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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Get On the Air -- With CW!

Edward P. Swynar (VE3CUI) on December 20, 2016
View comments about this article!

Introduction:

Whether you are a newly-minted Amateur radio operator just chomping at the bit to give CW a go for the very first time, or a seasoned pro waxing nostalgic about the mode you seemingly forgot all about and came to ignore way- back-when, operating code may well be initially viewed as being chock full of some very daunting challenges, and barriers. But they are all actually quite easily overcome, with the end result being that you will have mastered -- or maybe even RE-mastered! -- a skill that has been the hallmark of ham radio since “Day One.”

Just do not become discouraged -- and remember what Confucius once said: “Even the longest of journeys begins with the very first step”!

WELCOME ABOARD, OM!

So just how, exactly, does one differentiate between something that might be considered to be “...art,” from something often regarded as being “...science”? Does a handful of old familiar sayings maybe help to shed some light upon this question, as in, “He's just a natural- born artist,” or, “Science has taught us through years of study that the earth is not flat, but rather, a round orb.” This is the dilemma that seemingly faces many would-be Hams of to-day who might wish to seriously try their hand at CW communications, as they struggle to “fit” within some box, or mold, that might help explain their initial trepidations.

Is the code some innate gifted “...art form” that maybe blesses certain individuals more so than it does others (“I just do not have it in me!”), or is it, instead, just another applied science that may be learned and effectively executed over some passage of time, just as PhD. graduates in Biology, or Physics, must spend years in post-grad studies in order to be considered as being “experts”?

The real answer, I believe, lies somewhere in between. Yes, some of our luckier peers just seem to pick-up code proficiency as if through some magically inherent process of osmosis. They make it all look just oh-so-easy -- “So what's wrong with ME?” one might be inclined to ask. Far more of us, however, take the approach of the wannabe grad student -- only instead of, “Study, study, study!” their mantra is one of, “Practice, practice, practice!” The end result is the same in either instance, i.e. expertise in the field in question.

So -- what are you, anyway, besides a licensed Amateur radio operator with the option of making on-the-air contacts via CW? Are you brand new to the hobby, and want to try-out something that you've never tried before? Perhaps you neglected the mode early in your Ham “career,” but now want to return to “...your roots.” If so, you are one who is on the threshold of a level of proficiency in a skill that amounts to something that is surely akin to mastering a second language. George Bernard Shaw, I believe, was once quoted as saying, “Any man who can speak just one language, is but half a man.” So what if the pundits claim that CW is “dead” in to-day's modern world? Let them all be politely excused from the conversation, as others might carry-on speaking in ancient Babylonian with one another, or some other long- gone tongue! Just as many modern-day “tekkies” scoff at the mere thought of anyone who might be more comfortable working on vacuum tube gear rather than integrated circuits, “...Who you gonna call?” if someone hands you their Hallicrafters S-40B receiver for analysis after it suddenly and inexplicably goes silent?

The presumption here, then, is that you are intent upon tackling mastery of a noble art that is as old as Amateur radio itself. Good on you for thinking beyond whatever traditional ”comfort zone” may have kept your Morse key hidden in some forgotten corner of your station. But what to do such that your initial first proverbial steps in “spawning up the creek of your birth” whence you first came won't prove to be perhaps a disastrous personal disappointing embarrassment, and discourage you from progressing?

For starters, first assure yourself that you are still cognizant of how the different numbers and letters of the alphabet sound in CW. -- not how they may look with all those associated dots and dashes, but how they really sound. This exercise will doubtlessly be a brief one, for I am firm of the opinion that knowing the code is like riding a bicycle: you never forget it, and it's still in you -- a little latent, in some cases, maybe! -- from the time that you first convinced the examiner at The Department of Transportation / The Department of Communications / Industry Canada / the radio club Ham test administrator that you merited a passing grade in both sending and receiving at the prescribed minimum speed. If you need a brush-up, however, do any such preliminary work OFF of the air, rather than inflicting others with an “...earn as you learn” approach, ON the air...

OK, you have the fundamentals of proper character formation down pat, but you remain a tad shaky as to the proper decorum that is used in CW QSOs: “What's the code equivalent of 'over'?” “How do I know if the guy that I want to work is finished with his other QSO?” “What if I want to tell anyone listening that this QSO was my last for the day, and that now I want to go off the air?” “How come nobody ever told me this stuff before?” Questions such as these can be intimidating to the newbie CW op - - but the rules to good code exchanges are actually few in number, and are really quite simple. Here are the basics which every good code man practices on the air...

