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Author Topic: How did you old heads learn morse?  (Read 7701 times)

Posts: 39

« Reply #30 on: April 21, 2009, 04:46:43 AM »

My dad first taught me Morse code using his WW2 US Navy signal lamp trainer, a little cardboard thing that when squeezed would "unshutter" light bars looking a little bit like a signal lamp.  That was in 1953, when I was nine years old and a Cub Scout.

We also had an old Zenith "Long Distance" SW/BCB receiver, but I rather enjoyed listening to the rhythmic sounds of commercial, military, and ham CW.  I got pretty good at copying some of the code, which sounded like a series of "whooshes" since there was no BFO.

In 1959, while working on getting Novice tickets, a friend and I would send CW at each other using homebrew buzzers attached to old J-37 keys, and got pretty good receiving at 10 wpm and transmitting at 20 wpm.  When I converted an old BC-455 for 40M in 1960, that helped a lot since it had a BFO, and at last I was listening to CW as tones instead of "shhh-sh-shhh-sh  sh-shhh-shhh".

High-speed code came soon from working across town on 40 with my CW Elmer, an old Great Lakes freighter spark operator.  We'd chat several times each week for an hour or more, and within a few months he got me up to sending and receiving reliably and comfortably at over 50 wpm using an old Vibroplex bug with no weights on board.  Pity I can't do that today ...

Terry, K4IQT


Posts: 0

« Reply #31 on: April 25, 2009, 10:54:54 PM »

Hmmm well... lots of practice and a good club.  We had a radio club back in Jr high school... and it was their that we met a lot of old time WW2 Radio ops that still were into radio and ham activities.  

Cw was a cheap fix.  It cost less then to use CW than any other mode.  AM was their but SSB was the new kid in town... FM for VHF was also new.  

The ARRL had a book (still have mine) that was entitled learning the radiotelegraph code.. (CW)  In it their was only about a dozen pages which back then the ARRL charged 50 cents for.  

At the club they had real people sending real code... and we newbies were to learn it real time...  Not unlike Koch methode.. but we got into words and word groups right away.  That helped as I am sure I can hear THE at about a gazillion wpm... while other words take more.

Now some would say once you learn it your good to go.. wrong.. you still have to practice it almost weekly or daily depending on your age.  As you get older you need to keep up and practice.. on air QSO's... are needed to keep the mind active and alert.

Their was no simple way to learn it... you just had to buckle down and work at it.  

Was it hard.. yes at first just like all the whineing no code people that just couldn't get it.  I too worked and worked until I could make the sounds turn into words.  Nothing worth something is easy .. was what the instuctor used to say...

but, you have to understand that CW back then was about the only mode that hams who were not rich could use to commucate with... so it was more like sink or swim

Keep up the working on it... and you will eventually break all the bad habbits of just listening to letters and move on to word groups.. that is where the speed starts to get developed.

I would have to say the simpler times back then were more fun than todays pushbutton appliances. Using a keyer was reserved for the rich and wealthy... most of us advanced to the vibroplex bug after getting key-idiases from sending on a surplus key.   You could tell who was on sending.. just like voice recon.   Computers were not used.   Keyboards were so new...but no one used them as they were used to hammering nails mechanically...

Indeed 45 years ago your only choice was CW due to expense.  So you learned it pretty fast.

Posts: 131

« Reply #32 on: May 01, 2009, 06:24:56 PM »

Since you ask... I was interested in amateur radio and electronics. I cannot recall how, when or why I developed my
interest but high school came along and an electronics class
was offered. A science instructor, a Mr. Glenn Hall, at
Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, CA held a Novice
license at the time. He was head of the science department
and was willing to teach an electronic course if a class could
be filled. The quota was met and Mr. Hall expalined on the
first day of the course that he had been authorized  a budget
of $35.00 to teach electronics to 30 students for the school
year. He told us how he had laughed and rejected the offer.
We would learn basic electricity and then electronics via the
man's talent as a teacher. Our passing grade would in large
part depend on learing 'morse code'. I don't know who else did
but I learned and became WN6THE and then WB6THE. I will
keep this horrible CW callsign until I croak Smiley  Anyone who
works me can copy CW Smiley

Posts: 1

« Reply #33 on: May 02, 2009, 02:54:19 AM »

start ameco record

 then working with another kid
sending to each other

 listening to the radio
getting on as a novice


 WCC, ARRL, paper tape machine
army mars
being pushed by other ops to go faster

 dozens of ways
no one way

Posts: 34

« Reply #34 on: May 02, 2009, 10:25:34 AM »

 I started to learn from K1RQW and his CPO. Then someone lent me an AMECO 33 1/3 (ya, I know, but it was 1963). For my General and Extra, I hit the FCC office in NYC right after a CW contest.

Posts: 42

« Reply #35 on: May 06, 2009, 07:33:42 AM »

I was 16 years young and I had an LP (33 RPM record) to start with.  After I purchased my first receiver (Hallicrafters SX-110) I listened to W1AW code practice broadcast.

Posts: 54

« Reply #36 on: July 02, 2009, 05:40:01 AM »

in 1975 I sat down with an encyclopedia and memorized the alphabet in about 30 minutes.  Amazingly that got me past the novice test at 13 years old.

I also had the records...which never helped me...

