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Fancy dropping into Pitetsbkrrh?

Pittsburgh tower fails spelling test

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Grant Tower, a Pittsburgh landmark topped with a radio mast and a flashing light spelling out the city's name in Morse, has instead been spelling out the word "Pitetsbkrrh" for some time.

The mistake wasn't noticed until one Tom Stepleton, a Radio Ham familiar with Morse, recognised the letter "K" in the flashing sequence and realised that the traditional spelling of Pittsburgh lacks that letter. He reported it to the building's owners, and alerted the Pittsburgh Post Gazette who care a lot about spelling.

The Gazette explains that the tower was Pittsburgh's first skyscraper. It was completed in 1929, when a red neon light atop the tower was switched on to flash the city's name to passing aircraft, so they'd know where they were.

While pilots might still know Morse, it is a declining ability - Radio Hams in the UK, for example, are no longer tested for their Morse skills - so it's hardly surprising no-one noticed the tower's poor spelling. Morse still pops up every now and then: the default SMS notification on a Nokia handset spells out "SMS", while older handsets have a ring tone which reads "CONNECTING PEOPLE" in dots and dashes.

No-one knows exactly when the sequence on the Grant Tower was changed. The building's owners are apparently aware of the problem but won't say when they'll be able to fix it, so for the moment it's probably best if everyone simply refers to the city by its new name: Pitetsbkrrh. ®

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