QUESTION: How do I signify to others that I am open to any and all callers?
ANSWER: Send the letter “K” after your call.
EXAMPLE: CQ CQ CQ DE VE3CUI K

QUESTION: How might I let the station that am calling know that I would like a QSO with him/her?
ANSWER: Send the letters “A” and “R” after your call, with NO SPACE between the “A” and the “R.”
EXAMPLE: VE3XZ DE VE3CUI AR

QUESTION: What if I am turning it over to a station that I am already in contact with, and I do not want any “breakers” who might be on the frequency to interrupt us...?
ANSWER: Send the letters “K” and “N” after your call, with NO SPACE between the “K” and the “N.”
EXAMPLE: VE3XZ DE VE3CUI KN

QUESTION: What if my contact with a station is over, and I want to signify that it is formally ended, in case someone else on the frequency might be standing-by to work me?
ANSWER: Send the letters “S” and “K,” with NO SPACE between them, right BEFORE the call sign of the station that you are finished working -- and nothing at the end.
EXAMPLE: 73 SK VE3XZ DE VE3CUI

QUESTION: What if I want to close down my station completely after the completion of a QSO, and want to let other would-be callers know that I will not acknowledge them?
ANSWER: Send the letters “S” and “K” (again, with NO SPACES between them) before the call sign of the station that you are done working, but add “C” and “L” (WITH a space between them) at the very end of your transmission.
EXAMPLE: 73 SK VE3XZ DE VE3CUI CL

That's it!

Aside from any protocol that may be unique to nets and contest exchanges, that's all you need to know to carry-on QSOs comfortably and confidently on the air -- no secrets here at all. With thankfully very few exceptions, every good CW aficionado uses this format on the air. And you will, too, as it becomes second nature whenever you might reach for your key.

Now, armed with these fundamentals, let's get started by actually firing-up the rig, tuning the antenna, and prowling the bands on the air, in order to make some “noise.” Where to start? It is all up to you, of course, but from my personal experiences, judging by what I have seen after my 45-plus years in the hobby (and mostly on CW, too), I would NOT suggest that you park yourself anywhere in the bottom 25-KHz of any band, expecting to find stations eager to engage in slow-speed QSOs! Those areas are the reserve, generally, of DX'ers and high-speed CW artists...and that is hardly the place for you to get your feet wet. The bulk of QRS CW operation takes place 50- to 100-KHz up from the very bottom of the bands -- that is where you will kindle friendships with other kindred souls such as yourself, guys (and gals!) who are “feeling their CW oats” too, and who may yearn for contacts with similar such brave individuals...individuals such as YOU.

OK, now that you might have some notion as to where the portions on the bands are that will make you feel the most comfortable, what about the actual bands, themselves? Where might you “...get the most bang for your buck?” Is it 80-meters? 10-meters? For my money -- excluding the latest “WARC” bands, of course -- here's my thumbnail analysis of all the bands that I would NOT recommend you “...get your feet wet” on: 160-meters is a difficult one to even get on, for most of us real estate challenged folks; 80-meters is fine, but not during the middle of the day, when it essentially goes “dead”; 20- meters is inviting, and may be considered to be a reasonable choice, IF you don't mind being edged-out on occasion by DX'ing activities that may well extend up the band; 15- and 10-meters are too “hit and miss” due to propagation vagaries.

That leaves 40-meters as being my best personal recommendation: it is open 24 hours a day to one place, or another, and it is teeming with mostly U.S.A.-based Hams that may be readily worked with even the most rudimentary of antennas. And there is plenty of good company up above 7050-kHz (and even in the former U.S. Novice band of 7100-kHz to 7150-kHz), company to be shared with guys just like you, who maybe have been licensed for several decades now, but who have a yearning to get back to CW for various personal reasons...or just plain newcomers to ham radio.

One very important caveat here before proceeding any further: remembering that you are, after all, undertaking those all-critical and initial “baby steps” in CW, STICK TO A STRAIGHT KEY ONLY. Liken it to this analogy: you are a 16-year-old, just learning how to drive on the street with your newly-issued beginner's license. Would it make sense for you to do your practicing in your rich uncle's borrowed Lambourghini, or in the family “beater?” Save yourself the trials and tribulations of mastering the tasks of parallel parking and merging in traffic -- to say nothing of the woes that you could potentially wreak upon other users of the road! -- and stick to the “bare essentials.” There'll be time enough later for you to indulge yourself in the exotic and esoteric...but learn how to walk, first, before you start to run.

Now, what will you do once you're on the air, all anxious and eager to flex your developing CW muscles? Well, if you are the bold and brave type, how about a CQ call? Nothing lengthy and prolonged that might put potential callers to sleep -- just a curt, “4 x 3” call, i.e. “CQ” sent four times in succession, followed by your call sign sent thrice. And then LISTEN for a possible responder for at least a full minute's time. Hopefully the person at the other end will realize that your slow, tepid calling might indicate that you are only just now attempting to “...get back into the game,” and he/she will respond to you at the same speed. But maybe the responder will make his call to you at a much faster speed than that which you are calling: do not let these individuals discourage you, or upset your balance in any way. There is surely a special, overly-warm(!) room reserved in the after-life world, just for would-be speed demons like this! Why they can't crank it down to accommodate the obvious needs of slow senders is beyond me -- just who are they attempting to impress, other than themselves?

