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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Can Morse Code Still Save You?

Gil G. (AK4YH) on August 26, 2018
View comments about this article!

Jack Binns was awakened by a tremendous crashing sound, screaming metal and a shudder that ran through the ship. As the wireless operator, Binns knew immediately what to do. Waiting for the captains' order to send the call must have been the longest minutes of his life. Fortunately his long-wire antenna was still up and he had backup battery power. Jack started sending CQD on his spark-gap transmitter, ultimately saving fifteen hundred lives from his ship, the Republic. The Florida, the vessel that hit them in the fog did not sink, but nine hundred passengers were transferred to the Baltic. It was on January 23rd, 1909, and the first significant use of Morse code to save a great number of lives at sea. Can Morse code still save you today?

By 2000 Morse code was officially retired by most nations and in 2007 the FCC dropped the code requirement for amateur radio operators. Since then the amateur bands have been booming with code on the lower part of most Ham bands, somewhat defiantly in the face of its announced early demise.

The proliferation of cheap and small CW transceivers, often offered as kits, and activities like SOTA and other “On The Air” groups has sprinkled the RF landscape with dits and dahs. Kits like Hans Summer's QCX sold and are selling by the thousand. Nary a week goes by without hearing someone mentioning their CW kit by Steve Weber or Dave Benson. Why not? Morse code is very efficient and doesn't require a computer or tablet. Radios are ultra-light and sip current, often using less on transmit than most modern rigs on receive, all the while outputting a comfortable five Watts. You can power them with eight AA cells or three 18650 cells, again very light. Amateur radio is no longer confined to the shack, or at least, portable operations are much easier today.

I recently watched a video about a 66-year-old who got lost on the Appalachian Trail. She tried texting her husband but was out of range. She wandered for almost a month, unable to contact anyone, and only a couple miles from the trail. Her body was found two years later. This perfectly illustrates how a seemingly safe hike on a marked path can end in tragedy when our usual mean of communication fails. We all know the story of Aron Ralston, who had to cut his own arm with a pocket knife after getting stuck in a Utah canyon. Whether he could have deployed an antenna is debatable, but his ordeal is also a perfect example of a nice day gone wrong.

How long before someone calls for help in Morse code on an amateur band? Is Morse code a viable option and are we listening? If you have stories, please share them here.

I'll be honest, I use a satellite two-way system at sea or while hiking where there is no cellular phone coverage. Although I have never pressed the SOS button, the position reporting works pretty well. I also carry a small CW radio as a backup. It fits in a little tea tin-can, including batteries, antenna, key and earphones, covers 20/30/40m. I would bet my life on it. I have no doubt any operator hearing the proverbial SOS pro-code would jump on it like a bear on honey. Five Watts into a full size antenna pretty much guarantees that someone will hear you somewhere. The recorded message looping function of most small CW rigs is a great asset in that regard. Not everyone can spend a few hundred dollars for a satellite handheld plus a monthly subscription...

What would you do if you heard an SOS, aside from answering of course? Do you know how to send a “Pan Pan” (non life threatening emergency) in Morse?

I once asked the Reverse Beacon Network if their CW skimmers detected SOS calls. The answer was no. I really would like to see this implemented, just a few lines of code, to listen for SOS and XXX.

A small CW QRP radio should be part of every Ham's collection. It might just get you off the couch and operating outside, climbing hills even. It could be very useful when stranded somewhere without phone or Internet. It can also spark interest in people meeting you. We need fresh blood in this hobby, and it won't happen without some efforts to increase visibility. Most people who roam the countryside or even the world do not know that Amateur Radio is an option and that capable rigs are no bigger than a pack of cigarettes.

My opinion is that Morse code is still a viable means of calling for help, given the performance of new frequency- agile tiny portable transceivers. Until we get new exotic battery chemistries and integrated tablet transceivers, CW will remain the mode of choice for hikers and adventurers, even if only by a few dedicated amateurs.

Gil, the Radio Prepper on YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/c/radioprepper/videos

Member Comments:
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Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AC7CW on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
A rig similar to the CW ones the author mentions but designed to be dedicated to FT8CALL might be a better way to go. More battery power would have to go to the processor but a lot less xmitter power is needed. More hams are able to operate FT8CALL than CW by a very wide margin.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K5FH on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Morse Code - better to know it and not need it than to...well, you know the rest.

 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by F8WBD on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Saves me from boredom.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by F8WBD on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Saves me from boredom.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by NA4IT on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
FT87CALL requires computer & software to decode.

Morse code requires only a receiver and brain...

Not slamming, just saying...
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KG4RUL on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
And on any given day, ANY one of the following might save you:
- CB radio
- Matches and something to burn
- flashlight
- Signal mirror
- Smoke canister
- Flare gun
- Whistle
- Morse code
- etc......
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K6PH on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
A "pan-pan" in morse? Never thought of that. I doubt it is officially recognized though.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K4JPN on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I found that when I am stressed out and want to unwind, good session of CW helps. It does not solve any problems, but the concentration helps to relieve stress.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AA4MB on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"More hams are able to operate FT8CALL than CW by a very wide margin."

Well, it's sort of like a famous ex-President saying, "It depends upon what your definition of 'is' is ..."

Honestly, I'm not so sure that 'most' hams are able to operate either one, given the state of knowledge in the hobby nowadays. I'd say that a good many newly minted hams don't even have equipment - and I'm not trying to open that line of debate too wide, either.

