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Cigars of the Pharaoh: Morse Code mistake?

#1 · Posted: 7 Jul 2006 00:23
Just notice that on page 12 of Cigars of the Pharaoh, when Allen was sending a message through Morse codes. The letters came out to F K N E M D S, but the last code ".-..." has no meaning.

Did Hergé make a mistake? :)

P.S. I think I have too much free time at work :)

Moderator Note: INteresting spot! Having looked at the frame on the page, it would seem to us that the final "dot" that you are seeing is in fact one of the switches on the front of the radio set, which would make the last letter 'L'.

For reference, here are the values which otherwise agree with the interpretation you give:
dot dot dash dot - F
dash dot dash - K
dash dot - N
dot - E
dash dash - M
dash dot dot - D
dot dot dot - S
dot dash dot dot - L

However, it's definitely confusing, and might have been handled better - it's possible that someone working on the page mistook what Hergé had drawn, and coloured in the switch thinking it was one of the Morse dots...?

The Tintinologist Team
#2 · Posted: 5 Jun 2023 11:46
A small addition to the above: there may be another explanation...

It's easy to assume that the system we know as Morse Code is the code which was invented by Samuel Morse, circa 1840, and that's that - but life is, apparently, more complicated than that.

Looking just below the surface, one finds that Morse Code was in fact developed by two people, Samuel Morse, and Alfred Vail, and there are those who maintain that, while the idea of using a code of signals of varying length to transmit messages by telegraph came from Morse, the actual system of how that was to be done was the work of Vail, and we should be talking about "Vail Code".

However, that aside, taking a slightly deeper look, one finds that the Morse Code has changed and developed over the years.

The initial code was quickly taken from America, and adopted in other countries, where it was not just used, but developed. In 1848, Friedrich Gerke produced the Hamburg Alphabet, which not only allowed for letterforms found in German, such as letters with umlauts (ü, etc.), but (perhaps more importantly) made dots and dashes regular in length. Morse and Vail had apparently required the operator to perform dashes of different lengths, depending on the character.

In turn, the Hamburg Alphabet was refined and adapted (for example, it didn't differentiate between "i" and "j", so wasn't suitable for some languages), until, in 1865, International Morse code was standardized, and used throughout the world, with the exception of the United States, which continued with American (or Railroad) Morse...

But enough of this inexpert ramble through the weeds of telegraphy, you say - how does it bear on what's happening in Cigars? I'm glad you asked!

Dot dash dot dot dot may not mean anything in International Morse, but it does mean "o" in the Hamburg Alphabet.

It's hard to believe that there would have been a radio operator in existence still plugging away at the Hamburg Alphabet at the time story came out (I had wondered if there might have been some security reason for doing this, in the manner of using the Navajo "wind talkers" of WWII to send messages which few could understand, but the differences to International Morse are fewer than the similarities, so it would probably be decipherable to an International Morse, and simpler to encypher a message, then transmit it by International Morse), but it's just possible that Hergé picked up an old encyclpædia or dictionary which had the Hamburg system in it, and used that.

However, Hergé also used correct International Morse in The Blue Lotus, and had been a Scout (Scouts often learned Morse), so he must have had a reliable source he used more often than not.

My inclination is that it still is the errant switch and not a dot we are looking at, but I thought in fairness that the alternative should be given!
#3 · Posted: 9 Jun 2023 21:38
I'm wondering if FKNEMDS is part of a coded message like a diplomatic telegram, which uses non-standard Morse like ".-..." to indicate something special.
#4 · Posted: 11 Jun 2023 10:14
part of a coded message like a diplomatic telegram, which uses non-standard Morse

Yeah, but that shares a problem with my "Hamburg Alphabet used like wind talkers" example above: it immediately draws attention to the message as something different, which ideally you wouldn't want to do, if you are up to no good.
Much better I'd imagine to use a code, transmit that using regular characters, and send that without making anyone suspicious.
#5 · Posted: 11 Jun 2023 11:39
Much better I'd imagine to use a code, transmit that using regular characters, and send that without making anyone suspicious.

That does not stop Tintin from intercepting the gang's messages in "Blue Lotus" and decoding them.

He intercepts these messages on pages 1 and 19 of "Blue Lotus".

It's funny that Herge's morse actually matches the code as devised by Morse but appears to be a random set of letters which do not match the words that Tintin notes down (in the original French, that is):

Page 1
dash dash = M
dot dash dot = R
dot = E
dot dash = A
dot dot dot = S
dot dash dot dot = L
dash = T
dot dash dot = R
dash dot dot = D
dash dot = N
dot dash dot dot = L

Page 19
dot dash = A
dot dash dot = R
dot dash dot = R
dash dot dash dot = C
#6 · Posted: 8 Jul 2023 11:00


According to these lists .-... can be used as an ampersand (&), so FKNEMDS& is no less confusing!

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