Learning CW or Morse Code

Back in February, 2013 I went to a boy scout meeting where two other ham radio friends of mine did a demonstration of Morse Code for the young boys.

I was bitten by the CW bug that night just like the black flies bite here in New Hampshire in the month of May.

I started to do a little bit of practice in late February, but I kept getting distracted.

In early March, Hanz Busch, W1JSB came over to my house and loaned me a nice portable Yaesu 817 radio that’s meant to take with you backpacking. It’s a very small and compact HF radio that puts out only 5 watts of power. But that was enough for us to transmit CW – continuous wave – to one another on 80 meters.

CW is another name for Morse Code. If you hold down the key that transmits Morse Code, it will send out one continuous wave. When you lift up the key and stop the transmission, the wave stops. But if you hold down the key for different periods of time and in a certain order, you create Morse Code.

A short transmission is called a di. A longer burst is a dah. So you send di’s and dah’s.

Hanz and I started practicing even though I had not memorized all the letters. Hanz would send me a letter, and I would listen to it. We did that several nights and I learned my call sign.

But I quickly discovered that if you want to get serious, you have to knuckle down and just memorize the alphabet, numbers one through ten and some basic punctuation symbols.

By the beginning of April, I had all that down. I could send Morse Code, but I wasn’t totally smooth. It takes practice.

I knew I was going to love CW, because on many a night I woke up in the middle of the night ¬†tapping out words on my pillow with my fingers. Crazy, isn’t it? Well, let me tell you – that’s a sign that you really want it.

Right now my friend Jim Cluett, W1PID is helping me. He uses a cool program that allows him to type a message, set the words-per-minute rate, and it converts it into a cute little MP3 file.

I download that file and decipher what Jim sent. I really appreciate his attention and his mentoring me. It’s really helping me.

The hard part, for me, is listening and deciphering the code. I’m getting better, but it just takes practice. My goal is to be regularly transmitting and receiving by June 1, 2013.

One thought on “Learning CW or Morse Code

  1. Good luck! I am going to try to pick up CW this summer. I hope to be at 10+ WPM by then. I have all of the resources I need. Now to implement them.

    Best of Luck!
    Noah Goldstein, KB1VWZ/AG

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