All that aside, I like the notion of FT8CALL ... enough to take FT8 slightly off of my list of odious things that I'd never do in life. All of my objections about not being able to have (in my opinion only) a 'real' QSO have been answered. Now, if I could just get past that 10 wpm barrier ...



 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K0UA on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article, and food for thought. Thanks for posting.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K7LZR on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Absolutely yes it can save you IF somebody else who hears your signal knows morse code.

Awhile back, I debated this very thing in a QRZ forum with a fellow who insisted that digital modes are superior to CW in life threatening situations and would always get through He said that given the choice he would pick digital over CW any day.

So I patiently tried to explain that digital comms require at minimum a transceiver, a computer, appropriate software, and a power source for all of it. And skill on the part of the operator too. And then you must connect with similarly equipped stations.

In the aftermath of a disaster or perhaps on the trail in a deep wilderness hike (which I have done many times), these things probably won't be available. You very well might find yourself with only a flashlight and a table radio for communication.

Using CW, you could flash morse code to get a message out. Or perhaps you could utilize an oscillator from the table radio as a crude CW transmitter.

But if you're lucky, maybe you've found an old transceiver of some sort but the microphone is missing. Maybe you can short the PTT lines and send code.

In these scenarios and many others, CW might really just save your life. I don't understand why I was unable to convince the other fellow that CW is the most valuable comm tool for survival because it requires the absolute minimum of anything in order to be usable.

If that type of thinking is how our next generation of emergency responders are being trained then I feel for them when everything else fails and they don't have a basic, no equipment required communication skill which can save lives.

When hiking, camping, etc. I always carry a little Yaesu FT-817 in my pack - even if I don't use it on the trip - and you can bet that right next to the radio is a portable CW key too :).

 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AC7CW on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Digital comms only require an external computer because nobody has built a self-contained tiny rig-in-a-box that does a mode like FT8CALL. If there is a 20db difference between xmit power requirements there is a lot of battery power left over for a processor and display. I'm guessing that overall keydown battery efficiency would be better with FT8CALL than with CW, not to mention that the op receiving a distress call doesn't have to know what frequency the distressed op is using or stumble across it, he just has to be set up for the digital mode.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by DL8OV on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"I recently watched a video about a 66-year-old who got lost on the Appalachian Trail. She tried texting her husband but was out of range. She wandered for almost a month, unable to contact anyone, and only a couple miles from the trail."

Sorry, but this was her error and it killed her. I would not dream of setting off on a trail without a whistle, map, a compass and the ability to use them. All of these work without power and they can get wet and still function.

Yes, Morse code still has its place, but I would rather pack a thermal blanket and some energy food than a CW rig and an antenna.

Peter DL8OV
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by WB8VLC on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Out in the wilderness how do you get an accurate sync for FT8 without an internet connection?

Also the FT8 DUTY CYCLE is not as efficient as CW either.

I suppose a gps could work for a gps FT8 SYNC but then if I'm gonna rely on satellites for a cobbled kludged FT8 SETUP then why not just carry a small lihgtweight reliable PLB, Personal Locator Beacon, like was suggested earlier.

A Garmin Inreach or similar Satellite device is a much better choice.

And paying the Inreach subscription is cheap compared to the alternative.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K0UA on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Don't forget the utility of a good .22 rifle like an AR7 or the new Ruger take-down rifle or a .22 pistol if you have practiced enough with it to take small game. Squirrels and Rabbits or even birds are might tasty when you are starving to death, and a firearm can be used to signal with also. 3 shots in rapid succession then repeated 3 times is a universal signal. Water, shelter, food are certainly needed. Sure a CW rig might could be used to call for help, and is worth considering, but a firearm is worth considering too. In no way would I hike a trail without a firearm. It gives you an edge in defense and food gathering.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KD8ZM on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
My survival communication plan is twofold:
1. Carry a MTR3B and a small antenna.
2. If that fails, I'll simply yell out loud in the forest, "I have $1000 for a political contribution!" I guarantee someone will find you in no time.
Brady kd8zm
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KD8ZM on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
My survival communication plan is twofold:
1. Carry a MTR3B and a small antenna.
2. If that fails, I'll simply yell out loud in the forest, "I have $1000 for a political contribution!" I guarantee someone will find you in no time.
Brady kd8zm
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K6PH on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I have a friend who ran out of fuel in the CA Delta on his boat. He wasn't a member of Vessel Assist or another "AAA for the water" type organization. He got on the marine VHF radio and sent a "pan-pan" transmission announcing his position and that he had a $100 bill for anyone that would deliver 5 gallons of fuel to him. He was on his way within a half hour. (This was back when $100 was worth something, and fuel was cheap.) :-)
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K6AER on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I carry a $299 DeLorme Inreach satellite text radio. Works anywhere in the world with built in GPS. Weighs about 5 ounces.

https://www.westmarine.com/buy/delorme--inreach-se-satellite-communicator--14643639

Even from my HF base station, there are days when no one is on CW.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KC5NGX on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Very True!

73 de KC5NGX
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KC5NGX on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Very True!

