CW is for Amateurs Only
I'll start off by saying the I support the requirement for keeping morse code as a testing requirement for HF privileges. Everyone must realize that many of our fellow hams around the world can not afford or get these new high tech appliances we take for granted stateside. I DO NOT consider the Technician class ops as "Half-Hams" or "Glorified CBers". I will admit that I hold some Technicians in that category after I hear them operating for a while. I also hold some other operators holding tickets from Novice to Extra.
Now why I believe we should keep the morse code requirement. There are a lot of people out there that are trying to get the morse code requirement dropped. They say morse code is antiquated and its time is over. If it so antiquated, why it so highly used in contests and by DXers? They know that CW is the best mode for whatever band condition they face! Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't they say Latin is a dead language. Medical and law books are full of latin. One thing they won't say is that cw breaks the language barrier. Between the Q-code and abbreviations, you can communicate with people that don't speak the same language as you.
Some say that the theories could be made more difficult and large so they couldn't be memorized to make up for the lack of CW. Others state that the tests should exist as is and just drop the CW. First of all, aren't these the same people that got the tests easier so more people could get their ticket. We all know that the tests will not be made more difficult so that arguement doesn't cut it. For those that want to leave the written tests alone and just drop the code, they have told me that hard tests do not make good operators. I will agree that hard tests don't make good operators. But, is it not also true that the Amateur Radio Service is partly there to produce electronics and communications experts. The theories as they currently exist, don't do more than scratch the surface when it comes to electronics. The removal of CW as a requirement takes another piece away from the puzzle so to speak for the communications specialist as well. Is that not what we really are anyway?
Another arguement they use is that I've heard is that nobody ragchews on CW. Give me a break! If you honestly believe this, then you've established yourself as one that doesn't know the facts. I will agree that most new CW ops' first contacts are not much more than Name, QTH, and RST. I have, however, had some very pleasant and long ragchews with new hams and old timers alike. The main thing here is getting the newer ops past their nervousness and finding out they're interests are. Get them on an interesting subject and the ragchew is on! When the band conditions are not good enough for reliable communications on your chosen mode, come by and listen to us having all the fun ragchewing the time away!
All the people out there whining about not having any HF privilages knew what was required when they got their No-Code ticket. We already live in a welfare state and now they want something for nothing as well. If you wonder what the HF bands would sound like if the cw requirement were dropped, just listen to 27 MHz when that band is open and you'll find out. Some No-Code Technicians (and other classes) go there to try to work DX when it's open. I know this is a fact as some of these idiots admit it. Talk about idiots, they admit they're knowingly in violation of federal law and then wonder why we don't want to give them a free ticket to HF. I say the best things in life are worth a little effort. So if you want the privilages bad enough, you can learn the code. If you keep telling yourself it's too hard to learn it, you never will. If you're one of those people that get ticked off over the spectrum auctions, you should be in favor of the code. After all, cw has the narrowest bandwidth of any mode we use. So in essence, cw preserves our spectrum.
I recently read a suggestion that we could combine the written and cw elements. Isn't this just another way of dropping the cw requirement. The question pools aren't so big that they can't be memorized. The only tough written is the Advanced and there's no cw required for that one. Talk to some VEs and if their honest, they'll tell you the tests are already too easy. If the cw requirement is dropped, there will be a lot of Extras that can't make a simple resonant dipole. There are a few of these guys already.
I contacted one organization that said we could make the people build a reciever out of a pile of parts as part of the test. As much as I would like to believe that could happen, I'm a realist and I know that isn't going to. These organizations have a lot of good ideas but none of them will ever be put into place. So stop wasting all your energy trying to remove the requirement and use it to learn the code and you'll find it IS worth the effort. If they do get it dropped, my microphones are for sell and I'll not work anybody whose fist sounds electronic. I read an article a while back and it stated that only 3 percent of the world's population can communicate with morse code. Sounds like we're a group of communications specialists to me.
Last but not least, some have argued that the morse code requirement is keeping people from entering our hobby and chasing others out of it. Is it really just a numbers game? If that's all they want then they should try to drop all testing and a license should be handed out to everyone when they're born. I personally would rather have a smaller group that will play an active role rather than a large group of watchers. If anyone is giving up amateur radio soley because of the morse code requirement, they're really showing a lack of commitment. That is not something I want in amateur radio. If it were not for those commiting themselves, the hobby would truly cease to exist.
A good friend of mine was at the house one day and asked me "Can you really make any sense out of all those beeps?" I just sat back, smiled, and told him about those magical and musical sound we use for communication. I had picked up one of those nasty little decoders for just such a situation from a local ham. I hooked it up and made a short contact so he could read the conversation. The atmospheric noise made the decoder miss some but he got the idea of what was going on. He has not started studying yet but the code did get him interested. He had been here when I was working a DX contest but he found code more interesting!
