The 3/1/99 Problem

Jeffrey Herman jeffreyh at HAWAII.EDU
Thu Sep 17 22:31:09 EDT 1998

This article I extracted from Broadcast Engineering, Sept. 98 edition, page
Before television, and there really was a time before television-there was
radio. Radio distinguished itself, in its early days, as being the lifeline
between ships at sea and the remainder of the world. Incidents that live in the
annals of radio history are many, but one particular comes to mind; when a
young Russian immigrant, David Sarnoff, copied the dots and dashes of the
distress message from the ill-fated SS Titanic. As most of us know, Sarnoff
went off to become the head of RCA and probably did more to bring television
into the homes of Americans than any other industry leader, but that is how he
got his start.
  As of March 1, 1999, the dots and dashes from the ships at sea will be
silenced, as morse code will dissapear from the high seas. This is the date
when all passenger ships and cargo ships over 300 gross tons will no longer be
permitted to use morse code for distress calls.
  It is interesting to note that the International Maritime Organization {IMO}
ends this phase of telegraphy only 22 days short of the 155th anniversary of of
Samuel F.B. Morse first message "What hath God Wrought?"
  The IMO says, "Morse code is being phased out because of its many drawbacks.
These include the need for years of training and practice for operators to use
it." The truth hurts, but the IMO says that if something happened to the radio
operator, it is unlikely that anyone else onboard a ship would be able to use
the telegraphy equipment.

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