73 de KC5NGX
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K6UJ on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. Not too many actually answered the authors question. I will throw in my two cents. Yes I think Morse still can save you. So can other modes but we need to realize that with a very weak signal that cannot be copied by other modes CW is copyable. All is needed is to be able to pick up the make and break of the signal even if is very very weak. That is why we use CW for moon bounce QSO's. Very very weak but all we have to do is pick up the make and break. If you have a small weak emergency beacon sending SOS it will make it thru in very poor condx and very low power needed. Plus you don't need to know how to copy morse code to recognize SOS. :-)

Bob
K6UJ
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KF4HR on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
CW is good to know, especially if you're the ham receiving a SOS, although good points where made above. A lessening number of hams know or choose to learn CW. I've been a ham for over 50 years, but I wouldn't want to bet my life exclusively on a CW transceiver... especially on a Contest weekend.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K8QV on August 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I could send a CW sig but I don't have much confidence anyone who might be able to hear it could actually understand it these days. I remember as a kid one night on a camping trip I signaled a CQ across a big lake with my flashlight. One of the Boy Scouts camping on the other side answered me! That probably couldn't happen today. He'd need an app for that.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K6CRC on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The subject of code brings the haters out in droves.
Standard 'dumbed down ham radio' rants
And, usually some 'lazy kids' or 'CBers'
Maybe why we have so much trouble getting youth into the hobby.

To the point of the article, I doubt it.
If you are in harms way, a cell phone or a Sat phone only makes sense.
CW on HF would not be heard unless someone is looking on a specific frequency. I could scream all day on 2M HT here and I doubt anyone would know. Band is dead.
CW, FT8, RTTY, all fun for someone. Maybe not you, but no matter.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by PU2OZT on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Ditto, Randy!
Only something similar to what DSC is to Maritime Safety would be efficient in a nasty individual situation, again, involves Digital Modes, not CW.
Oliver
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by N2FQ on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I view and enjoy your videos BTW. Now irrespective of the cute little radio
in your hands I'm afraid you'd be disappointed in my opinion as far
as getting help on morse. As was pointed out, days come and go without
a station on the air. Except of course on contest weekends. Try
to get a morse message to your buddy with that cute rig on those weekends.
Heck, try to BK with morse on those noon nets found up the bands. See
if they can understand you.
So.. you are lost in the woods and need to be found, start a forrest fire.
So.. you ran out of fuel on your boat and need to be rescue, fly a Somali
pirate flag.
So.. your lost in the desert and want those sleek satellites to see you,
make a four letter word in the sand against your country leader. Oh.. they'll find
you pronto. All this is with tongue in cheek. Seriously, if I were to hear
a S.O.S on the radio, I'd be hard press to convince the operator at the
other end of the phone that I was listening to a morse code message
saying S.O.S. on my shortwave radio.

All my opinion of course.

Fernando N2FQ
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KC7MF on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I find Morse code entertaining. I think it is fun. As an emergency method of communication anywhere any of us might go? Not even in the top 5.

There was a time when it was what was available. Rather than packing a QRP rig and a hank of antenna, we would be far better off telling people where we are going and when we are coming back. Charge someone with reporting us if overdue. Carrying our cell phones fully charged is the first best choice. A spare power pack for the cell phone costs next to nothing. Even if one is away from a cell tower the cell phone will periodically "ping" attempting to contact a tower. IF we are going out of cell reach then we ought to think seriously about not doing it alone, sharing our route, sticking to it carefully and carrying some good analog rescue equipment.

The bottom line? CW is not a serious method of emergency communications in this day and time except in the very rarest of circumstances. And most of those carefully controlled in advance. It is a dangerous idea to believe that one should trust one's life to a QRP Morse rig or encourage anyone else to do it.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KC7MF on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Just a quick addition. The PRB, mentioned earlier is the only good choice for people going far afield. It broadcasts your GPS position for 24 plus hours on constantly monitored frequencies. It can be heard virtually anywhere in the world. It always means emergency. And it costs less than that QRP rig at about $250.00.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KB9CFH on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
A couple of morse code downloads.

MorseCat2.0
Superaldis3
WinMorse2
CWCommunicator (MRX Software AU)
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by G3RZP on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
>>>It was on January 23rd, 1909, and the first significant use of Morse code to save a great number of lives at sea.<<<

The first distress message was sent by the East Goodwin Lightship on March 17, 1899, being a relay on behalf of the SS Elbe, which had run aground on the Goodwin Sands. On April 30th, the lightship was rammed by the SS R. F. Matthews and sent the first CQD distress call, leading to the crew being rescued.

In 1914, the Empress of Ireland was in collision with a Norwegian freighter in the mouth of the St Lawrence: 1012 lives were lost and 465 survived: the radio operator managed to send an SOS, but the ship sank in 14 minutes. The radio operator - Ron Ferguson - became G4VF, a CW man to the end.

 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by DL8OV on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Can we therefore have a mention of Jack Philips and Harold Bride who were the Radio Officers on RMS Titanic? Both men stayed at their posts transmitting distress messages until told by the Captain that "there was nothing more to be done". Officer Philips died during the disaster but Harold Bride survived.

An awful lot of people owe their lives to ships radio officers.

Peter DL8OV
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KC3EYS on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
While true if using just a normal transceiver while randomly tuning the dial, a distress CW would be very hard to pick up, but with all the digital waterfall displays and such out there now, I would think people would notice the traditional SOS being thrown out there pretty easily.

