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International Morse Code Gets a New ITU Home, New Character

An ITU new draft recommendation likely will formalize a new Morse code character for the @ symbol used in e-mail addresses: the characters A and C run together. [Jean Collier, N1MJC, Photo]

NEWINGTON, CT, Dec 10, 2003--The 2003 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-03) may have eliminated the treaty requirement for prospective amateurs to demonstrate Morse code proficiency to gain HF access, but the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) hasn't forgotten Morse code altogether. In Geneva on December 5, the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) Study Group 8 agreed on the wording of a Draft New Recommendation ITU-R M.[MORSE] that specifies the international Morse code character set and transmission procedures. It also includes a new Morse code character to cover the "@" symbol used in e-mail addresses.

Once it's made available in English, French and Spanish, the draft new recommendation will go out to ITU member-states using a new procedure for simultaneous adoption and approval. On December 3, the draft new recommendation won the approval of Working Party 8A, which is responsible for the Land Mobile and Amateur services.

Within the ITU, the international Morse code has been defined by the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T), which is responsible for the public telephone and telegraph network--mostly landline. A couple of years ago, the ARRL pointed out to the US delegation to the ITU Radiocommunication Advisory Group that Morse code's role more properly resides in the radiocommunication realm, not wire, and should be the responsibility of ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R).

The transfer was agreed to, and International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) President Larry Price, W4RA, proposed the draft new recommendation at the November-December Working Group 8A meeting. The draft new recommendation is almost unchanged from its ITU-T text.

"No one wanted to disturb something with more than 150 years of history," said ARRL Technical Relations Manager Paul Rinaldo, W4RI.

To keep up with the times, however, the IARU proposed adding a new character--the commercial "at" or @ symbol--to permit sending e-mail addresses in Morse code. The draft new recommendation proposes using the letters A and C run together (.--.-.) to represent the @ symbol.

While the draft new recommendation is still a working document, its expected to become a Recommendation within six months or so, pending approval by member-states.


Page last modified: 12:46 PM, 10 Dec 2003 ET
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