Why Learn Code

Why would anyone want to learn code?

Why would they want to learn to ride a unicycle, or build a wooden boat? Like the unicycle, Morse code is a challenge. We can't learn either intellectually, say, by reading a book. Instead we practice, over and over, getting a little better with each little success.

And like the wooden boat, Morse code gives us a link with the past. The old salts of radio are out there, still pounding the brass, and willing to chat with anyone who makes a credible effort to enter their world.

I travel with a small radio that fits into an old laptop computer bag. I'll throw a wire out the hotel window, slip on my headphones, dim the room lights, and see what's coming in. Sometimes I'll hear weak signals with exotic distortions picked up in the ionosphere as the waves crossed the equator or bounced over the pole. I feel lightning bolts jump from my fingers when I squeeze the key to send my own thoughts back the other way.

Sometimes I'll hear the crisp clean signal of an A-1 operator, probably a retired operator, probably living in Phoenix and having trouble sleeping. Once for them code unlocked adventure. They traveled the world keeping in touch with dits and dahs. They make it sound like poetry. I like to meet these guys by radio. In code they don't seem so old.


Last edited August 22, 2004
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