Famous Secret Codes
Some of the most popular secret codes date back hundreds of years. There was Morse Code which started in 1844, Pigpen Cypher used by Freemason’s to secretly communicate and keep historical records to computer Binary Code which was actually started by Egyptians hundreds of years ago.
Did you know the first text message was sent back in 1844? It may not have been sent using a cell phone but it was the first message that was quickly sent over a long distance and it used Morse Code to do so.
How It Started:
An American artist and inventor named Samuel Morse was interested in creating a method to send messages over a long distance. He had the idea of using an electro-magnet that would send electric signals over wires that were layed between telegraph stations. The signal being sent would create short and long beeps. Morse Code uses long and short beeps to represent different letters and numbers. Below is an example of a Morse Code Chart from our Secret Code Bundle that shows a letter and the dashes and dots that represent it.
You can download the chart for free from our Secret Code Bundle product page.
Samuel Morse, as well as his assistant, Alfred Vail, worked to develop codes for the entire alphabet and numbers.
The image below is from the Library of Congress and shows one of the first drafts for Morse Code.
The long and short sounds that represented each letter would be sent out across the telegraph lines using a Morse Code Machine and the person receiving it would translate the sounds back into letters. The image below shows the machine that could send out the signals.
The very first telegraph was sent on May 24, 1844 from Washington D.C. to Baltimore. Below is an image from the Library of Congress of the first telegram. Can you read what it says?
Would you like to hear what a message being sent with Morse Code sounds like? Those beeps come out super fast. Try out your message using this translator.
The video below does a great job explaining How Morse Code Works.
Is Morse Code Still Used?
It is incredible to think but yes, Morse Code has been extremely important from it’s start in 1844 all the way until today. Morse Code was used for communication during wartime as far back as the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was able to get updates on the war quickly via Morse Code. It has been used in every war since it was developed and was most commonly used in the aviation and shipping industry. The US Coast Guard used it up until about 1995, and the US Navy still trains their intelligence specialists to master the code.
The pigpen cypher (also spelled cipher) looks like a fun and whimsical way of sending code for kids but it actually has a very long history.
The cipher appears to date back as far as the 1500’s but it was most frequently used in the 18th century by the Freemason’s where they used it to keep their records of history, as well as to communicate between lodge leaders. It can even be found engraved on the gravestones of Freemason’s.
During the American Civil War, the cypher was used by Union prisoners in Confederate prisons.
You would think Binary Code is a new way of looking at numbers but it’s invention is credited to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a 17th century German mathematician and philosopher. There is evidence that it was used further back in history starting with Egyptians using it as a method to measure and count grains and liquids. Computers now use this code to communicate.
I am sure you are wondering what is binary code. Binary code is a system used to operate digital circuits in computers that helps computers understand & communicate letters, numbers, symbols, and commands. A computer uses only 2 numbers to communicate, the ‘0’ and ‘1’, whereas we use a 10-number system, 0-9.
Since the binary code is used to operate digital circuits the 0 and the 1 tell these circuits whether to be off or on. The 0 means the switch is OFF and the 1 means the switch is ON.
The computer reads letters as a series of 0’s and 1’s together as represented in the chart below from our Secret Code bundle. Next to the 8 numbers are 8 boxes representing the switches. If a box is filled in that means the switch is ON, if the box is empty the switch is off.
The Only Passionate Curiosity website has the best experiment I have seen for kids to do that will give them that lightbulb moment where they will understand how computers communicate and transmit images using binary code.
Top Secret Code Activity Bundle
You can put all of the codes you just learned about into action using our Secret Code Bundle. It is filled with funny questions to decipher, binary code to solve, a secret code wheel to build, and more.
How To Use Our Secret Code Bundle In Cub Scouts
The Secret Spy Bundle was designed with enough puzzles to do that it will not only help you easily provide activities to complete some scout adventures but also to provide activities at the start of your meetings.
In Cub Scouts there are a couple adventures that have secret codes as an activity.
For Tiger Scouts the Elective Adventure – Curiosity, Intrigue, & Magical Mysteries has them create a secret code to send to others and to crack a code they didn’t create.
For Wolf Scouts the Elective Adventure – Code of the Wolf has them use a secret code using numbers to send back and forth between a friend and to use the pigpen code to send messages to each other.