- Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community

Call Search

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Friends Remembered
Survey Question

DX Cluster Spots

Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement

[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting on HF Bands

from Anthony Luscre, K8ZT on July 2, 2019
View comments about this article!

Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting on HF Bands with Any License

Anthony Luscre, K8ZT

Website -

Morse Code, No Fun! Why?

Before 1990 all Amateur Radio licenses required at least some code and up until 2007 Code Proficiency was required to have most Voice HF radio privileges. It was something you had to do.

Many learned just enough to get their license but never used it on the air, they really just wanted voice privileges. Or worse yet, they got frustrated and lost interest in Amateur Radio. Now there is no code proficiency requirement for any level of Amateur Radio license.

Fun with Code- Maybe?

What if newer hams found Morse fun? That is the goal of this article along with getting you on the HF bands as soon as possible, help you get on the air using Morse code, learn how it can be a fun and effective way to make contacts on HF and there will be no testing or shaming of your code ability.

Fun with Code- Yes!

Morse Code could be Fun and Useful:

Gets you on HF now!

More efficient in getting contacts than SSB (especially with QRP- low power)

Lower cost equipment & simple kits

A very popular contesting mode

No one knows how old you are, your gender or your accent

Doesn't bother spouse or other nearby (with the shouting of voice contacts)

Did you realize you already have HF privileges with just a Tech License? Using CW- You Already Have HF Access!

You can use CW with your Tech License!

80 meters 3.525 - 3.600 CW

40 meters 7.025 ®C 7.125 CW

15 meters 21.025 ®C 21.200 CW

Many new hams are not aware of HF and 6-meter privileges that come with a Technician class license so let's take a look at them and what can be done with them:

6 Meters- Although a VHF band 6 meters has a number of features that can make it resemble the behavior of HF bands at times. Technicians have full privileges on 6 M including Voice, Data and CW.

During periods high sunspot activity the F2 layer of the atmosphere can support worldwide contacts like the HF bands. Unfortunately, we are at an 11-year low point in the cycle right now, so let's skip this one.

E Skip, on the other hand, is not dependent on the sunspot cycle and can support regional and sometimes even nationwide and Caribbean contacts. E Skip is more predominant in Summer months but can occur year round. In addition to SSB voice contacts, the extremely popular new data mode FT8 is especially successful at making E skip contacts under even poor conditions. For additional info on FT8 and MSK144 see my website's digital page and my presentation on FT8.

Meteor scatter is not dependent on the sun at all and MSK144 digital mode can provide regional and sometimes even nationwide and Caribbean contacts.

10 Meters is the highest frequency band has a wide variety of privileges for Technicians. During periods of high sunspot activity, the F2 layer of the atmosphere can support worldwide contacts. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier we are currently at the bottom of sunspot activity. Because of this worldwide and even regional contacts can be rare to come by. But there are still statewide contacts and rare openings (usually during contests) across the Western Hemisphere.

SSB Voice on 28.300 through 28.500 MHz.

CW on 28.000 to 28.299 MHz.

Data- RTTY, PSK31 and most recently and promising during poor band conditions FT8!

80, 40 & 15 Meters. Although 15 M is also quite dependent on solar activity, both 40 & 80 are bands that are open even during this low sunspot period. These Technician HF privileges are probably a surprise to many, but they exist and are just waiting to be used. The catch? These 80, 40 & 15 Meter privileges are limited to CW, but we will get to that below.

Now before I go any further this is not an article on the pros and cons of CW as a licensing requirement, an argument on old versus new ways of doing things or of any type of operator shaming.

The remainder of this document will focus on getting you on the air using Morse Code:

Learning Code

Using Code


General Guides to CW Contacts

Tips & Tricks

Fun with Code

Different people learn differently but here are a few ideas to get you off on the right foot. Do not learn to count dot (dits) or dashes (dahs) it will just slow you down. Learn at least 10 WPM (Words Per Minute) so you are hearing sounds of each character not counting elements (dots and dashes). One method of doing this is the Farnsworth Method. In the Farnsworth Method individual characters are sent at the target speed (CPM- Characters Per Minute), but extra space is sent between characters and words to slow the rate at which you have to translate (WPM- Words Per Minute).

