Dave Finley, N1IRZ   

          Richard Stubbs, KC5NSZ (MFJ)   (800) 647-1800  Ext. 123

New Book Brings Fresh Approach to Morse Code Training

Morse Code is the most hotly-debated topic in Amateur Radio. Both sides of the debate agree that the 13-word-per-minute code requirement is a barrier; they disagree, often intensely, over whether that is good or bad. Into this firestorm, author Dave Finley, N1IRZ, throws the first fresh approach seen for years.

"Most of that barrier is artificial and unnecessary," Finley says. "The pain and frustration that so many people feel when trying to get to 13 wpm are largely the result of approaching code training with little understanding of the process and poorly-designed techniques."

In his new book, Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier, published by MFJ Enterprises, Finley shows how hams can use the most efficient code-training method ever devised to overcome frustration and quickly gain proficiency at 13 wpm and above. That method was devised in the 1930s by the German psychologist Ludwig Koch, who got his students proficient at 12 wpm in as little as 12.5 hours.

"Koch's method was ahead of the technology of its time," Finley says, "and so it was ignored for decades." The wide availability of microprocessors, however, means that "it is time to dust off Koch's training method and bring its benefits to hams and potential hams." In the 1930s and 1940s, Morse training was studied extensively by psychologists, but no training technique ever came close to the efficiency and effectiveness of Koch's.

In Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier, Finley describes what code training really is and why Koch's method is the quickest route to high-speed proficiency. He clearly outlines how, using a home computer or one of the rapidly-proliferating microprocessor-based code machines such as the MFJ-418, individuals can use the Koch Method for their self-training.

"Koch's training method is best known for its speed," Finley says, "but what's more important is that it gives the student constant, positive reinforcement. That way, the frustration caused by other methods never sets in, and the temptation to give up on the code is far less."

A positive attitude is an important part of successful code training, Finley emphasizes, so he included a fast-paced chapter on the history of Morse Code and the fascinating people who made that history. Though aimed at newcomers, even veteran CW operators will enjoy this account of Morse Code's history. "When someone learns and uses the code, they become part of a tradition more than 150 years old. I think it's exciting to become part of something that colorful, and knowing the history can boost your motivation."

Finley didn't always feel that way. A longtime electronics hobbyist and SWL, he wanted to be a ham for more than 30 years. Morse Code was what kept him out. "I tried several times to learn the code. I could get as far as memorizing the characters, but always quit in total frustration before getting up to any decent speed." After one of those abortive attempts to learn the code, "I went to an FCC office and passed the test for a First Class Radiotelephone License with radar endorsement just so I could have some kind of radio license to hang on the wall."

In 1991, he became one of the first no-code Technicians. "I soon got bored with HTs and repeaters, then discovered DXing on six meters. After that, I just had to get on HF. I became obsessed with learning the code." Starting with traditional code-training methods, he then stumbled onto information about Koch's technique. "Soon, I realized that the only real progress I was making was through Koch's method."

The Koch Method worked so well for Finley that "the first -- and only -- code test I ever took was the 20 wpm Extra-class exam. I passed it, and soon began using code on the air. To my great surprise, I loved CW operating and now it's nearly the only mode I use."

Curious about why Koch's method had worked so well for him when other techniques had failed, Finley began reading the aging psychological literature about code training. He developed a lecture that he delivered to ham gatherings in his home state of New Mexico. The enthusiastic response to those lectures, and frequent requests from other hams for more information, led him to write Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier.

"I think CW operating is a lot of fun. I'd like to help others enjoy that fun," Finley says. For that reason, Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier also includes extensive information on sending code; keys, bugs and keyers; basic CW operating; and how to enjoy the many on-the-air activities involving CW. The book thus serves as a complete manual for the ham who wants to pass the code test, gain HF privileges, then enhance their on-the-air enjoyment by using the code in a variety of activities.

The debate over code testing will continue, but, Finley says, "I'll let you in on two well-kept secrets: First, code training doesn't have to be painful and frustrating; and second, using Morse Code on the air is fun." That message will come across clearly to readers of Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier.

Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier (MFJ-3400) is available for $19.95 plus shipping and handling, from MFJ Enterprises, Inc., P.O. Box 494, Mississippi State, MS 39762, (800) 647-1800,, or from your nearest MFJ dealer.