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Author Topic: Should I learn Morse Code?  (Read 4247 times)

Posts: 47

« on: December 04, 2007, 07:43:28 AM »

OK, I have been wrestling with this question for quite a while now.  Hopefully you can help me out with some straight forward advice.
I have been a licensed tec for the past seven years.  I am ready to try to upgrade my license and provledges to the "General" ticket.  Now I KNOW that the CW requirement has been dropped as a requirement for the General ticket BUT I  am a bit "old school", you might say.  I feel that to be a true, dyed-in-the-wool, authentic and true blue Ham operator I really should master the code.
The problem is I am afraid that I might not have the time or talent to do this!'s my question: What do you experts advice?  Should I be learning the code or not?
Thanks in advance for your help and your advice.  Hey...don't be afraid to be honest in your opinions either! I KNOW that this whole CW topic is a hot button issue!

Posts: 372

« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2007, 07:50:29 AM »

Got my General ticket shortly after the rule change.  I am using SSB only.  I run into issues of limited propagation in the QRO setting and limited usefulness of SSB in the QRP setting.

I like SSB, and it will stay my predominant mode.  I am slowly learning CW.  Same problems persist with CW as before the rule change.  Still have a hard time keeping seldom used letters and punctuation straight.  Still have a hard time copying in the middle of the QSO, so if I get a CQ call, I am ready, but if I tune in and hear a QSO in progress, I get the Yips.


Posts: 719


« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2007, 07:51:50 AM »

It depends on what you want to do with ham radio.  I think you'll find that learning Morse code will help you understand and enjoy the hobby more than someone who hasn't learned it.

I stunk at learning CW; but, I stuck with it because I wanted the Extra and the associated privileges.  I found out later that CW was a lot of fun...I'm glad I learned it.

One man's opinion...

Posts: 5639

« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2007, 07:59:57 AM »

With all due respect, no one can answer this question for you. If you want to use the mode, learn the code; if you don't; don't.


Lon - W3LK
Naugatuck, Connecticut

A smoking section in a restaurant makes as much sense as a peeing section in a swimming pool.

Posts: 3289

« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2007, 08:05:21 AM »

The question, and curiosity, is in your mind.   Give it a spin.  It costs you nothing.  You might love it. In any case you will have a greater appreciation and connection with ham radio and its history.  The greatest pleasure in ham radio is experimenting and trying new things.

73,  Bill

Posts: 4283


« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2007, 08:07:14 AM »

Only if you want to.

If you're interesting in DXing, then there are a lot of DX stations and operations that only do CW, so it's a matter of priorities.

Posts: 6642

« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2007, 08:07:15 AM »

If you want to upgrade... upgrade!
If you want to learn the code... learn the code.
Note: you no longer need to know the code-to use the code!  That is why they no longer TEST for the code.
It is still being used, and will continue to be.
Are they doing classes for either in your area?
You can do BOTH, you Know!  Just do one at a time!


Posts: 430

« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2007, 08:26:48 AM »

I think it depends on how you operate.  If you are into dxing and contesting it shakes out like this:

Without code, you lose at least 50% of the major contest oportunities.

Without code, you lose out on probably more than 50% of your chances for getting a new one.

As for dxing, you also lose out on more than 50% of the availabilities by limiting yourself to a General class license.

I know what I'd be doing!

Good Luck!

Doug W5GA

Posts: 287


« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2007, 08:32:55 AM »

I'm still struggling with learning it myself but here is why I'm trying.

If you like building projects/kits, QRP kits are FAR more useful and simpler to build if they are a CW rig.

The extreme efficiency of CW makes contacts in otherwise impossible conditions for phone, possible.

The ability to make contacts so efficiently on very low power makes for many more options for portable operation.

Beacons are in CW, this is useful for tracking propagation among other uses for ID'ng unattended stations.

The concentration involved with CW can make radio an even more 'cleansing' pass time.  Meaning it will get work and other issues off your mind more effectively due to the level of concentration and the resulting depth of the distraction.  Just my .02 there.

