Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier

About the Author

Dave Finley, N1IRZ, still is surprised that he came to love Morse Code and CW operating. As a young boy more than 35 years ago, Dave desperately wanted to be a ham, but was frustrated by the Morse Code. Back then, and several additional times over the years, he tried to build enough code proficiency to get a ham license, but each time quit in frustration at his slow progress. Long interested in radio and electronics, he told his ham friends he'd be "first in line" for a license when the code requirement was removed. In 1991, Dave became one of the first 500 people to get a code-free Technician license.

After a few months on the air, he realized that he really wanted the HF privileges of a higher-class license. Becoming nearly obsessive about practicing the code, Dave once again found his progress slow until he stumbled onto information about the Koch Method of code training. Then, he saw steady progress and rapidly gained confidence. Early in 1993, Dave took his first-ever Morse Code test -- the 20 wpm Extra Class exam -- and passed it! After that, to his great surprise, he found he enjoyed CW operating. Today, CW is almost the only mode he uses on HF.

After this success, Dave searched out aging psychological journals to read about the professional research done on code training, and learned why Koch's training technique worked so well. He realized that Koch's technique was not adopted when first published in the 1930s simply because it was ahead of the technology of the time. Now, however, computers and pocket Morse trainers make it easy for hams to use Koch's method -- the fastest method in the psychological literature. He began giving lectures about this to ham groups around his home state of New Mexico. The response from other hams was very enthusiastic. After writing a magazine article and hearing from hams around the country who succeeded with the Koch Method, he decided to write Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier.

Dave is Public Information Officer for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico. He is a past president of the Socorro Amateur Radio Association, has taught license upgrade classes, and serves as a Volunteer Examiner. In addition to his Amateur Extra Class license, he holds a First Class Radiotelephone Operator License with radar endorsement. He has earned WAS and WAC (WAC on QRP), and also is active on Six Meters. A former editor of The Miami Herald's science/medicine section, his articles have been published in QST, Radio Fun, Astronomy, Air & Space, and other magazines, as well as numerous newspapers. He holds degrees in geology and political science, and taught geology and astronomy at Florida International University in Miami.