No matter: WHOMEVER it is that might return your call, tell them early in the QSO of your efforts to actively and deliberately make CW a part of your Ham life. That realization alone usually brings out only the best in Ham radio operators, and the vast majority will offer you nothing but warm words of encouragement for you to continue on! Accept their praise with pride, and appreciation...

How about calling someone else, instead of taking the “CQ route,” maybe you just don't like any possible “...surprises” that may accompany CQ's. If so, then look for somebody who is either finishing-up a QSO, or who is calling CQ himself, at a speed that you feel is personally comfortable for you. Zero beat his frequency, then jump in and give it a go! Again, do NOT belabor the calling process: he already KNOWS his own call sign well enough, so just give him a good “1 x 2” call, i.e. his call sent once, with yours thrown in twice. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that should do it: if he can hear you well enough, he'll surely get back to you. Once more, if you feel a tad “shaky,” or unsteady, with the exercise, after the usual obligatory exchange of RSTs, names and QTHs, tell him your story, of how you are gamely attempting to use CW maybe again after a long absence, or are a complete newcomer, and to please forgive you for any obvious nervous pauses and/or errors. Most guys will understand perfectly, and gladly extend a helping hand in your direction, eagerly welcoming you “...back on board.”

Yes, hams for the most part, are just like that!

With time on your side, and with more and more QSOs under your belt, you'll gain the confidence needed to shave the “scare” factor off of the edge of making on-the- air QSOs -- and you won't even notice it. After a while, your speed will increase, too, in both sending AND receiving, and you'll come to appreciate the joy of “...talking with your hands” in short order.

So what are you waiting for, OM? You know that you've been musing about dusting-off that key of yours for some time now: as the TV commercial says, “JUST DO IT!” There is no time like the present to start on your journey toward enjoying a skill that's shared by so very many of to-day's radio Amateurs. It's probably one of the WORST kept secret in Ham circles that CW is both fun, and very relaxing, with just a bit of practice -- so come and take that initial all-important plunge, and join in the fun and fraternity of the “brass-pounding set.” You have nothing to lose, and a whole new world of people and fun to gain!

Oh, as a word in final passing, have you ever wondered what the “de” means in the CW calling procedure? “De” is French, and simply stands for the English word “from” -- and nothing more. Again, no magic here -- it simply IS, what it IS. Good luck exploring/re-discovering your new- found world!

~73!~ de Edward “Eddy” Swynar (VE3CUI -- VE3XZ)

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by BOYSCLUBRADIO on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Most excellent article. Thanks. We promote CW more than SSB due to the simplicity. That being said to learn CW is not going to happen overnight. Its going to take practice time just like learning spanish or german You need to get out and get into QSOs on the air. Best way to learn too... don't worry about speed... most of us will return our code speed at what YOU are sending... so don't rush it and then feel frustrated... Most can send about twice as fast as they can copy.

Computers are nice but if the OP is sending with a manual key ...they just don't work due to a thing called weight and spacing. By ear is the best way to copy code... the navy added typewriters to the mix .. which then required the OP to not only learn code but also typing. Oh well...
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by KB2DHG on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
A very nice article,
I love CW it is my most used mode. One thing I must say, many operators think that you have to be a fast code sender or receiver in order to work the mode. I am on average 10-13 WPM. For me this is a comfortable speed for me to relax and have a good long QSO.

If an operator is sending too fast I simple send QRS..
AND visa versa, If I am sending too fast I will gladly slow down for the operator.

To any of you who might think CW id antiquated or just not worth the effort. I simply say just give it a try...
When I was studding to take my novice, I hated that I had to learn the code BUT I wanted to be a HAM so I studied hard and got my 5 wpm, 13 wpm and even my 20 wpm for the extra. All I could say is that I am glad I was forced to learn the code because if I never was, I might have never tried it and never know the joy od a CW QSO!
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by NN2X on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
CW..

About 36 years ago I study very hard to pass the 20 WPM code...(For the Extra class /ALSO 2nd Class Radio Telegraph)...That was the hardest achievement I have ever endured. (I speak other languages, as well). It was highly gratifying though (To pass the CW)0!

I have to admit, I use BPSK 31 and that is really neat. I can now type faster than my CW code and from the articles I read the BPSK 31 is at least as efficient as CW...(When considering all the parameters) / Or close...

My point being, I am having a hard time taking time with CW (To refresh), when I can use BPSK 31 (Same efficiency and type faster (50 WPM) and have the same reach when considering DX...


My thrust for these modes is to work the world and CW was the choice in the past, however with BPSK 31 it is hard to beat...(Never mind JT65, although no real QSO in that mode)

Having said that, the article was inspiring, I will send a few CQ calls this weekend via CW, if only for nostalgic reasons!


Best

Tom, NN2X



 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by NN2X on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
CW..

About 36 years ago I study very hard to pass the 20 WPM code...(For the Extra class /ALSO 2nd Class Radio Telegraph)...That was the hardest achievement I have ever endured. (I speak other languages, as well). It was highly gratifying though (To pass the CW)!

