Project Morse Code

There’s meaning behind a message.

Our ability to communicate effectively is perhaps amongst humanity’s most essential survival skills, and it is certainly a feature that sets us apart from other species. Communication helps us understand our environment, coordinate with others, and act upon situations. Whether it’s through hand gestures, speech, expressions, sounds, or dashes-and-dots, we continue to dedicate R&D efforts towards the development of better, faster, and reliable mediums and forms of communication.

Which medium and form of communication is most prevalent today?

The internet is a strong contender for the most prevalent medium of communication. As of October 2020, the internet is used by ~4.5 billion users i.e. more than half of all population on Earth! (source: Statista)

What about form? Text-based form of communication such as email or instant messaging is everywhere! There are more than 300 billion emails sent and received everyday. WhatsApp is used to send more than 65 billion messages every day. (source: Statista, CNET)

In short, internet and text messaging are the most common medium and form of communication on our planet.

Morse key to transmit morse code

Morse Code

Let’s go back in history almost 200 years to the 19th Century. In the 1830s, Samuel Morse invented a form of communication which involved representation of letters using dots-and-dashes or dits-and-dahs. This came to be known as the Morse Code. Over time, it has evolved and the International Morse Code system (devised by a conference of European Nations) is considered as the global standard. You can watch this video for a quick 101 on morse code communication — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy8BaMs_JuI

During the same time period, the electrical telegraph became a popular medium of telecommunication (one of its co-inventors was Samuel Morse). It used coded pulses of electric current through dedicated wires to transmit information over long distances.

In short, two centuries ago, the electrical-telegraph and morse code would be the prevalent medium and form of communication.

What is Project Morse Code?

One of my favorite movies to watch is Interstellar. Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) sends data to the past to his daughter Murphy (played by Jessica Chastain) to solve the problem of gravity. Cooper transmits the quantum data collected from inside the event horizon of a black hole and the form of communication he chooses is: Morse Code.

I decide to create a proof of concept involving a crossover across two centuries. I used the internet as the medium and morse code as the form of communication for this project. Instead of ticking the seconds hand of a wrist watch (as done in Interstellar), I encoded the message in the movement of a micro servo-motor to visualize the dots-and-dashes of the morse code.

Morse code scene from Interstellar

Elements of Project Morse Code

A website, Google Pub-Sub, python scripts to publish and receive messages, a Raspberry Pi 4 and an SG90 micro servo-motor.

  1. Website
    A website developed using Python-Flask which allows the user to input their message.
  2. Google Cloud Pub/Sub
    To store the messages sent by the user in a durable queue in the public cloud. Pub/Sub is an asynchronous messaging service that decouples services that produce events from services that process events.
  3. Raspberry Pi 4
    To process the received message, convert into morse code, and complete transmission via a connected SG90 micro servo-motor.

Flow Chart for Project Morse Code

Morse Code Transmitter In Action!

Step 1: User Inputs Message

Step 2: Message published to a Google Cloud Pub/Sub topic

Step 3: Message pulled by a remote Raspberry Pi 4 computer

Step 4: Raspberry Pi decodes and transmits message to SG90 servo

SG90 servo receiving morse code signal from Raspberry Pi 4

How can you read the signal?

On the servo, you can read the movement by observing a long arm movement for a dash, short arm movement for a dot, and the time pause between these movements.

  • Dot corresponds to 60° movement.
  • Dash corresponds to 150° movement.
  • Space between letters is a 0.7 second pause.
  • Space between words is a 1.4 second pause.
Decoding the signal

Conclusion

And that’s it! This is Project Morse Code. When I was first pitched the idea for this project (which was inspired by Interstellar), I simply wanted to put my new Raspberry Pi 4 to use. Just a way to have fun with my new computer and learn some cool cloud technology in the process. It was fun for me, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it too.

Here’s some inspiration from a famous cosmologist to embark on your own journey of curiosity.

Curiosity and the urge to solve problems are the emotional hallmarks of our species.

- Carl Sagan

Feel free to comment. I would love to know what you think and feel about this project or if you have any questions for me!

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