Thursday, February 19th, 2004
from The Associated Press…
Morse code is entering the 21st century — or at least the late 20th.
The 160-year-old communication system now has a new character to denote the “@” symbol used in e-mail addresses.
In December, the International Telecommunications Union, which oversees the entire frequency spectrum, from amateur radio to satellites, voted to add the new character.
The new sign, which will be known as a “commat,” consists of the signals for “A” (dot-dash) and “C” (dash-dot-dash-dot), with no space between them.
The new sign is the first in at least several decades, and possibly much longer. Among ITU officials and Morse code aficionados, no one could remember any other addition.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Paul Rinaldo, chief technical officer for the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio operators. “There certainly hasn’t been any change since before World War II.”
The change will allow ham radio operators to exchange e-mails more easily. That is because — in an irony of the digital age — they often use Morse to initiate conversations over the Internet.