Over the years there have been a number of methods used to teach code. Some of them involved a live instructor sending the practice code but many used recordings of sent code (phonographic records, tapes, CDs, etc.) one of the problems with these recorded methods was learner could soon memorize the code being sent as opposed to learning to receive it. Fortunately with the advent of computer software code practice can be generated on the fly. So I suggest one of the following:

Computer Software Programs

Apps for phones or tablets

Devices (self-contained hardware to designed to send practice code)

On-Air (best saved for after you have experience with code, just remember some code you encounter on the air is not sent perfectly)

If there is a class with a live instructor in your area that could be a good option (an excellent alternative to this is an online/on-air class option- CW Ops CW Academy .

Once you pick a method or methods for learning one of the most important things is setting goals and a schedule of practice. Having a buddy to learn with can be a great incentive in this process.

Computer Software Programs

G4FON Koch CW Trainer Software <>

LCWO Learn CW Online <>

CW Studio <>

Just Learn Morse Code <>

JMorse Trainer <>

morseDX <>

Learning Code- Android Apps (Available in Google Play Store)

CW Trainer from Wolphi LLC <>

Koch Morse Trainer

Morse Trainer

Morse Code Learn and Play <>

Morse Machine for Ham Radio- IU4APC <>

Morse Code Quiz <>

Morse Mentor <>

G0HYN- Morse

Learning Code - Devices

MFJ-418 Code Tutor <>

K1EL Morse Tutor Kit & Keyer Kit

K5BCQ Morse Code Trainer MCT <>

Sending Morse Code- Keys & Paddles

There are two main types of keying devices-- mechanical keys which connect directly to radio and electrical which require an electronic keying device. There are two types of mechanical keys-- straight or manual keys (see figure ##) and semi-automatic mechanical key also called bugs (see figure ##). There are two types of electrical keys- double lever paddles often called iambic paddles and single lever paddles. For a good explanation read Keys, Bugs, Paddles & Keyers, a Terminology Introduction <> and Sending CW <>.

Unlike the mechanical straight keys and Bug (semi-automatic mechanical keyer), both double and single paddles require an electronic keying device. These keyers come in a variety of styles. They translate the paddles movements in dits and dahs in both sound feedback and connection to key the radio. Most recent HF radios have built-in Keyers although some users prefer external units for their extra features. Most have adjustable speeds, programmable memories and other features like Iambic Keying Mode that can be set to auto complete letters. Here are two resources on Iambic/Squeeze Keying- Squeeze Keying - Iambic Mode Operation and Iambic Keying - Debunking the Myth .

Sending CW Via a Keyboard

Some Electronic Keyers have features and a port to use a PC Keyboard (PS2 and/or USB). A few radios have the ability to directly attach a keyboard to send CW (and even RTTY or PSK). Contesting software programs (N1MM, WriteLog, etc.) can send CW from computer keyboard by keying radio via a serial interface. Most contest programs allow Macros which can be programmed to send a series of CW exchanges during contest including signal reports, contest serial numbers, etc.). For additional information on Contesting Software visit

Speaking of Contesting, contests are a great place for the beginner to start using CW. During a contest, the amount and variation of code to be copied are limited and uniform. In most cases you only need to copy:

Their Callsign (but you have many, many opportunities as they will repeat it often)

It will even show up on DX Spotting Sites so you get an idea of what you will be copying

Your Own Callsign to know when they are replying to you

When they want you to send your exchange

? or AGN if they need you to repeat your exchange

R, QSL or TU to know they copied you

You can use a Memory Keyer, Keyboard CW or Contest Software to send everything you need to exchange with the contest station. Listen to the Podcast for an interview with me describing this entire process-

What if you still copy very well or would like a little help copying CW in the air?

Although they are far from perfect Morse Code Decoders can help. There is a wide variety of Morse Code Decoders/Readers available including computer Software Programs, Hardware Devices, Built into Radio Features and Phone/Tablet Apps. Morse Code Readers are not perfect and work best with: strong signals in the clear, perfectly sent CW, machine sent CW, (CW sent from keyboard or software program), usually better with faster WPM (CW under 10 WPM is usually especially problematic), when there is little to no QRM or QRN and when your radio has effective filtering and/or DSP.

Morse Code Readers- Software Programs:

MRP40 Morse Code Decoder & Sender <>

CWGet by DX soft <>

CW Decoder <>

CW Skimmer <>

Ham Radio Deluxe Digital Master (DM-780) <>

Fldigi <>

HamScope <>

Morse Code Readers- Hardware

MFJ-461 Pocket Sized Morse Code Reader

MFJ-464 CW Keyer/ Reader

K1EL-K44 CW Keyer/Reader

Cheap eBay Morse Code Reader <$12 Usually not the best decoders!