I have to admit, I use BPSK 31 and that is really neat. I can now type faster than my CW code and from the articles I read the BPSK 31 is at least as efficient as CW...(When considering all the parameters) / Or close...

My point being, I am having a hard time taking time with CW (To refresh), when I can use BPSK 31 (Same efficiency and type faster (50 WPM) and have the same reach when considering DX...


My thrust for these modes is to work the world and CW was the choice in the past, however with BPSK 31 it is hard to beat...(Never mind JT65, although no real QSO in that mode)

Having said that, the article was inspiring, I will send a few CQ calls this weekend via CW, if only for nostalgic reasons!


Best

Tom, NN2X



 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by W5GNB on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting article......But I didn't realize there was anything other than CW on the Ham Bands.......
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by VE3CUI on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I must say, when I first learned that the old Department of Transportations here in Canada required wannabe Hams to pass a 10 W.P.M. sending and receiving test back in 1970, I was simply floored & devastated…

I wanted to join the worldwide fraternity using A.M. fone that I was monitoring on 10-meters with my 3rd hand Hallicrafters S-77A, instead --- who has time to (yuch!!!) learn C.W.?!

But learn it, I did, at the demure & innocent age of 18 years…and I actually surprised myself that, by forcing due & patient diligence, one step at a time (and guided all the way, of course, by an invaluable copy of the ARRL's then-50 cents-a-copy of "LEARNING THE RADIO TELEGRAPH CODE"), I managed to beat that mandated 10 W.P.M. minimum --- and actually earned a 15 W.P.M. code copying certificate from one of the League's CW tests…

I guess being a teen at the time helped some --- I just didn't know any better to convince myself that "…it couldn't be done." But I came to LOVE the mode: at home, away from work, I revelled in the ability to converse with others by using just my hands, rather than a strained-from-the-job voice. To-day, cancer therapy 12 years ago left my voice weak & even more strained, leaving CW to be my best option for QSOs.

I absolutely LOVE the mode, and am never surprised when others admit to a similar love affair who eventually take the plunge & give it a go, too --- even though all of my Ham friends are well into adulthood...
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by W8QZ on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I appreciate the spirit of the original post - there is a certain mystique to CW operating that I find enjoyable. My club saw this in the recent past, in supporting the JOTA. The scouts seemed more interested in the straight key, code practice oscillator, and Morse code reader, than in the fancy SDR transceiver, or in making an on-the-air phone contact.

Some minor nits:
My understanding is that the proper signal for the end of a CQ is 'AR', i.e. 'end of message'.
'K' would typically direct the station that I'm already in contact with to 'go ahead'.
In my experience, 'KN' is rarely, if ever, needed (unless maybe if you're a DX station?).
It is not necessary to send both callsigns at the beginning or end of each transmission (except probably a good idea at the start and end of a conversation) - this saves some time, and allows for more of a back-and-forth conversation, less CW 'monologue'!


 
W8QZ  
by VE3CUI on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I don't know if they still do it to-day, or not --- most likely it's (sadly) the latter --- but when I first got my ticket in the Spring of '71, the League sent me a copy of a classic piece that they lifted right out of an earlier issue of "QST" magazine, entitled, "YOUR NOVICE ACCENT --- AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT," I believe (DEFINITELY the words, "...Your Novice Accent") figured into the title…

It was an EXCELLENT entry-level addition to a budding Ham's library, & it detailed in clear & simple essay form the "ins" & the "outs" of proper on-the-air CW communications. Take a look at the "QST" archives, & see for yourself just what it extolled as being the virtues of a proficient CW operator --- I'm sure that (and NO OFFENCE meant here, whatsoever!) you'll come to re-examine your use of "AR" in your code exchanges...
 
RE: W8QZ  
by VE3CUI on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I just located an on-line reprint of, "YOUR NOVICE ACCENT"…

Click here & you'll find it:

http://www.kb6nu.com/your-novice-accent/

~73!~ de Eddy VE3CUI - VE3XZ
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by KI3R on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Very good article Ed .... We need more CW ops to populate the bands. It is somewhat disheartening to tune across the bands and find areas of dead space. I know I am talking like an OTer but spectrum use has decreased ...however do a zip code based search for licenses and wow they are every where. It seems that the CW portions are really only "hot" during contests. I would only make one addition to your article. Please ask if the frequency is in use. That used to be standard practice in the old days but for some reason has fallen by the wayside for a lot of ops. Again a good article and look forward to our next CW QSO. 73 and Merry Christmas

KI3R Tom Belle Vernon PA

 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by AB1DQ on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Eddy,

Wonderful article - thanks for posting this, I plan to keep it and share with some of my "Elmees" interested in getting on the air with the Code.

I am a proverbial 5WPM Extra who resolved a couple of years ago to learn and USE the code. I found the CW Ops Club CW Academy to be an excellent (and fun) means of learning the code, and I couldn't agree more with your point about practice, practice, practice.

