A century of distress ...---...

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The SOS turned 100 yesterday. Another durable product of German engineering, it has been responsible for saving many a lives in distress ever since its introduction in April 1905 by the German government in radio regulations. It became the worldwide standard after inclusion in the second International Radiographic Convention signed in 1906 and became effective worldwide, hence the birth centenary.
The real story behind the birth of this innovation is quite a contrast to the seriousness of its use. The Germans began using the distress signal as a continuous Morse code sequence of three-dits/three-dahs/three-dits, with no mention of any alphabetic equivalents. However, in International Morse three dits comprise the letter S, and three dahs the letter O, and it soon became common to refer to the distress signal as "SOS."
And thus began the long tale of this unsung life saver. The first major disaster averted was that in 1909 when the Cunard liner the SS Slavonia was stricken off the Azores, and sent out an SOS signal. Tragedy was averted and no life was lost. But the convention was still not enforced as strictly with other signals such as CQD still in practice. So, it took about 1500 lives and the world's largest cruise liner then to make it the radio signal convention for a distress call. Yes, only after the Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland on its maiden voyage. The radio operators apparently continued with the then in use CQD signal. "SEND SOS," one of the Titanic's radio operators supposedly said to another after 15 minutes without response."It's the new call and besides this may be your last chance to send it." Word has it that both the calls were intercepted but the ships in the area ignored the one after the other thinking the huge liner was testing or partying.
As of today SOS is everywhere where mankind seeks help for itself. Save Our Souls is the call of protestors, environmentalists, students, and even rockers, with the signal being the title of many a music albums.
My memory of having used the SOS dates back to the early years of mobile telephony in India, when they used to block your SIM when you had crossed the credit limit, with an option of an SOS call - which I never knew the meaning of back then. And so I called whosoever was at the other end, the accent indicating it was someone from a faraway land, and yes I was child enough to try and develop a friendship with my SOS angel. But, the angel I guess was just about interested in helping someone in real distress, not people interested in experimenting with new means of time pass, and so I still am... in distress. Plus, they don't even block your SIM card for weird reasons these days :(

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