Keep The Code

A case for Morse code in the digital age.

The Morse Code has been a foundation of Amateur Radio from the beginning. In fact, Amateur Radio started with spark gap generators, how would any other mode have been possible? If it wasn't for the code, there would be no radio today.

Why keep the antiquated Morse Code?

First, sometimes it is the only way a message can be sent. I have had Morse QSO's where the band was so bad, there was no tone on rx, just a rise in the noise level. Morse Code can get the job done when NOTHING else can.

Second, is discipline. A ham who is willing to spend the time learning the Code is less likely to bring the CB garbage to the ham bands. Is this foolproof? Of course not, some of the worst offenders are 40 year hams with extra class licenses. But, the easier it gets to be a ham, the more morons we are likely to attract. Why would the average lid with a ten second attention span spend months learning the code so he can mess with us when he can buy a C.B. or FRS and mess with someone else much easier?

Third, the code uses the least bandwidth of ANY communications mode. Efficiency has no place in the future?

Fourth, Morse Code is the chosen mode of QRP operators because of the above reasons. People who know use the Code.

Fifth, the Morse Code acts like an international translator. Two hams who do not speak the same language can communicate in code using the Q and Z signals. Try doing that on SSB!

Who wants to get rid of the Code?

Simply, people who want all the benefits of amateur radio without the work. They want it all, and they want it now. We saw this in the written testing part in the U. S. twenty years ago, when the Bash books made it easier for applicants to memorize the theory, rather than learn about how radios work. It is now possible to buy a book, memorize it, take the test, and become an extra class ham without learning anything about how radios work.

And, now they want to get rid of the code because there is no quick memory trick or Bash book for Morse Code.

Should the Code be Mandatory?

Yes, and no. It should be mandatory to show you know the code during testing, but, if you like, you never have to use the code. No one should have to be restricted to using a mode they do not care for. But, if you want the benefits of amateur radio, live by the rules. It will take a lot less time to actually learn the code than it will to whine about it. Just do it.

Why the Code is worthwhile

A study was done in net operations that proved that good morse operators can pass 3.75 messages to every voice message. By the time the phone operator can spell a complex chemical formula phonetically, the morse operator has completed the message, and is on to the next. Morse is very precision that way.

Another thing about Morse Code, is that it acts like a universal translator. Hams from different countries can carry on conversations in Morse Code. If a ham is too lazy to learn The Code, I guess learning conversational Cantonese is out of the question. What good is it to get that elusive dx contact if you and the dx station cannot pass enough info to qsl each other?

Then there is bandwidth. The average cw signal takes up approx 55 hz of bandwidth. The average SSB signal takes up 3.0+ KHz. Think of the congestion that would result if no one was using cw to communicate. The average qrp operator uses less power to work the world on ten meters than the average CB'er uses on 11 meters to talk down the street. If the cw bands were turned over to ssb, qrp would virtually be put out of business overnight.

We also have many mute amateur radio operators. While it is true that they will be able to use the more modern digital modes to communicate, if we do away with the code segment of the band, where will they communicate? They will have to scan the entire band looking for someone to talk to, and when they finally make contact, some lid operating a KHz away with his SSB splatter box will crush his qso.

And then there is contesting. I am not a fan of contesting, I do not think contesting is useful for honing the skills of an emergency communications operator, it is only good for running up scores using poor operating practices, causing deliberate interference, and profaning the gentleman's bandplan agreement.

Having said that, I have noticed over the years, that the average contest operator that uses cw (at least part of the time) is usually a much better, more considerate, and well rounded operator. In fact, I could actually turn most of these types of hams into real emergency communicators. And, you never find a cw contest operator in the sstv window calling cq contest, and pretending they cannot hear the sstv operators using the frequency.

The ONLY logical argument against the code

"I don't have to take a test to use psk-31 or 'phone' or sstv, why should I have to take a test for cw?" On this we agree. But my reply would be, "Why don't we have to take a test to operate these modes? I would gladly submit to a test for every single mode that amateur radio allows us to use, if it would keep amateur radio from being reduced to the lowest common denominator. If it cost $250 for a ten year license, I would pay it gladly to get rid of the lids and ignorance that are encountered on a daily basis".

In Short

I highly resent some morons have decided to strip away the nearly 100 years of experience that is the history of amateur radio. If you do not want to learn the code, buy a cell phone and leave us alone. It is NOT that you cannot learn, it is that you WILL not learn. We have given bandwidth to allow you to use our radio service, but you were not satisfied. You want it all. You cannot even let us have a segment of the band for cw only. No, you have to have total instant gratification. You have to have it all. Don't let your lack of intelligence get in the way, just take the whole darned thing.

If we have to lower the bar so that the stupidest person in America can become a Radio Amateur, I will give up my license, and let the idiots turn the Amateur bands into the new CB.

7's and 3's good buddies

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This page last updated by KF8GR May 16, 2005