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Author Topic: Is CW really having a resurgence?  (Read 1752 times)
KV9U
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Posts: 166




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« on: September 27, 2008, 02:18:00 PM »

There was a recent incident where the hiker was rescued in Washington State after breaking his leg in a very remote area and thankfully using his Elecraft K1 to call for help on 40 meter CW.

Alan Pitts from ARRL was quoted as saying that "Still, it's rare that Morse code is used to initiate a rescue, ...."

and

"Amateur radio operators used to be required to know Morse code to get a license. That requirement was dropped a few years ago.

Since then, Morse code has actually gained popularity, Pitts said."

Are you really finding this to be the case? If so, what evidence seems to suggest this?

I have taught a number of classes (Technician and General) over several decades, and do some promotion of CW, I would be hard pressed to recall even one of my students who went on to be active with CW.

For a number of years I have even volunteered to work with hams who would like to try CW with on the air practice, but have never had even one individual show interest.

This is particularly significant now that all hams classes can operate CW on portions of 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters.
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M0JHA
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Posts: 647




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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2008, 04:10:36 PM »

Hello,
      I know many amateurs that would like to work cw but most feel it too hard to learn. Unfortunantly here in the uk at least the only introduction to cw is around 10 minutes on the foundation exam (entry level exam) whereby the only taste you get is a quick message being sent and recieved.

There seems to be a whisper in publications that since the requirements for morse have been dropped that more seem to be inclined to have a go.

I think once someone realises  that its not an outdated mode and that in fact you can hold a conversation exactly as you can ssb then this brings it home that its not some sort of basic message transfer mode.

Untill i actually took time out to find out exactly what morse was about i too thought it was something for the old timers to cling on to and that conversation would be limited. how wrong i was.

i hope cw is having a resurgence . Whats not to like about it?. I can literally go on most bands at any given time and hear morse transmissions even when the ssb portion of the bands have been quiet for hours.

billy uk
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AB9NZ
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Posts: 176




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« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2008, 04:50:01 PM »

 I would have to say were in a low spot right now. Whenever I hear what sounds to be a new op trying code, it turns to be someone who's actually been at it a long time.
  It would be interesting to hear from the guys that offer free morse training programs. I'm curious how many new ops they are putting on the air.
  Maybe our eyes were off the ball when so many guys were working to force others to learn the code, but never teaching it.
  The guys that put modem noise on the air are getting much bolder in their use of "our" parts of the bands. At first glance it looks about as much fun as a crappy dial up connection, but actually they're doing some pretty neat work, some of it very deep down in the noise.
  I firmly believe we're on the cusp of an amateur radio renaissance. No doubt radiotelegraphy will be the medium of the masters.
73 Guys, de Tom, AB9NZ
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N2EY
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Posts: 3833




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« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2008, 05:21:51 PM »

You can't have a resurgence of something that never went away....;-)

I think what's actually happened is that CW *use* is becoming more visible now. Forums like this one, rigs like the Elecraft K1, groups like FISTS and SKCC etc. Plus when something like the hiker rescue happens, or the Jay Leno skit, it gets publicity.

It's all good!

73 de Jim, N2EY

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AB9NZ
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Posts: 176




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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2008, 08:03:45 AM »

Yes Jim, more use perhaps, but where are the new operators? It's very rare(impossible?) to work a new cw op. A year ago you could hear new guys on the air. Now they all seem to either be up to speed, or have given up.
 If every one of us could just teach one kid the code, the bands would be packed.
 I suspect this is an American phenomenon, I'm curious if kids overseas are learning morse. If they are, maybe we should look at what is being done there.
  When I get my monthly ham radio newspaper, the editorials and content are full of hand wringing and and bellyaching about how stupid and lazy the youth of today are. In my experience, I find the new kids to be pretty sharp, and born into a world where a lot of the cream has been sucked off.
  It's my dream that our youth will be able to fully enjoy the gift of morse.
  73 Guys,de Tom AB9NZ
   
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WW2JS
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2008, 10:18:18 AM »

 I'm new to the hobby and I was not required to pass the code portion to be licensed. I read all the posts about the tests being easier and they were right, the tests were not as difficult as I thought they would be. Right after I passed the Tech exam I wanted to see what the big deal was about working CW. Well to me it was a big deal. After 10 months of practice I'm still not where I would like to be. I found it to be difficult and very challenging. It was only 2-3 months ago that I actually had the confidence to have on air QSO's. Once I broke the ice I find myself working CW 80-90% of the time I fire up the rig. I found that stations on the CW portions are patient with us newer guys and very eager to communicate. It is rare to have one of my CQ's go unanswered, whereas on SSB I could send CQ for minutes and hear static. I wasn't around years ago so I donot know what the heyday was like but if there is a resurgence I'm glad to be part of it.

