"Friday afternoon, I'm walking home from school and I'm watching some men build a new house. And the guy hammering on the roof calls me a paranoid little weirdo. In Morse code."
The usual communication devices are unsuitable, unavailable, broken or under surveillance. What can a smart hero do?
Morse code, of course! Make a noise, flash a light, or grab something convenient and start maniacally flipping it on and off.
Naturally, the message's recipient knows Morse code, too, but any villains in the vicinity will fail to penetrate this cleverness. Not only that, but sometimes the recipient will figure out the missing bits they lost while figuring it was actually Morse.
If the viewer happens to know Morse Code, it would be noticed that almost always the actor is just tapping randomly. If the recipient is rattling off the message almost as fast as one can read, it's fake Morse code. The fastest straight-key operators can send at 35 words per minute, and decode in their head at up to 40 words per minute. It's unlikely that someone with just basic training in Morse code can even send at more than 10 words per minute.
In another example of research failure or maybe Acceptable Breaks from Reality
, movies and TV usually show the Morse operators visibly tapping the key. Even a basic Morse class teaches you to grasp the sides of the key button with thumb and middle finger and index finger on top, and work the key from your wrist. But that's much less visual.
Incidentally, Morse Code is, for official purposes, obsolete: In 1999, it was retired as the international standard, and in 2007, the FCC dropped requirements for Morse proficiency for amateur radio operators. Unofficially, it's still used by Navies frequently, and Morse proficiency is necessary for communication-based rates.
By the way, if you're in trouble
, you can always send the most commonly-known message in Morse Code: 3 dots, 3 dashes, 3 dots (S.O.S.). Though SOS works differently from most Morse transmissions. There should be no spaces between letters, and it should be repeated in a continuous SOSOSO pattern. By the way, it doesn't mean "S
ouls," rather the 3 dots and 3 dashes pattern was chosen because its an easy message for even an amateur to send and/or recognize even with heavy static.
A similarly recognizable one is SMS (3 dots, 2 dashes, 3 dots), which is used as a ringtone on many Nokia mobile phones to indicate an incoming text.
. -..- .- -- .--. .-.. . ... (Examples)
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.- -. .. -- . / .- -. -.. / -- .- -. --. .- (Anime & Manga)
- Played with and slightly subverted in Pokémon Special when Professor Rowan's lab assistant Roseanne is stuck when the lab is attacked by Yanmegas. She has the idea to turn the lights on and off in order to attract attention from the outside, and thus call for help as the Yanmegas are drowning out her voice due to their supersonic buzzing. Diamond notices this, and tells Sebastian, a butler, about it. Sebastian then proceeds to flash back a message using his Chinchou. Diamond realizes something and points out this is kinda stupid when they really should just head over and check out whats going on. Sebastian agrees.
- In an earlier, Pryce would tap his cane on the ground to non-verbally communicate with his Pokemon. Apparently Pokemon can learn Morse code as well.
- The rather extraordinary staff at Jesus' high school in Until Death Do Us Part gets contacted by a group of african mercenaries through these means over the P.A. system as to not disturb the student body. The message itself is a declaration of war.
- Mafuyu and Banchou (Okegawa) in Ore-samaTeacher. He even calls her "Morse" or "morse girl" ('Moorus' in Japanese).
- One of the most charming moments in Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech is when Hikaru Ichijo wants to say something to Misa Hayase by something more private than a comm system. So, he asks her to look out the window and he uses his fighter's tracking lights in Morse code to give a message of support to her.
- The Science Ninja Team Gatchaman episode "Murder Music" had Galactor capturing a rock band for their Evil Plan. For their part, the band's drummer manages to send a message in Morse code in the middle of the nonsensical music they were forced to play. Dr. Nambu figures out the message and the Science Ninja Team uses the information to rescue them.
- Kindaichi solves a puzzling murder this way when he realizes that one of the victims, a military Otaku who plays survival games in his spare time, is proficient in Morse code and figures out that the apparently nonsense poem found where he died was actually his Dying Clue.
- Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea has a longer conversation in Morse code. Not quite a trope because it's between a sailor and his wife. The couples five-year-old son also happens to be fluent in Morse code, something lampshaded by the sailors on the husband's ship.
- Amusingly subverted in Developers (a prequel to Mobile Suit Gundam about the construction of the very first Zaku). When they discover the radiation from the mech's experimental reactor is disrupting their wireless communications, they attempt to communicate with the crew in the work area by flashing lights in morse code, only to find out the only thing anybody there knows in morse is how to say "please respond", leading to an Overly-Long Gag.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, when Pride and Alphonse are both trapped in a huge stone prison made by alchemy, Pride, helpless to escape, grabs a stick and starts banging on Alphonse's helmet. It isn't until it's too late that the heroes realize that he's been banging out the equivalent of a morse-code message, transmitted through the underground tunnels, telling Father their position.
-.-. --- -- .. -.-. / -... --- --- -.- ... (Comic Books)
- In Batman 663, well-known for other strangeness, a severely-injured Joker swore at the doctors in Morse code by blinking. And laughed at Batman the same way. Of course, you'd expect Batman to know it.
- Again, truth in television; some stroke victims or similarly incapacitated persons use just such a technique to communicate. Admittedly, they were, say, radio operators beforehand... and see below...