That being said, the best way to prevent an emergency on the trail/outdoors is being prepared with the essentials and letting people know where you are going and approximately when you intend on returning.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by WO7R on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The great flaw in all of these pro-CW arguments is simple -- someone on the other side of the circuit needs to understand CW and needs to comprehend your message.

That means another ham has to be listening and has to not simply tune past you because it isn't rare DX or a traffic net or whatever they actually tuned up _their_ rig to hear.

And, on an emergency basis, how good is your signal going to be, anyway? Do you have a rig and a pre-cut 20m dipole to start with? How well will it "get out"?

Could CW save you? Maybe. But a satellite telephone, as someone else has pointed out, is far, far more likely to be up to the job.

Never mind an ordinary cell phone. Which is, get real, what 99 per cent of real emergency situations use. Including by hams.

"CW to save my life" is going to be such a far outlier of situations as to be statistically insignificant in 2018. Your cell phone is not. When the cell phone fails to register a signal, what are the odds that you have even a QRP "go kit," with a pre-tuned antenna, ready to go to start with? That you can reach?

This is just one of those feel good exercises we seem to need from time to time. Most of the time, when whatever balloon it would be is going to go up, you are going to be cut off from your rig, too.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KD8ZM on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
What we cw-only folks need to keep the "cw saves the day" dream alive is a cell phone that can can operate HF when needed, with a straight key app built in, and some small antenna jack built in.

Of course, it would still be a fantasy, but a more plausible one that cw would save us and we'd be the Ham Hero.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by W4IOA on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I understand it can come in handy when you're in a Turkish prison.
As stated in other replies, lots of things can save you as long as someone is on the receiving side
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K7LZR on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
In line with my earlier reply, keep in mind that Morse Code could save you even WITHOUT a radio.

How many lives have been saved in times past when there was nothing available for signalling except something to tap with or perhaps a source of light?

That is the beauty of CW - it is dead reckoning simple and goes beyond radio in its capability.

Sad that our military no longer requires it. Even in this age of technology it should still be a part of every soldier's skill set.

So in answer to the OP again: YES, morse code can still save you!
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by W0XX on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
God forbid, I am hoping if I ever have a stroke or something disabling, I can still do CW so my relatives around me can communicate with me, albeit, slow at first, but like sign language, easily teachable.....
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KB2DHG on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I happen to love CW and believe Morse Code should still be part of an amateur radio exam.

When band conditions are poor as they are now, CW can still get out and be deciphered...

Can it save you? Well, that is debatable, but I rather know that there are many CW operators out there just incase...

What I like is that on sleepless nights, I can put on my head phones, and QSO without waking up the XYL! and in those wee hours, making so many DX contacts...

HEY! look, it is all what I love about this hobby, so many different modes, BUT my opinion, YES Morse Code should be practices and used just in case!

73, DE:KB2DHG - - ... ... - -
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by NI0C on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
To Lou, KB2DHG:
I always enjoy your posts!
73 de Chuck NI0C
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KC6WGN on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
My story is not death & life situation here. It was about a dx station pile up most of the operators were running power in their radios.For myself I was running just 100 watts power on ssb and I tried several calls on ssb of 100 watts but didn't copied me. So. what I did I switched to CW mode same power 100watts maybe luckily the operator which was in pile up heard my call signed in CW. So, to me cw is still a wonder mode of ham radio. kc6wgn 73.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by G3RZP on August 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
There was a case here in the UK the other year, which I believe got mentioned on eHam.net. An ex soldier, walking on a beach in the early evening, twisted his ankle and needed help. He used his flashlight (English, a torch!) to flash for help and it was seen by his wife.....help duly arrived.

When my father (G8ON) was in hospital in 1974, having suffered a stroke, a Morse key and buzzer enabled him to communicate to the local visiting amateurs who passed information to the nursing staff...
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KW6LA on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Worked a hiker ( CW ) on a mountain top 300 miles away. He and his son were backpackers and the temperature dropped to freezing. He had me call his wife (landline) and tell her they BOUGHT
JACKETS before the hike. She was very grateful and it was fun contact for me. He was using a homebrew 1 watt radio and a thin wire dipole on 40 meters.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by VA3WYC on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
My argument does not lie in whether it is useful or not as both sides of the argument have been posted and discusses for years. There will be those who love it and those who don't. CÉ LA VI. Make it part of ham radio but NOT a prerequisite to become a ham.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AK4YH on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Here is a little video for people who don't think it would work:

https://youtu.be/aQUFW7Zlg_E

Gil.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by N4OI on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, CW will still save you! The concerns above about how many hams still work CW is irrelevant - you are transmitting HF CW in the CW portions of the bands. Virtually EVERY ham listening around the CW portions of the bands can work CW! And we ARE concentrating on the weakest signals (could be DX!).

And yes, the OP is correct that 5W and a long-wire compromise antenna will be enough -- just be sure to operate at the right times of day and on the best bands for propagation!

It always amazes me how tragic survival situations could have easily been avoided if one had even a Rockmite, some wire and a battery!

73
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by W7ASA on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
IF you're a person who engages in serious outdoor work and leisure, this makes perfect sense. I lived, worked and played in rough country for decades, wearing out more boots than britches. One item normally in my rucksack was a QRP rig (usually home made). It was absolutely normal to have DAILY scheduled conversations with friends and random conversations with hams I had not otherwise met. The very small support requirements of QRP CW rigs are well known: no peripherals, very low current drain on receive and small and robust enough to fit in with my mandatory equipment.