Morse Code Readers- Radio's with Built-in CW Decoders

A number of radios have built-in Decoders in including but not limited to Elecraft K3, KX3 and KX2; Kenwood TS-590 SG; Yaesu FTdx1200 with optional FFT-1 and FTDX3000 and Ten-Tec Jupiter (used only). The QRP Labs- QCX 5W, a single- band, High-performance CW transceiver kit has a built-in CW Decoder and is less than $50. Single-band models of the QCX are available for 80, 60, 40, 30, 20 or 17 meters.

Morse Code Readers- Android Apps (Available in Google Play Store)

Morse Decoder for Ham Radio <>

M3 Translator: Morse code <>

Morse Code Reader <>

Morse Code Agent

Tips for using a code reader successfully

Whether you use a hardware, app or built-in coder here are some times for success: always try to copy the code in your head at same time, listen to multiple QSOs before sending to get other stations info, use narrow filtering, use context clues to fill in missing or miscopied letters, know what stations usually send, know the typical QSO or contest exchange, know CW operating abbreviations, Q-code, shortcuts, cut #s, etc, use DX Spotting Cluster to get an idea of potential callsigns, when operating in contests use contesting Super Partial Checking software and N1MM History Files for exchange help.

Making Code QSOs Successfully Helpful Links:


A Beginner's Guide to Making CW Contacts

Making a CW QSO

Amateur Q Codes & Abbreviations

AC6V Abbreviated Numbers

Getting Better & Building Speed

There are a variety of ways to get better but the two that stand out are more practice and getting on air as much as possible to make contacts. Again a great way to practice is with a buddy. In addition to on-air practice, there are computer software programs and Apps. RAC's simpleMorse <>, RufzXP , Pileup Runner CW Simulation and Morse Runner CW Simulator .

There are a number of CW Groups and Clubs you might be interested in joining for support, news, awards, etc. The CW Operators Club , North American QRP CW Club , The International Morse Preservation Society and SK CQ Straight Key Century Club .

Web Links form Images

Learning CW

CW Ops CW Academy-

Computer Software Programs

G4FON Koch CW Training Software-

LCWO Learn CW Online-

CW Studio-

Just LEarn Morse Code-

JMorse Trainer-

Learning Code- Android Apps (Available in Google Play Store)

CW Trainer Wolphi Solutions-

Koch Morse Trainer-

Morse Trainer (Maciej Sady)-

Morse code- learn and play-

Morse Machine for Ham Radio-

Morse Mentor-

G0HYN LEarn Morse Code-

Morse Code Quiz-

Learning Code - Devices

MFJ-418 Code Tutor-

K1EL Morse Tutor Kit & Keyer Kit-

K5BCQ Morse Code Trainer MCT-

Keys & Paddles

Keys, Bugs, Paddles & Keyers, a Terminology Introduction Sending CW-

Squeeze Keying - Iambic Mode Operation

Iambic Keying - Debunking the Myth

Morse Code Readers- Software Programs:

MRP40 -

CW Get-

CW Decoder-

CW Skimmer-


HamRadioDeluxe Digital Master DM780-


Morse Code Readers- Android Apps (Available in Google Play Store)

Morse Decoder for Ham Radio-

M3 Translator-

Morse Code Reader-

Morse Code Agent-

Making Code QSOs Successfully Helpful Links:

SK/CW First QSO-

Beginner's Guide to Making CW Contact-

Making a CW Contact-

Amateur Q Signals & Abbreviations-

AC6V Abbreviated Numbers-

Contesting- Podcast for an interview with me describing this entire process-

Getting Better & Building Speed

RAC- Simple Morse-

RufzXP Callsign CW Practice-

PileUp Runner CW Simulation-

Morse Runner CW Contest Simulation-

There are a number of CW Groups and Clubs

The CW Operators' Club-

North American QRP CW Club-

FISTS- International Morse Preservation Society-

Straight Key Century Club-

Member Comments:
Add A Comment
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by AB9TA on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Archaeologists recently uncovered some of the original language from William Shakespeare's "Julius Cesar" before it was re-written.