- In Detective Comics 726, it was revealed that the Joker had been communicating with the inmate in the next cell by tapping on the wall in Morse code, because staying in Arkham is that boring. It was explained that the other inmate knew Morse code because he'd been a sailor.
- And in Emperor Joker, the Joker steals Batman's mouth — but Batman's still able to communicate by tapping his teeth together in Morse code.
- Yet another Batman example: when being held for murder, Bruce is visited by Alfred and sends him a message by tapping on the table.
- Tintin in The Blue Lotus, realistic, as the story is set in the 1930s, when Morse code was the only method for long distance radio communication.
- And Batman's James Gordon knows Morse code. In Gordon's own four issue limited series, a waitress being held hostage is placed next to the interior plug for the outside neon sign. Unplug, plug, unplug ... three long, three short. Everybody wins. Except the bad guys.
- In Immortal Iron Fist the various Immortal Weapons all use Morse code to communicate while captured which is really odd because they're martial artists who have devoted their entire lives to combat and not all of them are even from Earth.
- A subtle Shout-Out there in the title, as a Morse sender's individual style and rhythm of sending is called his or her "fist."
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The short story "What Ho, Gods of the Abyss" had a one-off joke about Bertie trying to signal to Jeeves by coughing in Morse code. Jeeves came running, but it turned out later that he didn't recognize the signal and just thought Bertie was choking.
..-. .. .-.. -- ... (Films)
- In Star Trek V, Scotty uses Morse to warn Kirk, Spock, and Bones to get away from the brig wall he's about to blow open.
Kirk: "Stand back?"
Kirk & Bones: "Stand back?!"
Scotty: What're ye all standin' aroun' for? Don't ye know a jailbreak when ye see one?
- In Space Camp, one of the campers in the accidentally-launched shuttle realizes that she can use a telemetry switch to send Morse code in place of the nonfunctional radio. The control room operators need the help of the ever-annoying robot Jinx to notice that one of their console lights is rapidly blinking in an irregular pattern...
- In Executive Decision, the trope is played with when Kurt Russel's character uses the boarded plane's tracking lights for Morse code, knowing the only reason this can work is that the US fighter planes following the plane are Navy, the only US armed service that still trained its pilots in Morse code.
Soldier: I take back every rust-pickin', squid-hatin' thing I've ever said about swabbies!
- In Under Siege, Seagal's character is able to rescue a group of survivors who just happened to be broadcasting Morse code as he was nearby. Somewhat justified in that he was previously a Navy SEAL
- In the movie Panic Room, Jodie Foster's daughter sends an SOS to a neighbor via a flashlight. Jodie Foster asks where she learned Morse code, and the daughter says, "From Titanic." Unfortunately, the neighbor does not recognize that he is being signaled and goes to bed, forcing them to deal with the problem themselves.
- Subverted in Tremors 4. When trapped in a building with a telegram machine and a hungry Graboid, none of the characters can use Morse code. Instead, they just randomly tap it, which makes other people suspicious and makes them go and investigate.
- Subverted in Short Circuit 2 where Ben is trapped with Fred in a freezer. Ben is able to rig up a device to tap into the telephone network that can only communicate with beeps. Fred suggests to use Morse Code, assuming Ben knew it, but he doesn't ("But you're smart, I thought you'd know Morse!"), so Ben is forced to communicate to their female friend using musical notes of particular songs made by his machine to give directions. Together, the woman and the taxi driver driving her manage to figure out the songs and get to the right location.
- Independence Day has humankind using Morse code to plan a global "comeback attack". The aliens notice the emissions and come knocking.
- Transformers: While Frenzy has Maggie, Glenn, Secretary Keller, and Agent Simmons pinned in the archives, Glenn modifies an ancient PC to send a Morse code tone through the shortwave radio set so Keller can authorize an air strike against the Decepticons in Mission City.
- This trope is key in Eagle Eye; in order to get his message out, the Sacrificial Lamb flashed his cell phone light while walking in circles around an elevator shaft. Somehow, the all-seeing evil supercomputer onto which the message was recorded (and from which the other protagonists retrieved the message) was not able to catch the Morse-coded message despite the fact that the character was not apparently doing anything else while walking in circles around the elevator shaft.
- In the Stephen King movie (that is, written AND directed by King) Maximum Overdrive, the machines have suddenly gained intelligence and started slaughtering humanity in wildly ridiculous fashions (eg. a vending machine pitching soda can fastballs, push mover killing its pusher, and so on). Anyway, at one point the vehicles are running low on fuel, so they have the mounted gun among them honk its horn in Morse, which the boy scout among the survivors in a diner translates into a "fuel us and we don't kill you" message. A perfect display of the trope: spoken language speed translation, post sending translation, and so on.
- In The Hunt for Red October, two submarines communicate with one another by flashing Morse code over the periscope light. The American transmitting (Scott Glenn playing Capt. Mancuso) says, "My Morse is so rusty, I'm probably sending him the measurements of the Playmate of the Month."
- Subverted in Untraceable, when Griffin is being tortured to death on the webcam, he tries blinking a morse code clue to the Federal Agents watching. However, none of them know the code (or even recognize it) forcing Diane Lane to run across the building to find the only agent who does.
- In Wag The Dog, the conspiracy uses this trope to gain sympathy for the cause of war. Their fake POW, "Old Shoe," has ripped a Morse code into his shirt reading, "Courage, Mom." In reality, "Old Shoe" is just some psycho they pulled from a military prison.
