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SOS Turns 100

by | 1st, July 2008

THE SOS call sign is 100:

“Send SOS,” one of the Titanic’s radio operators supposedly said to another after the famous ship struck that infamous iceberg. “It’s the new call and besides this may be your last chance to send it.”

That “new call” is 100 years old today, and people around the world who owe their lives to that piece of Morse code may reflect this morning on its importance.

In the past century, “SOS” has become a firm part of popular culture used in everything from DIY programme titles to Abba hits. But it began life in a far more serious setting after being adopted by the international community on July 1, 1908, as the globally recognised distress signal for ships at sea.

Until then, the most commonly used distress call was the “CQD” signal, which was open to misinterpretation. After much deliberation, SOS was chosen to replace it because the signal – three dots, three dashes and three more dots – is such a clear message to send in Morse code.

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