Size, Weight and Power had to be at a minimum, or else it did not go into the ruck.

With 1 to 2 Watts into a lightweight dipole on forty, I never had a lack of conversations, not those lame '599 TU' , but actual conversations, including relaying messages for crew members on site, when appropriate. Using one particular single band rig (SW40+) I've had a ham op phone our bush pilot with a change of plan, then relayed the results back to me via CW. Relayed countless e-mail messages, phone messages and more , all from very remote areas.

Very low burden of Size, Weight and Power requirements are essential for >extended< life outside of the shack. Quick up/down antenna is a plus. Morse fits this very nicely because of it's ability to be so effective (system gain) , with amazingly simple equipment.


73/72 de Ray ..._ ._
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AE5TC on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
As a pilot, we still use morse to identify navigation aids. All of the VOR's still use morse on their transmitter to allow a pilot to verify you are flying using the correct information.

I was in a class taught by a 30 year pilot veteran who was teaching about how to use the Sectional Chart to lookup the morse code for the VOR in question. I was super surprised this veteran pilot didnt know enough morse to be able to send us the right dih-dah-dits verbally for the VOR we were talking about.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KB5ZCR on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Regarding the folks that think that the chance of someone hearing you is slim.
I think that frequent cw ops would disagree.

I operate 100% cw (no mic even hooked up) and would feel very confident that pretty much any time of day there is someone on 7055 khz listening. It would not be long before someone heard your call and they would all know cw and be able to understand you and could relay your need.

There are many ops who only operate cw. Come listen in, give it a try, it's fun.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KP4DX on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
On September 20th 2017, Puerto Rico was hit by Maria, a Category 5 hurricane. I have severe hearing impediment which does not allow me to communicate on the phone or via phone operation in the Ham bands and neither have a satellite phone in my house! After surviving Maria, I set up a simple dipole and got on 20 meters CW. I had purchased an emergency 2KW generator a few months before! CW was the only way I could communicate with my children in California and Wisconsin. This also allowed me to help pass some traffic for some neighbors into the mainland USA. Via CW, we arranged for me and the XYL to get a flight out of PR four days after the hurricane.

Did CW save my life? I do not think so, but it really allowed me and my wife a way to pass information to loved ones during the crisis and helped in the arrangements of relocation. As an added note, there was no electrical power or cell phone service for months in most of the Island.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KA4RUR on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Only those CW operator that have worked the Maritime bands would know what a XXX or a TTT is. Those signals are not common for the amateur radio band. But most hams should know "CQD" if heard over the bands. de ka4rur.....
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by N4CQR on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Just a personal thought. I feel better prepared knowing Morse code than not knowing it. Just another wrench in the toolbox.

Best 73 Craig, N4CQR
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by NN2X on August 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
A nuclear electromagnetic pulse (commonly abbreviated as nuclear EMP, or NEMP) is a burst of electromagnetic radiation created by nuclear explosions.

That will wipe out semi conductors, only thing left are tube units.( I am assuming there will be some human left as well!)

For those who really seeking to provide communications for disaster (Like NEMP blast) which is a real threat, the Tube transceivers and of course Morse Code will be the only way to communicate.

I surely don't want to think about the above catastrophic event but that would be a shoe in for the need of CW (From a Tube transceiver)
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by W5DXP on August 29, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
> For those who really seeking to provide communications for disaster (Like NEMP blast) which is a real threat, the Tube transceivers and of course Morse Code will be the only way to communicate.

How would one power a tube transceiver after an NEMP? Wouldn't it be better to have your battery and solid state transceiver protected from an NEMP? e.g. in a plastic garbage can inside a metal garbage can?
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K7SZ on August 29, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Great question and judging from the feedback something that the great majority of us take very seriously.

When I was writing for CQ Mag I devoted a portion of one column proposing this very thing. With the smaller HF QRP rigs and some #26 stealth wire from The Wireman, one can put up an antenna. Some of these small HF rigs have a memory keyer and you can program "SOS de K...." and have it beacon.

CB (as stated earlier) is a great medium. I always carry a Midland portable CB rig with a telescoping antenna and a mic. This rig runs on 10 AA batteries which are part of the CB rig. I know that I can get some attention with that radio as well as a small HF Xcvr.

 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by W5DXP on August 29, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Will an unprotected automotive battery survive an NEMP? How about a solar panel wrapped in aluminum foil?
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K9MHZ on August 29, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
So, once you get your tube rig up and running post-EMP, who will you communicate with, using your finely honed CW skills? Some other ham living in Peoria, who will tell you "yeah man, this EMP deal really sucks"?

I guess there won't be much else to do.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by PU2OZT on August 29, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Hopefully, a perfect rhythm on your brass polished straight key -keyers are cooked- allows you to order some hundred gallons of fresh non-contaminated water and the same weight of ammunition.
Oliver
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KC4ZGP on August 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

No.

Morse has never has been a life saver. Morse will never be a life saver.

Even though Morse was use to signal distress for the Titanic, it still sank, people still died.

So no.

And K5FH's rationale applies only to rolls of toilet or cases of beer.

Kraus
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KC4ZGP on August 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!



...rolls of toilet paper...
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by N2FQ on August 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Well its been a good read with all the postings. Wish it was conducted
in the lower portion of 40,hi..

