morse code and enabing technology

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Project Info

Authors: Jeremy Cribb and Doug Daniell
This site is for a course project in Comp190/290, an Enabling Technology course taught by Gary Bishop during Spring 2003 at the UNC-Chapel Hill Computer Science Dept.
UNC // course

Comp 190

The goal of this class is to educate technically-minded students in the types of disabilities that exist and the ways in which modern tools can be used to assist people with disabilities. The focus is on first-hand lectures from professionals in enabling technology, along with group research projects.

© 2003

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Using Morse Code as an Enabling Technology

Purpose of this site

In the search for ways to enable communication between users and their computers in new manners, Morse Code has emerged as one of the most exciting and flexible protocols. Considered by some to be a relic of 19th century telegraph lines, Morse Code is actually quite adaptable. The very simple nature of its input language allows for some very inventive input devices. Users who are constrained by a disability or the way in which they need to use a computer have been able to use Morse Code quite effectively.

So what's so great about Morse Code, anyway?:
First and foremost, it is simple. The only characters in the code are dit(.) and dah(-). This was the reason it was originally adopted -- even if the cable covered great distances and was of poor quality, it was still possible to distinguish these two characters. This binary nature is also the reason that Morse Code is still around. Users don't need 100 keys for input with Morse - 1 or 2 can do the trick. Through simple devices like a puff-sip straw or mechanical switch, disabled users have achieved full control of a computer.

In this project we will look at how we can adapt the benefits of Morse Code to enabling technology. We'll explore what is currently available, and then present the prototype for a useful product that we have designed. And we'll point you in the direction for some more information, since what good is this technology if no one learns about it?

What can we do with Morse Code in the 21st century?

  1. Those suffering from ALS. A PDA based input system with very simple input requirements could be a low-cost (less than $300) and portable solution.
  2. The visually disabled. Since the program can be navigated with touch input and audio feedback, blind users would be able to use the product. Obviously they would need assistance starting the program, but this version is merely a demonstration. What about a full Morse-Shell, with Morse-VI?