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.. ..-. / -.-- --- ..- / -.-. .- -. / .-. . .- -.. / - .... .. ... then a US Navy fondleslab just put you out of a job

Coat

And when the tablet is shot out in battle, how do you call for help?

Sometimes there's a good reason to have someone with a bit of knowledge on the bridge, especially in the military.

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Sometimes there's a good reason to have someone with a bit of knowledge on the bridge, especially in the military.

Exactly. Having one morse-fluent bridge officer per watch doesn't sound excessive while still saving money by not training everybody. In any case, what about the ship's radio operators, assuming they still carry them: do they still learn morse as part of their usual training?

Where's El Reg's Naval Correspondent when you need him?

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Coat

"And when the tablet is shot out in battle, how do you call for help?"

Well, there are the maritime signal flags and the semaphore flags. Wuthering Heights and all that...

BTW, if the engine fails are the seamen equipped with oars? There's only so many reasonal backup systems. How often these ships need to rely on signal lamps?

"Sometimes there's a good reason to have someone with a bit of knowledge on the bridge, especially in the military."

Even a dummy like me with no interest in learning the Morse codes knows the SOS code.

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Anonymous Coward

"[...] do they still learn morse as part of their usual training?"

Recently I was given a guided tour of our local Sea Cadets hut. At one end of the assembly hall was a raised symbolic bridge construct with port and starboard light fittings - from where the senior officers gave their announcements etc.

Finally I was shown their pride and joy - the engineering and communications room. Its centrepiece was a cut-away car petrol engine that could be cranked slowly to show the various moving parts.

Where was the comms gear? The morse code key? Ah - they didn't do that any more. However they did still teach semaphore flags - which were essential for some traditional ceremony or competition.

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Anonymous Coward

"Even a dummy like me with no interest in learning the Morse codes knows the SOS code"

... and getting the Union Jack the right way up - otherwise it is a distress signal.

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Joke

This story sounds like a Naval Inspection, something commentards are usually good at!

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(The post is required, and must contain letters.)

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LDS
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"are the seamen equipped with oars?"

If the boat is small enough, yes. If oars can't move it, they are quite useless, I'd say. Anyway, I guess the engines and other mechanical system (i.e. the helm) still have a lot of manual overrides if the automatic control systems get damaged - a ship dead in the water is a dead ship...

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Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

I passed a morse test for Amateur Radio in the 80s, it was easy enough - only 12wpm.

I still hear morse occasionally because there are enthusiasts keeping it going, it has a longer QRP reach than voice. Repeater ID themselves with morse and so do aviation NDBs.

Receiving morse and getting the letters down is not a problem, the difficulty is understanding the message as it will likely be all abbreviations and codes.

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Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

If oars can't move it, they are quite useless, I'd say.

That's why sailing ships used to be equipped with sweeps. Or they'd send out all the ship's boats and the poor sailors would have the backbreaking job of towing their ship out of trouble.

I wonder if a couple of RIBs could do that with a Type 23?

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Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

Despite a fondness for Jane's Fighting Ships I've always had a bit of a phobia when it comes to getting splashed by seamen.

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Facepalm

"Even a dummy like me with no interest in learning the Morse codes knows the SOS code."

Good for you. Presumably you also know the morse code for:

"Massive contamination. Do not approach without specialist equipment."

"It's a trap!"

"False alarm."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

"I still hear morse occasionally [...]"

IIRC the Morse test was finally removed from the UK amateur "A" licence requirements when it was no longer used by the government agencies to warn people off in an HF band.

One of the incidental uses of Morse code - apart from the belated Beethoven's 5th Symphony attribution - was in the theme to the TV detective series about Inspector Morse. Can't help reading the letters when I hear it.

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Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

"One of the incidental uses of Morse code - apart from the belated Beethoven's 5th Symphony attribution - was in the theme to the TV detective series about Inspector Morse"

Also the theme to Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em, in which the piccolo part sounds out the name of the show in Morse.

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Sometimes there's a good reason to have someone with a bit of knowledge on the bridge, especially in the military.

It does seem perverse, a skill is in decline due to increased use of modern technology. Solution; more technology to make the skill even less practised.

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Megaphone

Maybe they will just have to tow a line of tin cans for their backup instead?

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Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

Every fleet should be equipped with triremes.