For those who use it, there's something magical about it that the rest will never know. I know many hams that looked at it all wrong. They feel it is something to be hated after being "forced upon them" without a choice. Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't remember anyone telling me I had to upgrade and work HF. I did not have that problem anyway as I only wanted to work HF so I started as a Tech-Plus. Many of these same ops have changed their minds completely after making a few contacts. These are the ones I call the lucky ones. The rest will continue to come up with excuses why they can't (WON'T) learn code. I can't understand why many of them don't want to learn a very useful communications tool. They will say it's too difficult and impossible to learn but that's just BS! I know it and they know it but they won't admit it.
It's true that basically everyone except amateur radio has dropped the code. That doesn't mean we should follow the herd. I can say that the U.S. Government has and still does many things that are down right stupid and makes you wonder how they got the job with no intelligence. I know some day amateur radio will do away with the code requirement as well and that will be a sad day for the hobby.
I don't think CW makes a person a better operator but one thing it does is to teach ops about proper procedures. Have you listened to 10 meter SSB lateley? A large percentage of the ops I've worked only learned code to get 10 meter phone privileges and it shows. I hear more Q code on there than I do on the CW bands and often improperly used. I guess they're trying to sound like a ham. It's a strange language also used on 2 and 6 meters extensively. I think it's origins go back the the "Golden Screwdriver" owners on 27 MHz. It blows my mind knowing some people are willing to learn and use "2 meter talk" while unwilling to give CW a try.
Have you given QRP a try yet? If you haven't you should. It's amazing how far you can communicate with only a couple of watts. Have we forgotten that we are only allowed to used the minimum power necessary to make and maintain the QSO! My personal best so far is New Zealand (8000 miles) running 2 watts. Not too shabby and I don't have "Big Antennas High in the Sky" either. I used CW and wouldn't have made those ZL contacts under those conditions using phone! While I have worked a few QRPers using phone, those contacts were very few and far between.
These are for all the CW ops out there. I am by no means a high speed op. I think that more of you should start spending some time working slow code to help out the new hams. Remember what it was like when you started working CW? Your fist was lousy and you were very nervous. If you were lucky, someone would answer your CQ with a beautiful fist and a world of patience. I too had this experience the day after my ticket arrived and it has made my first memories of CW a pleasant experience. Thanks Bill K3DC! So now I'm trying to repeat it for as many shaky new fists as possible. If everybody doesn't take time every once in a while to work new CW ops, they'll never come to love it as you do! I know several people who do this and they know the reward isn't something that you see or can put your hands on. Instead it is a feeling of knowing that reguardless of what some may do, our mode will remain an active and intricate part of the hobby!
One of the best things about operating CW to me is the low power aspect. I have turned the power on my TS450S down to 4 watts and was I suprised. I had so much fun that I built a NorCal 40A and now run 2 watts on 40 meters. QRP is fun and it forces you to improve your skills to make contacts. I have met some ops who make a special point to answer QRP CQs. The only problem I've encountered so far is the LID who doesn't check to see if a frequency is in use before tuning up or calling CQ. One can only hope these ops and I do use the term loosely, someday gain some intelligence and figure it out. If you're one of them, try to listen a little before you force a QRP ragchew to end prematurely. I'm sure you don't like it when this happens to you so try to give others the respect you want. It never hurt to QRL 2 or even 3 times before proceeding and I do practice what I preach if your interested by the way! So give QRP a shot if you haven't already and you just may love it.
How do you become a proficient CW Op? Practice, practice, and then practice some more. Like so many others, I used code tapes and computer programs to learn the code and increase my speed but doing that doesn't make a good fist. The best way to do that is On Air QSO's and preferably ragchews. While many hams try to increase speed, it is more important to send quality and not quanity! What good is sending fast if the recieving station can't copy your fist. I personally work slow code on the novice bands and only use my iambic key during contests. I truly enjoy ragchewing with new hams on my straight key. Too many ops think a CW contact is only RST, Name, and QTH. A good ragchew on CW is more enjoyable to me than SSB any day of the week!
This next part is taken from a post to the CW reflector which I subscribe to. I have gotten permission from the author to place it on my web page. It is well written and thought out. I shared this with many of the CW ops I know personally and they loved it. I thought you might too!
"So long as there is an international requirement for some demonstrated proficiency at morse, then even the gang at 5 wpm will have a chance to meet others on the bands and develop their abilities. Patient and careful nurturing of these folks will do us more good in the long run than acting like they are second class humans and don't belong to the same fraternity. All of us, or perhaps most of us, started with a xtal controlled transmitter and an old hand key and worked our way up to what ever class of license we hold today and the privileges it gives us. For some, that growth was easy; for others it was a lot of work. I personally fall somewhere in the middle
and in part the reasons for it are somewhat my own fault. I learned things backwards. I could send 22 wpm on my old flame proof navy knob key without a hitch, before I ever learned to copy a character. My only teacher was a page out of the handbook with the code on it and an old Hallicrafters S40B receiver tuned to the W1AW code practice on 80 meters. I had the answers to the Q & A manual down pat for nearly 2 years before I started to teach myself the code. Why? Because I dreaded it! Then I met an old timer named Bill Flower. 72 years young. Bill was in every way a Ham except for one thing. The Code. He was a repair tech in the military and not a radio op like he wanted because he couldn't learn the code in the allotted time. He Loved hams
and ham radio and was an ardent SWL and ham band listener. He knew the rules and regs as well as anyone and the theory was a breeze; but his ability to learn the code was his real downfall.