What helped most was a class I used to go to on Wednesday nights (when Charlie's Angels as was on...I was always mad that I missed it.)

In those classes, Cal Neff (K4JSR) and his friend Cooper would devote part of their theory lesson time to code, and Cooper (who is an excellent key) would send us practice to increase our speed for the General test.

Those two guys were a riot.  They would send each other playful insults (claiming one or the other wore various articles of clothes one would not expect, etc.)...and refuse to tell us what was so funny.  If you wanted to had to copy the code...the also had some rather interesting Q codes...instead of QST...Q and other stuff that folded right in to the playfulness above.

By the time I took the General test (still at 13 years old) -- and this was when you would go to the FCC for the test -- I sat for the 20wpm Extra test since it was given first and failing it would not prevent me from taking the 13wpm General test....but I PASSED the extra code test that day!

I've been only moderately active over the last few years...and I'm frustrated that I'm at a solid 15wpm for non-qso type stuff.  As for tnx fer call ur 559 op Bob 73 OM, etc... I can copy that at 30wpm plus in my head.

So I'm using G4FON to try to increase casual talk like (I spent all day putting up a push up mast yesterday) to 30wpm also.

Posts: 48


« Reply #37 on: July 03, 2009, 12:35:35 PM »

As I recall they Had cassettes from ARRL and records from AMECO but we also had local clubs that would train us in the code programs like the  E I S H 5 styles and it was fun but challenging as well.

  My trainning was further done by listening to on air stations on Ham and Marine HF bands, when I could as I travel on board civilian Navy ships and  most of what I heard was stations in India and Asia. Havent been able to do much on the send side as my ships captains were against its usage on the vessels.

Posts: 700

« Reply #38 on: July 03, 2009, 07:02:02 PM »

I'm 55 and licensed since age of 14. Taught myself Morse Code using a straight key and buzzer. I practiced for hours every day and finally started recognizing some CW letters when listening to the ham bands and ship-to-shore CW on my Heath GR-64 receiver. After working on it for several months, my speed was up to about 8 wpm. Once I got my novice ticket and actually got on the air, my speed increased quickly and I passed my general class 13 wpm cw exam within six months.

73, Dave, N4KZ

Posts: 3018

« Reply #39 on: July 08, 2009, 03:11:45 AM »

Anyone use an Instructograph to learn Morse? Local ham store rented them by the week in the 50s.

Posts: 7

« Reply #40 on: July 08, 2009, 01:57:23 PM »


I've been a ham for 34 years, since I was 13. I learned code from a Radio Shack LP record. My sister joined in, and the competition really motivated me. I was active in Boy Scouts, and I was learning the code for the Signaling and Radio merit badges.

My first transmitter was a NRI Conar 400, which I built from a kit, and was a single tube (6DQ6B) crystal rig, 25W *input* (remember that requirement?). Receiver was a Hallicrafters S40B. Second rig was a Collins TCS-13 Set (which I now REALLY KILL MYSELF) for giving away while I was in high school. My first SSB rig was a Heathkit HW-101, which I worked all summer to earn the $400 to buy the kit.

Ah, great memories!


Posts: 42

« Reply #41 on: July 09, 2009, 11:47:34 PM »

I got on the air and probably sounded horrible for a while, but I gradually got the hang of it. just get on the air and do it, that's how you learn.

Posts: 67

« Reply #42 on: July 11, 2009, 08:13:13 AM »

In 1984, I used ARRL code tapes, ARRL qualifying runs, sending and receiving with my elmer using a code oscillator.

After receiving my Novice license, over the air QSO's with a local ham became my sustainment training.

Posts: 672

« Reply #43 on: July 16, 2009, 12:08:55 PM »

#1...I was young. 'We' learn easier, young.

#2...Class B [became General] only permitted AM on ten meters. You had to be Class A [became Advanced, I think] to modulate on 80 and 20; 40 was CW only. Thus *I* didn't have access to much 'modulated' on the  *FOUR*  HF hambands {80 / 40 / 20 / 10}, anyway. So I was more motivated to USE  CW.

#3...As a kid, I couldn't afford the parts for any Plate Modulator. [I wasn't even on Ten, Phone until a fellow delinquent stole the F1 carbon mike out of a pay-phone, gave it to me and I soldered it into the cathode lead of my 30 watt 'final']

#4...There were so many of us ON in those days, we actually had QRM, and had to listen closely in our very cheap receivers with no or little selectivity, so The Music became....'speech' to us. I consider myself to 'speak' Morse.

#5...One day I realized that if I just closed my eyes, I'd 'see' the words form. 'Read in Head' became normal.

I hate Old-Timer-itis,  but I've been speaking Morse for 57 years now.

Bottom line: Get On and Use It. Helps to be young. Also helps to be highly motivated, which means you can't grab the mike if it gets tough going!

VY 73

Posts: 672

« Reply #44 on: July 17, 2009, 09:38:51 AM »

P.S. In my zeal to try to explain MY history in CW, I completely overlooked *HOW* I learned. SRI .  I used to LISTEN to QSOs in progress, pick out letters, write them down. The 'vocabulary' progressively got larger. Sending was another issue. On my first FCC test, the examiner corrected me for sending the letter [C] as "N-N". He showed me how to accentuate the second Dah, as ...Dah..DIDAH..Dit!  Nice guy. Passed me.

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