- In Phenomenon, Forrest Whitaker's character is a HAM operator, so he should know Morse code for that reason, but John Travolta's character not only knows Morse code (for no reason) and can decipher a very fast message that Whitaker picks up on his HAM radio.
- To be fair, Travolta's character has a brain tumour which rewires his brain, allowing him to learn things easily. He could have picked up Morse code off camera.
- Babyface, one of Sid's toys in Toy Story, taps out "RR Come out" in morse code on a metal table leg in Sid's room to call the mutant toys out.
- Parodied (and then played straight by Simpkins) in Carry On Spying;
Bind: It's Morse code!
Simpkins: What does it say?
Bind: Dot dot dash, dot, dot dash...
Crump: Well, what does it mean?
Bind: I don't know.
Simpkins: Oh, give it here!
- In A Night to Remember ships communicate by using Morse Code with Marconi instruments. The trope is averted because the film is set in 1912 when that was standard practice
- In Let the Right One In, Oskar copies down Morse Code from a library book so he and Eli can communicate through the common wall they share for their neighbouring bedrooms. Later, Eli uses Morse to tap out the message 'hi' when knocking on Oskar's door. At the end, when she's in her trunk she and Oskar tap out the word 'kiss' to one another.
- U-571 had a bound German sailor aboard a captured U-Boat tapping out a message with a wrench so that another German warship in the area would hear on Sonar... I am U-571... destroy me!
- In Hot Shots! Part Deux, the radio operator writes down a morse code transmission as "Dit dit dah, dit dah dit".
- This is what the titular dog in the film Bingo does when he calls the police to inform them that two criminals have taken a family hostage and tied them in a bathroom in their own RV.
.-.. .. - . .-. .- - ..- .-. . (Literature)
- Played with in the novel Figgs and Phantoms: a man whose wife is a tap dancer learns Morse code in case she's trying to send him secret messages, but it's mostly just gibberish with occasional words like "stringbean" or "mousetrap".
- Deconstructed in Harry Harrison's Spaceship Medic, set on a heavily damaged spaceship some time in the future: the radio has been jury-rigged back into operation, and the only signals it can send that are powerful enough to reach help are bursts of static. They have to revive the now ancient and obsolete Morse code in order to send messages via bursts of static. Meanwhile, the recipients on Mars are left scrabbling through the history books to find out how to translate the strange signals.
- In the Brazilian book A Droga do Obediência ("Obedience Drug"), a boy gets captured in his school, and requests the captor to go to the bathroom before leaving. There he writes a Morse code message for the detective club he idolizes on the wall using... contents of a toilet.
- In The Hunt for Red October, two submarines communicate with one another by flashing Morse code over the periscope light. In the book, British intelligence officers on the HMS. Invincible are the ones exchanging Morse code with Ramius, and the American submarine just happens to catch part of the message — which allows Capt. Mancuso to deduce part of the situation and realize how highly classified the operation has become.
- In The Crow Road by Iain Banks, two lovers communicate their love for each other after sex using Morse code... with their genitals.
- In The Mysterious Benedict Society, the kids send messages in Morse code. One of them comments that nobody uses Morse code anymore, and Mr. Benedict responds that that's exactly why it's so useful for secret messages.
- For an extra layer of security everyone either composes their messages as riddles that would only make sense to their group or keeps them as short and non-specific as possible.
- In the Star Wars EU, the Morse equivalent is Mon Calamari blink code. Han can make himself understood in it, albeit with hilariously poor spelling, and it occasionally comes in useful when no better comms are available.
- According to The Corellian Trilogy, the series where this first became a plot point, Leia is considerably better at it than Han.
- The tribute/compilation book "Nancy Drew's Guide to Life" points out that you never know when a skill will come in handy- using, as an example, Nancy's once combining her knowledge of Morse code and tap-dancing to signal for help.
- Appears in Dalton Trumbo's novel Johnny Got His Gun. The main character is blind, deaf, mute, and a quadruple amputee after being hit by an artillery shell in World War One. The climax of the novel is when he learns to communicate with the outside world by tapping his head in Morse code. Slightly averted in that the nurse who sees it doesn't know what he's saying until she finds an officer to translate, and him knowing Morse code makes sense given he's in the army.
- If you get a Morse manual and translate the messages that Johnny and the officer are exchanging, you'll find that the writer and editor of that novel weren't actually fluent in Morse. For example, what the book claims is "What Do You Want?" actually reads "What Di Hiu Want?"
- In Area 7, Fox got tied up, and was able to call for help on her wrist mike by tapping out her callsign in Morse code.
- In Shades of Grey, everyone does know Morse code; it's used to communicate at night via East Carmine's central plumbing system. The librarian transmits (illegal) book readings.
- Thankfully averted in the Dan Brown novel Deception Point. The protagonist, The Smart Guy, and the Satellite Love Interest are trapped on an iceberg, and they know that they have only a little time before they die of hypothermia. The protagonist pulls out a pickax, and starts hammering away the SOS signal on the iceberg, thinking that a system that the United States has on the ocean floor will pick up the signal, come find their bodies, so that the conspiracy will be unveiled.
