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Author Topic: CW in EMCOMM?  (Read 64056 times)
N3ZJ
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« on: September 11, 2013, 08:44:59 PM »


Is there any activity - or is there any place - for CW in EMCOMM? It strikes me that the simplicity and independence of a CW station might have great merit, but I never see this addressed. Am I way off base here?
Thanks.
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W1JKA
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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 03:02:53 AM »

  Short answer Yes there is a place for it. Long answer depends on your definition/type of EMCOMM. A lone individual in a remote location or up on a mountain (SOTA) has a serious injury and needs assistance and uses his small qrp/cw only rig to call for help as oppsed to a major type disaster in which CW may only be a last resort after voice type methods usd by the usual responder groups that are prepared and set up for this type of EMCOMM.
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N0IU
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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2013, 03:52:16 AM »

Given the great number of people who get into amateur radio specifically to become involved in emergency communications and nothing else and given the fact that for the most part, they generally just memorize enough of the answers to minimally pass the 35 question multiple guess written test, I would say that CW would be totally wasted with these people which is probably why you don't see it discussed much in "EMCOMM" threads.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2013, 06:14:48 AM »


When you're hunkered down in your prepper bunker after armageddon and you're waiting for the fallout to subside a bit you can get on your when-all-else-fails CW station and get the message through, because CW will get through when nothing else will.

http://www.hamradiofun.com/emergency.htm

Not sure what message needs to get through or to who, but that's secondary.  You'll be ready.

In all seriousness,  you might be able to come up with a far-out, one in a million scenario where CW would be an advantage.   The other 999,999 times Emcomm ops would be doing well to have charged batteries and know how to program a PL in their HT's.  I'd focus on the 999,999 scenarios first.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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N3ZJ
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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2013, 02:41:01 PM »


LXP - point taken. However, it seems to me amateur radio's greatest advantage over other communication avenues rests in its simplicity and independence from infra-structure. This seems to have been lost somehow. CW is, perhaps, the extreme case of this...But looking at it objectively, there surely is some merit in a system of communication that is very basic and has a slew of competent operators. I am curious why that is not more studied and included in emcomm. Heck, it's probably the one mode that is not redundantly available in the public service sector. Anyway, your comments are appreciated.
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WB6BYU
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« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2013, 04:20:05 PM »

I think you need to look at what the typical needs of served agencies are, and the typical
skill sets of the volunteers available.

Most served agencies need messages passed, and usually the mode doesn't matter to them.
I've passed emergency traffic on CW because that was the only mode available, but in many
cases there are easier ways to do it.  (And sometimes the fastest way to get a message
through doesn't involve ham radio at all.)

CW isn't a common skill for newcomers these days.  In the ARES groups I belonged to for the
last several years there were usually no more than 2 or 3 operators fluent in CW.  It really
isn't practical to plan to use it unless you know that the operators at all necessary sites
will be sufficiently skilled.  Even finding enough operators to use HF SSB was sometimes
difficult, though we worked on helping members upgrade.  (Actually, most HF operation
was using WinLINK, but we did include HF SSB as one of our capabilities.)

Not that I'm opposed to CW - it happens to be my favorite mode, and I recommend that
hams become conversant with it (at least those who operate HF.)  You never know when
a station might break into a SSB net on CW, or it may be the only way to get a message
through under poor conditions.  But that requires that the operators at both ends know
what they are doing.

(It also comes in handy for other types of signaling using lights, mirrors, whistle, train
horns, etc.)

So, especially for stations operating HF, knowing how to operate CW is a good skill to
have, but overall the number of occasions where it would actually get used in typical
emergency responses is very small.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2013, 05:42:18 AM »

CW can get through in cases where voice cannot, but the time it takes to send is more than voice ever was.  With the filtering and other technologies in today's radios, they are much superior to the radios of yesteryear, when CW was the only way to get through if voice comms failed.  That is the main reason that CW has taken second seat to voice. 

BTW, If you say that two experienced operators can send and receive CW just as fast as voice, I would agree, but those 20+ WPM operators are few and far between now--at least where emcomms are concerned.
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W7ASA
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« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2013, 08:12:24 PM »

It depends upon the scenario.  If supporting a government, CW is likely a poor fit, mainly for reasons of through-put.  They are used to talking A-LOT and so usually e-mail over radio using WINLINK/WINMOR is what supports the long range requirements for them to report outside of our region.  I cannot speak for other regions. For area VHF voice comms, the surrounding counties here recently implemented P25 and so no experience with it yet in tough hurricane conditions (Thank God!).

HOWEVER, for personal, inter-family and friends and/or to hams outside of the impacted area for general health and welfare for and about your small group of people: YES! I also like the stand alone capability of my CW rigs: low current requirements, built in antenna couplers for less-than-perfect antennas, highly portable and they also usually have a built-in general coverage receiver to keep up on what is happening. When I was either in deep wilderness or at sea, Id ask the fellow I was in contact with (CW) of he would mind passing along a short message, generally under 20 words.  So, even in pristine wilderness, my friends at home would still get the  "BUSH PLANE LANDED SAFELY. RON IS SICK. THE WOLVES ARE HOWLING. HAVING FUN.  +  location." messages to friends at their e-mail addresses.  I've never had a ham refuse to do that. Even sent my parents in Colorado a note via HF manpack (PRC-74B), letting them know that the BIG L.A. earthquake that just happened, did not injure me and that I was just waiting for power and lights to come back on. Being a manpack, battery power was normal and it was a 12 volt set... lots of car batteries in L.A.!

