Technicalities

MORSE REMORSE. The Federal Communications Commission, in a move that seems reasonable, has eliminated a requirement that ham radio operators know Morse code. The requirement had effectively made ham radio a more exclusive club than even many operators wanted. The change, which took effect last month, follows similar rules in other countries and opens the door to a potential wave of new hams. We agree that the code requirement is outdated'if you do need it, software can translate to and from Morse code. But it's worth noting the steady disappearance of an enduring technological breakthrough of the 1840s. More than 100 years later, it was still the primary form of high-speed global communications. And it was remarkably utilitarian: You could send it with a flashlight or by knocking on a wall. Its binary components of dots and dashes also relate nicely to the ones and zeros of computers. But it had the advantage, as Wikipedia points out, of being the 'only digital modulation mode designed to be easily read by humans without a computer.' And no one ever got spammed by Morse code.

NUMBERS GAME. An American rite of spring gets underway this week, when the NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off. This means screaming, face-painted fans, buzzer-beating miracle shots, upsets galore'and party-killing bean counters putting forth specious, doom-and-gloom numbers about 'lost productivity.' Amounts from $1.5 billion to $3.8 billion have been thrown around, based on the idea that people at work will set their browsers on CBS' streaming video or ESPN's scoreboard. Sure, some will, but most won't, and the government and the economy won't come screeching to a halt. Unless everybody picks Belmont.

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