- In The Day of the Triffids, the protagonist is out searching for his missing girlfriend. On seeing a lit building in the otherwise uninhabited countryside (the triffids having killed almost everyone...) he sends a 'V' in morse using a portable searchlight. The inhabitants know morse well as per this trope and respond with a detailed message... which he has no idea how to translate, and simply flashes back a few more 'V's for good measure and starts driving towards them.
- Played with in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days, in which the boys of the local Scout troop explain to their Scoutmaster why there's absolutely no reason for them to learn Morse or Semaphore signals. There are no tall hills anywhere near town, nobody else in town knows either code, and if they really needed help that badly, why would they climb to the top of a nonexistent hill and wave flags or flash lights at people who can't understand them, when they could just get in the Scoutmaster's car?
- Played with to ridiculous extremes in The Heartless Mans Sons, where a spy relays messages by lighting candles in the windows of five adjacent rooms, with one candle representing a dot and two representing a dash. Needless to say it takes patience to relay and decode such messages, but being written by an arch-romantic, the novel usually operates on Rule of Cool rather than logic.
- Averted in "Calling The Empress", one of the first Venus Equilateral stories by George O. Smith. Morse is used in a makeshift arrangement to send a message to an interplanetary ship. The senders' Morse is rusty; many of them were ham radio operators but haven't used Morse for a while. And none of the bridge officers on the ship know Morse at all. They have to page the passengers and other crew, asking for someone who knows Morse, and they come up with a boy who learned Morse for a scouting merit badge.
- In several Star Trek: New Frontier novels, someone uses the SOS signal, because comms are out, but they have external running lights, or a pulse signal to a computer core, or the like. While it's generally obsolete and most characters don't know it, there are a few history buffs (or in one case, a Time Abyss) who recognize it as a distress call.
- In one of Patrick Moore's Scott Saunders novels, the captured astronauts time an escape attempt by blinking morse to each other. It fails. Their captors blindfold them.
- Andre Norton's Postmarked The Stars has a settlement cut off by radio jamming call for aid by generating a counter-pulse in a simple on-off code. When the settler asked what code to use, he was told to use something simple...
- E. E. “Doc” Smith's Skylark Series has a memorable scene where the opening part of a Morse conversation is carried out by firing a machine-gun at a spaceship's armoured hull. Needless to say all the male characters in the vicinity are completely familiar with the code, but the author at least made an attempt to show how slowly the message was sent.
- In Cheaper by the Dozen, the father decides his children should learn Morse code and paints messages in it on the walls. Most of them translate to Incredibly Lame Puns (one of which, "Two maggots were fighting in dead Ernest," his wife makes him paint out because it's not appropriate for the dining room, in code or otherwise). One of the kids remarks on how they won't be satisfied now until they've figured them all out, even though they know the most they're going to get out of it is bad jokes.
- In the Swallows and Amazons book Winter Holiday, Dick and Dorothea send signals to the main characters out of curiosity. Not knowing Morse themselves, they're unaware that they're sending out a distress signal. (They do learn Morse later on in the story.)
- Averted in a The Three Investigators story where the murder victim writes the murderer's name in semaphore code using the hands of clocks.
- In the Stephen King short story "Trucks", when the eponymous vehicles come to malevolent life, one of them uses its horn to issue demands via Morse to a group of humans; fortunately, one of the listeners learned the code in the Boy Scouts.
- In The Moon-Maze Game, when the Gamers are cut off from all but video contact with anyone outside the Game dome, one of them manages to communicate with the Game Master by gesturing in Morse (palm palm palm fist fist fist palm palm palm) to a closed-circuit camera. Justified because she's an historical-aviation buff.
.-.. .. ...- . / .- -.-. - .. --- -. / - ...- (Live Action TV)
- In the Alias episode "The Confession", as enemies look on, Jack sends a message to Sydney by blinking rapidly. One can only hope that the next time Jack has something in his eye he won't give away any important secrets.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed", the automated signal Botany Bay (Khan's ship) sends is in Morse. Uhura recognises the "CQ" call signal by ear.
- Justified in that Lt. Uhura is the ship's communications officer, and Starfleet Academy might well expect familiarity with obsolete but formerly widespread comms protocols in case they run across some Lost Colony or Ghost Ship with a still-functioning beacon.
- In The Adventures of Superman, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane are trapped in a room with a flue with a closable hatch. Jimmy realizes that he knows how to signal SOS with smoke, but the only thing to burn is a large amount of cash a rich person gave him. With much regret, Olsen agrees it is the only way and burns the money to do the smoke signaling. Fortunately, at least Superman sees the distress signal and rescues them.
- A bit of fridge logic here: What about their clothes? Those would have burned just fine.
- In the 50's? This was an era when Lois Lane wasn't allowed to appear in the Superman Corn Flakes commercials with Clark, Jimmy, and Perry because of the implications.
- It's also used in a episode of Superboy in which Lana Lang is kidnapped by Lex Luthor. When Luthor sends Superboy a "wedding video" of the two of them in order to taunt him, Superboy notices the methodical way Lana is blinking and realizes she's using Morse code to tell him where she is.
- In Doctor Who, the Third Doctor once managed to get out an SOS to The Brigadier from under the noses of some military goons who had captured him by using the machine he was supposed to be building to send static through the phone lines.
