Under designation of Amateur Radio are concealed a lots of activities. By all of these, the telegraphy is the most controversial, dividing the hams in two parts: some love it, others hate it. About me, I tell you that I'm not a such a skilled telegraphist, but the most great satisfactions in traffic I had that using this mode, so nothing could stop me to try to stimulate any other person to use it. All that follows below is for those eager to learn or to skill up the Morse code.
From all of the working modes of the radio amateurs, the most powerful, but the most dificult of them, is the Morse Code, the telegraphy, or in hams jargon, CW. Out of the official's claims, this is a necesity for every radio operator. In spite of the fact that many voices of the present are for the give up at the compulsory odf the Code at exams, for all that, a lot of hams are using it and still will use it.
Most of the readers will ask: "Isn't the Code outrun?" Yes, today, we have more efficient operating radio modes. In comparison with the digital modes, or, the direct speech, it could look as superanulated. But the efficiency is not on the transmission rate, but in the power to penetrating into the space, to exceed all the disturb noises. Click here to hear a sample! All those that are using this mode are trained operators, because, isn't so easy to learn and to master it.
But enough talking! If you want to learn some Morse Code let's start. We'll have a long way to do. First, let's start to learn how to receive in code. If you had no partner for this (it should be), use the computer. From Internet, you can download a lot of programs for CW training (just start the search for morse code training cw and see what will succeed) or, a friend will help you. From me, see below a few. In time, the list will be growing rich.
1. The receive of Morse characters
In many books or scripts you will find the Morse Code wrote as a correspondence between usual letters and series of dots and dashes for each one. I beg your pardon: that's a bullshit! Those authors deserve a bullet in their head! The Morse characters are not series of dots and dashes, but are a series of long and short acoustic signals, dits and dahs, each series for each character. The result is a micro-melody for each character. So, if you remember the code as from the books, forget it!
If you really want to read a book about this domain, try "The Art & Skill of Radiotelegraphy" by William G. Pierpont, N0HFF.
In main, the learning order will be as follows: first the letters - while you will advance, insert the punctuation signs, once at a time - and finally, the numbers. Add new characters twice of a week (not more than two or three) and practice daily at least one hour if not more, out of teaching. Like in the primary school, try to learn in a order that will allow you to make words and later, phrases and sentences. Very important: first listen the character, recognize it and only after that write it (quickly). Don't even try to count those dits and dahs! Gather yourself to listen that specific micro-melody!
Give up at any calligraphy claims. All the words are only with small or capital letters, that's your choice. Don't increase the speed more than 20 wpm before to learn all the characters. If you miss a character, don't cling, pass to next. Don't repeat the same exercise than in case of confusions. All those, are personal recommendations, from my personal experience, heard from my instructors, without any pretentions.
In the average of the CW instructors, we'll meet two kind of methods used in the process of learning, both equal as eficiency.
- Farnsworth method : The learning will start at low speeds, 10 wpm, and soon, according as the advanced to all characters, the speed will increase to 15 - 20 wpm. After a short training, the speed will be gradual increase, first, using large blanks between characters, until the hearing will be wont. The main advantage of the method is, that in time, everybody will be able to copy at higher and higher speeds. But not so soon. Use for this method Morse Academy by Joseph Speroni, AH0A.
- Koch method : Every character will be learn at full speed, not more than two in a time. When you will be able to copy 90% of the sendig text, then pass to the next two, until you have mastered all of them. It's recommended to the persons with a strong musical hearing, otherwise the learning will be a torture. Try to use Koch CW Trainer by Ray Goff, G4FON
The transmision in Morse Code
For transmissions in Morse Code it is used... you are guess: the telegraphic keyer. In use, we'll find two kinds of keyers:
For each of those keyers, are various kinds as design, each more perfect and sharp than other.
To learn the sending in Morse Code, the most adequate way is to use the hand key and a tone oscillator. Some instructors' think that is outdated and they use the bug. Sorry, I don't agree with them. Let's think a little: presume that the electronic circuit is rambling. And then? Of course this is a little swollen, but not impossible. The main advantage of this method, in spite of use of some outdated gear, is that we can earn the handling rhytm.