I particularly like your upbeat and encouraging attitude and you also nicely address some of the mystique of CW lingo and QSO protocol which can be more intimidating that just learning all those dits and dahs.

Fine business OM, wishing you a very Happy Holiday Season & Tnx again.

73 de AB1DQ
James
 
KI3R  
by VE3CUI on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Tom, you are absolutely and 100% correct: ALWAYS check if the frequency is in use first, BEFORE calling "CQ"...! A simple "QRL?" is adequate in that regard.

Most of the guys to-day probably wouldn't even be aware of the existence of past usage of the "IE" type of query --- i.e. a fast "dit-dit…dit" --- that OTs USED to send on a seemingly vacant spot, before making a general call. It's deliberate brevity minimized any possible intrusion onto an already existing QSO that might be on the frequency...

Thanks so very much for nicely filling-in an obvious void in my little write-up, Tom --- It only makes it even more complete, and whole, IMHO…!
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by KE0CRP on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
My ticket came to me just shy of 2 years ago. I've been extremely lucky to have a wife that supports my hobby and encourages me to operate as a way to wind down at the end of a long day. I've done lots of SSB and a fair amount of digital so far and enjoy both. When I mentioned that I'd like to learn CW she asked me why. My response was that I was getting somewhat bored with the operating I had been doing and was looking for more of a challenge.

I'm young, in the ham community, at only 36 years old and of course live a hectic life working 55-60 hours a week with 2 kids and a new house to contend with among other things. In my downtime at work I have been clicking along and listening to CW via apps on my cell phone. Within about a week or two I had all the letters and numbers down and am able to "send" them via the apps on my phone.

I went home from work one night and tapped out "I love you Veronica" to her on my app and all she could do was smile. At that point she told me she knew what she was getting me for Christmas.

A few days later she sends me a text asking, "Are those Bengay keys from France any good?"

I lovingly reply, "I believe it's Begali from Italy honey and from what I have read yes they are very good stuff."

She says, "Well I sure hope so because you're going to have one for Christmas."

I had no reply. But needless to say I am very excited to start a new facet of the hobby. CW is not dead and if there's enough people like me, of all ages, that want to get back to the roots of what ham radio is it will not be for a long time. CW is the reason that I did not pursue the hobby 10 years ago and here I am 2 years after becoming a ham, learning CW.
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by N1OIE on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Really nice article. Thanks. I'm in the process of trying to learn CW, and it's proving difficult for me. I can speak two languages fluently, and a third pretty well (I just don't have the vocab and the idioms), but for some reason, CW is kicking my butt! It may be because I learned English and French as a child, and German as a teenager and college student and then on the ground, when my brain was still supple. Now I feel like my mind is like granite, and nothing can penetrate it. Still, I'm slugging away, and I hope soon to get on the air. My 8 wpm (on a good day) is just an embarrassment right now, however. This article gave me a little confidence boost, so thanks!
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by K0RO on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article. I did essentially what the author suggests, having decided in December, 2015 to dedicate 2016 to my return to CW. I put away the microphone and dusted off my old J-38 from my Novice days of 60 years ago.

While I knew how to "ride the bicycle", I still had to look up a couple of characters and punctuation marks to remind myself of their configuration.

Rather than practice off the air, I jumped right on 20 meters and listened for a nice slow fist. My first contact was responding to a CQ sent by XE2HOE, Mode, from LaPaz, Mexico. My heart was pounding and sweat rolled down my neck. Just as it had on my first contact 60 years ago. But I survived and was elated.

I set a goal of one CW contact per day. Only did eight in January but with each one, I was less nervous. February saw 34 contacts and I was over the jitters and on my way.

The most important thing in my return to CW was joining the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC). Hovering around the 50 kHz mark of each band, the SKCC operators are almost always willing to slow down and help the beginner. There are over 16,000 of us now and the quest for their various accomplishment levels is fun and helpful in developing CW proficiency and operating skills. Their monthly events get lots of helpful operators on the air.

I've had over 1700 CW contacts so far in 2016--way beyond my goal of one per day--and have achieved SKCC level TX6. I expect to be at the Senatorial level in early 2017.

My advice to an aspiring or returning CW operator? Learn or refresh the basic characters, join SKCC, set a goal, and get on the air. I'll be there to help and so will thousands of others.
 
RE: KI3R  
by AA4MB on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
For my part, I always use the 'dit-dit dit' (with no punctuation) when wondering if anyone is on the frequency copying someone I can't hear. Old timers definitely know what that is. If I get no reply, I then, "QRL?" followed by my callsign. (I know, that's a little long, but it was drilled into my head not to kerchunk repeaters without ID and not to transmit anything on HF without ID either!)

In my experience the 'AR' prosign is one of the most misused aspects in CW, but hey ... none of us are immune to mistakes in life and that includes CW procedure. You'll never get an 'A-1' operator award by not following proper procedure (I've not gotten one in decades of hamming and haven't lost sleep over it, either).

