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Author Topic: Are fewer people using CW than 20 years ago?  (Read 14621 times)
VE7TIT
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« on: November 24, 2012, 10:29:20 PM »

It seems like I hear a lot less CW on 20 and 40 meters than I did when I got my license in 1989. Back then I could cruise the novice band on 40 M and pretty reliably find several QSOs in progress. Now I often tune across the band from end to end and hear no CW at all. Is it just me? Has everyone gone to PSK31 (which is awesome) and JT65? There were a ton of skilled ops on the air for the sweepstakes earlier this month, but I don't hear much otherwise. (My stealth antenna is just 20 meters of end-fed house wire strung along my roofline at 10 meters up, so I'm probably missing a lot, but it wasn't much better back when I started, so I don't think that's it.)

I'm a casual operator who'd like to make some QSOs at 10 to 15 WPM, not to run with the big gun DXers going 25 WPM at the bottom of the band. I'd just like to chat with fellow hams and increase my speed. Any suggestions? And I'm curious: since we went no code, are there a lot less CW ops? Seems like it...  Sad

Thanks,
Steve
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2012, 11:26:39 PM »

Hi Steve,

I would agree about 40m, I frequently call till I just give up.
40m seems to be dying from a CW point of view but the higher bands from 20m up still seem very lively.
Unfortunately these guys seem to be the avid CW users who tend to do higher speeds, but you should still get a qso if you call on 20m slowly.

I have almost given up on 40m entirely and spend most of my time on 20m these days.
There seems more of everything on 20m: PSK, RTTY, Olivia, CW, SSTV etc.
Unfortunately, propagation is not always kind to one on 20m, so there are long periods of silence there as well.

40m seems to have gone a bit like 2m FM, where there are probably a lot of listeners, but not many talkers.
Perhaps it is a sign of an aging ham demographic, or just people being too busy - or just having too many options these days.
PSK31 has become the new CW in many ways, but when the band is running on 20m, CW numbers far outweigh PSK31 ops.

I think this is not as true in Europe, where 40m is still very hot most of the time.
Just have a listen at night, and you will see what I mean.

In my experience, many hams run around 15 to 20 WPM on CW, even on 20m - with the rest having their foot to floorboards.
So you should be able to get some interesting QSO's on 20m with a bit of perseverance.

Good luck,

73 - Rob
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K5ICW
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« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2012, 06:21:53 AM »


Greetings from Southern Texas !

I have been nearly all CW  since 1956 with several decade long periods of inactivity. Yes, your observations match mine. Fewer CW ops on all of the CW bands. I often can tune across 20m and 40m CW portions and hear virtually quiet bands.

Interestingly, I have been  mostly QRT the past few years except for QRP contests and DX contests. With improved cycle 24 band conditions, I have started to surf the CW bands again. The CW bands seem to have perhaps  20% or so more operators these days as opposed to 5 years ago. What I hear are mostly the SAME CW operators I worked ten years ago. All are mostly old guys ( myself included ) in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. It is astonishing to look at logbook entries from ten years ago and see the same guys on the lower end of 40 meters ! However, activity is much sparser than 20 years ago.

The newer hams are probably no code EMCOM types.

Thankfully, with improved propagation it is much easier to have a nice CW Qso.

Best Wishes and 73 ,

k5icw
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2E0OZI
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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2012, 06:51:04 AM »

Over here there are quite a few new guys like me plugging along on 40, 30 and 17.  Grin I have had a bit of a qso drought for a month, but broke the drought on Friday night with a very short qso with a ham in Lithuania. With less than 100qsos to my name, I aint fast but I try to be clear.
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
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AB7KT
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« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2012, 11:38:50 AM »

No, not in my experience. I hear just as much CW on the bands as I did 20 years ago. And as much as I heard 30 years ago.

I don't understand why this is, but my experience certainly doesn't correspond with some of the previous posts. I have been very active on the air for years from both Nevada and Ohio. I have NEVER tuned across the 40 meter CW band and never heard a signal. I have read threads like this several times over the years and afterwards, I tune across the bands and wonder what they are talking about ?

I have never had any HF antenna other than a wire at moderate height. Currently I am using a 130' center fed wire (through a tuner) at 35 feet; so it isn't that I have a fantastic antenna. I have used much worse antennas than what I have now and can honestly say that I never tuned across the bands and never heard a CW signal.  Now I am not on the air at all hours of the day and night. I operate during the days and early evenings. Maybe if you turn on your rig at 0330 local time, you don't hear much activity ? I wouldn't know. But when I tune across the 40 meter CW band, day or night, I hear plenty of signals.
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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
W7ASA
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« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2012, 08:12:05 PM »

I find that perhaps hams don't tend to stay up LATE and into the early morning hours like we used to. THAT is for certain!  I remember MANY QSOs while fighting to stay awake, well after midnight on forty and eighty meters with many other stations doing the same and that's when I lived on the West coast.  Now, I hear DX on forty during the same time period, but few U.S. stations between midnight and sunrise. As for the packed bands of yesteryear, I cannot say, because I never used a receiver with any filtering until I joined the Army! (R-390 & 390A)  When you're using full SWL audio passband on CW, if the band is in use, it is going to sound very crowded compared to the filters we have today.