"Friends, Amateurs, Hams, lend me your ears; I come to bury CW, not to praise it.
The evil that obsolescence does lives after it; The good is far in the past; So let it be with CW.
The noble Brutus hath told you CW is out of date: It is so, and Ďtis a grievous fault, And grievously hath CW answer'd it.
Come I to speak in CW's funeral. It was once your friend, faithful and just: But Brutus says it is old and tired; And Brutus is an honorable man.
It hath held many captives to the old and ancient ways. When that the poor souls have cried, ďI wish to joineth the Hams but cannot - CW blocks my path!ď And we wept: CW is a jealous spirit: And kept many from the Nirvana of the airwaves.
You all did see that upon the turn of the last century, the world passed up CW. Its bony fingers lost their grip over new Hams. Now Brutus says NoCode banished CW from the entry gates to Hamdom. And many more new Hams rejoiced that they could now finally join their brethren in the joyous Ether.
And, sure, he is an honorable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, But here I am to speak what I do know.
Some do still love CW: What cause holds you then, to mourn for it? O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason. Bear with me; the reach of CW from the coffin thus still holds the Ham kingdom back from Technological Progress, And I must strive and toil till Progress resumes her noble journey."

Bill AB9TA

Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by KE6SLS on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!

For me, I used an old computer program and an old Gordon West tape to learn the code--but my friend invited me to his code class. All three helped me learn the basics. The tape was fun though, so Gordo!

Mentoring is also a great help with all new ops. If you read this and are thinking about learning code, ask us! I have done several 2 meter sessions using simplex and our repeater links--it's also a lot of fun.

Making your first real contact is beyond description. I was shaking by the end of my first HF QSO at 5 words a minute--but I did it! Then I made another contact. After a while my speed was well over 10 words a minute and I was hunting hams calling CQ!

Gear is important. I really like the MFJ combo-keyer as it helps ops that don't have a natural rhythm send very good code. Others will do very well with a simple straight key. I have both and still love sending old school with my straight key.

Once you are on the air, hearing the code, you will realize you have just learned a new language--makes it even more exciting.

Have fun, ask questions, make contacts and ham it up!

TU for the submission om!
Jaye, ke6sls
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by W6SWO on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Great article with TONS of links and references. Very well put together. Thanks for sharing!
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by KW6LA on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
CW from the coffin thus still holds the Ham kingdom back!

Yeah I hated people who rode unicycles, until I could ride one too!
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by OZ8AGB on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I'd like to add G4ILO's Morse Machine to the list of learning software for Windows:

Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by KC3JV on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Just to let you know that not everyone can be really good at CW. I was able to pass the 13 WPM code test and started off with an advanced class license. For years I tried learning how to copy behind to pass the 20 WPM test. The truth is some people have the skill and some of us don't. I use PSK 31 and find it is able to go farther than CW because it can decode signals below the noise floor.

If you enjoy CW have fun with it I have an NUE PSK unit that is very small and with a mini keyboard can have fun even with portable operation.

Just to make my point again not everyone has the ability to copy hi speed CW. I admire those that do.

Mark KC3JV
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by K8QV on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
When did learning Morse Code become an almost insurmountable task? How did we ever learn to write the alphabet? In cursive, no less! How did we ever learn how to dance or play an instrument? How did amateur radio ever survive the Novice years??? Sheesh.
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by K8ZT on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Don't forget to visit for complete page on Morse including a fun project for youngsters- $2 Clothespin Key.
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by NZ7C on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Good article - thanks for posting. The FISTS group is a great and growing group that can be extremely helpful for learning. Check it out.
Beware The Many Di$tracting Pitfall$...! Reply
by VE3CUI on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
First-off, invest the couple of bucks that a good, used copy of the ARRL's old "Learning The Radiotelegraph Code" might cost you, tucked beneath some amply-stocked table at your next Hamfest...PERIOD.

FORGET about apps, tapes, computer programmes, youtube tutorials, etc. This timeless little booklet has ALL of the info that you'll EVER need to get started learning the actual SOUND of CW --- the dits & the dahs --- versus counting dots & dashes.

Yes, it really can be THAT easy to learn CW, at the pace outlined in this classic (but of course now out of print) publication.

When I first learned that the Canadian licensing authorities mandated a MINIMUM 10 WPM receiving & sending speed back in the day, I thought my Ham days were over before they even started --- but I SERIOUSLY dove into the ARRL book religiously, & in short order had a 15 WPM code certificate from the League before I even enrolled in a local evening Amateur radio class...!