Lately, I've been somewhat encouraged by doing the math on guys I've QSOed and realizing that a fair number of hams on CW actually were licensed and have mastered CW *after* the requirement for code proficiency was dropped. That is pretty cool. It's like owning acreage and having four-wheelers and horses with which to make your rounds. You can use either - and one may be more efficient than the other, but the old-fashioned one is still pretty cool.

Finally - on PSK. CW has one major advantage over PSK - just a transceiver and a key are required. No software, cables, computer or other external devices are necessary. (and yes, I know that some of the new rigs do PSK right out of the box) Simplicity is a wonderful thing.

 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by AA4MB on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
For my part, I always use the 'dit-dit dit' (with no punctuation) when wondering if anyone is on the frequency copying someone I can't hear. Old timers definitely know what that is. If I get no reply, I then, "QRL?" followed by my callsign. (I know, that's a little long, but it was drilled into my head not to kerchunk repeaters without ID and not to transmit anything on HF without ID either!)

In my experience the 'AR' prosign is one of the most misused aspects in CW, but hey ... none of us are immune to mistakes in life and that includes CW procedure. You'll never get an 'A-1' operator award by not following proper procedure (I've not gotten one in decades of hamming and haven't lost sleep over it, either).

Lately, I've been somewhat encouraged by doing the math on guys I've QSOed and realizing that a fair number of hams on CW actually were licensed and have mastered CW *after* the requirement for code proficiency was dropped. That is pretty cool. It's like owning acreage and having four-wheelers and horses with which to make your rounds. You can use either - and one may be more efficient than the other, but the old-fashioned one is still pretty cool.

Finally - on PSK. CW has one major advantage over PSK - just a transceiver and a key are required. No software, cables, computer or other external devices are necessary. (and yes, I know that some of the new rigs do PSK right out of the box) Simplicity is a wonderful thing.

 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by N4KC on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!

Very good article, Ed. And I'm pleased there have not been any "Why do you guys keep forcing CW down our throats?" sort of comments.

While I agree CW is simply another aspect of our hobby and those without interest should move on, I do think many more would enjoy the mode if they only got past that initial trepidation. That was why I wrote an article a while back here on eHam (and included an expanded version as a chapter in my book "Riding the Shortwaves") offering my ten reasons why I thought it was worthwhile to learn it...if you want to.

The article is titled "Ten Reasons to Learn Dah-di-dah-dit Di-dah-dah" and you'll find it at http://www.eham.net/articles/19366

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by WA7SGS on December 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for a fine article Ed. Having done CW as a Novice over 40 years ago, it does not scare me but between a hamhanded fist (LOL!) and not remembering all the CW lingo, it was a pleasure to read what you wrote. When you hear a messed up bunch of sending, figure it's me! *hi-hi*

Rick
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by AA4MB on December 21, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
@WA7SGS

Rick, I for one sort of like hearing 'messed up' CW, unless it's unintelligible. Very little of it really is. Some of it is from new folks, some from guys/gals with more experience that have a particular 'fist' and some of it is from really older hams that don't have the hand coordination to send 'properly' with a keyer or a straight key any longer. I put the word 'properly' in quotes because I don't mind listening to CW that doesn't fit the mold of perfection. It's a person's individual voice, after all. My CW - though I use a keyer - is a bit different from many others with keyers because I tend to use an almost imperceptible addition of space between words. Because I like to. :)

@N1OIE

I think you hit the proverbial nail squarely on the head. I learned CW at age 13/14 and it came so easily to me. I also learned fairly decent Spanish in high school and dated a Latina when I was in my very early 20's. Thus, I still retain quite a bit of Spanish and when I took a refresher class earlier this year, it was amazing how easily I improved my skills in that language. I took a French about 10 years ago and failed abysmally, though. I have no doubt that it was due to the age (mid 40's) in which I decided to give that a whirl. All that being said, on the air QSOs are the best way to actually learn CW. Get the basics down and get on the air ... even if you can only do 5 wpm at the start.

Some folks have no interest in CW and I support that just like I support JT-65 (which holds no interest for me at all). :) My next project is with a Technician ticket holder in the office next to me at work. I've purchased code practice oscillators and straight keys and I'm sneaking a wire down the walls, and he and I are going to covertly do some simple CW between us. LOL
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by N8FVJ on December 21, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
CW affords a privacy that voice cannot provide.

I wish I could send CW at more than 5 words per minute. I just do not have the coordination or ear for CW. I got lucky with rule changes and became a general class with the written test only.

 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by VE3GNU on December 21, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Just another option for me after an hiatus of years without CW-----the desire to operate QRP, and building a number of kit rigs was enough of an incentive to 'get back on CW'---and it has worked.
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by N4OI on December 21, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice article and comments! Just one point.... although you firmly state a beginner should use a straight key, I have an alternative opinion. Learning to use an iambic paddle and keyer from the get-go has several advantages. Much of the spacing and timing is pre-defined, arm and wrist movement is minimized, and there is no limit to building faster QRQ speed as skills improve.