I'd like to add another opinion on the EMP scene.

Firstly, the postings on this issue are a bit limited and narrow.
Let me explain.

When an EMP event occurs, the failure most noted would be a lack
of power. The electrical grid is down. No power for the gas pump,
no power for ATMs, no power for pumping drinking water, no power
to flush your toilet. Most dense areas would be completely dark.

All those transformer and power stations will be broken and

fixing it all will be a monumental task, provided you can get

the workers to do it.

Your new car probably won't be working, even if you have gas in the
tank.

Heck..even those new type of aircraft with firewire controls would

have issues I believe. Hate to think about those outcomes.

Even if want to get out of town and stay with aunty, the airport,

train stations would be inoperable. Oh.. they have back ups

but time limited.

How about the people depend on electricity for their medical
devices?

Your local store probably would be closed since the workers
are having problems themselves and can't get there.

So your food chain is interrupted, the truckers can't supply cause
they are having problems too.

Now things are getting dire. What ,, you first thought is to string
a wire and put a signal out for help? Really...

That other ham is in a similar quamire.

Your city civility is endangered, even if that cell tower is operational,
police would be overwhelm as well as other services.


Several days in and you do anything to have something more substantial
than a radio for your safety.

People would do crazy things when deprived of basic necessities.

No food.
No water.
No flush.


At that point in time, would you care if that tube radio of yours
survived?

So fellow hams.. a very bleak thing to talk about. Maybe those
nomads out in the desert know something or two, cuz
us in the modern cities are heavily depend on electricity.

Since this whole thing was started by a radio preper, my comment
would be that turning on a radio in the above scenario, where
I can be found, is not an ideal thing to do in my opinion.

With all due respect to all and not to offend anyone, enjoy
your day and ponder.


Fernando N2FQ
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by W7ASA on August 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
We have a couple of wonderful examples in just these few posts of how well Morse worked when other options were not readily available. The gentleman who was in Hurricane Maria was a prime example of how well it worked for him and his family; knowing that they were safe, and to arrange the flight out. Then - for no reason - the TV minions in the crowd turn this to global, thermonuclear war.

EXAMPLE:

Me : I like a good tuna sandwich.

Him : If North Korea drops a nuke on your house, you'll be instantly incinerated and that tuna sandwich won't help you one bit.

Me: At least I die instantly and with a full stomach, after living a full life. You?


'Say you can. Say you can't. Either way, you're right'
- Henry Ford


Now where's that tuna????

>Ray ..._ ._
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AK4YH on August 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
You guys mentioned an EMP, not me... Now, we can think of more dire situations in which society has collapsed, like an EMP. Radio would certainly not be your primary concern, though a receiver might come in handy to find out what happened if you don't already know... Radio prepping is more about small-group communications than DX. It's also not about disaster relief, it's about your ass... After the dust settles, knowing what goes on around you might be of vital importance. If your neighbor decides to go check on family a couple counties down the road, give him a handheld and ask him to report what he sees atop the next hill...

Producing electricity in SHTF situations will be a major concern, hence the need for low-current receivers. IMHO no modern color-screen/DSP whizbang 2A transceivers will remain on the air for more than a few days. So owning a small QRP radio might be your only link to the outside world. A salvaged car battery can power my Weber MTR for months (not a typo).

Like all "preps," the likelihood that you'll have to use them is hopefully slim... But if you're already in the hobby, why not go the extra mile? We have a tendency to believe everything will always be fine, so we don't go about our days in fear. It does not mean nothing will happen. Most people who have been in natural disasters like Katrina now live differently... Their newly-gained understanding is not affecting their daily lives much, but they now reserve a bit of time and money for preparedness. Some people will call them fools... Same for Hams... "Why would you keep radios in a Faraday cage?" Well, because using a metal box works as well as a wooden box, but it serves an extra purpose, just in case... It's easy to discount simple precautions because they don't provide anything right now... Then when you need the extra help, it isn't there... If it's just about not storing a roll of toilet paper in your car, the consequences won't be so bad... If you don't know some toxic material is drifting your way or a band of looters is about to hit your town, it's another story... All right, fat chance, but shit happens...

I can think of lots of situations when a small portable HF radio would have made someone's day more bearable. People who live in remote areas, sailors, hikers, loggers, oil-rig workers, are among them. it's a long list. Even though I use a Delorme (now Garnin) inReach satellite gizmo, there is no guarantee that it will work or the battery will be charged exactly when needed. It could be damaged, heavy rain could prevent contact, etc. Ever watched satellite TV during a storm? Right, good luck with that... When the Bounty replica ship sunk offshore Florida, nothing worked but HF radio, and about fourteen people owe their lives to amateur radio...

You don't think a small CW radio can save the day? Wouldn't work? Again, check: https://youtu.be/aQUFW7Zlg_E and my other videos. A $50 radio like a QCX can be a lifeline, and it doesn't take much space in your trunk or backpack when you're heading out of town.

My preference for Morse code does not come from nostalgia or some weird fascination. It comes from efficiency. No other mode is as efficient while fitting in a case the size of a pack of cigarettes. No other type of radio will operate for hours using a 9V battery, days on eight AA cells. CW at 5W is as good, if not better than SSB at 100W. You don't need a computer or tablet, no interface but your brain, no heavy batteries. I use a 14W solar panel to charge 18650 cells, it's pretty darn small.

