Most of the world is connected through email, texting, and social media platforms. 97% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind. By some estimates, 5 billion people globally send and receive SMS messages. That’s about 65% of the world’s population and represents an enormous amount of digital communication, especially and increasingly amongst the young.
While modern devices and platforms offer high-quality and high-fidelity communication, it wasn’t so long ago that communicating-at-a-distance implied something quite different, and far more simple. Back in the 19th century, some four decades before the invention of the telephone, American artist Samuel Morse contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system, co-created Morse code, and helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy. These techniques and technologies allowed text messages to be sent over long distances – forever changing the nature of human communication.
While Morse code has proven to be an effective and useful tool, with a enduring history of use in aviation, radio operations, satellite communications, and even as a component of assistive technologies, it is by no means the oldest form of character encoding in popular use. Tap code, like Morse code, is a way to encode text messages on a letter-by-letter basis – but in a very simple way. Using only a series of ‘taps’ and a 5×5 grid of letters (whose invention is traceable back to Ancient Greece) communication becomes possible. This has proven to be especially useful in scenarios where limited access to technology combined with restrictions in behaviour have conspired to limit communication (such as in prisons or POW camps).
What is the ICEF’s concern with Morse and Tap codes? We have explored the relationship between farts and vocal sounds before – and, simply put – we are always interested in the unrealized potential of farts and farting as a communications medium (in addition to everything else we do). Two members of the College have already begun experimenting with sending audio recordings of farts as simple yes/no acknowledgements via messaging platforms (it’s been useful that we are almost always saying ‘yes’). We’ve also been inspired by cases where communication has been so limited that farts are all that were available. With appropriate training could a human successfully encode text messages into farts using Morse, Tap, or something else? There is work to be done, but we’re quite convinced this should be possible.
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