Morse Code and Minecraft

Several clever machinations have been implemented for the game Minecraft. These often include circuits and devices that mimic their real-world counterparts. They even include complete calculators and computer sub-systems (eg ECC memory and ALUs). Perhaps one of the more compelling inventions is the addition of Morse code operations. There are numerous implementations, all of which are interesting and a few are excellent.

I have a particular fondness for Morse code. See “Morse Code and Me”.


Telegraph Poles

Often in the 18th and 19th centuries, ‘semaphores’ or codes were played with in an attempt to communicate over longer distances than the human voice could carry. With the rapid development of electricity and magnetism theory and practice in the early 1800s, the time was ripe for the telegraph. In 1837, Samuel Morse et al demonstrated a working telegraph setup in America (there were earlier versions in Europe). The principle was that codes tapped on a mechanical key would be converted to electrical signals, then sent along a wire to another key at the other end which would receive (repeat) the code. Since this transmission happened at almost the speed of light, communication at a distance became essentially instantaneous. Later refinements to and extensions of this principle led to the telephone, radio, television, and of course the Internet.

Why is Morse a good fit for Minecraft ? Basically, it is in keeping with Minecraft’s quaint and minimalist nature. Crafting rudimentary equipment and stringing telegraph wires matches this game (it’s simple and fun). Minecraft already has support for elementary circuits and power via “Redstone”. Morse code is at home in a rustic world of dirt, stone, and wood. You can’t get much more binary and ‘blocky’ than a string of dots and dashes. In contrast, popup chat windows are harshly anachronistic. Telegraphy also fits in well with Minecraft’s ‘bootstrapping’ model; you don’t absolutely require it, but it speeds gameplay and opens up new possibilities once the technology is achieved.

Educational use of Minecraft benefits greatly from this bootstrapping model. Finding, crafting, and mastering tools and gadgets, and thus learning as you go is half the story. Exploring endlessly rich and surprising 3D worlds is the other half.

Also, learning a language is never a bad thing, and Morse code is one of the simplest ‘languages’ there is. Telegraphy is laden with historical significance, another opportunity for learning.

What are the possible uses for telegraphy within Minecraft ? First, as I said, it’s a more primitive alternative to text chat windows in multi-player modes. Next, it would enable the transfer of information across distance, for example maybe a crude sort of ‘fax machine’ for maps, books, signs, etc. Next, automated beacons could be built, perhaps they might even show up on maps. Next, remote control of processes and apparatus would extend the player’s reach. Next, short messages could be written right into the landscape (for example dirt for dots and stone for dashes). How about time capsules or ‘notes to self’ ?

So, Morse code would fit very well into the Minecraft world and mindset, with many novel and fun uses. The educational benefits of this addition would be welcome and easily realized.

MC Morse

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