Not everyone has the time or the will to learn Morse code. Not everyone wants to spend hours soldering a kit, wondering if the darn thing will go up in smoke when you first power it... Though now some tiny CW radios are sold already built, like the MTRs. Most people don't even know amateur radio exists... That's all fine, but when I hear that Morse code wouldn't work, nobody would hear you, or those small CW rigs are toys (some are), I say you're plain wrong, and I can show you.

Gil.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KJ4DGE on August 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Most humans have nary a clue what the breakdown of modern society wold be like. CW and radio as stated would be the LAST thing on everyones mind. Survival is. But in that reality does your battery backup to call anyone really matter if as stated they have no way to help you? better to take the basic steps of prepping food, water, basic needs to give you a few days more to hang on. But even then what?

Hurricane Maria is a good example of this.How many weeks is anyone prepared to live on nothing?
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KG4RUL on August 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
To sum this up:

- If it makes you feel better, have an EMP proof, CW rig, with a renewable power source, on-hand.

- To really be prepared, have supplies, weapons and ammunition on-hand.

Remember the YOYO principle:
Your
On
Your
Own
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by G3SEA on August 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!

A sobering statement of Reality !

Just the first book 'One Second After' of the trilogy
is a sobering tale centered in North Carolina where
folks tend to be more resourceful.

G3SEA/KH6
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K9MHZ on August 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"Your
On
Your
Own"

Yes sir, and no spelling checkers will be working either.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K6AER on August 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
EMP is greatly overrated. Just like any other form of radiation it falls off by the Square of the Distance.

Double the distance and the level falls by 6 dB. Just like Lightning most of the energy is in the low frequency spectrum.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KG4RUL on September 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
So, the key is to be as far away as possible from the EMP burst. Not always doable!
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AK4YH on September 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
In 1859, nobody was far enough...

Another factor we don't often think of about radio in crisis situations is morale. Just being able to communicate with another fellow human can affect the outcome of many situations in a positive way. Not to mention the possibility of getting technical or other type of advise from afar, even a different continent. If I need emergency medical advise, I don't care if it comes from 50 or 5000 miles away, as long as it will help me.

Gil.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by W5DXP on September 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
At the ripe old age of 80, if I was in good shape after an NEMP and got a CW distress call from 50 miles away, if my pickup would still run, would I leave my wife alone to face the chaos and drive 50 miles to render aid to a stranger? I think the answer is obvious. Any aid that I could render would be information and advice over the air.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by VE7VJ on September 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I am almost hesitant to respond to this thread. But here are my $0.02

Retired now but I have spent a lot of time out and away from civilization. Backpacking was a pastime. We would head out for week or two stretches. Worked timber cruising and silviculture surveys. We would often get dropped off by a lake 100+ km from anything with gear and supplies for 2-3 week at a time. Back in the 70’s usually had no communications capability at all other than lighting a signal fire. So been there done that.

And yes I got my license (90’s) when code was still a requirement although I don't use it these days. Might take it up again. Jury is still out.

CW may help you but if you are not prepared, did not tell anyone where you were going, when you'd be back and do not know how to carry and use map & compass then you should just stay home. Otherwise if you head out, then don't worry. If you get lost it's OK. You're organic.

As shocking as it will sound, these days I would rather put my trust in a sat phone or sat tracker. The trackers are not all that much and as long as the sats are up and civilization running you can get a message out with your lat/long and someone will come and get you. All this nonsense about EMPs and end of the world scenarios is just table banging. If it got to that point and you did manage to contact someone are they going to come to your aid? Not very likely. As has been pointed out by a few above they will be up to their armpits looking after their own problems. You know, as much as we all like to believe we would be the stalwart hero fighting off the zombie hordes most of us would be outside clawing at the windows and drooling.

So yeah I guess there are situations where CW or even SSB QRP can help. And the author does have a point that a small transceiver and a bit of wire does not take up much room so by all means if you have the weight budget toss one in. But as long as you avoid Turkish prisons there are more reliable options. Technology advances.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KJ4DGE on September 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
In any uncivilized exchange the sats and most forms of communications will be the first to go. Knock out the supply lines and you win any war and that includes radio, and anything in the sky that propels it. Once that is done the chaos of the country brings it down even farther. No, its likely the SHTF moment would be all out retribution and the planet would be toast. Except for some poor folks in bunkers that have to live on a cinder afterwards. Rather think humanity is wiser but that is up for debate nowadays.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K7EXJ on September 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
For the ham who didn't think "pan pan" had a recognized equivalent in Morse; it's XXX XXX XXX. And it is recognized.

 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by VK3BL on September 2, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Just recently I witnessed a Ham friend have an episode where their body stopped working - weird disorder still under diagnosis - but they were able to just tap ... --- ... and we could administer some medication.

When it still didn't work and things got worse, they were just able to blink ... --- ... again and we tried one of their other medications.

Long story short, we pulled them out of the episode without having to call the ambulance this time.

So yeah, even if radio isn't involved, knowing the most basic of morse - SOS - and how to 'send' it and 'read' it in different ways can make a world of difference.

 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by LYFAN on September 2, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I'm retty sure the old requirement for all ships to monitor the high seas distress channels was dropped over a decade ago, and the USCG and other agencies no longer monitor those channels either. So, "sending an SOS" would be possibly pointless.

