Play That Funky Morse Code, White Boy – 5 Days @ 5WPM – Day 3

Posted on August 14, 2013


“It wont mean a thing if you don’t get that swing. Rhythm is the key.”

Surf over to the internet archive and watch this video: International Morse Code, Hand Sending. It’s part of their “FedFlix” collection.

This 20 minute video is a Department of Defense training film from MCMLXVI (1966). It instructs the viewer on how to achieve proper technique for rhythmic Morse code sending, as explained by the least rhythmic person the military could find and demonstrated by the second least rhythmic – though very capable – person on the hand key.

Austere and structured, much like you would expect a military training video to be, it contains salient bits of advice and tips  for anyone attempting to master the art and skill of Morse Code sending. The letter H  – or Hotel – for example is rendered as four quick taps of the hand key.

“This is Hotel,” the narrator says, “four dits, galloping like a horse in a hurry.”

Rhythmic sending is important, the narrator, says, because in Morse Code hand sending, sending the correct number of dits and dahs, with the wrong rhythm can mean the difference between the receiving operator copying “ENEMY” when you meant to tell him the approaching aircraft were flying “LOW.”

Do you want your poor “fist” to be responsible for a friendly-fire incident and subsequent court martial?

The film goes on to explain the three things required for effective hand sending:

1. Adjust the key.

2. Develop the proper technique to work the key.

3. Practice.

These points are explained with the help of a large model of a hand key and an equally large matching hand, a set of timpani drums, and a beautiful blond woman – armed with a pistol – seated at a piano.

But don’t let the austerity of the first few minutes fool you. There is crime (against rhythm?), comedy and romance in this short film, and a twist ending that you can’t foresee at the beginning.

Woven throughout is the firm reminder that proper Morse Code hand sending is essential, and a product of technique that must become a part of the operator.

“The whole idea in hand sending is to produce these sounds and silences – the dits, dahs and spaces – in a swinging kind of rhythm that, in time, you will learn to feel,” the narrator says.

Now if you got the groove in your soul and you want to keep on feeling the rhythm, click here to watch a video of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” or click here to watch Vanilla Ice “Kick it one time Boyee” with his rendition of “Play That Funky Music.”

Got ta, got ta. Yup, Yup.

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