Posts: 507

« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2007, 08:33:17 AM »

Do what YOU want to do, not what others want you to do. Even though the Element 1 requirement has been dropped, no one is holding a gun to your head to learn morse to get on HF. CW is a fun and so are the other modes. CW and PSK31 can go a long way with very little power and less band width than SSB will. There are ops out there that will work you QRS at around on 7.050, or there abouts.

Gud luck on the upgrade and enjoy!


Posts: 4707

« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2007, 08:41:36 AM »

The answer is YES.

Here's why:

If you contest and/or DX, you'll add many more opportunities to do those things.

If you want to build, you'll find many more projects.

If you have a limited station, you'll find it's more effective.

If you don't want to wait for the sunspots to return, you'll find it's easier to work folks on HF.

If you like Field Day, you can make more points.

If you like to communicate in ways other than talking and typing, you'll be right in your element.

And a whole lot more.

Morse Code is easier to learn now than ever before. Lots of free-for-the-download software out there (try G4FON). Organizations like FISTS and SKCC are growing and helping folks enjoy the mode. Lots of stations on the air using the mode, too.

73 de Jim, N2EY

Posts: 93

« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2007, 08:45:06 AM »

Folks are right, the choice is entirely yours. If you're asking if CW is still useful, the answer is a definite YES. Not necessary, but useful... and fun (judging from the way some of the other hams in my club talk about it). If you have the time, do it. There's no penalty for trying, and it won't be a waste of time.

I intend to learn code once things settle down in my work (getting home late at night is not conducive to studying anything). I envy the folks who can work CW.

Carl W4FFM

Posts: 1041

« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2007, 08:54:19 AM »

Whether you learn the code or not, doesn't make you
any less of a ham! If you want to learn the code in
order to take advantages of the CW opportunities
available to you then by all means do it. However,
don't learn it simply because some person says you
are not a real ham unless you know the code. That's
utter nonsense!!! Learn it because you want to, not
because someone thinks you should!!!


Posts: 1524

« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2007, 09:30:38 AM »

Unless you are both blind and completely deaf, you can learn code.  Whether or not one agrees with the code test decision, the greatest harm that came out of that debate was that people became convinced due to the propaganda that they could not learn it.

The biggest obstacles to learning code are UNREALISTIC EXPECTIONS and not wanting to learning it.  What do I mean by unrealistic expections?  Well some thought that they should be able to learn it in a week similar to what they could do with the theory.  When it didn't happen, they believed that they could not learn it.  Others believed that practicing once or twice a week was sufficient but it is not.  It takes the average person a total of 30 hours accumulated practice to get to a reliable 5wpm and that is assuming that they use a good learning method and practice daily or almost daily.  Higher speeds take even more practice.

OK now down to the learning method.

1.  Select a good tool to help you.  I strongly recommend G4FON, available for free downloading.
2.  Set the character speed for at least 15wpm or faster.  This avoids the lookup table and you will start to work from reflex,
3.  At first, even though the character speed is at 15 or better, set the word speed a good bit slower since your reflexes will still be developing.
4.  Practice 30 minutes per day every day broken into two or three shorter sessions.  Oh I know that things will sometimes prevent it but be as steady as you can.
5.  Follow the G4FON directions as to when to add a new character.  If you add one too soon, the brain isn't solid enough on the existing ones and you will make too many mistakes and get frustrated.  If you take too long to add one, you will get bored.
6.  DO NOT say "I will reach such and so a goal by such and so a date".  Everyone is different.
7.  If you can, find a code buddy to practice with sometimes.
8.  Join FISTS (they have a website).  They have calling frequencies and you can sign up to get a code buddy.  As a Tech, you have code privileges on 15m, 40m and 80m available to you.
9.  Get on the air and start making QSOs even if you are still slow and making mistakes.

Posts: 352

« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2007, 09:53:44 AM »

Hi Tom,

I tend to like to tune around and answer CQs.  I believe that I hear a lot more CQs on CW than SSB.  If you are into DX, QRP or even just tuning around, CW is a great thing to know.

My 2 cents.

73, JP, K8AG
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