Learning CW (Continuous Wave) is tough but Believe Me it is worth it. With poor propagation, noise on the band, low power, poor antennae, CW gets out!
I personally passed my first Technician test with 5 words per minute Morse code gaining “Tech +” privileges, actually all the prospective Hams I tested with that day passed the “Code Test”. My regret is that I did not continue to study CW and improve my speed/comprehension to upgrade to General privileges seeing that I actually passed the written general test the same day I passed my Tech +. Ken KC6WOK
Tips and Guides to learning Morse Code
History of Morse Code
Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) was a painter and founder of the National Academy of Design. In 1832, while on a ship returning from Europe, he conceived the basic idea of an electromagnetic telegraph. Experiments with various kinds of electrical instruments and codes resulted in a demonstration of a working telegraph set in 1836, and introduction of the circuit relay. This made transmission possible for any distance. With his creation of the American Morse code, the historic message, “What hath God wrought?” was sucessfully sent from Washington to Baltimore.
The Morse code used in those days differed greatly from that which is used today. Morse code originated on telegraph lines and the original users did not listen to tones but instead to the clicking sounds created by sounders. They used the American Morse code as opposed to today’s International Morse. When sending dahs (Morse code is composed of dits or short key closures, and dahs or longer key closures) the user simply sent two close-together dits. This was created by using a conventional code key.
With the advent of radio communications, the international Morse became more widespread. Users of the international Morse created dahs with a longer key closure, instead of two close-spaced dits. In order to increase transmission speed on early landline circuits and later on radio circuits, semi-automatic “bug” keys were invented in 1902 and were widely adopted. Bug keys used a vibrating pendulum to create dits and the user still manually creates the dahs.
In more recent times, the user can employ keyers that electronically create dits and dahs. Iambic keyers have a memory so that the user can operate a mechanical “paddle” quicker than the keying rate of the keyer. This makes for very comfortable and nearly effortless keying.
Today experienced operators copy received text without the need to write as they receive, and when transmitting, can easily converse at 20 to 30 words per minute. Morse code will always remain a viable means of providing highly reliable communications during difficult communications conditions.
Build a Code practice oscillator
- World’s smallest code practice oscillator
- W8WG’s Cheaper Beaper
- Code-Practice Oscillator (beginner)
- One Hour No Solder Oscillator from WA8SME and K7CCC
Fun with Morse code for Kids
One of ARRL’s first Education & Technology Program grant recipients, Steve Lalonde WA7WKX of University High School located in Spokane Washington, explains how he motivated his students to learn the code, “we would do Morse code scavenger hunts. They [kids] would receive clues written in Morse code that would send them to the next station and so on through 8 or 9 stations. Successful completion earned a treat (choice of fruit or candy bar).” (Sounds like fun even without the treat!) Steve also reported, “We had about 93 students earn a total of 112 licenses, including four Amateur Extra. Approximately 85% of the students taking the class passed the exams.”