- Also in "Terror of the Autons" (certainly the novelisation; can't remember about the broadcast) the Doctor at one point is tied up, in a bus, in the driver's seat, manages to reach the brake pedal, and flashes a message in Morse over the brake lights.
- In an episode of LOST, Bernard the dentist gets a small moment of awesome when he reveals that he knows Morse, and the person claiming to translate a message is lying through his teeth.
- In an episode of MacGyver, where Murdoc is hot on his trail in an off-season backwoods cabin location, Mac climbs a telephone pole and uses a copper bracelet to tap SOS directly into a phone line to summon help. The owner of the general store who hears the interference is retired military.
- In one episode of Eureka, most of the main characters are trapped in Carter's sentient house. They use Morse code to communicate with the deputy, who is in the sewers below said house, by banging on a pipe. Possibly not played straight, as someone suggests a freakishly long message be sent, and Carter explains, "You know we'll die before I Morse all that," though obviously paraphrased. Stark then suggests "Crack... pipe," which works just fine. Justified because Carter is a Marshal and deputy Lupo is an Army Ranger, so both might legitimately have been trained in it.
- The whole point of 'Eureka' the town is that it is filled with supergenuises. They probably learn new modes of communication for fun.
- Star Trek: Enterprise, "Vanishing Point". Hoshi Sato has apparently been turned into a ghost as a result of a transporter accident, but she can still see the rest of the crew. On realising she can affect an indicator light, Hoshi tries flashing an SOS signal to Captain Archer, but he thinks it's just a malfunction.
- Arguably Justified though, since most of the episode is an hallucination caused by being in the transporter for longer than usual. It wouldn't matter if Archer really knows morse code or not, as long as Hoshi does.
- An episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, introduced trailers for many film parodies of well-known literature. All of which are done with (random) signal dialogue, subtitles, and melodrama (no talking).
- And now for the very first time on the silver screen comes the film from two books which once shocked a generation. From Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and from the International Guide to Semaphore Code, 20th Century Vole presents The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights. [We are shown a segment of Heathcliffe and Catherine saying each others' names while waving semaphore flags to communicate]
- From the pulsating pages of history, from the dark and furious days of Imperial Rome we bring you a story that shattered the world! A tale so gripping that they said it could not be filmed. A unique event in cinema history: Julius Caesar on an Aldis lamp!
- Caesar is walking through the Forum as a wild-eyed soothsayer flashes an Aldis lamp in his face: "BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH". Caesar is then stabbed, and as he collapses, he pulls out a giant Aldis lamp and flashes "ET TU, BRUTE".
- Remember, it comes from the makers of Gunfight at OK Corral in Morse Code (two gunfighters whip out Morse buzzers, one buzzing "AAHHHHH!" as he falls), and the smoke signal version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
- An episode of Mission: Impossible called "The Town" employed this when Jim Phelps was paralyzed and could only communicate to his friends via blinking.
- In Inspector Morse (what else?), composer Barrington Pheloung based the theme on the Morse code for "Morse." He claims that in many episodes he works the name of whomever done it into the musical score via Morse code (and sometimes the name of another character as a red herring).
- In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, an SOS in Morse code draws Voyager to a planet occupied by the descendants of abducted humans.
- In another episode Harry must warn Tom and B'Elanna that their converter is rigged to explode, but his comm system has been disabled so he uses a modulating pulse to send a message in Morse code. Tom explains that they know it because it's used in the Captain Proton holonovels.
- Interestingly, the starship's sensors don't initially pick up the signal, as it's sent using AM. Apparently, monitoring (non-sublight) radio transmissions is not standard procedure, as speed of light is too slow for Starfleet. They happen to find an old tractor floating in space (which they never explain, by the way), and Paris turns on its radio and hears Morse.
- Played straight in the JAG episode "Embassy", when Harm is taken hostage in the Sudanese embassy and the FBI has already decided to cut off the embassy’s electric power, Harm signals the word “power’’ in Morse code by failing to light a cigar, and this is noticed by Bud at JAG Headquarters through ZNN live coverage and Clayton Webb relays it the FBI.
- Averted in an episode of NCIS, where a Marine, being used as a guinea pig for a neurotoxin, manages to send out a SOS over traffic lights before he dies. Ducky explains that the simplicity and easy recognition of the infamous "dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot" signal is precisely why it was chosen over the older code ("CQD", or "Come Quick, Distress".), while Ziva points out how even if he'd gotten out anything longer, it probably wouldn't have been recognized. DiNozzo then gets his foot caught in his mouth when he mentions that nobody these days would recognize it...right in front of Gibbs, who (of course) would.
- Not "Come Quick"... it's "Seek You".
- A variation from NCIS; on more than one occasion, Gibbs and Abby have sent silent messages to each other during hostage situations via sign language. Justified in Abby's case as she is the daughter of two deaf parents.
- Subverted in The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon tries to communicate with Morse code but Leonard says he doesn't know it.
- The opening of Jericho played a Morse code transmission over the title card. Sometimes the Morse code was just the show's title, but for many episodes, the code could be translated into a plot-relevant clue.
- An episode of White Collar has Kate secretly conveying a message to Neil while he's in jail through her finger tapping.
- An earlier episode had Neil sending Peter a message by disconnecting and then reconnecting the wires on his ankle monitor.