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Trollface

"a skill is in decline due to increased use of modern technology"

Exactly! We should teach more buggy whip making!

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Anonymous Coward

By comparison, my son has done some Morse and HAM (listening) radio work for one of his Scout badges. Though organised by a local Sea Scout group for the "Jamboree on the Air"

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Repeater ID themselves with morse and so do aviation NDBs.

And thus we have the Rush classic "YYZ" ...

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Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

..Inspector Morse. Can't help reading the letters when I hear it.

How do you get on with "Some mothers do have 'em"?

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CQD isn't it?

-.-. --.- -..

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I'd say you'd have more than that in the Comms room: They should all know Morse as part of their work. Morse isn't just for lamps, after all :)

(Sorry, can't be bothered translating all this into Morse, as funny as it might be :p )

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Re: "Morse code usage"

at the beginning of OHMSS by Propellerheads (reworking of the classic Bond theme), the letters are played out.

Personal favourite though was in the expansion pack for Red Alert, there was a piece of paper with Morse code instructions on how to access some hidden missions against giant ants.

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Where's El Reg's Naval Correspondent when you need him?

He got the push because he didn't follow the party line on CAGW.

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"Even a dummy like me with no interest in learning the Morse codes knows the SOS code."

True, ... --- ...

But do you know the Morse for "Do not approach. We have drifted into a mine field"

TBH, I'd say one of the positives about teaching people Morse and to use the sextant would be showing them then when the tech fails they can still survive and function. More and more, and speaking as someone born at the junction between millennial and Generation X, people are becoming completely dependent on technology for everything... the Google effect. Take a smartphone away from a teenager these (ok and maybe me as well) and they go into immediate withdrawal. For that person knowing they can still update the local twitter equivalent via the signal light might just keep them sane.

"@USSYOU Power down LOL (Crying face) <STOP>, Send help <STOP>, Mind the Mines <stop> HASHTAG NAVYRULES"

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Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

... plus "Wichita Lineman" by Glenn Campbell, "Captain of your ship" by Reparata and the Delrons, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" by Propellorheads and pretty much anything by Alan Parsons.

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"Where's El Reg's Naval Correspondent when you need him?"

Can I fill in? I was a USN shipboard Communications officer for a few years back in the 90s.

Bridge officers (aka surface line officers) typically do not know Morse at all, or can fumble out an SOS. Even I was an oddity in being able to read signal flag hoists, to the chagrin of the senior enlisted signalmen. The only ones that know Morse fluently are the signalmen themselves and the occasional old-school radiomen.

On the whole, this sounds a bit like post-WW2 when radio traffic went from morse to voice and "high-speed" data - you still needed the enlisted folk as operators, even if they weren't tapping a telegraph key directly, and now the officers will be telling the signalmen what to type into the tablet and aim and click Send instead of copying down on paper them grabbing the signal lamp and start flipping. And those signalmen will continue to learn Morse as a backup for tablet failure until the service gets accustomed to the newfangled technology a few decades hence.

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Anonymous Coward

"Bridge officers (aka surface line officers) typically do not know Morse at all, [...]"

In the 1960s George Tagg G8IX had a treasured piece of paper. As presumably the duty radio officer on a British warship in 1918 he had written down the signal about the armistice.

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Silver badge

Indeed

Kids today just don't know how to swab out a muzzle-loading cannon or reef a topsail.

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All at sea, using Windows 10 to submit the ... We are interrupting your SOS to bring you a message about an app we know you will like... As soon as these updates have finished checking if you are eligible for these updates... Meanwhile here is a message from one of our sponsors...

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Union Flag distress signal

A very understated distress signal I would think. Some countries (France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland etc) would have an even longer wait flying their flags upside down.

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Exactly! We should teach more buggy whip making!

They still make buggy-whips. What else are the S/M folks going to use?

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Re: Indeed

Exactly - and there are people serving in the artillery who cannot even change a horse-shoe ...

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I still use 'em for driving.

Contrary to popular belief, horses are still with us doing what horses do best.

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Coat

Re: Indeed

...there are people serving in the artillery...