For smaller groups and individuals, especially if you're not able to remain at home with the large, and/or power that high-powered gear, CW and a simple wire antenns is highly effective.

>>> You might enjoy this site as well:  radiopreppers.com     It's not a 'sharpen your bayonet' site at all.  If I wanted that, I'd have stayed int he Army.   Grin   Hams mostly on the site, many of them campers and just a lot of good discussions, a few skeds and the occasional camping trips where we forumites from around the continent listen for the guy(s) out in the woods with their tiny radios, sending from their camp spot.


73 de Ray
W7ASA ..._  ._

« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 08:20:31 PM by W7ASA » Logged
KX8N
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Posts: 543




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« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2013, 01:08:47 PM »


LXP - point taken. However, it seems to me amateur radio's greatest advantage over other communication avenues rests in its simplicity and independence from infra-structure. This seems to have been lost somehow.

Simplicity is a good point. Think what would be necessary to work emcoms in a normal situation. First, you've got to have a station set up one both ends with CW keys, and you have to have at least two radios that are both CW capable (as opposed to just having a simple FM HT on each end). AND if it's a true emergency and you've got a lot of traffic to send, both ends better be capable of at least 20 WPM code. So being CW capable in most situations seems to complicate the situation instead of simplify it.

CW really shines in weak signal situations, but that's probably not going to be the situation in normal emergency communication situations. If you have at least one person on end with mobile radios (which is very likely), then you'll be working 50 watts, probably just across town, and that's IF you don't have a local repeater with battery backup. I'm all for learning CW and keeping it alive, but I just don't see it being appropriate in this kind of scenario. Of course that's just my opinion.

Dave
KX8N
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NX5MK
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« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2013, 03:40:34 PM »

N3ZJ,

I believe an outstanding EmComm operator is proficient in a variety of modes, which he is able to make use of as the situation dictates, not being dependent on any infrastructure, able to put up an antenna at a moments notice, being energy efficient. Constricting oneself to "just" VHF repeater traffic or Winlink, or voice in general or NBEMS or... - may prove itself foolhardy. Yes, they all have their place, but no single mode will solve all problems. Thus, yes, I too believe that code proficiency is a valuable knowledge to have.

73 de Marcus NX5MK
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KB8VUL
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« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2013, 08:19:45 PM »

Sure it has it's place.  After all when all else failed and the end is here those that are prepared can fire up their spark gap transmitter and get a message out to anyone listening (Hey ma, what are the funny clicks on the radio,,, I think it broke or something).  It's invaluable in that situation.  I already have some jumper cables, a roll of wire and an old Ford ignition coil in my go bad for just such a situation.  Since I will already be riding shotgun with the local LEO's or fire dept providing much needed communications I can just hook right up to the battery in the vehicle and go to town.
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N3ZJ
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2013, 12:50:04 PM »


My original post was inspired by my reading about the Michigan Net (oldest amateur net in the USA) and how amazingly efficient they are using CW...and wondering why this mode seems not to be considered of value anymore in traffic handling for EMCOM.

Jim  N3ZJ

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KB8VUL
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2013, 02:22:59 PM »

Got to agree with Dan on this.
20 WPM is silly slow for passing information.
Even 40 WPM.  Really?  You can speak in normal conversation at twice that.
You can type at twice that.
In the time that you read this you would have only copied the first 2 sentences.
CW is great for what it's great for, and not much else.

The computer digital modes will pull information from out of the noise on HF on a terminal.
The digital VHF UHF stuff will do the same thing and have the bandwidth to support voice.
CW is the simplest of modes.  The transmitter and receivers are much less complex and easily repairable.
For a LONG time it was better than anything else for long distance or weak signal but there are technologies that surpass it now.

And lastly, it's getting to the point that there are less ad less operators that have the knowledge to send and receive it.
Text on a screen or spoken word are universal, anyone that speaks and / or reads English will understand it where code adds a layer to that statement.  Morse code may be international, but the guy on the other end needs to know code AND English to decipher it.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2013, 02:28:17 PM »

wondering why this mode seems not to be considered of value anymore in traffic handling for EMCOM.

Even the best QRQ ops can't schlep data back and forth under trying (or even good) conditions than something like PSK, MT63, et al can.  You can buy a laptop, put some free software on it, connect it to a radio and any useful idiot can pass lots of traffic.  Put a key or paddle in front of any idiot and you don't get anything.  It's easier to find useful idiots to staff EOC's than crack CW ops.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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W5LZ
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« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2013, 07:15:15 PM »

Would CW be useful in an Emcomm situation?  Maybe, but I certainly wouldn't want to have to depend on it.  The least common denominator that's useful would be voice communications, almost everyone can talk.  I haven't seen many 'emergency'/commercial radios that were capable of CW.  Wanna throw a key in the go-bag?  Have at it.
 - Paul
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