Thursday, July 7, 2011

dah-di-dah-dit ^ dah-dah-di-dah Speaking of the Morse Code -- The Original Digital Mode

Many people, including ham radio operators, like to think the Morse Code or CW operation is dead or dying.  From my experience I do not know.  I do know I do not hear as much of it across the Short Wave Band, but when the ham bands are open there is still quite a bit of code chatter.

What got me thinking about the code was an article I came across by Duane Asherman, W6REC called Learn CW (Morse Code) as a Language.  It really is a language, a new language that can be learned.

It is also what has kept many, like myself, out of Amateur Radio for years.  For me it was 40 or so years!  Why?  I think because of the archaic ways to learn it (before the MFJ code tutors and PCs).  Like many I memorized the records and tapes.  I found when someone took the time to send it did not sound like the recordings and was boring.  I wanted to get my ticket to build things to get on the air.  It is more of a challenge to build an A.M. or SSB transmitter than it is a CW transmitter.  However a CW transmitter is easy and simple and inexpensive.  A home brew QRP rig is one of the most economical ways into amateur radio.  But I went into commercial radio and my first transmitter was a nice new AEL 25KD 25kW.

I was out of commercial radio only a few months when I decided I have to get back to radio.  By chance I found an old MFJ-411 Code Tutor at a thrift store for $1.00.  That got me thinking of learning the code so I started on my amateur license.  I thought anyone, especially an old guy, can learn at least 5 w.p.m. and get on the  air.  Besides if I can get the code and learn a few rules I can get my Extra without a problem.

(Now all the fellows who had to learn 13 words per minute copy and send at the F.C.C. Field Office can pick on me.)

Now the mode that was of little interest to me has become my favorite mode.  I like QRP and that is a great fit for CW.  It was fun to learn and it is still fun to use all the tools to keep improving my terrible fist.  I still have a long way to go to get to the speed and quality of my goal.  I hear fellows at faster speeds than I can copy and I hear near perfect code (and the perfect machine or computer sent) and those who have been using code for decades and I want to send good code.

The reason for the long, and maybe boring, history is to encourage everyone reading this who does not know the code to get one of the computer based training programs and start learning code and open a brand new world on the air.

Search Morse Code and read some of the posts that are on line.  Start with the article I mentioned.  It is a very good article on learning the code.

Also check out Fists
Chuck Adams, K7QO has designed a nice code learning course in MP3 available on CD from Fists. 

Download one of the most popular & easy to use trainers by Ray Goff,  G4FON Koch Method Trainer
This runs on Windows.  The G4FON trainer is perhaps my favorite although I use CWCP quite often since I run Linux PCs and CWCP is written for Linux.  G4FON's will run using WINE, but sometimes the code will not be as clean nor do all the features work as well as if it is run on Windows.

Read So You Want to Learn Morse Code 

Visit Jack Wagoner's (WB8SFV) site   Lot of good information on CW and CW QSOs.

And for those really serious about the code (and those who like to read download) The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy by William G. Pierpont, N0HFF (SK).  This is an excellent manual on learning and using Morse Code. 

Then practice, practice, practice and practice more.  All the reading will not make you proficient at the code, but listening and / or sending (after you get your copy down) will.

The when all else fails motto (paraphrased) from the ARRL for ham radio is true, but when all else fails to get through the noise CW punches through; and sometimes at much less of a power level than any other mode. (ok PSK is quiet efficient at low power)

CW, the Morse Code.  Check it out, Learn it, and get on the air and use it.

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