April 27, 2009 - Google is known for changing its logo for a day in honor of holidays and events, but visitors to the site today found the code "–. --- --- –. .-.. ." instead of the usual logo. Why? To honor the birthday of Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the inventor of the single wire telegraph. Morse was born on April 27, 1791.
Originally an accomplished portrait artist, Morse is better known for his patent on a method of transmitting messages over electrical wires, which quickly became the standard method of swift long-distance communication. Every letter of the alphabet was translated into a combination of dots and dashes in the code to which Morse gave his name.
Morse's patents include several related to the electric telegraph:
* US Patent 1,647, Improvement in the mode of communicating information by signals by the application of electro-magnetism, June 20, 1840
* US Patent 1,647 (Reissue #79), Improvement in the mode of communicating information by signals by the application of electro-magnetism, January 15, 1846
* US Patent 1,647 (Reissue #117), Improvement in electro-magnetic telegraphs, June 13, 1848
* US Patent 1,647 (Reissue #118), Improvement in electro-magnetic telegraphs, June 13, 1848
* US Patent 3,316, Method of introducing wire into metallic pipes, October 5, 1843
* US Patent 4,453, Improvement in Electro-magnetic telegraphs, April 11, 1846
* US Patent 6,420, Improvement in electric telegraphs, May 1, 1849
Though he is famous now, during his lifetime, Morse experienced a lot of the same frustrations trying to enforce his patents that many inventors do today. In 1848, he wrote in a letter to a friend:
"I have been so constantly under the necessity of watching the movements of the most unprincipled set of pirates I have ever known, that all my time has been occupied in defense, in putting evidence into something like legal shape that I am the inventor of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph!! Would you have believed it ten years ago that a question could be raised on that subject?"
And from that snippet of a famous inventor's letter, it's clear that the need for contingency patent enforcement is nothing new.