Joe  WW2JS
 
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M0JHA
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Posts: 647




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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2008, 01:33:34 PM »

Hello, yes joe i know where your coming from. It was challenging for me also but now realise sitting listening alone was just not cutting it.

The minute i overcome the fear of messing a qso up i progressed much faster. Maybe this is what needs to be pushed to newcomers. Forget messing it up and just get on the bands and use the code for real. It really does make a difference.

billy uk
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KC2MJT
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Posts: 59




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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2008, 01:51:00 PM »

In the first few months after the loss of the cw requirement, I noticed a slight increase in interest. It was my impression that most of that interest came from old timers that had let their code slip by the way side and were looking for something 'new' in radio - not newcomers to ham radio. In other words,people wanted to set themselves apart in ham radio, and cw operation was it.

The Straight Key society saw phenomenal growth and the FISTS freqs buzzed for awhile, but even that activity has waned, and I don't think it is just the solar cycle. Although a member of both, it is my experience that the groups that just chase numbers without something more have a tough go at keeping the masses interested.

Nevertheless, I have met a rare few new hams that have braved the code and won. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. I worked one of the new instant 'Extra' ops last night. His keying sounded like a computer to me, but I believe he was copying me by ear, and that was positive. I also liked the fact he wanted to ragchew a bit instead of just have a hit and run QSO.

To wrap it up, if I had to guess from my on air experience, the loss of the code requirement will mean, with time, the cw portions of the bands will become very quiet. The general ticket carrot that required cw, was the added incentive I needed to learn the code. It is now my only mode of operation. I haven't been a ham for very long, but without other cw ops out there to talk to, my interest in radio would fade fast.

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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20540




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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2008, 02:19:29 PM »

I agree with N2EY, no resurgence when something never went away.

If you check the CQ and ARRL sponsored contests, you'll see the only change in activity over the years is based on propagation (conditions).  When condx are better, there's more activity, and when it's terrible, there's less.  Not just in "entrants" (which is fairly constant) but in number of contacts actually made, since that number is far higher than the number of entrants.

And there's more contacts made in the CW contacts than in the "phone" contacts, quite often.  That trend hasn't changed a bit.  And remember, the number of contacts made reflects overall activity, not the number of contesters.

When condx are at their worst and tuning the "phone" band yields no signals at all, I can still drop down to CW and make contacts.  Happens all the time, after the bands "close."

WB2WIK/6
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N2EY
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2008, 04:16:07 PM »

AB9NZ writes: "but where are the new operators? It's very rare(impossible?) to work a new cw op."

I don't know if that's really true. I've met more than a few new CW ops online and on the air. True, they're rare compared to those with lots of years, but that's true of ham radio in general because hams tend to stay licensed for a long time.

AB9NZ: "Now they all seem to either be up to speed, or have given up."

It's always been that way. Back in code-test days, there were plenty of hams who learned just enough to pass the test, then never used it again. Others soon left the test in their wake and went far beyond what it required.

Seems to me that the new ops don't stay new - now or in the past.

AB9NZ:"If every one of us could just teach one kid the code, the bands would be packed."

Maybe. But we shouldn't focus on any one age group; everyone's invited!

Didja see my list of "Ten Ways"?

I also think that in today's environment you can't really "teach" Morse, but what you can do is to help folks learn it.
 
AB9NZ: "When I get my monthly ham radio newspaper, the editorials and content are full of hand wringing and and bellyaching about how stupid and lazy the youth of today are."

What newspaper is that?

AB9NZ: "In my experience, I find the new kids to be pretty sharp, and born into a world where a lot of the cream has been sucked off."

Not sure what you mean by "a lot of the cream has been sucked off".

But I do know this: The "youth of today" are not all the same. Sure there are some who are stupid and lazy, just like in every generation.