OTOH - I usually am calling CQ on forty during the DAY/through late afternoon and have excellent ragchews. About 6 pm local, I switch to 80m for the same reason.  I try to get on before the band goes long and maybe the resultant ragchews are because the "599 QTH OP SK"   body count QSO numbers are not as good.  I choose times when those who tend to be on a 'short' band are probably looking to chat (which is my preference).  I also have some good QSO's on thirty, but that band can SEEM dead unitil suddenly a station answers you.

Don't get me wrong, I've had some EXCELLENT, long ragcews with hams on the higher bands, but it just seemes to be more rare.


73 de Ray
W7ASA ..._ ._

« Last Edit: November 25, 2012, 08:14:49 PM by W7ASA » Logged
KD8IIC
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Posts: 171




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« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2012, 10:15:16 PM »

I have always been surprised how difficult it is to get a Technician class license holder interested enough to learn and try code.They have four HF bands and the same frequency privileges as a General has going to waste.
How many Techs can you count that you know of using Morse? Maybe I'm wrong.
I have found plenty of room for slow pokes like me but it's not at the lower end of the cw portions. 73  n8aft
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AB7KT
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2012, 03:10:32 AM »

"I find that perhaps hams don't tend to stay up LATE and into the early morning hours like we used to. THAT is for certain! "

I have never been one to stay up late at night. Even in my prime woman chasing, bar hopping days, I was home at 11:00 because I always had something to do in the morning. But, I spent about 25 years living in Nevada, and it was funny how at 11:00 PM EST (8:00 PM PST), it was like a switch was thrown and the activity on the bands decreased markedly as the people in the eastern US went QRT for the evening.  The bands wern't dead at that point, but you could easily hear the background noise and everything decrease dramatically.
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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
N5TEN
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2012, 08:23:23 AM »

I'm on CW 7.114 and thereabouts almost every night and make lots of contacts. And I spend the majority of my time on 40m which is very active on phone and cw. 40 meters is far from dead. In fact, it's the most active band.
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AA5TB
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« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2012, 09:29:15 AM »

I've been a ham for over 34 years and most of that time on CW.  My experience is that most of the CW activity has changed from casual rag chewing to DXing and contesting at higher speeds on most bands.  In general the activity has slacked off on most bands except I think it has actually increased on 40 m.  Except for the middle of the day, I find 40 m crowded with CW signals when I can find only a few SSB QSOs up higher in the band.  Heck, I even manage to make plenty of CW contacts on 6 m every year with a poor antenna.

Some of it too is that much of the slower speed activity is concentrated on club activity periods like SKCC Week End Sprints, QRP contests, etc., instead of spread out like on the old novice bands.  Those old novices are now at the bottom of the bands going 30 WPM.  Of course participation in the big CW contests is probably much higher now then it was 20-30 years ago.  It is more difficult to stir up a rag chew but when I do I still find it very enjoyable.  On 10 m last week I called CQ once and received an instant reply ending only after a 50 minute CW rag chew.

I like all aspects of CW, from high speed contests to low speed straight key rag chews.  In general I think the CW activity has just changed and not necessarily decreased on the whole as suprising as that may seem.
 
73,
Steve - AA5TB
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W5DQ
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« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2012, 10:05:20 AM »

It seems like I hear a lot less CW on 20 and 40 meters than I did when I got my license in 1989. Back then I could cruise the novice band on 40 M and pretty reliably find several QSOs in progress. Now I often tune across the band from end to end and hear no CW at all. Is it just me? Has everyone gone to PSK31 (which is awesome) and JT65? There were a ton of skilled ops on the air for the sweepstakes earlier this month, but I don't hear much otherwise. (My stealth antenna is just 20 meters of end-fed house wire strung along my roofline at 10 meters up, so I'm probably missing a lot, but it wasn't much better back when I started, so I don't think that's it.)

I'm a casual operator who'd like to make some QSOs at 10 to 15 WPM, not to run with the big gun DXers going 25 WPM at the bottom of the band. I'd just like to chat with fellow hams and increase my speed. Any suggestions? And I'm curious: since we went no code, are there a lot less CW ops? Seems like it...  Sad

Thanks,
Steve

Undoubtedly you were not on the radio this weekend during the CQWW CW test. Wall to wall stations and some nice DX too. I was just doing Search and Pounce (S&P) and ended up working 79 countries (a few new ATNOs to boot) and 36 CQ zones. Not a bad haul for tinkering around some on a Saturday and Sunday.