- Averted on Season 16 of The Amazing Race. A Detour task required teams to translate a message transmitted in Morse code while noises from a simulated war were going on around them. No team initially chose this task, but one team was forced to attempt it by another team via a race mechanism known as the "U-Turn." Ultimately, they were unable to complete the task and were eliminated in the field, unable to reach the Pit Stop.
- Justified in Stargate Atlantis, Lt. Col. Shepard taps out SOS in subspace so that Atlantis could recognize his distress call, but the wraith, being not even from the same galaxy as Earth, wouldn't have a clue.
- A similar situation happens in [[Stargate SG-1, when Sam reprograms a Tok'ra beacon to broadcast an SOS, knowing that their only hope of rescue, Daniel and Jacob/Selmak, are also the only two people who would be able to interpret the signal.
- And again in Stargate Universe. Eli realizes he could send a message to Destiny with a damaged gate's subspace transponder, but so far he's only figured out how to turn it off and on. Cue Eureka Moment from Lt. Scott.
- Although, since he's a hardcore geek and an inveterate gamer, Eli should have thought of it himself.
- Further subverted when, aboard Destiny, the bridge crew doesn't recognize the signal for what it is, but Colonel Young does.
- In The Drew Carey Show, Drew tries to blink in Morse code to stop everyone from removing him from life-support and killing him, but they just get weirded out and do it anyway. He gets better.
- Reconstructed in the French police show PJ. A sailor is in an hospital bed, and he can't speak, but can clap in morse. Being a sailor, it's justified. The cop then use an online translator.
- In one episode of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Brisco is seen tapping into a telegraph wire to send a message, and arguing one-sidedly with someone about how to do the morse code. The shot pans out to reveal he is arguing with Comet, his horse. (Comet is arguably the smartest character on the show...)
- The X-Files episode "4-D" has John Doggett using Morse code after falling into a coma after being shot. Skinner recognizes the tapping of Doggett's finger as Morse code, and grabs a pencil and paper to translate while Scully and Reyes look on. He flips the paper to reveal "Lukesh", the man who shot him. Note that Doggett and Skinner were both in the military, so they probably learned it there.
- Averted in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Luke sends a message in Morse, knowing that Mr Smith will pick it up. Mr Smith, being a super intelligent alien computer, is easily able to translate it, but he spells it out letter by letter since he can't translate any faster than Luke can send.
- Paranormal Challenge, spun off of Ghost Adventures, had two teams investigate the USS Hornet. One team's Mel Meter, which measures EMF (electromagnetic frequency) and temperature, goes off in what sounds like in Morse code fashion. Turns out, it's an actual encrypted code that was used back in World War II between US ship-to-ship communications.
- In the second Bottom live show, jailbirds Eddie and Richie communicate with the prisoner next door through tapping a fork on a pipe (Well, Eddie does. Richie just bangs the pipe randomly, later acknowledging that he doesn't know morse code).
- Rizzoli & Isles: That Maura, Jane and Korsak all know Morse code saves Maura and Jane's lives in "Dirty Little Secret". Trapped in a submerging car with a damaged mobile phone that can text symbols, Jane uses dots and dashes to text their coordinates (which Maura can recite) in Morse to Korsak.
- In an episode of Sherlock, Watson is walking at night and sees a light flashing from far away. Realizing that it's Morse, he takes down the letters. Justification: The 'message' itself was actually not a message at all, though it does have a function (of sorts) in the overall plot.
- Averted in Prisoners Of War. The title characters communicate by tapping a Morse-like code they made up during their years of captivity.
- In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Buys a House", Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher are all proficient in Morse code. When Monk and Natalie are taken hostage near the end, Natalie uses smoke signals in Morse code to get help from Stottlemeyer and Disher.
- In The Office (US), Jim and Pam mess with Dwight by communicating in Morse code. When accused by Dwight, they ridicule the idea that they would have gone to the trouble of attending a Morse Code course just to mess with him. Dwight concedes defeat, believing he has been mistaken. Pam and Jim later confirm that they actually did attend the course, just to mess with Dwight.
-- ..- ... .. -.-. (Music)
- In the video for the Metallica song "One", the main character has lost his arms, legs, and face during a war, leaving as his sole mode of communication the act of tapping out Morse code messages with his head (appropriately enough, the messages shown in the video are "SOS, help" and "kill me").
- A novelty song from the United Kingdom in the 1960s, about a Dalek attack, started with a Morse code alert about the onslaught. The BBC didn't allow it to be broadcast, on the grounds it might confuse maritime radio users. (As the "Doctor Who Discontinuity Guide put it": "...lest fishermen and freighters believe fictional aliens were attacking England, and decide to go elsewhere...")
- The instrumental YYZ from Rush begins with the musicians playing the Morse code for the letters Y Y Z.
- The studio version of the Dream Theater tune "In The Name of God" has Morse code hidden during one of the instrumental breaks. Decoded, it translates to "Eat my ass and balls."
- The track "Lucifer" on the Alan Parsons Project album Eve includes a Morse code signal of the album title (dit dit-dit-dit-dah dit), and the rhythm track follows that pattern even after the signal is faded from the mix.
- Played straight (per the usual movie and TV usage) in the doo-wopp song "The Morse Code of Love" by the Capris, later covered by Manhattan Transfer as "Baby Come Back". "dit-dot-dit-dit" makes fine doo-wopp rhythm vocals but they're not saying anything.
