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Author Topic: Morse in the ""Good old Days"".  (Read 8897 times)
ZL1BBW
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Posts: 399




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« on: August 14, 2012, 11:49:54 AM »

The biggest laugh I had was copying the French Wx forecasts, from the Islands right down south, used to take them straight onto a typewriter.  Try that when rolling around on a cargo ship crossing the Southern Ocean.  Did it for so long ended up being able to translate the french forecast straight into english and type it out at the same time.

One bad trip, we hit a big sea, the Radio Room chair broke loose, and slide across the radio office, with the typewriter firmly landed in my lap.  I just sat thee and hoped for a more gentle rebound when I slide back into the desk.  After that I used to chain the B***y chair down, rather than rely on a piece of rope.

When I got my typewriter I made sure it would type as the ship rolled, some of them would not go uphill, and on the downhill roll would double space.

Then there was taking the compulsory news broadcast at night, they used to rattle them off, and give a break dah diddle dah dah diddle dah at the end of every page, so you had time to whip out your 2 or 3 carbon copy lay up, and get the next set in and lined up before dah di dah di dah ..
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
STAYVERTICAL
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Posts: 875




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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2012, 01:35:29 PM »

All the old sparky's will come out of the woodwork if you start telling sea stories.

But yes, it was interesting to do morse while in storms and such, and it is amazing how you can tune out the distractions.
I had never had the chair break loose (most were chained), but on a maiden voyage of a new vessel, the weather was so bad the clinometers hit the stops on both sides.

Containers and cars broke free on the vehicle deck and started rolling around (not good for the trim).
The tools and magnetron (heavy) in the radio room cupboards broke the hinges and draw fronts and ended up rolling around the floor like some crazy dodgem car track.
The lightning was striking so close that arcs would bridge the big porcelain insulator on top of the transmitter.

That was the moment I decided it was time to stop working the tropical coast station on 425Khz.

In sparky's school we were taught to use a typewriter for receiving morse, but first were taught to touch type.
It is amazing how much easier it is to receive morse (if you have to write it down as on ships) by typing it.
When writing becomes strained (around 25WPM for me), typing is like going into the slow lane.

Interestingly, we were also taught how to print block letters so that you used an efficient method to maximise speed.
It was a bit like constructing Japanese Kanji with a stroke order.
We were not allowed to use cursive script, only block letters for legibility.

The thing I hated most at sea - the autoalarm, necessary but evil - sparky's will know what I mean.

73 - Rob
« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 01:42:38 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
ZL1BBW
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Posts: 399




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« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2012, 05:31:35 PM »

We were given the "choice" of learning to touch type, we all thought it was a good idea, all the dolly birds were over that side of the road.  BUT the typing teacher, she was something else, a dragon, on a good day.  We had to do 5 lines of the qbf, all equal darkness, no spelling mistakes before we could leave.

Needless to say , all the "dolly birds" thought we were idiots. :-)
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
K7KBN
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Posts: 2813




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« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2012, 06:07:44 PM »

The ship I was on was one of the larger ones - aircraft carrier - USS Kitty Hawk.  They say we encountered some bad WX, but I honestly didn't notice it that much.  I used to spend a lot of my off-watch time up on the signal bridge (010 level) and I could copy flashing light as well as any of the signalmen.  One evening after we'd gone through some nasty wind, I was ZWCing (operator to operator, just chatting) with one of the destroyers in company with us.  The poor guy said they had taken green water up to his signal bridge a couple of times, and all the watchstanders were double safety lined to the rails!  I told him that I had to go on watch in Radio Central and wanted to go below to the ship's bowling alley and roll a couple of games first.

His reaction: priceless!  "R R ZWC INT U GUYS GOT A BOWLING ALLEY K".  Had to tell him I was just kidding.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
AB9NZ
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Posts: 177




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« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2012, 08:47:46 PM »

Quote
His reaction: priceless! 
  This seafaring telegraphy lore is priceless! tnx for sharing guys. 73 de Tom, ab9nz
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N3PDT
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Posts: 75




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« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2012, 09:24:14 PM »

Quote
His reaction: priceless! 
  This seafaring telegraphy lore is priceless! tnx for sharing guys. 73 de Tom, ab9nz

Agreed! Thanks for the glimpse into the "good old days". 

Here's something I've wondered, and you more experienced guys can probably shed some light on it: I regularly work former military, and some merchant marine, ops. 20 and 30 years ago was it fairly common to run across retired Western Union and rail road operators on the amateur bands? Seems like a few would at least take it up after they didn't have to do for a living anymore.
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ZL1BBW
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Posts: 399




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« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2012, 11:33:48 PM »

There are a couple of good sketches re GKA on  ...  http://www.gka.btinternet.co.uk/stories.htm
it would be fair to say that probably much like another radio station there was huge cross section of interests.  Hence the cartoon half way down the page.

Yes there quite a few closet radio amateurs, it was not necessarily a thing, that the """professionals""" viewed very highly sometimes.