That's been replaced by The Red Button, digital selective calling, on VHF and HF radios alike. You don't send SOS, you push the button, and the radio transmits you location and specifics way faster than some radio operator can pound a key.

If you don't have automated digital communications, sure, distress calls will still work. And if you don't have voice communications, sure, Morse will still work.

It just has gotten to be the "system of last resort" these days. Sometimes, that's still quite valuable.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KJ4DGE on September 2, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
It does not hurt to still know morse code. Why? cause some twenty something in an impossible situation when your plane crashes in Bora Bora hears it might, might know what SOS means and of course a older radio op on a tanker at sea 500 miles out, better still pack a SAT phone and a few other things like a flare gun. All said its not a debate about whether its still relevant, its about what or how you get rescued...

Peace

KJ4DGE
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AK4YH on September 3, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"That's been replaced by The Red Button, digital selective calling, on VHF and HF radios alike. You don't send SOS, you push the button, and the radio transmits your location and specifics way faster than some radio operator can pound a key. "

Certainly. I am a sailor too, and I would definitely prefer using a dedicated marine distress system, however... A marine radio costs $2K, without the required tuner, and burns 1A on receive. For someone on a budget, with a smaller electrical system, it isn't always possible. A small CW rig burns 50mA and costs $50... It may not offer as much certainty of being heard but is certainly better than nothing!

Gil.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K3ESE on September 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
first licensed in 1968, I've never owned a mic. QRP CW, kit-built rigs and homebrew wire antennas contain all the fun I'd ever need!
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by WA3SKN on September 9, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The answer is "maybe".
You see, 80-85 percent of communications is listening.
So it is not whether you know morse code, but whether anyone that knows morse is listening.
Then the international Distress (SOS), Urgency (XXX), and Safety (TTT), can be applied effectively.
But if no one is listening... it won't matter much!
73s.

-Mike.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by W3ATT on September 11, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Whether cw can save you or not is arguable. However, if you want to learn it or increase your speed in leaps, check out all of the smart phone apps for Android ir Iphone. I used an Android app for a few months while commuting and my speed and ability to copy in my head jumped to over 30 wpm. Challenge yourself.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AG4SI on September 17, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Sure - I can envision some circumstances where it'd be ideal. Say, in a small boat (or even liferaft) well offshore (>50 mi) with a (by-definition) marginal antenna. The channel gain of more over SSB is well known.

We're dealing in probabilities here - the probability of someone hearing/responding to your distress call. I believe the chance of a successful response is better with morse than any digital mode. That may change in the future.

And the channel gain/performance of morse over SSB increases your range, which again increases your chance of another station responding to your signal.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by AH6FC on September 21, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Nice piece, mahalo.

Like everything in life...the more you know, the more alternatives you have.

Morse should still be required, even if it's only 5 wpm or less. Plus more requirements on digital modes...all the same rationale.

73, AH6FC
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KV6Q on September 22, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Research the Holland cruise lines "Prinsendam" from 1980. The ships radio officer had to send his SOS by Morse when his three phase power failed, and left him with only an old 40 Watt CW transmitter. A raging fire in the engine room disabled the main electrical generators, leading to a need to evacuate all off the ship, which was in the Gulf of Alaska. Many passengers were elderly, but all were evacuated with no significant injury. The call was delayed as the Captain was reluctant to authorize the distress call, being concerned about salvage rights. The RO went out on a limb and sent the call anyway, as he seemed to more fully appreciate the severity of the situation. He ended up being recognized in his country for his actions. The ship eventually sunk in deep water while being towed to a port for repair, and by then, there were no souls on board. Nearly 40 years ago, yes, but well within living memory. I don't believe such ships even bother with a RO anymore, and instead have an IT person as part of the crew.
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by NG5O on September 29, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"More hams are able to operate FT8CALL than CW by a very wide margin."

That would be the "participation trophy" crowd, with their 2 minute attention spans and smartphone-centric existence.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KL7KN on October 1, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Sure, my MFJ-9200 *could* be used to send a message to an active net that will take CW check-ins.

To be honest, I think a SPOT message with GPS accurate Lt/Long might yield better results, faster and not be viewed as a hoax.

But, that's just me.

 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by KM1H on October 5, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
It sure can and CW is only a small part of the usages.

A high intensity flashlight (very cheap these days) can be seen for miles even during the day at sea or on a mountain, a lake, and more.

Beating a drum or hollow log with the universal three S's repeated 3 times can be heard a long way.

A small emergency air horn can be used the same way.

The United States Navy thinks so much of Morse Code that it has reinstituted its use this year for the IT ratings that were formerly Radiomen.

The Signalmen still use it for blinker light communications which are very secure and those are also included on many of the small ship carried launches and available on shore.

Carl
Ham since 1955
Still use CW at 25-30 wpm
USN/USN Reserves 1959-87 ET, volunteer Radioman, volunteer Signalman 61-63 to relieve boredom at sea
 
RE: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by K3ESE on October 6, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
if the grid goes down, FT8 will be useless, but a small, battery-powered HF CW rig would not.
 
Can Morse Code Still Save You?  
by ND6P on October 17, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I think CW could save me in certain situations. I would go with a 40/80 rig with a VFO and break into an ongoing CW QSO rather than call SOS on an empty frequency. And in the case of a widespread crisis, I would want an AM-band radio receiver with me as well.
 
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