And CW is STILL my all-time favourite mode of radio communications, lo these many 49 years that have passed since I first earned my ticket...

Remember the name: "LEARNING THE RADIOTELEGRAPH CODE" by the ARRL --- ANY edition will do extremely well by you, believe me...
RE: Beware The Many Di$tracting Pitfall$...! Reply
by N4CQR on July 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I built a little 30-meter rig several ( probably 25) years ago and had a blast with it. I think the total coast was like $20.00. Hooked it up to a fairly large dipole and I was in tall cotton. My Morse is/was sad, 7-9 WPM but, Damn I made contacts. Lots of folks really did not care about my speed as much as me being on the air. And that is damn good. 73, Craig - N4CQR
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by K6CRC on July 3, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Not a CW user, but enjoyed the article.
Lots of work and research went into it, and it enhances the hobby.
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by NN2X on July 3, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
My son just passed his Tech license. He is 12 years old. I have to say, he was one happy camper..

In my time, I had to pass the theory and Code. It was just that more satisfying as it was more challenging.

I passed the Extra in 1980..

Passing the code also help me with languages and of course with DX!

I like the digital modes as well..All very good..

C U all on the bands...

Tom Wright, NN2X.

Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by VE3WGO on July 3, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for a very detailed and well-written article.

It's amazing how well CW has stood the test of time. It's the only digital mode that we humans can encode and decode, and we can do it in real-time.

And with practice, we can equal and exceed the reliability and performance of even the very best machine based CW decoders.

CW is not the fastest human to human real-time communication mode. That speed record is held by voice, which occurs at about 180 wpm (depending on the participants) .... in other words around 8 to 10 times faster than the "average" ham's CW. But CW gets the contact through more reliably, when the conditions are tough. So just like those machine-readable digital modes, data rate rises with signal to noise ratio. Oh Shannon, you were right all along.

So if you want speed, talk! If you want fun, use CW!

And if you don't want direct human to human contact at all, I guess you can let your computer do the work for you with some encoded digital mode than humans cannot decode.

You have to admit, we humans are really quite advanced. And using a human-readable digital mode like CW that is difficult for machines to excel at, is rather high technology, IMHO. It just perplexes some "technophiles" that this mode has been around for so long.

73, Ed
RE: Beware The Many Di$tracting Pitfall$...! Reply
by K8ZT on July 3, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
You may also find useful-- "The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy A Manual For Learning, Using, Mastering And Enjoying The International Morse Code As A Means Of Communication" by William G. Pierpont NOHFF - and "ZEN AND THE ART OF RADIOTELEGRAPHY" by Carlo Consoli, IKOYGJ-
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by G3SEA on July 4, 2019 Mail this to a friend!

Code is fun but like languages takes some effort and practice. Young hams should pick it up quickly but anyone with patience and practice should be able to pick it up.

Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by KB6QXM on July 5, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Outstanding article. A good resource guide for CW. It is almost a marketing piece for CW.

If it wasn't for the whiners and the "inclusive" crowd and an organization known for pushing for the lowering of the license standards, then we would not need this marketing piece.

Either you learned the code or you found another hobby. No more published question pools or VECs. Either you learned the electronic theory or you found another hobby.

Hams used to have to receive AND send CW, draw circuitry and do all of this in front of a FCC examiner at your local FCC office. 5 WPM, 13 WPM and 20 WPM.

1 year non-renewable CW only crystal controlled and power limited Novice class license. Either upgrade or find another hobby. No excuses back then. People had focus and discipline to upgrade.

No whiners, no inclusion crowd, just serious people wanting to join an "exclusive" crowd back then. Shame that the hobby has basically been diluted to almost giving the license away.

Shame! I am an Advanced-class ham and I will be until I am a SK. Do I want to be put into a pool of Extra class hams that are no-coders or 5 WPM hams. The 20 WPM Extra class hams must be pretty upset. At least they could of given the new codeless hams a different license class name.

RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by K8ZT on July 6, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I am sorry but this is just what the article is not meant to be!

It is meant to be inclusive, not judgemental.

It is meant to encourage and not belittle.

It is meant to be positive and not negative.
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by K2DFC on July 6, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
"Many learned just enough to get their license but never used it on the air, they really just wanted voice privileges."

Not everybody. The best thing back it the 60's when I was first licensed was the old Novice license. CW was just another requirement. Learn it and upgrade within the time period or the ticket expires. A Heathkit code practice oscillator and W1AW nightly code practice is all that was needed. And, here's the big one. Get on the air and make contacts. The best way to learn CW.

