not only dots and dashes but also spaces in five letters: C, O, R, Y and Z. (C, for example, was rendered like this: • • •) The numerals 0 through 9 were also different.
The international version, known as Modern International Morse Code, was introduced at a conference in Berlin in 1851. The American code remained in widespread use until the 1920s, when everyone finally lined up behind the international version.
When he finally received a patent for the telegraph itself, it came first from the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid in Constantinople (now Istanbul), who personally tested it and gave it his blessing. Others, notably Englishmen Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke, had patents on similar but Morse eventually triumphed in the legal battle. His adept promotion, one-wire transmission system, and simple software – the Morse code – won the day.