One of whom would be my son. Not too many years ago (call it the 'oughties'), when he was in Artillery Officers' school, he was first taught how to calculate the aiming of his artillery pieces using tables and a slide rule. After he passed that test, he was introduced to the computer method. He understood the reasoning behind this very clearly. Computers have a lot of little parts that all have to be undamaged and correctly functioning. Slide rules have three (the two engraved bits and the slidey cursor) and tables just need to be present and readable.

When everything goes to sh*t, you want to be able to fall back to something more reliable than a fondleslab for communication. I don't think they'll be taking those blinker lamps off the ships too soon. Though my coworker, who's an enlisted radioman in the Marine reserves, says they did not teach him Morse, but still issue semiautomatic keys to radiomen. The brilliance of the military.

// the one with the Amateur Extra license (20wpm) in the pocket

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Re: Indeed

indeed, my kid at college was slightly flummoxed this year when they asked him to write a program in C, and just gave a blank sheet of A4. Upon checking, computers/compliers weren't (initially) allowed - just a pencil and a piece of paper. . . it does show if you've been paying attention

I do personally prefer digimodes/WSPR etc now to my very patchy morse (G8 = 1wpm), just invested in 16-bit DDC/DUC hardware made in EU, and even digital radio mondiale is being decoded

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Re: "are the seamen equipped with oars?"

Oooh, ooh and, of course Planet Claire by The B52s

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Coat

"whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

Might the Admiralty need to have a general session and watch Tomorrow Never Dies ?

Or should we just ask them what they will do in case of an EMP ? Supposing they know what that is, of course. And supposing that those signal lights are without electronics, so as to be impervious to . . . ah, but motorized signal lights operated by tablets.

Ok, forget it.

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Re: "whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

Odds are that the lamp and the person who knows morse code don't survive whatever kills a ruggedized tablet computer.

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Re: "whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

Erm, salt water? Ice?

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Devil

Re: "whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

whether the operator+lamp survives, it's still better to have a low-tech backup following an EMP. Worst case they can use battle lanterns or flashlights.

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LDS
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"on't survive whatever kills a ruggedized tablet computer."

A dead battery? A ransomware?

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Re: "on't survive whatever kills a ruggedized tablet computer."

And how good is that GoPro at reading a lamp in storm conditions? How many degrees of roll can it cope with, to keep the lamp in its field of view? At least sailors have the advantage of being self-stabilising (except when they've been on the rum, of course).

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Re: "on't survive whatever kills a ruggedized tablet computer."

> And how good is that GoPro at reading a lamp in storm conditions?

They're weirdly luddite these kind of comments, it's not hard to imagine a computer and camera being better at this than a person these days.

It's just the sort of thing a machine is good at.

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WTF?

Re: "whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

You know that fire piston / paracord bracelet / keychain hex spanner kit / nuclear warhead concealed as a handy inconspicuous credit card that you keep carrying in your "survival kit" to be "prepared" for the $INSERT_CAUSE Apocalypse...? One, chances are overwhelmingly you'll never get a chance to need to use it and two, if you ever do, you'll be in so much of so much more life-threatening trouble it will never matter whether you had it or not. Exactly the same applies. Yes, yes it does.

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Re: "whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

Your radio ops should also know Morse, so you should have a few people around to help. It's pretty much a required skill for Radio ops in the military, don't you know?

After all, how else do they send out instructions on how to down those pesky Alien spaceships that hover over our major cities, with their invincible shields, unless you sneak on with a pesky computer virus? :p

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Re: "whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

It's more about the mundane uses of a pocket tool for me.

Yes I could use my Leatherman to cut the seatbelt in a car wreck, but it's far more likely to be used for slicing a parcel open, cutting up fruit, cutting the top off an instant coffee packet with no perforations, chopping an errant branch off a bush that's about to take a layer of paint off the car. All things I've done with my Leatherman.

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Re: "whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

All this brings to mind something I was told (and could be an urban legend).

At one point the navy insisted that the on-deck electronic fire control system for some weapon or other be able to withstand the heat flash of a nearby nuclear detonation. The manufacturer questioned that requirement as the heat flash would kill the operator. The reply was that they could always send up another seaman from below decks.

So EMP hardening isn't necessary as long as they have sufficient spare iMorseControllers below decks.

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Re: "whether the Navy should be abandoning low-tech backup solutions"

As a low-tech backup, perhaps they could just have a printed copy of the Morse code?

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