Of course, today many strive to be proficient FT-8 ops. A few mouse clicks is all that is required.
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by HAMMYGUY on July 6, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent article!
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by K2FW on July 7, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with KB6QXM. The 20wpm Extra Class Ops should've had a different class of license. But the continued dumbing down of the hobby prevented that from happening.
Hopefully great organizations like CWOPS & the SKCC will be able to help some of the newer Hams become interested in CW. CW is already dying out in the world of DXing thanks to the stupid decision of the ARRL. Let's hope some of these clubs can help keep it alive for general hamming.

Steve K2FW
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by KB6QXM on July 7, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
@K2FW, Thank you for the acknowledgement. Don't get me started on the ARRL! Full disclosure: I have NEVER been nor will ever become a member of the ARRL.
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by N1NGV on July 8, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Great article Anthony. As others have said, it's very well written, illustrated, and VERY complete.
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by AA4MB on July 8, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Here's a couple of late, random thoughts on the subject:

First, thanks to K8ZT for posting this list of thoughts and resources. I appreciate the time that must have gone into gathering all of this and putting into a logical and reasonable format. My hat is off to you.

I agree with Mark, KC3JV to an extent about CW (or Morse, if you will) ... but I'd amend the comment and say that in my opinion not everyone can *excel* at CW. There are a lot of folks 'good' at it out there and, in my opinion, being good at it is all that is required to make it an integral part of your hobby, if you so desire.

In my opinion, Youtube tutorials, tapes, computer practice programs, random 5 character groups from your favorite code generator, etc., all fall into a category of unnecessary if you simply learn the code and begin using it on the air. I do think that this HAS become somewhat more problematic since there are not that many licensees with a Novice class skillset with which to converse. (i.e., to joinly talk to at the same skill level) I've had guys tell me on the air that say, "sorry for holding you back" when I QRS to their preferred speed. Yes, 5 - 7 wpm is dog slow to me now. But it wasn't when I was a Novice - and I feel as if I'm doing a disservice to them not to answer a CQ or prolong a contact just because someone is sending way slower than I'm capable of copying. I never, ever answer someone's CQ at a higher speed than they are sending - to do otherwise is rude, in my opinion. If I'm calling CQ at 24 wpm and someone answers me at 20, I generally assume that they are capable of copying faster than they are sending - but I also watch for clues that they are missing some of what I'm saying. If that is the case, I keep the keyer sending rate the same, but I space slightly more between words and letters. Not only does this keep the QSO going but it can allow the other party to incrementally nudge up their receiving speed a bit.

G3SEA is correct: learning conversational Morse is akin to learning a language and the same rules apply. Practice and patience are the key. Yes, young folks will pick it up much quicker than us old guys ... but I'm continually surprised at folks in their mid-30's to mid-50's that I encounter on the air who are relatively new licensees and have great skills sending and receiving Morse. But some folks will have a mental block about it and, doggone it, some folks seem to plateau at a certain speed and can't go beyond it. And that is okay with me and I hope it can be for them, too.

KB6QXM: I don't mean to speak for K8ZT or put words in his mouth, but I'm not sure that it is - or was intended to be - a 'marketing' device for CW. I don't believe that many people will look at it and say, "Oh, wow. All this stuff is available - I think I'll do CW!" I think this would have existed way back when if the Internet was in place and the web was in existence then.

It's my belief that people who have a desire to learn CW will be enriched by the content he published. Those who have no interest in CW simply will click the 'back' button on their browsers (assuming they clicked on the story title at all) and move on with what they are interested in. Further, I keep hearing how I should be incensed, angry or perturbed by all of these danged newfangled Johnny-come-lately Extra class licensees that either didn't pass their test in front of the FCC, but that has never occurred to me. The elimination of the CW requirement and the advent of question pools hasn't cost me a single contact, taken one single thing away from my operating experience or affected me at all. Perhaps I'm missing something but I've honestly never talked to another old timer Extra class like me who is worked up about it, either. I know you're out there (obviously), but I choose to look at it from another angle and wonder how many fewer contributing hams we'd have at this juncture if we'd kept the licensing scheme the "same as it was." And remember, nothing is the same as it was - NOTHING at all. Unless you started in the spark gap days, something was always different or better when the folks before you were there. And privileges were being tweaked or added/deleted by the FCC over the years. When I was licensed for the 4 different classes of tickets I've held, not once did I have to send CW or draw a circuit. I did listen to a crackly, noisy, punch taped Morse code generator in front of the FCC guy for three of those tickets, but to presuppose that folks can contribute little just because they didn't is quite a jump to conclusions from my perspective. As a novice, I was limited to 75 watts of input power and a few certain narrow bands on HF - and no 20 meters. I don't recall anyone deriding my contribution to the art or voicing the opinion that the hobby was being watered down just because I wasn't limited to crystal control or could run 'high power.'