- The Barclay James Harvest song "Ring of Changes" starts out with the title played in Morse. Another BJH song "Nova Lepidoptera" (which has a sci-fi theme) starts out with the Morse for "UFO".
-. . .-- ... .--. .- .--. . .-. / -.-. --- -- .. -.-. ... (Newspaper Comics)
- In the famous Dick Tracy Flattop story, Tracy is held by the criminal in a boarding house and learns that there is a female army officer learning Morse code. Hoping that she's learned enough, Tracy decides to play a piano and stomp on the floor as if in time to the music, but actually a call for help in Morse code. Fortunately, the woman understands the message and calls the police. When Tracy's partner, Pat Patton, learns that the radio in Flattop's room reacts to a light bulb on his floor being disconnected, he uses it to send a return message to Tracy that help is on the way.
- There was a FoxTrot comic where Jason entered a talent show by tap dancing. He said that they wouldn't let him do it because one of the judges knew morse code. If you decode his tap dancing, it spells out "SOME DAY I WILL RULE YOU ALL".
...- .. -.. . --- / --. .- -- . ... (Video Games)
- The latest Portal patch adds an achievement based around collecting the radios and listening to broadcasts being sent by an unknown source. Some of those broadcasts are in Morse code. Have fun. Two of them are entirely an inside joke, one being "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" phrase and the other being Morse code (depicted in text) for "LOL".
- Ace Combat 5 has an ace who's secretly on your side after you're betrayed by the 8492nd flash morse code. The fact that he can use lights to put out 4 words in roughly 6 seconds (and that your squad can decode them equally quickly) is pretty impressive.
- Justified as both the sender, and recipients are both officially (in the fluff, that is) F-14 Tomcat pilots. Considering that Osea is based on the US, knowing Morse Code would still be a requirement.
- Several ham radio stations in Fallout 3 broadcast repeating Morse signals, all of the format "CQ CQ CQ DE (station ID) K." Translated, the message is "All stations, this is (station ID), please respond." Of course, the stations are simply auto-broadcasting, their owners having died centuries ago...
- Lots of it is used in various places in Hellsinker.
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors features a puzzle in which the player, as Junpei must input Morse Code with a transmitter. Justified in that he admits he doesn't know Morse Code but the code he must input is there for him on a piece of paper. Ace however says that he tried to submit a SOS signal for help, although admits that it probably won't do them any good. Also justified in that SOS (... _ _ _ ...) is an extremely well known Morse Code message.
- There's also a bonus for players who know Morse Code themselves. The game never clarifies what the message Junpei inputs says in Morse, but a clever player will be able to tell that is it says, 35=Z. A hint for the next puzzle.
- One of the background tunes of Wolfenstein 3D contains a message in Morse code as an Easter Egg: "TO BIG BAD WOLF. DE note LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD. ELIMINATE HITLER. IMPERATIVE. COMPLETE MISSION WITHIN 24 HOURS. OUT.". Likely justified if you consider it an actual radio transmission sent to an agent in the 1940s.
- The intro cutscene in the NES port of Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road is typed out one letter at a time in Morse Code. It takes almost four minutes for the scene to finish before returning to the main menu.
- In the submarine combat game Steel Diver: Sub Wars, this is the only way to communicate with other players in multiplayer mode. One of the missions in single-player mode tasks the player with spelling out 20 different words in Morse Code as fast as possible.
- Subverted in Red vs. Blue. When Grif's sister first arrives, she tries sending a message this way. The characters recognize it as Morse code, but nobody knows how to translate it due to it being outdated at the time the show takes place.
.-- . -... / -.-. --- -- .. -.-. ... (Web Comics)
- Averted in Homestuck, much to Serenity's annoyance. Being a firefly, she communicates solely in Morse code. She has yet to find somebody else who does.
- WV does seem moderately proficient in understanding her, but nobody else can. Vriska also briefly uses it during a Dream Sequence of WV's.
- Finally she has, and it's Roxy of all people!
- Times Like This has a Morse code gag.
.-- . ... - . .-. -. / .- -. .. -- .- - .. --- -. (Western Animation)
- In the Jerry Reed episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, when Fred and Daphne were trapped under the stage floor, they used Morse code to communicate with Velma and Jerry above. Jerry later stated that he knew how to receive Morse code, but not how to transmit.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?", the Riddler manipulates the electric grid so the city lights are blinking on and off in Morse code to tell Batman a riddle. Not including spaces, it was 44 letters long, and Batman somehow didn't miss any of them. Justified in that both Batman and the Riddler would make a point to know Morse code.
- It probably helped that Batman was feeding the beats to a computer rather than doing it in his head.
- In one episode of Rocket Robin Hood, Robin uses his distress beacon to send a message in Morse code. In this case, his friends back at base don't know Morse, but one of them vaguely remembers the concept, and looks it up on the computer.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Bloo is performing a tap dance on TV, and Mac notices that he's spelling "H-E-L-P M-E M-A-C" in Morse code. Notably, he was the only one out of the thousands watching the show who was actually able to pick it up.
- Ironically, Bloo actually saying that he is being horribly mistreated didn't 'transmit' too well.