The standard for Morse signals is the dot. A dash is equivalent of three dots, as time speaking. So, keep in your mind these principles of an accurate handling:
The gap between dots an dashes of a character is a dot.
The gap between two characters is a dash.
The gap between two words is by two dashes
a) The hand key : in essence is a switch of the sending circuit.
The main piece of some device is a lever, equipped with a push-button, support between two lateral blocks. On this lever, we'll find two screws (see nearby photo): one is for adjusting the gaps between contacts (here, placed near the push button), and other for adjusting the pushing tension. The lid isn't indispensable, its destination is for protection against elactric shocks, in case of high voltage circuit.
The maximum rate of transmission, using this kind of key is 25 wpm, but for a trained and a skilled operator, using a tuned up key, the rate could easy increase to 30 wpm and more.
b) The semiautomatic key : This is a complex tool, used for speed transmissions and for a relatively long periods of time, because the effort of the operator is diminished. Associated with a electronic device, this key works as follows: a lever, usualy binded to ground, is moved between two contacts using a paddle; one contact is for dots and other contact for dashes. The main adjustements are for gaps and for the pushing tension. This device is also known and named bug. Practical, sometimes, is meet boxed in the whole case, the keyer and the electronic circuit.
The main handicap (if we can say so) is that it needs a heavy base or a solid plug to the table, to avoid lateral movements in the time of handling.
Now, let's sit to table, in a quiet place. Stand erect, straight shoulders, the forearm will be at 90° on the table. Put the hand key on the edge of the table, thus your wrist should easy to do flections up and down. For the key taking (see photo 1): the thumb and the middle finger take the push-button and the forefinger top is disposed on it. The ring and the little fingers are closed in palm. Don't be uptight! Adjust the key that to be a gap by 2.5 mm between contacts and the spring tension to be at maximum. Now push the button (see photo 2): the forefinger tip is bring down, touching the button; at the same time, the wrist descends under the level of the edge of the table. Repeat this movement for a while.
The first character that will be learned is, no doubt, "A". Now, before of anything else, utters clear its Morse correspondent: "dit daah". Push the key in the rythm of "dit daah" (don't you have a metronome nearly?). Repeat this until you will mastered the move. I say again: don't count dits and dahs. Focus on and memorize the musicality or/and that movement. Then, without utter, just listen your own send signal from the oscillator. To correct your signal, if you don't have a partner, listen that signal send by a computer or from a tape. If isn't correct, don't droop! For me, it was a long way untill I've mastered the sending of all characters, not home alone, but face to face with all my course mates. Nobody is rising on this world as master!
Receiving the QSO's
Let's prezume that you learned all the characters and that you can comfortble copy, with your mates or from computer, at least 12 wpm. This is just the begining because, in the front of the receiver, with headphones on your ears, you aren't able to copy not even at 5 wpm! Till now, all was just an ABC and now starting the most difficult part. Let's tuck up and start on because we have a long and heavy way until we'll master to copy at 25 wpm and up.
The beginners that start to listen into the CW contests, they quick fall as losers. That's not a surprise for me: there are going from 22 wpm and up! But listen around 40 kHz and up from bandedges, there are the beginners and low-speed transmitters. So, for a few weeks from now, get out of your mind any other mode: this will be a period to get some new skills.
Start to seek for a QSO that you can easy copy the signals. Could be at 5 or 13 wpm, doesn't matter! Write all of that you hear! Don't forget: don't count the signs! Practice this day by day, a few QSO's by day, and within a week you'll be able to copy with no problems. Exercise this onwards a few weeks, that will be helpful.
The second phase: without writing, try to recognize the characters and to retrace words, phrases. Ooops! After all of that, now, back away? No, all what you do till now was just an exercise of accomodation at band noises, at all kind of tones, to tuning to the correspondent and many others. First, insist on the callsigns, then try to retrace the RST, the name of the operator, the QTH. If doesn't work, don't give up! Help yourself with the pencil sometimes and think that you will try to recognize the words in a foreign language.