When I first learned you could transmit taps on the Apple Watch, I immediately started to wonder about its potential as a device for sending Morse code. My grandfather was (and my dad still is) a longtime ham radio operator, and while I never learned Morse to either of their satisfaction, I've always had a fascination with the dots and dashes of years past.
After spending some initial time with it, I'll admit: The Apple Watch isn't a perfect device for communicating in Morse code. The taps you can send are limited to short "dit" buzzes, with no proper way to send the lengthier dash "dah". But I still love the idea of using tap-based communication — and it makes a whole lot more sense to me to try playing with Morse's pre-established taptic language over trying to re-invent the wheel, so to speak.
Why tap at all?
In an age where most people communicate by whipping out a smartphone and sending a text message, it's hard to see the value in a centuries-old communication language. But Morse has advantages when it comes to a more personal device like the Watch: If you can translate the taps on your wrist into language, you don't have to worry about interrupting a meal or conversation to scan text on your wrist.
You'll may have to look to see who sent it, of course, but there's something that feels infinitely more delightful about getting secret messages on your wrist — whether that's an SOS from a friend getting harangued at a party, or hugs and kisses from a loved one.
There's the accessibility angle, as well: it potentially allows the blind, or those with failing eyesight, a way to communicate that doesn't require reading tiny letters on a 1.5-inch screen.
The two-tap "dah" method on the Apple Watch
Since the Watch doesn't offer the ability for a long "dah" tap, I've been experimenting with a quick double-tap in its place — so "A" would be "tap-taptap". I like this option better than my initial tests, which used spaces between the taps as an indication of short and long. (Because you already use spaces to denote different letters and words in Morse, implementing spaces for the taps themselves got confusing, quickly.)
From my experience, tapping letters at the right frequency takes a bit of work to get down consistently — much like learning Morse on a straight key. You also have to take into account the Watch's occasional software lag: If you tap too quickly in succession, the Apple Watch might merge those two presses into one for the receiver.
But after you get the initial sequencing down, it can be a lot of fun. I've also found it helpful to visually separate taps — double-tap dahs at the top of the screen, single-tap dits at the bottom. Your recipient can see where you've tapped if they look at their watch, and it helps correct for any tap parsing errors the Watch might run into.
Three Morse code phrases for the Apple Watch
Learning the Morse alphabet is a little challenging if you're starting from scratch. If you want to play around a bit with taptic language but don't want the hassle of learning the entire thing, here are a few tap sequences you can use with your fellow Apple Watch-wearing friends.
SOS is one of the few publicly well-known Morse patterns, in part due to its simplicity.
S is three short taps: dit-dit-dit, or tap-tap-tap on the Apple Watch O is three long taps: dah dah dah, or taptap taptap taptap
Use this with friends on the Watch to signal boring conversation you want to be rescued from, topics perhaps not best-discussed during a party, or just about anything else.
Hugs and kisses (88)
Heartbeat a little too intimate for your tastes? Let your loved ones know they're in your thoughts with the Morse abbreviation for hugs and kisses, 88.
88: dah dah dah dit-dit dah dah dah dit-dit, or taptap taptap taptap tap-tap taptap taptap taptap tap-tap
Best regards/thinking of you (73)
Morse's 73 is traditionally used as a conversation sign-off, but you can also use this palindromic pattern as a friendlier version of 88.
73: dah dah dit-dit-dit dit-dit-dit dah dah, or taptap taptap tap-tap-tap tap-tap-tap taptap taptap
Does Morse make sense on the Apple Watch?
I'm having fun playing around with Morse code on the Apple Watch, but I know it's not for everyone. If you decide to experiment (or have been experimenting with Morse in different ways), let me know in the comments or on the forum.
Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.
.- .-- . ... --- -- .
-- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . / .. ... / ..- -. -.. . .-. .-. .- - . -..
--- -. .-.. -.-- / ..- ... . ..-. ..- .-.. / .. ..-. / .- .-.. .. . -. ... / .- - - .- -.-. -.- .-.-.-
Is there any app that lets you learn morse code? I used to know it but never got to the point where I could read it without having to think what each "letter" meant. Sent from the iMore App
I also immediately thought of Morse code during the tap-transmission demo during the Watch event. Maybe it's time for another remake of "Infernal Affairs" (2002.) The first remake being, of course, "The Departed."
There is a code that was used by POWs to communicate with other prisoners that doesn't require long dashes that may be more practical for the Watch. Search for Tap Code on Wikipedia. Sent from the iMore App
I've found this reference to the tap code. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/honor/sfeature/sf_tap.html Sent from the iMore App
Custom vibration patterns are already available on iPhones that allow short dits and longer dahs. Any ways to use this on the Watch?
While I think this is kind of cool in the sense that it preserves an interesting old technology, it's absolutely impractical in everyday life. Specifically with respect to the case mentioned (getting a message in Morse would obviate the need to interrupt a conversation to look at your wrist) - this is... not convincing. No one can tell me that having to decode a long string of Morse is LESS distracting than a quick glance at your watch. The best Morse operator in the world couldn't do that while carrying on a conversation, so you'd be frozen, mentally taking down the message for the several seconds it would take to tap out even the most brief thought. This is a pretty creative use of the watch, but ultimately, it's a novelty that would wear off really quickly.
Hi Ren, Is there a requirement to distinguish the "dits" and "dahs" through vibrations or sound? If not, then they could be represented visually: taps in the upper left quadrant of the watch face for "dits", lower right quadrant for "dahs". Just an idea.
-.-. --- --- .-..
How about an app that teaches us Morse Code?
Interesting post! I never thought about Morse code potentially coming back, let alone be resurrected by Apple. I am thinking about it now, though. I wonder if you are right! Explore the link: http://www.yelp.com/biz/downtown-los-angeles-computer-repair-los-angeles
Thank you for signing up to iMore. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.