- In a Donald Duck story, he and his nephews are hostages on a pirate's submarine and he is forced on the conning tower to appear he is overseeing the robberies of ships, with a warning not to speak on pain of death. Desperate, he starts winking critical information to the crew in Morse code, hoping that they would recognize it. As it happens, they do recognize it and use that info to capture the pirates and save their prisoners.
- Averted in Adventures of the Gummi Bears, where there are ancient signaling devices called gummiscopes that fire a beam of light that flickers on and off in an equivalent of Morse code. As it happens, the machines have a mechanical arm that automatically translates and writes down the signaling into the vernacular. After the Gummi Glen scope was destroyed, Zummi finds a signal manual in the Glen's library to interpret another gummiscope's message.
- Spoofed in The Simpsons. When Homer and Mr. Burns are trapped in a cabin buried under several tonnes of snow, Burns attempts to call for help using a Morse code telegraph. The telegraph on the other end turns out to be in a museum.
- When Dexter is sent to detention in an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, all of the students there tap pencils in lieu of speaking.
- In Code Lyoko episode "Skidbladnir", Jérémie and Aelita are in detention and Jim confiscate their Cell Phones and forbid the use of the laptop. Jérémie sends a message by reflecting the sun on his watch to warn the others of XANA's attack. Yumi is able to understand it because she uses Morse code to converse with her brother Hiroki without their parents' knowledge.
- There's an episode of Super Dave where he protects the president, and gets trapped in a air-tight protection container. While inside, he taps Morse code towards his assistant.
- Subverted in an episode of The Secret Show. Everyone is trying to get Changed Daily, who is stuck inside a pod of sorts (long story short: Changed Daily is inside the pod because he thinks he is floating in space and that aliens have destroyed the world) to open up the pod doors, so that they can take the object that he has and hand it over to threatening aliens. Victory suggests using Morse Code, and everyone agrees because "Everyone Knows Morse Code!" So he taps Morse for "SOS"; Changed Daily just thinks he's floated into an asteroid belt.
- Spoofed in Super Mario World, when Princess Toadstool bangs a message on a pipe:
Mario: It's a message from the Princess!
Luigi: What does she say?
Mario: "Tinkety-tink tink tink!"
- Lampshaded in the pilot movie for Darkwing Duck. The Dragon asks what if Darkwing doesn't know it. Taurus Bulba knows Darkwing is such a goodie goodie, he probably sleeps with a Boy Scout's handbook under his pillow. He was right.
- In Superman: The Animated Series, Superman was abducted by Parasite and held captive in the basement at Star Labs, where he kept draining Superman of his powers. Desperate to try and signal for help, he began tapping "SOS" on the pipes. Luckily for Superman, Jimmy Olsen was in the lab doing some investigation of his own and heard the signal.
- In Ozzy and Drix, the cells make Hector and Christine blink in Morse code so they can communicate.
.-. . .- .-.. / ... .... .. - (Real Life)
- The BBC started off their World War II wartime radio news broadcasts with the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, in order to symbolize the "V" for victory.
- During the Vietnam War, some US POWs, downed aviators, were forced to make televised statements by their Vietnamese captors. They actually used this method to make it clear that they had been tortured and otherwise coerced into making these statements. When the Vietnamese found out, they stepped it up. The first one was some USN or USAF pilot; he began blinking in the middle of his first such appearance, claiming that the harsh studio lights were hurting his eyes!
- It is believed that Jeremiah Denton and John McCain (both future Senators) were the first to try this.
- this was referenced on the NPR radio show "Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!", in the context of ads for WalMart. ("They show employees... but they're blinking funny."
- Real Life subversion: The British Special Air Service reportedly provides training in Morse code for emergency backup communication, counting on the fact that proficiency in its use is no longer common knowledge.
- Most everyone knows that YYZ by Rush is about Toronto Pearson International Airport, and that the opening drum / bass section is "YYZ" in Morse Code: - . - - - . - - - - . .
- The city of Pittsburgh recently subverted this.
- In the 1930s and '40s, newspaper columnist Walter Winchell had an extremely popular radio show in which he noisily tapped a telegraph key while he spoke his text into a microphone. His opening catchphrase for each edition contained a reference to "all the ships at sea". Gullible listeners were supposed to be impressed that Winchell could read his text aloud and transmit it in Morse at the same time. Actually, his telegraph transmissions were gibberish.
- People back then were familiar with highly-trained operators in radio and telegraph offices, who could send and listen to messages almost simultaneously and instinctively (they understood the message by listening, no need to write it down). Of course, anyone of these skilled men would register immediately the hoax.
- The RMS Titanic was one of the first British ships to send the SOS distress signal, interspersed with the older CQD distress signal. The signal had been standardized since 1908, but most British radio operators still used the older CQD. The first two letters were a standard radio prefix of the time which could be translated as "All Stations", indicating a message for everybody rather than a message with a specific recipient. The D was chosen to be short for "Distress". Reportedly, the radio operator began transmitting "SOS" along with CQD in response to another sailor's joke that this might be his last chance to try it out.
- Mandatory to learn in North Korea. How much the average population is fluent in it is another question entirely.
- This story from Not Always Working features an autistic employee forced by an abusive boss to answer a phone call, which his disorder prevents him doing (he can't speak). The disabled employee presses the dial keys for a few minutes, then hangs up, infuriating the boss. Turns out, the caller was his brother, who a) knew Morse code in case this happened, and b) is the company CEO. The boss gets sacked.
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