Again, great article and I hope it encourages everyone to give CW a go, whether straight key, bug or paddle!

73 ES GOD BLESS U ES URS DE KEN N4OI
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by KL7AJ on December 21, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I always make a strong point to remind new techs that they have H.F. privileges....and that it's LEGAL, if not particularly festive...to use a keyboard CW generator and PC decoder. Anything we can do to get new hams on H.F. I'm all for.

On a sidetone....I have a regular straight key ragchew with a local feller on 17 meters every morning...reminds me of my earliest days as a Novice....the excitement's still there.

Eric
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by AA4MB on December 21, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
N4OI: Ken, I kind of agree with you on that. Eons ago when I was whining like a snot nosed teenager (well, I WAS a snot nosed teenager at the time) about using a straight key - a wonderful General class ham in West Virginia shipped me at his expense his old Heath HD-10 keyer. No iambic operation, but I still believe that sending with that at such an early juncture in my CW operating really was another 'key' happenstance that helped immensely. (pun fully intended) I just thought I was the only one that thought so. Thanks for chiming in. :)
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by AA4OO on December 21, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Great article. I rebooted my Morse Code in 2015 and have enjoyed the journey. I mostly enjoy rag chewing and low power operations.

Richard, AA4OO
http://hamradioqrp.com
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by KB1HYR on December 21, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
This is a fantastic and inspiring article, and even the comments are worthwhile.

Thank you so much!



 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by W8QZ on December 22, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Hmm - guess I've been wrong about the 'AR' use - for about 40 years! Is that why I don't get answers to my CQs?

IMHO, the 'novice accent' article needs some updates - almost nobody operates the crystal-controlled 'tune around the band' style anymore. With VFOs, it is expected that you should reply to a CQ near zero-beat to expect response.
Also, giving both call signs at the start AND end of a transmission is unnecessary - consuming a lot of time with needless repetition.
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by N1OIE on December 22, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
More good stuff here! Comments are as inspiring as original article. So glad to see people NOT pissing in each other's wheaties like I see on so many other forums.

I think the whole idea of a Novive accent is interesting. I thought the whole idea of communications was to pass information? I have, for example, a very thick upper Midwest accent ... Flat vowels and silent syllables in the middle of words, so "didn't" sounds like "dint" and "couldn't" sounds like, well, you get it. But that said, I manage to get the info across. All these comments have inspired me to fire up the rig this weekend and try to make a QSO, even if it is embarrassingly or painfully slow. Wish me luck! :)
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by KT4WO on December 22, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
RE: KE0CRP

I think I'm gona puke.....

That said

13wpm Advanced(before I was talked into the extra)
 
RE: Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by W1JKA on December 23, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
We will make CW Great again.
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by W3TTT on December 23, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Does anybody still use the prosigns AR and SK anymore?

Instead of SK we just send ee. As in "shave and a hair cut, two bits".

"K" is used at the end of CQ, and KN is used everywhere else, meaning "over".

Or what?

 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by K4RCH on December 23, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
K1OIK has some good tips as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPwxgH-BE10
 
Thanks…!  
by VE3CUI on December 24, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
My sincerest of thanks to all of those wonderful people out there in "...Ham Radio Land" who responded so very positively to my brief essay here…

Who would have thought that it could strike so very many responsive chords out there, in the way that it did…? I certainly didn't --- but in hindsight I am so very glad that it accomplished just that. The use of CW is a joy that is shared by so many in the Amateur fraternity: why hoard this precious gift, all to ourselves, when it can be appreciated by so very many more…?

The ice storm of 2012 felled all of the critical trees that supported my low-band skyhooks here, & has limited me to the use of just 20-, 15-, and 10-meters: however, I DO have access to 40-meters at the summer cottage --- as VE3XZ/3 --- and I look forward to the possibility of engaging in QSOs with many of the readers herein, when warmer weather beckons…

…And on CW, of course!

Thanks for the great gift at this time of the season, everyone --- have a very merry Christmas, & a healthy, happy, CW-filled(!) new year…!!!

~73~ de Eddy VE3CUI - VE3XZ
 
RE: Thanks…!  
by ZENKI on December 24, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
And give CW mobile a shot as well. You will have hundreds of more contacts using mobile CW.

I have been using 30 meters lately while mobile, early morning and early evening. On some occasions I have had bursts of mini pileups.

CW Mobile on 20,30 and 40 meters is a lot of fun. I run 200 watts from a TS480HX and W9UCW style multi resonator homebrew whips I do have a Henry Amp that is only used on SSB when mobile.

I like using a K1EL Winkeyer as well as a Strap on leg key

Its a good place for beginners to get their feet wet on CW, because most OP's will forgive you because you cant write things down like names and screwed up call signs because you are mobile.

Even the XYL has a bit of fun logging the calls for me and looking them up on QRZ. The XYL now enjoys reading and looking at the pictures on QRZ!