Well, to make a long story short, he was befriended by a fellow ham who
taught morse in the navy and was a great op. He told Bill that he could teach a ROCK morse code and if Bill would give him an hour a day for the next few weeks, he would be ready for his test (novice/tech. This was 1968) Bill took him up on his offer and I got a sage piece of advice from that instructor. Bill followed his teachings and I learned on my own but used some of his advice and we BOTH took our tests about a week apart and got our licenses. When Bill came to the next Club meeting you would have thought he just won the Lotto!! He had a smile on his face you couldn't have taken off with a chisel!!! This man had finally gotten something accomplished he had wanted all his adult life. He was finally a licensed ham!
Now, there are a couple of reasons for telling this story on the
reflector, and I think you will agree with most of my reasoning.
1. Its true.
2. It only demonstrated that if I wanted to not be like Bill and wait
all of my life to get the thing I wanted most, I had better use what ever means of learning the damn code and get on with the rest of my education in the hobby.
3. If you really want something bad enough and are willing to work at it,
there is bound to be someone out there who understands your frustration
or inability's and will help you get through them to achieve your end goal.
4. There is no substitution for a good teacher or teaching method and
tools to learn something.
5. I was 15, Bill was 72. If he could do it, I damn sure could.
May 22, 1968 I became licensed as Novice, WN1IMU and Tech WA1IMU. 11
months later I took the tests for General and Advanced and received WA5YXN. November 1976, after 3 tries at the FCC office in Denver I became WB0GMF EXTRA and a month later received my new call of K0QZ. I never gave up and learned the code on my own without the aid of all of the toys available today. Morse teaching programs for the computer, audio tapes, etc. were unheard of then.
One piece of sage advice kept me going. "Do it because you know you can. If you find you can't do it on your own, get someone to tutor you until it becomes a second language to you but, NEVER QUIT!!!"
Since that time I have found that the lure of Ham Radio and its
operating privileges will always draw some to the hobby and, if you
take the time to make it all seem just so "as a matter of fact" in the
learning process, even the most thick headed folks can learn the theory
AND the code. Patience and persistence are both virtues that help.
I once had a group of CB ops tell me that they had a brain fart every
time they tried to learn the code and one told me he didn't think he was
smart enough to learn the theory for Ham Radio. I do love a challenge,
so I bet them (4 of them) that I could teach them all enough to get their novice and tech licenses in 6 weeks or less if they would give me 1 hour/3 times a week for code practice and theory lessons. If I lost, I would buy each one of them a new SSB CB. If I won and they all got their licenses, they had to take my wife and I out for dinner at the restaurant of my choice.
The results: 2 got their tech, one got his novice and later got his
tech, and one QUIT! That's batting .750 from where I stand. The quitter I
think was a quitter at most every thing he ever started and for him, I don't have the credentials to help.
Now the point of all of this story telling is simple.
I never brow beat any one of these guys into getting interested in Ham
Radio. An open hand will always get more done than a closed fist. THEY
decided to accept an offer to learn from someone who knew all the wrong
ways to learn it. My patience and persistence was obvious and they took
it upon themselves to take advantage of something that they never had
before; A WILLING AND DEDICATED TEACHER! We both won.
It is always easy to be an armchair quarterback if you have never played the game, but if you KNOW what the game is all about because you have
and are playing it, then extend the open hand and TEACH others the
mystery, magic and music of the code. Show how much of an opportunity
it is to be able to learn and use this magical gift of knowledge! After
all, isn't the magic of and mystery of radio what got most of us started
in the first place? It wasn't "HI TECH" whiz bang radios, or big chrome
plated knobs and meters we envied. It was the ability for a guy down
the street to communicate around the world in a language that was common
to all other operators that intrigued most of us. You could learn a
foreign language that only had 26 letters, 10 numbers and a few special
words that allowed you to talk to anyone else on that radio no matter
where in the world they were! A language with a proud and historical
background. A language that was responsible for being able to send
messages anywhere. "What hath God wroght"!
That, my friends of the net, is the message we should be sending to
newcomers to the hobby. Its a labor of love and a language that you
will remember the rest of your life. It has a place, a home, in the
operators that chose to use it.
Teach the magic. Let the rule makers change the requirements to less
than what we had to learn. It then becomes up to US to teach the magic
of its use and knowledge. Teach it.
Remember the pride you felt when you finally passed each code test?
Teach that pride.
Well, that's my 2 cents worth. I know I am preaching to the choir here
but my message is sincere and heart felt. We are the only ones who can
make the mode of code last into the next century, if we choose too, and
I really believe that just because the FCC or whomever chooses to lower
the speed requirement for licenser, we can still teach the magic and
music of the mode.
Thats my opinion.
73's to all.. Mike Baker K0QZ/7
Mike Baker K0QZ/7
Vice President of the Arizona Amateurs on TV"
Become A Know Code
Then You'll Know What You've Been Missing
Send comments or any questions to email@example.com
Back to my home page.