Gene W5DQ
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Gene W5DQ
Ridgecrest, CA - DM15dp
www.radioroom.org
W5ESE
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« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2012, 10:30:03 AM »

I was licensed in 1976, and my observations match those of AA5TB; there is actually more activity in contests than there used to be, but far less casual activity. I can tell you that in 1976-77, I could call CQ on 3725 KHz at 3 pm in the afternoon on weekends during the winter, and have casual QSOs with other stations around my state and in neighboring states. Now 80m CW seems dead on weekends after sunrise.
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N2EY
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« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2012, 10:59:01 AM »

I was licensed in 1976, and my observations match those of AA5TB; there is actually more activity in contests than there used to be, but far less casual activity. I can tell you that in 1976-77, I could call CQ on 3725 KHz at 3 pm in the afternoon on weekends during the winter, and have casual QSOs with other stations around my state and in neighboring states. Now 80m CW seems dead on weekends after sunrise.

I was licensed in 1967.

I don't see less cw activity; I seedifferent cw activity.

Here's what has really changed:

1) In the bad old days, most new US hams started as Novices. Until the 1970s the Novice license was CW only on HF and of limited duration (1 or 2 years, nonrenewable, one-to-a-customer). The result was that the Novice subbands were full of newcomers, both because it was all they were allowed to do and because they had only a limited time to upgrade or leave the air.

By contrast, US hams since the 1980s all start out with 10 year renewable licenses. They have a much wider selection of bands and modes, so they are spread more thinly. Most start out on VHF/UHF and work their way down, rather than starting on 80 and working their way up.

2) In the bad old days we had fewer bands and modes overall. This concentrated our numbers into a few activities and bands.

3) Equipment back-when was very different. Most "HF" ham gear of a certain vintage just did 80/75, 40, 20, 15 and 10. There were many popular rigs that didn't even cover all those bands! Monoband, 2 band and 3 band rigs were common, concentrating hams further.

4) A lot of the gear that was available for relatively low cost was pretty poor on the higher bands even if it did cover them. Deaf, image-prone, drifty receivers, for example, would quickly push you back down to 80 or 40 meters. And while the good stuff existed, it was amazingly expensive.

Modern gear is completely different. Look at what rigs could be bought back in the 1970s - then adjust the price for inflation, and you'll see how expesnive it really was.

5) Back-when, a ham who lived in a typical middle-class house could probably put up a simple yet effective 80 meter wire antenna without too much hassle. At worst it would be a 40 meter one. Not so much today!

6) Back-when, a LOT of new hams were middle- and high-schoolers, whose stations would be limited by all of the above factors. They'd home from school around 3 PM, and with no internet and limited TV options they'd turn on the rig.
IOW, the reason you could call CQ on 80 or 40 CW and get lots of answers was because there were lots of hams back then whose ONLY option was 80/40 CW. Their licenses, rigs, antennas, and/or wallets didn't permit much else.

That's all changed now.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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NO2A
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« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2012, 11:10:23 AM »

I would agree with many who have said that casual operating has declined from what it once was. During the 80`s the novice 40m portion was very active. I`ve found that portion is good around sundown and early evening. 7050 is a good place to tune around,as is 3550. I`d have to say 40 is better for late night/early morning as 80 can be quiet real late. There is of course dx on 80,and sometimes the noise level gets better later at night,like after 12am here in NJ. 30m can vary,but usually plenty of activity. 40 daytime is very good for ssb/cw.
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AB7KT
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« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2012, 12:27:30 PM »

I am "into" off-beat type rigs.
I own fairly state of the art gear, which I use, but if I want to ragchew I am usually on something weird. Frequently on 40 meters CW. I pretty much never have any problem at all finding all the ragchews I want on 40m CW.
As an example: today, I fired up a Conar 400 transmitter that some guy gave me at the last radio club meeting. I paired it up with a Drake 2B receiver, plugged in a crystal for 7.025, called CQ twice and had a ragchew for a half hour or so with a guy in Michigan. Putting out 18 watts and chirping like mad the whole time. Called CQ again and worked another guy in West Virginia.
One of my main ragchew rigs is a Drake 2NT XMTR and the Drake 2-C RCVR. I have a crystal that is somewhere between 7.049 and 7.050. Most of the time I work ragchew after ragchew. One guy calls me when I finish with the last guy. I take a break and come back and start all over again. It's not unusual at all for me to work 6-8 ragchew QSOs a day even though I am crystal controlled.
I do some variation of this almost every day.

Maybe you need to call CQ yourself ??

If you have never seen this guy's webpage, it is worth checking out. Especially if you think the CW bands are dead:

http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/

This guy decided to make at least one QSO per day, most of the time running QRP power levels, all on CW.
Here are some of his stats:

Streaks stats as of Oct 31, 2012:
Days - 6,663
Total QSO's - 56,472
mW QSO's - 1,316
DX QSO's - 15,605
Different hams - 16,587
« Last Edit: November 26, 2012, 12:32:02 PM by AB7KT » Logged

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
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