But there are plenty of hard-working, intelligent, educated, decent young folks out there. (I work with some and know others socially). You don't hear much about them because they're too busy working, getting their educations, meeting their responsibilities and living their lives.  

AB9NZ: "It's my dream that our youth will be able to fully enjoy the gift of morse."

But remember that in every generation the percentage of hams was very small. Back when I was in high school (1968-1972), there were never more than a half-dozen hams in a school of over 2500 boys. The girls' school next door, with the same number, had zero. So maybe 1 kid in 1000 was a ham in those two schools. This was in a suburban community where CC&Rs were unknown, back when old TV sets and surplus radio stuff was all over the place. There were several very active ham radio clubs and radio stores that carried ham gear and parts. Plus mail order and "surplus row" downtown.

Back then there were less than half as many US hams as today, too.

73 de Jim, N2EY
 
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KC2MJT
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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2008, 06:01:02 PM »

I'm not sure that a  sample of contest activity since the loss of cw is a valid predictor of interest in cw.
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M0JHA
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Posts: 647




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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2008, 02:40:56 AM »

I did a quick test lastnight at my sons football practice. I asked around 30 kids of around 10-14 years old if they knew what amateur radio was. Most didn't know and some thought it was something to do with commercial radio broadcasts.

When i asked what they thought morse code was almost all stated it was something to do with the war. They knew it was a form of communication and most had seen them on toy 2 way radios that you get as a kid.

A couple of weeks ago my young daughter had her freind from school call round to play in the garden.Anyway kids being kids he found his way into my shack and was stood behind me in amazement as i tapped away albeit slow.

I explained to him i had been talking to someone in germany and all he could say was "wow really" i let him listen on the ssb portion of 40m to the different countries and he was gob smacked.

My 4 year old daughter was found out last week for coming into my room and trying to turn the radio on to use the key ( i let her tap away using the side tone on the radio sometimes).

She had pumped my chair up to a good hight to enable herself to pull the key close and also go about changing all my buttons and knobs on both my radio and atu to try and get on the air to call cq is anybody there as she does.

The way forward is education in letting people both young and old know that cw is far from an outdated mode and that amateur radio is in fact just as much fun and technical as a pc if not more so.

billy uk
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AB9NZ
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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2008, 07:43:08 AM »

Yes my observations jive more with the new guys WW2JS, M0JHA es KC2MJT, a lot of activity, a very warm welcome, and beaucoup help from the experienced hams, but very few new cw ops on the air.
  In general, I don't think the regular civilians hold hams in the same awe as when I was a boy, but then again world has changed a little bit. My son's Indian Guides tribe (similar to scouts) was in my workshop/shack building pinewood derby cars, and some of the kids gravitated right to the lissajou pattern on the 'scope, and the morse coming out of the speaker, so I'm sure that there is hope.
  Jim, the newspaper is "World Radio", I look forward to each edition, but I think that singing the dumbed down song, and all the lamentation about  "amateur extras that can't solder a pl-259" are just dead flies in the ointment. By "cream sucked off" I was referring to the easy money, cheap energy, and natural resources that were squandered. Regretfully, my kids won't be able to enjoy the same orgy of waste that we were.
  I hope I'm not coming across all gloom and doom. Radio, especially when used with on off keying, is such a miracle that I'm sure you will always find people like us, with a morse monkey on their back, cruising the bands, looking for their next fix.
    73 Men, de Tom, AB9NZ  
 
   
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LB3KB
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Posts: 221


WWW

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« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2008, 11:51:55 AM »

AB9NZ Tom,

>It would be interesting to hear from the guys that
>offer free morse training programs. I'm curious how
>many new ops they are putting on the air.

My impression is that the interest in ham radio in general is dropping while at the same time the interest in CW is increasing.

I don't know how many new ops this interest in CW is actually generating, though it seems that it's mostly people who already have a license that learn Morse code these days.


73
LB3KB Sigurd
http://justlearnmorsecode.com
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AB9NZ
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Posts: 176




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« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2008, 12:13:44 PM »

Thank you Sigurd,
   I sure do enjoy your program, I was just using it to blast morse around the house while I do chores. After doing the dishes at 35 words a minute 25 seems down right slow! Thanks for your reply to my query. Your post also got me wondering, should I be capitalizing "morse" code?
73 de Tom, AB9NZ
   
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