I could begin to accept at least some of the arguments if I didn't regularly encounter the folks running SSB on 75-20 meters who are openly foul mouthed, bigoted and arrogant. On at least one of those 'attributes' they are clearly violating FCC regulations. Funny, though - in each case, sooner or later these guys have all talked about how long they've been involved in the hobby ... and nearly every one I've heard spews gutter language about incentive licensing, ARRL, no-code - the list goes on. Which tells me that a protracted licensing system and Morse code to 'weed out' the riff raff and keep out hobby from being diluted by the ignorant really didn't work out that well. I came along after incentive licensing was in place. That's all I've ever known in my 46 years as a licensed amateur operator. As much as I personally am uninterested in FT-anything for QSOs, I also recognize that the folks who use it almost exclusively are taking nothing at all away from me. I can choose to join the FT8 crowd - or not. They, on the other hand, are free to learn CW, use RTTY (which also is not a human audible conversation mode, but funny nobody rails against it), SSTV or (horrors) that killer of all things good, SSB.

Why, when I was a kid, we walked 20 miles over broken glass, barefooted, in the snow, uphill both ways to go to school to learn. And we LOVED it! It built character. And if the good Lord had intended us to use that danged single sideband, well ... don't you think he'd have supressed the carrier and one of them there sidebands to begin with?

Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by KJ7WT on July 9, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Very well done article! I started as a Tech in 1969 - 5wpm and the General theory test. I wanted to use voice on VHF, but a variety of other things interfered, and I didnít do much operating. When I got out of the military, I started using CW on the HF bands, and got up to around 10 WPM, but I REALLY wanted to do 20m SSB, so I got a code LP from Radio Shack and practiced from that until I could copy 15wpm. I took the test at the FCC office in Reno in 1983, and passed - I was now a General, and I never used CW again. Now, I find it interesting to see the resurgence of interest in CW, and Iíve tried a couple of PC training programs, but find that Iím just not motivated enough to stick with it. Iím down to about 7-8 WPS at this point.
I have also noticed that SSB portions of the bands are generally noisy (QRN) and Just plain dead most of the time. CW is also - I rarely hear any CW. But can always hear FT8, which is what I operate pretty much exclusively nowadays. Maybe Iíll get back on CW at some point, but itís a bit harder to re-learn as Iíve gotten older.
RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by KE6AFF on July 9, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Nice Jaye, I'm getting interested in learning CW and may take you up on that on-the-air lesson. 73 Rus
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by KF5KWO on July 11, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the great article. My kids like my MFJ keyer, so Iíll be visiting the links here to find some good programs to help them learn.

For me, I learned CW to get my General license, but I was only interested in voice at the time. Iím still mostly interested in voice, except for contesting, where I want to do voice and CW. This is my main motivation for relearning it now. More points!
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by BURGERLOVER65 on July 13, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
My favorite times in ham radio was using a Ramsey 20 meter transmitter with a Sangean ats-803a as a receiver during the sunspot low in 1995. I worked a vk6 station from the Nevada desert for a 30 minute ragchew. Ham radio has pretty much been downhill ever since then. It has lost it's magic.
Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Getting Reply
by AK0B on July 17, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent article and very well written.Hope you write other articles and ham radio.

73, Stan AK0B

RE: Having Fun with Morse, Getting Started with CW & Get Reply
by K8ZT on July 17, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
If you liked this article, watch for upcoming article on eHam- "Want to Work 6, 10 or 12 Meters But No Sunspots? Donít Miss Your Chance with Summer E Skip and FT8"; visit my home page and/or read my quarterly column in CQ Magazine "Microprocessors in Amateur Radio"
Email Subscription
You are not subscribed to discussions on this article.

My Subscriptions
Subscriptions Help

Other How To Articles
A Can, Can Sound Much Better!
Simple RF Radiation Detector
A Solar Powered Ham Radio Station