CW was eliminated as a requirement for merchant ships in 1999, being replaced by new technologies such as GMDSS equipment.
Ships radio officers could also be replaced by GMDSS equipment, with the level of redundancy dependent on the type of vessel and its area of operation.
Basically, commercial ships use redundant Satellite/HF/VHF setups with a big "Help me" button pressed by the bridge officer in times of distress.
This spelled the end of both shipboard CW and their associated coast stations.
There are still some of these coast stations about, but they are declining rapidly and being sold off.
Since the reason for CW in the Amateur service was founded in its use commercially and its importance for safety of life at sea, it was reasonable to mandate that hams, who monitor radio frequencies have the skills necessary to receive CW.
This stems back to the Titanic when hams were monitoring the distress communications for example.
I'm afraid you're mistaken.
The reason for Morse Code in amateur radio in its beginnings was because it was the most-effective mode available, in terms of equipment cost, spectrum use, and complexity. Try building an SSB rig with 1920s technology and you'll see.
The reasons for Morse Code in amateur radio today are many. The old reasons (equipment cost, spectrum use, and complexity) still apply, but there's more: It's unique, challenging, fun, and allows things that cannot be done any other way.
The reasons for Morse Code testing
in amateur radio were more complex. In the early days, in the USA, it simply made sense for all amateurs to know Morse Code at some level, because it was by far the predominant mode. For most hams it was the only practical mode. It was similar to learning to drive a stick shift car in the days before fully automatic transmissions were common.
It was only in 1927 that amateurs were required by international treaty to pass Morse Code tests in order to be licensed. In fact, 1927 was in some ways the real "birthday" of amateur radio as we know it. Here's why:
Before 1927, amateur radio existed according to the whims of the governments of individual countries. Unlike, say, maritime radio, amateur radio was not recognized as a separate radio service with its own bands, regulations, licenses and protections. Many countries simply didn't allow amateur radio at all; others made the requirements so involved and the privileges so limited that few or no folks bothered. Other countries allowed and even encouraged amateur radio. The future was always in jeopardy, because countries could change their own rules quickly.
The 1927 treaty changed all that. Amateur radio was formally recognized as a separate and unique radio service, with specific bands, technical requirements, licenses, etc. Many more countries decided to allow amateur radio, because, since they'd signed the overall treaty, the amateur bands couldn't be used for anything else.
Among the requirements of the 1927 treaty was code testing of all amateurs. This was a small price to pay for the recognition. It didn't really bother anybody at the time. No speed was ever specified, nor exact test method other than "send by hand and receive by ear, messages in Morse Code".
However, with the demise of CW commercially (and even militarily), the need for hams to compulsorily have this skill diminished.
Sort of. The idea that amateur radio is a training ground for future commercial and military radiofolk is only one reason for its existence, and one reason for code tests.
What really happened is that there arose in both the government regulators and some amateurs the idea that mandatory
code testing of all amateurs just wasn't needed any more. In 1947 (!), just 20 years after the 1927 treaty, an exception was written into the rules which permitted countries to issue amateur licenses without code testing if those licenses only allowed operation above 1000 MHz. Over the years, that frequency limit was lowered, until by the late 1970s it was 30 MHz. In 2003 the final step was taken, and Morse Code testing became optional for all countries. Some dropped it, some didn't.
In the USA, the FCC has been eager to reduce/eliminate Morse Code testing since the 1970s. This is demonstrated by a series of actions on their part, and by what they wrote in NPRMs and R&Os. The key phrase is that they "saw no regulatory purpose" to it any more.
Thus, over time many regulatory authorities dropped the CW requirement, but this does not mean that CW will die in ham radio.
We are in the happy situation that we can choose to use CW, not be forced to use it in a job.
So we do it for the love of learning a skill, both new and old, and something that the average person will not have in their skill set.
CW is above all a language, and when your proficiency goes beyond a certain point, becomes like driving a vehicle, where you do it unconsciously, just listening to it as if it were being spoken.
That is CW nirvana, and is a goal worth achieving.
CW seems to be like the oft quoted Mark Twain comment when advised of his reported death - "reports of my death are greatly exaggerated".
That part is all true!
It will be the final irony if, as seems to be happening, the end of code testing becomes the beginning of an era of increased code use.
73 de Jim, N2EY