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Author Topic: First CW QSO - exciting and very embarrassing  (Read 8248 times)

Posts: 79

« on: May 19, 2010, 11:39:16 AM »

I finally got the stones up to try my CW. It was near disaster, but I got through it. Thanks to Jeff in Ohio for hanging in there with me. QSB was kind of tough and my brain just quit recognizing characters. I though I would relax as we got into it, but nervousness got worse and I was fumbling more and more on the key. Poor Jeff. I tried to work from a script, but got away from it pretty quick. Was panicking when I missed whole strings of characters and, well, you probably all know the story... it wasn't pretty.

About all I figured out was his call sign, his name, that he was somewhere in Ohio (Westerville it turns out), that he ran a Ten Tec of some sort, Orion I think, and he had an antenna. And he was encouraging me, but I didn't make out the details of it. I see that I need a lot more on-air practice copying, that's for sure. But it counts, and I'm stoked to keep trying.

Thanks Jeff. Don't know if you read these forums or not, but I'm dropping you a card in the mail today.

I'm hooked.

Doug, N3PDT

Posts: 1606

« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2010, 11:58:45 AM »


I hope you don't mind, but I laughed when I read your story. It is exactly the same story ALL of us tell!

Welcome aboard!!! Before you know it you will be like me and throw that microphone in the trash.


Posts: 11

« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2010, 02:13:45 PM »

Fun wasn't it?!  Sounds pretty close to my first CW QSO too.  Keep at it and have fun. Congrats!

Posts: 4693

« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2010, 02:20:51 PM »

Congrats and well done!

The next one will be easier. And the one after that. Keep at it, and you'll reach the point where you don't even think about it.

I bet the ham on the other end was proud to be your #1 CW QSO.

73 de Jim, N2EY

Posts: 21760

« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2010, 02:38:33 PM »

I was so excited for my first QSO (at age 13, and of course it was CW since that's all we had available) that I believe I peed my pants.  Or if not, I likely could have. Tongue

In my case, it was a new Novice license and you had to wait and wait and wait for it to come in the mail before you could operate -- that took about 8 weeks.  I had "practice" QSOs just using the SPOT function of my transmitter, which generated a few milliwatts and didn't connect an antenna, and thought I'd be all calm and cool.


Now that you're over the hump it's all downhill, don't sweat it.  I've worked hundreds of brand new CW ops (some new ops, some old ops who just never used CW before) and am always willing to slow down, repeat, do whatever it takes to complete the contact.  I think we all are.

Congrats and C U on CW.

Posts: 79

« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2010, 03:25:47 PM »

TKS for the words of encouragement! Don't feel bad for having a chuckle at my expense either. I can certainly laugh at myself. Sometimes I just have to!

I forgot to mention Jeff's callsign, W8JRA. He answered my wavering CQ on 07.114 and was very patient. I was using an iambic set, so I stuttered a bit, well a lot. Straight key practice was causing some flare up of pre-existing wrist/hand issues so I recently switched over to a Bencher BY series. Thought I had the hang of it, until put under pressure. Keyer at 16-18wpm is comfortable for me, but with a lot of space between chars. Slowed it down for the QSO and that threw me off a bit.

Going back over my transcipt of the QSO, looks I caught a little more than originally thought I did, ie, his antenna might be a zepp at 50ft. Right now, I'm scanning the bands looking for slow code QSOs in progress to practice copying under real conditions. Have been using G4FON almost exclusively up to now and, while a great learning tool, it's not the real thing.

Anyway, appreciate the replies and the kind words.

Doug, N3PDT

Posts: 56

« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2010, 05:06:33 PM »

I'm on the process of re-learning, and I can remember well
an experience (or three) similar to your first one. Yeah, it'll
happen again.

You'll find that every so often, we might seem to have a total
event of amnesia; CW will seem like nothing we've heard
before, and we can't copy a blasted thing....... It happens.

It's not a contest to prove anything, it's a hobby. It's a mode
of operation that can get through the worst of qrm and qrn,
and go where no signal has gone before.....

Whew. Ok, too melodramatic..

But it is fun, and will continue to be. It's an adventure that is freshened
with each new contact.

Just make sure you drink plenty of water; you can get dehydrated
from sweating too much.

Seeya' out there!



Posts: 550


« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2010, 04:55:46 AM »

Yes, your experience is pretty typical. The "first CW" contact
is always heart-pumping.

While copying on-the-air activity is good practice, don't delay for long
getting on the air again and trying for more contacts. They are much
more exciting than copy practice (as you've discovered).

And Field Day is coming up in June. It's a good event in which to
get a lot of on-the-air morse practice. And far too many Field Day
club entries have few or no morse operators.

Scott W5ESE

Posts: 1316

« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2010, 05:16:13 AM »

Ditto, guys.

Luckily my first time to ride a motorcycle was not like my first CW QSO.


Posts: 122

« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2010, 06:41:06 AM »

Keep at it Doug, it does get easier.  My first CW QSO was with K1KJ at about 3 wpm!  I was 14 at the time and fearless!  Most CW ops are very patient.

Good Luck and 73's,


Posts: 91

« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2010, 09:58:08 AM »

I know misery loves company, so I’ll share my similar story. I was using a heathkit keyer with those plug-in capacitive touch paddles, which are very touchy anyway. I’d been practicing of course, I thought I was ready and decided to call CQ…my heart began racing, my hands became sweaty and shaky, and you can only imagine the on suing fiasco. This was not a pretty picture and to this day I feel the pain I caused the poor guy than answered my perfect memory sent CQ.

I did buy a proper paddle to use with the keyer and climbed back on the horse, things quickly became better and I was hooked, but that first time…whew!

I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like his passengers.

Posts: 2527

« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2010, 05:18:01 PM »

My first Q my hand shook and I was using an straight key.

Congrats on trying out a form of communications that links you back to an era when communication between ships and to shore was CW, when instant communication was limited to telegraph lines and CW.

When you hear those CW sigs in your speaker, you are hearing the exact same ambient noise (left over from the BIG BANG) and the same sound of CW floating above and into the ambient noise.  Static crashes, still the same.

For me, we truely link with all of those before us via CW.

From my point of view, you are no an OB.

Posts: 159

« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2010, 08:23:48 AM »

Yeah, we have all been there.

One thing to keep in mind: since we have all been there, there is nothing to be embarressed about. Don't worry about it. Don't be shy. We know what it is all about and are more than happy to do whatever it takes to make it work. Once you get a half dozen QSOs under your belt, you will be home free. Another thing to keep in mind is that even when you become a seasoned CW op, you still won't always get 100% copy. We all miss stuff now and then mostly due to QSB/QRM. But, you can usually fill in the blanks from context. And, if that doesn't work ask them to repeat it.

I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT

Posts: 43


« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2010, 02:52:13 AM »

Yes !
The first QSO in CW is like a cliff dive for the first time. You feel a mixed of scaring, you are frightened while dropping down from the cliff, you are shocked by the impact with the water, you are happy when you just ended it. And, when you see the cliff from downstairs, you are proud !

Great job Doug, this is the first step of a long lasting journey. From Zen and the Art of Radiotelegraphy:

" In learning CW we have to keep that very same state of mind we had as
children. It is not surprising, then, that you will be feeling somewhat nervous during
your first CW radio contact. Just as a small child that makes a great effort to speak,
you will experience the same feelings. Keep cool, everything is absolutely normal.

You can download the full book for free here:

Let me know if you like it !
73 Carlo IK0YGJ

Posts: 340


« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2010, 07:11:20 PM »

The great thing about CW is that nobody can see your face...or hear your voice. "Smiley
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