# How do radio signals from space get turned into text?

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How do radio signals from space get turned into text? I never understood how signals get turned into text such as the wow! signal. How do they work

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If you want to rate the strength of something, you can easily do that using numbers. When you rate the strength of it over time, you can record that as a sequence of numbers. But what do you do if the thing you’re recording goes to 11 and you’ve only left one space available to record it? You can pretend that letters are just bigger numbers and tack them onto the end, so one bigger than 9 is A, two bigger than 9 is B, and so on. It’s just a convention for writing down numbers that represent a signal strength.

(Additional note: the actual “wow” part of it wasn’t data, that was just the person who found it noting their surprise in the margin. I suspect you know that but it wasn’t entirely clear from the post.)

It wasn’t turned into text, that was just a way of reporting the intensity

This was 1977, there weren’t sweet graphics on 4k screens to show a sick plot of the energy received. It all had to be consolidated into an output “file” that was just a constant stream of paper from a printer

Their system worked by capturing signals for 10 seconds then figuring out what the average power it received in that time was, then using a single character to report how much power it received. [Wikipedia has a plot showing it](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/15/Wow_signal_profile.svg/1201px-Wow_signal_profile.svg.png) but the more power received the further into the alphabet the letter is.

Instead of writing 6 15 20 27 31 20 5 it converted it into 6 E Q U J 5 so it only ever had to write a single character for any measurement window