Bowling Alley, huh, darts was as good as it got, that was a bit of hit n miss after a few ales, and the odd big roll, dont think anybody ever got injured, but it came close to it sometimes.
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
STAYVERTICAL
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Posts: 875




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« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2012, 01:24:56 AM »


Here's something I've wondered, and you more experienced guys can probably shed some light on it: I regularly work former military, and some merchant marine, ops. 20 and 30 years ago was it fairly common to run across retired Western Union and rail road operators on the amateur bands? Seems like a few would at least take it up after they didn't have to do for a living anymore.

A lot of the sparks I knew were not amateurs when working as RO's, but have become hams after leaving the sea.
In my case it was the reverse - I became an amateur operator at 16 and then looked for a way to do radio and travel.

Watches were pretty long at sea, mine were from 10AM to midnight (broken up of course), so after factoring in meals and a bit of recreation, there was not much time for ham radio.
At sea, on cargo ships there was only one RO, although passenger vessels normally had more.

Radio equipment ranged from some I later saw in a technology museum labelled "typical 1930s shipboard radio" to much more modern equipment. This ship still had voice tubes and real oilskins hanging in the cupboard.
The newer equipment was frequency synthesized and could be modified to operate on ham bands, but of course you would never do that.
The mates would bring their prospective girlfriends to the radio room to view the Elektrisk Bureau transmitter auto-tuning itself. The knobs actually would spin and make quite a racket - perfect for giving them a consoling hug.

Later Radio Officers became Electronics Officers as the electronic equipment become more complex and common.
Typically you would look after all the communications, radar, echo sounders, radio-navaids (Loran etc), Shipboard RF distribution system and anything else which had a transistor in it.

Finally, like flight engineers on commercial aircraft, the RO/EO became a part of history as GMDSS and redundant technology became more attractive than people.
Some RO's trained to become deck officers, and others, like myself went into the computer industry.

C'est fini

73 - Rob
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ZL1BBW
Member

Posts: 399




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« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2012, 01:45:20 AM »

Yep for me, my ham ticket got me into Radio College in place of the 3 A levsl.  Luckily could do 20wpm when went to college so had a crusy year to start with, then had to tidy up the accented letters etc.

Did the night watch for 6 months, long haul london to the pacific, all we had was an Oceanspan 3 x 807 and no area scheme, so not much fun, in the end went freelance for a Scandinavian outfit, now  thats a long tale to tell :-)

Auto Alarm, I still jump when a bell rings, gives me the eeby jeebies.
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
K7KBN
Member

Posts: 2813




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« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2012, 02:33:47 PM »

Bowling Alley, huh, darts was as good as it got, that was a bit of hit n miss after a few ales, and the odd big roll, dont think anybody ever got injured, but it came close to it sometimes.

Ah!  The RNZN, RAN, RCN and a number of other Commonwealth member Navies and the ales.  Best we could hope for was strong coffee.  I went on builder's trials and sea trials for three RAN frigates back in the '80s.  Now THERE were some wardrooms!
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
N4OI
Member

Posts: 210




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« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2012, 06:41:20 AM »

This is an interesting set of Sparks Journals...

http://www.silentkeyhq.com/main.php4?p=sparksjournal.php4

73 ES GOD BLESS U ES URS DE KEN  Cool
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KC9TNH
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Posts: 304




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« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2012, 12:25:28 PM »

When I got my typewriter I made sure it would type as the ship rolled, some of them would not go uphill, and on the downhill roll would double space.

Then there was taking the compulsory news broadcast at night, they used to rattle them off, and give a break dah diddle dah dah diddle dah at the end of every page, so you had time to whip out your 2 or 3 carbon copy lay up, and get the next set in and lined up before dah di dah di dah ..
The first is priceless; I could see Red Skelton doing a skit of that...

Something a bit different from the usual W1AW, does anyone know if there are still stations that broadcast CW distillations of news?

STAYVERTICAL: I use quick cursive just sitting around the table, finding it faster than the way Ft Gordon beat it into people. But it's of limited value if someone ELSE has to read it and still, when I'm tired and it starts looking like like a bad EKG, I find myself reverting to block. It's a rhythm thing. I should clear a spot and move my laptop over there...

These reminiscences are great, keep 'em coming.
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73
Wes -KC9TNH
"Don't get treed by a chihuahua." - Pete
K7KBN
Member

Posts: 2813




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« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2012, 01:10:07 PM »

I doubt there are any CW news stations any more.  We used commercial RTTY stations for getting up-to-the-minute news, sports and such in the '60s.  At 60 WPM!  Be still my heart!

Sometimes a breaking news story derailed the whole fleet.  I was on watch over the news when we got
a loud series of bells on all press freqs.

Dallas Tex.
Shots fired at presidential motorcade.

More to follow.

dingdingdingdingding.....

Worse than any 500 kHz alarm...
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
KU7I
Member

Posts: 122




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« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2012, 02:17:32 PM »

I reported aboard my first ship in 1987, the USS Downes FF-1070 out of San Diego. Signalmen were still around then and I could copy about ten wpm via light (much faster via the radio of course). I was an ET back then and used to freak out the SM on the bridge but eventually they all caught on that I was a ham. The SM rate is now gone and no one uses light anymore.
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K7KBN
Member

Posts: 2813




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« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2012, 09:00:01 PM »

KU7I - were you on the DOWNES when she came to Seattle for repairs/overhaul at Todd Shipyard after returning from being homeported in Japan?
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
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