Mobile CW forces you to be a better operator because your are being multi skilled, driving, thinking, decoding while dealing with numerous distractions like QRM. Your brains ability will improve.
 
RE: Thanks…!  
by K8AI on December 27, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
+1 for mobile CW. I've been at it for the last three years and not only is it fun but it will force you to copy in your head, making it more "conversational" and therefore more enjoyable. I usually make at least one ragchew QSO to and one from work on my half-hour commute.

Give it a try, start slow and give it a bit of time and you'll love the results.

I think articles like this are needed to recruit more CW adherents. I'm a young CW op (47) and 98% of my QSO's are with men my dad's age.

I hope we can get more interest among kids my age to try the mode or the sub bands may get swallowed up by the fone ops and the five or six of us remaining CW ops will have to squeeze in between on the 1.5 Kc steps or something.
 
RE: Thanks…!  
by K8AI on December 27, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
+1 for mobile CW. I've been at it for the last three years and not only is it fun but it will force you to copy in your head, making it more "conversational" and therefore more enjoyable. I usually make at least one ragchew QSO to and one from work on my half-hour commute.

Give it a try, start slow and give it a bit of time and you'll love the results.

I think articles like this are needed to recruit more CW adherents. I'm a young CW op (47) and 98% of my QSO's are with men my dad's age.

I hope we can get more interest among kids my age to try the mode or the sub bands may get swallowed up by the fone ops and the five or six of us remaining CW ops will have to squeeze in between on the 1.5 Kc steps or something.
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by KI4ZUQ on December 27, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
This article made more sense about CW procedures than anything seen to date. While not knocking the Handbook or the code lessons, I found no answers about procedure in either. All that aside, CW, like HF comms itself is a fascinating antique method practiced by numerous operators on land, sea and air starting before 1900. Both are STILL effective and kept alive by "ham" operators around the world. Count me in! Well, pretty soon....

Karl
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by KK3OQ on December 28, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Agree, 40 meters my experience is most friendly to QRS compared to 20 or 80.
 
For ZENKI & K8AI...  
by VE3CUI on December 28, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I don't know about the rest of Canada or the USA, but we here in Ontario got slapped down with a new "…distracted driving" law a few years ago that really put the kibosh on ANYTHING done whilst mobile --- be it talking on a cellphone, texting, operating a microphoned two-way radio, WHATEVER…

…UNLESS it's all "hands-free," that is, as in being blue-toothed somehow, ANYTHING to make the user resemble Star Trek's Capt. Pickard when he was taken over by the dreaded Borg. I can only imagine what a roadside officer might think to himself as I proceeded to explain the "...thingy-a-ma-jiggy" strapped to my thigh as being a code sending key…!

No matter: it's all "…walking-and-chewing-gum-at-the-same-time" for me, here --- I simply could NOT be capable, physically / mentally / WHATEVER, of being a driving, mobile CW aficionado…that skill set is simply NOT in me. But that certainly doesn't keep me from admiring & appreciating those many others whom I variously hear on the bands who are ".../M." More power to all of you guys…!
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by K5UJ on December 31, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Don't forget Straight Key Night tonight!
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by N4MJG on January 12, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Back in late 2000i took the code right before they drop the code when i took the test i did well.

I use to know by heart and know the code and now i let it go waaaaay too long then forget !

I try many times to relearn the code again never got back on it as i get older in early 50's something i wanted to get back in so bad even brought Begali spark key.


I have a friend of my is willing to help me get my feet wet BOY i was nervous as cat and my hand is shakey and sweaty lol when i use my spark key !

Anyway !

The CW code is not dead use them ! i'm slowly getting there of course my hearing problem but that not going to stop me from relearning them again and won't gave up that easy just taking me time i'm not a fast writer either i'm doing about 7 word per min my goal is do 10 wpm until my brain pick up better copy it down.


I'm working practice my sending to get better i may mess few times or what ever !

All you need to do keep practicing everyday you will get better !


73
Jackie
N4MJG
 
Get On the Air -- With CW!  
by VK2DMH on January 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
What an excellent article. Thank you so much for posting it. I passed my morse exams many years ago but never made use of my basic CW knowledge after building an auto keyer and calling "CQ" at speeds I couldn't copy. Big mistake.

Other stations would answer my call at blazing speeds, and I'd have to send "QRS" again and again. After which they would give up on me. Silly LID that I was back then. So I abandoned CW for decades and stuck with voice modes, with a little PSK at times.

Now I am a retired, card-carrying old fart, aged 69, with a poor memory. I am working to resurrect my morse and overcome my cw-phobia. I have had a couple of short QSOs with other Aussie hams, despite now living in a new villa where all I have is an 8-foot MA-5 40m mobile antenna on a steel fence as my only HF antenna. But that metal fence does make a pretty good counterpoise.

I have also found out I have had ADHD all my life, which helps explain why I needed to take my AOCP (full call) morse exam half a dozen times before I finally passed it (decades ago).

73 and 77 (You can look it up),
de David VK2DMH
 
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