Tony Long wrote an interesting article today for Wired.com’s Day In Tech titled “Jan. 7, 1904: A Distress Call for Ships in Danger Upon the Sea“
1904: “CQD” is adopted as the international distress signal for the operators of Marconi wireless installations. (January 7, 1904)
The Morse code signal (dash-dot-dash-dot, dash-dash-dot-dash, dash-dot-dot), which became effective Feb. 1, was approved for maritime use by the Marconi International Marine Communications Company. Although widely used by Marconi operators, CQD never became a true international standard.
Two years later, members of the International Radiotelegraphic Convention meeting in Berlin adopted SOS as the standard distress signal, and CQD began fading from the scene.
SOS with three dots, three dashes and three dots was much easier to remember and quicker to get off than CQD. Some things that neither of the above translate to: Come Quick Danger, Come Quick Drowning, Come Quick Dammit, Save Our Ship or Save Our Souls. Wikipedia refers to all of these as backronyms.
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