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This correspondence deals with the design and decoding of high-rate convolutional codes. After proving that every (n,n-1) convolutional code can be reduced to a structure that concatenates a block encoder associated to the parallel edges with a convolutional encoder defining the trellis section, the results of an exhaustive search for the optimal (n,n-1) convolutional codes is presented through various tables of best high-rate codes. The search is also extended to find the "best" recursive systematic convolutional encoders to be used as component encoders of parallel concatenated "turbo" codes. A decoding algorithm working on the dual code is introduced (in both multiplicative and additive form), by showing that changing in a proper way the representation of the soft information passed between constituent decoders in the iterative decoding process, the soft-input soft-output (SISO) modules of the decoder based on the dual code become equal to those used for the original code. A new technique to terminate the code trellis that significantly reduces the rate loss induced by the addition of terminating bits is described. Finally, an inverse puncturing technique applied to the highest rate "mother" code to yield a sequence of almost optimal codes with decreasing rates is proposed. Simulation results applied to the case of parallel concatenated codes show the significant advantages of the newly found codes in terms of performance and decoding complexity.