Philip & Morse Code

In early March, I was contacted via this Morse Code website by Esther.  The subject of her email was, “Morse Code for My Disabled Son.”  I opened the email right away, and here’s what it read.

Philip & Esther at Goleta Beach

Philip & Esther at Goleta Beach

After searching everywhere for some way for my son, Phillip, to communicate I would like to explore the possibility of using Morse code. Phillip was a victim of a gunshot wound to the left side of head. He is very aware of his surroundings, basically it is the motor skills that he lost. He cannot speak and his only usable hand (left-he was right handed) is very awkward and hard to pinpoint his finger on a key or small button. His eyes do not track together well so visual inputs are out. I tried sign language alphabet which he learned and knows very well but his hand is unable to correctly form a quickly recognizable letter for many but the simplest letter signs. He can only stretch the index and thumb.

He can hit an ipad screen button if it is large (such as 2 – 3 on a screen.)

So I am imagining him hit one button for a dit and another for a dah and one for end of word… 3 buttons in all.

The problem is how can it be translated since the hospital staff at the subacute where he lives will probably not learn Morse code. Is there an app/program that can interpret? He has been without a voice for 6 years now and am so afraid that when I go (I am 65 yrs and he is 42) he will be left without a voice and no one really taking the time to see what his pointings and gestures mean.

Immediately Esther peaked my interest.  Was this possible?  Was it possible that Morse Code, such a low-tech way of communicating, could be the answer for Philip to have a voice again?

After reading Esther’s email, I contacted a friend and co-worker named Bryan Campbell.  Bryan was instantly excited about creating a way for Philip to speak again, and went right to work that very night.

Morse Code Application

Bryan developed an extremely simple application that allows you to easily communicate with Morse Code.  If you enter a dit or a dah into the computer screen, it will cycle through the Morse Code and display whichever letter you’re currently on.  If you press the “Next” button on the Morse Code application, you can then hear the Morse Code application “speak” the letter.  We thought this was a good feature in case Philip’s nurse was across the room and wasn’t focused on what Philip was typing in Morse Code.

Our Morse Code application is still in beta mode and needs to be edited further for Philip to get great use out of it.

Here is a video of Philip trying out his new application – we still need to work on the sliding, but we all think this will work and give Philip a voice again.

Esther’s website is where you can follow up with her and Philips progress.  I can’t wait to meet you guys soon!


  • By Joyce Varnadore, April 4, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    I have wanted to learn morse code for awhile. Just to be able to know it. I will be praying for you all.

  • By admin, April 4, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Joyce! Morse Code is a fun way of communicating, and I wish you the best in learning. If you have any questions, shoot me an email!

  • By Jon, April 4, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

    Excellent endeavor and I wish Philip the very best.

  • By Hejo Nie, April 5, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    Fine Job.
    73 de Hejo DO1YHN

  • By James, April 5, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

    From the video, it seems that if the scroll feature was deactivated on the I-pad and the screen was stable, the program might be more effective for the patient. Good luck with this most useful endeavor.

    73, Jim AB4D

  • By James, April 5, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

    I just read that you are unable to disable the scroll on the I-pad, appears to be an Achilles heel. Perhaps another device like a tablet PC would be more effective. Nevertheless, again good luck.

  • By K2DSL - David, April 6, 2011 @ 2:09 am

    Nice job. Maybe you should hook up with KB1OOO who created an iPhone replacement keyboard using morse. See the video at

    A native iPad app might work better for Philip.

  • By David Jones, April 6, 2011 @ 2:53 am

    Although it would be cool if you can get the iPad to work, there’s no tacticle feedback for Phillip to know he’s pressed a dot or dash (dit or dah). It seems destined to be forever slow, tedious, and uncertain, but the overall the project is worth pursuing.

    Here is a suggestion for an alternative input device:
    create a small box big enough for Phillip’s hand, plus room to spare.
    The 4 sides represent the 4 options
    (left = dit, right = dah, up = “next”, down = startover).

    When Phillips touches big switches on each side, there would be tacticle feedback, and perhaps an audible click. With the hand enclosed in the box, he just needs to apply a force in the right direction.

    Or go simpler still, and just us a paddle-key, with simple left-right motions.

    – David Jones

  • By Raoul , ZS1REC, April 6, 2011 @ 8:39 am

    Well done!
    I really hope Phillip will benefit from it,I wish him all the best!
    I am a big CW (Morse) user on HF, and also belongs to CWops. Good luck Phillip, keep trying!

  • By Jennie, April 6, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

    I love this application of Morse Code. Wonderful idea! Good job Esther! You never gave up! I wish Philip much health and happiness.

  • By Jerry Wheeler, April 6, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

    Thanks for this great story. Morse code continues to be a fantastic tool for amateur radio enthusiasts and for anyone needing a simple method to communicate. We have been the number 1 way that people have mastered it since 1980 with almost 50,000 success stories.
    Keep up the good work. Jerry Wheeler W6TJP

  • By Jerry Wheeler, April 6, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    Just one more thought. There is an Iphone Ap you might be interested in.

  • By Esther Medina, April 18, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

    I am surprised and happy at the comments regarding my son and this project. Thank you all for your kind and encouraging posts.

  • By Gina, February 22, 2012 @ 12:33 am

    Guys, Awesome job. I would love to be involved in anyway I can as a parent of an 8yo who is using morse code for his access method due to very severe CP. we are still trying to find a proper access option for him as he too needs three switch morse code access… BUT would love to share some of the tricks we have found worked. Our son, Mac is a switch user so would be great to see you add that functionality to Phillip’s design too. eg, for us, that four panel screen as an onskreen keyboard would be fantastic to use in any application.

  • By Esther, March 5, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

    Gina, That is so great that Mac can use it so well. I know it takes patience (lots and lots) but it can be done. Phillip has an iPad and don’t have switches for it as I haven’t found any that can work with the iPad. The iPad 3 is coming out hopefully it will have usb ports, etc.
    I take it your son is in a home environment where a pc/mac setup is easy. Phillip lives in a hospital setting and space is so limited.
    At any rate, exchanging ideas sound wonderful. Andy has been most helpful with Phillip and me.

  • By Gina, April 22, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    Hi Esther. Keep an eye out for the APPlicator and soon to be released Komodo from Tecla both switch interfaces for the iPads. Still no access for morse but have sent Andy the links LOL. yes, Mac is at home, set up is always tricky for access – eventually I would prefer the iPhone size or even the smaller 7″ size for mounting on chairs etc. Good luck and feel free to ask for info any time.

Other links to this post

  1. It’s all a matter of perception. | Ham Radio News
  2. my “KID’S CLUB” project « Duanewyatt's Blog

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