Inspiration and Origin

While AlphaTapp is not exactly a binary code, it follows a sequence similar to binary counting.  Using Base 2 (binary) with five elements gives us a total combination of thirty-two possible characters.  Twenty-six of these are assigned to the English alphabet. One combination is assigned to designate a switch between alphabetic and numeric characters (like the NUM LOCK key on a keyboard), and the null element (no fingers) denotes a space between words, or an error correction.  One element is used in the numeric set only. The final three combinations are kept in reserve for the time being and will be designated as AlphaTapp evolves.

I was inspired to create AlphaTapp from a number of life experiences.  I recall attempting to learn Morse Code in junior high school and found it particularly difficult.  I have also been interested in learning American Sign Language, even though I personally don’t know anyone who uses it.

I have been a computer programmer for over 30 years, and one of the first fascinating concepts I learned was that of how binary code works, which is the basis for all computing communication.  Binary is a Base 2 system that consists solely of two states, off and on, represented by the digits 0 and 1. Any whole numerical value can be represented by the placement and value of these two digits in their respective columns.  Our decimal system is a Base 10.

My father was a Navy sailor, and an expert in Semaphore flag communication.  He taught Semaphore to the Boy Scouts for the Signaling Merit Badge (recently discontinued), and loved to tell the tale of the time he saved his shipmates by signaling for rescue using Semaphore.  I found it interesting to be able to physically communicate over long distances.

I play a saxophone, and was intrigued by how many different notes could be produced by different combinations of key presses.  Disregarding the palm keys, ten fingers (only nine of which are used in playing), produce 28 notes from a low B flat to a high C sharp on most horns.  Piano playing has its own combinations of key presses which produce not only notes, but chords.

I had initially thought of calling this code “Bocce”, as a reference to the movie Star Wars and this exchange between Uncle Owen and C-3PO.

Uncle Owen: What I really need is a droid who understands the binary language of moisture vaporators.
C-3PO: Vaporators? Sir, my first job was programming binary load lifters, very similar to your vaporators in most respects.
Uncle Owen: Can you speak Bocce?
C-3PO: Of course I can, sir. It’s like a second language to me. I’m a–
Uncle Owen: Yeah, all right. Shut up. I’ll take this one.
C-3PO: Shutting up, sir.

Other types of coded communication

Typewriters, keyboards, and text message layouts all have one key per character.   Combinations with the shift key and/or control/alt keys produce different results.

Shorthand – a method of note-taking before laptop computers.  Specific squiggles denote phonemes and long words are shortened, facilitating faster writing.  Court stenography machines use combinations of key presses, writing in Shorthand.

Morse Code –a system of dots and dashes.

Semaphore – two flags positioned in a clock-like fashion around the body to facilitate far-off communication.

American Sign Language – A series of finger spelling and word symbols commonly used by the deaf and/or mute.

Braille – Six raised dots on a page, arranged in two columns, for the blind to read the physical bumps on the paper.

Binary – the computer language of 0s and 1s