Morse code beats SMSing

Tech pundits love to coo over how fast tha kidz these days are at typing SMS messages, how these thumb-tribe teens live in the future, how one day we’ll all evolve such mad skillz, etcetera etcetera. I myself text extensively, and can manage about 15 to 20 words per minute. But an Australian museum recently decided to run a hilarious speed trial — betweeen a bunch of teenagers using SMS, and a 93-year-old telegraph operator using Morse Code and an old-school telegraph lever. Who could send a message faster?

Heh. The nonagenarian handed the teenagers their asses. As 160 Characters reports:

He easily defeated his 13-year-old rival, Brittany Devlin, who was armed with a mobile phone and a rich vocabulary of text message shorthand. Mr Hill, whose messages were transcribed by another telegraph veteran, Jack Gibson, 82, then repeated the feat against three other children and teenagers with mobile phones.

It read: “Hey, girlfriend, you can text all your best pals to tell them where you are going and what you are wearing.”

While the telegraphist tapped out the line in full, to be deciphered by Mr Gibson, Miss Devlin employed text slang to save time. She keyed: “hey gf u can txt ur best pals 2 tel them wot u r doing, where ur going and wot u r wearing.”

Just 90 seconds after Mr Hill began transmitting, Mr Gibson announced that he had the message received and written down correctly. It took another 18 seconds for Miss Devlin’s message to reach the mobile phone belonging to her friend.

Okay, now I want some geek to invent a Morse code add-on for SMS — so I can send Morse messages from phone to phone. Wouldn’t that make for the most awesome phone in the world? A big color screen, but only one single button in the center of the keypad, that you use to enter everything: Texts, names, and numbers to call.

(Thanks to Morgan for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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