Morse Code

Last Christmas (2006), I purchased for myself a Kent Twin Paddle Key. My intention was to re-learn ‘the code’ (I logged my last Morse Contact in 1995). It has been sitting for several months on my desk not even plugged into anything. Last weekend the IRTS had their 75th AGM and Dinner in the Vienna Woods Hotel in Cork. As I had never been to one, I decided to head down. The XYL (my lovely wife) was rescued at the last minute by another engagement.

I had the privilege to chat with (before dinner) Dave Sumner, K1ZZ (CEO of the ARRL and his wife Linda, KA1ZD, RSGB president Angus Annan, MM1CCR, IARU region 1 president, Ole Garpesdat, LA2RR and his Wife. It was great to meet such high profile people and hear first hand their thoughts for the future of the hobby, and to make them feel welcome in our small country.

After dinner (which was absolutely excellent) and after all the speeches, I got to introduce myself and speak to some of the ‘old timers’. Experimenters (Radio Hams) that have been licensed for longer than I’ve been breathing air. A couple of things struck me. Of the people I spoke to, all of them seem to have great passion for the hobby, all of them have the full support of their spouses (if still with us), all of them have a lot of knowledge and all ,while differing of opinion on lots of topics (Jameson vs Paddy etc), of them seemed to be great proponents of ‘the code’.

The passion with which they spoke was amazing, one retired gentleman lamented the fact that he could no longer maintain 40wpm receive speed, that 30-35 would be as good as he could do nowadays.

I decided that it was time to act, so this week I’ve started trying to re-learn morse code. Its a facet of the hobby that I never really immersed myself into. When I did my morse code exam it was so that I could gain access to the Shortwave Bands (160m – 10m), as that was the requirement at the time. Now there is no Morse requirement for access to these bands.

Progress has been slow, I have a program sending me morse code at 15wpm (or so it says). I have most of the letters back, but I’m still having difficulty with numbers, and seem to still mix up J & 1, V & 4 and some others. Its interesting, some letters I have no problem with at all, in fact I don’t even have to think about them, my hand just writes them out, others are ok in combination (CQ and my own callsign EI7IG, QC would require me to think), some more then require my full concentration.

30wpm is a long way off methinks!

4 thoughts on “Morse Code”

  1. John, I am one of those people who put off learning the code for a good number of years, only to find once I had learned it to a useful speed that it became my favorite mode. Since then I have taught a few others .

    The first thing to do is up the speed 😉 you want everything fast enough that you have to deal with the sound rather than dots and dashes. The traditional method of learning slow code (or even 12WPM stuff with long gaps, the farnsworth method ) makes progress slower than it needs to be. The Kooch method is a very good way now that we have computers to to act as our (very patient!) one on one coach.
    This free on line book is a must read for anyone with any interest in CW

    Learning to use an Iambic paddle is a very good idea if you intend using CW much and it’s not too hard once your code is reasonable, but I would reccomend that you also use an external keyer, the keyer in many rigs leaves a lot to be desired and each radio manufacturer has their own variations on how best to implement keying logic (which is running on robbed CPU cycles anyway) this makes moving between radios harder than it should be and also makes things less easy to learn. personally I like very much the cmos4 from

    It’s also a good idea to keep a straight key wired in parallel with the output of your keyer so that you can revert back to the straight key when the need arises to slow down or if the ‘wheels fall of the bike’
    here is a great tutorial on the basics of sending using an iambic key

    Lastly CW is a mode that is both efficient and fantastic fun, it takes some effort and time to get to the stage that it becomes fun but surely that can be said about many pastimes that people choose to do.


  2. Hi Brendan,
    I have the book printed, and I’ve the article by K7QO printing. Current Rig is a FT-920 and the keyer seems reasonable. All I need now is the time to practice. I’m using tutor software at about 15wpm, so far so good.. though, like I said 6,b and j are still catching me out now and again.


  3. John, as a follow up you might want to look at Rufz (no linux version I am afraid) as a tool for improving speed. It’s good fun and it’s the official software for the IARU High Speed Telegraphy Championships

    Have a look at the toplist, there are folk on there that can copy call signs at over 140WPM!

    if you think you might like to have a go at contesting there is a nice contest simulator at
    Morse runner does a pretty nice job of simulating a contest complete with pileups and band noise

    Both these tools are great ways to build speed but may not help too much with building comprehension for rag Chew QSO’s. The best thing I have found here is to operate and also to listen to lots of other people’s QSO’s, practice texts from W1AW etc. the main thing is to get used to hearing the words as they pass by rather than struggling with trying to write it all down.


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