Learning to Send

Hand Key | Semiautomatic Key | Blast From the Past

Hand Key

12. General
    a. Learning to send code, like learning to play baseball or football, requires timing, coordination, and many hours of practice. As soon as you are famaliar with the sound of the characters, you will normally start sending. A minimum of one-third of your entire code practice time should be spent in transmitting. This time may vary because some students require more time than others to learn correct sending habits. It is important that you never let your sending speed lag far behind your receiving speed.
    b. The best way to learn to send well is to imitate a good signal. Model your own sending after properly formed characters, either from a tape or from your instructor's hand key.

13. Hand Key
Your key must be properly adjusted and the contacts correctly spaced before you will be able to send correctly. Figure 5 is a detailed drawing of Key J-38, indicating the parts the parts referred to in the following adjustment instructions:
    a. The spring tension screw, just behind the key button, controls the amount of tension exerted upward on the key, and the tension allowed will usually vary with the individual operators. Too much tension will force the key button up before the dahs are completely formed, and they will be too short, spacing will be irregular, and you will skip dits. If the spring tension is too weak, the characters will run together and the space between characters will be too short.
    b. The gap between the contacts, regulated by the space adjusting screw at the back of the key, should be just about the thickness of a penny postcard. This measurement applies to every key, and is not a matter of personal preference. Contacts that are too close together have an effect similiar to weak spring tension, and contacts that are spaced too far apart have the same effect on sending as too much spring tension.
    c. The final adjustment of the key is the sidewise alignment of the contact points. When the alignment is correct, no further adjustment must normally be made. The trusion screws at either side of the key control the alignment of the contact points. If they are too tight the key lever will bind, and if they are too loose the contacts will have a sidewise play. Keep the contacts clean and free from dirt because dirty contact, points result in a scratchy signal.

14. Position of Hand at Key
    a. Take a position at the key that is natural and comfortable for you. The following pointers on positions of the hand and arm have been helpful to many good radio operators:
    (1) Lay your arm along the table in a natural position so that your fingers reach the key button without straining.
    (2) The tip of your index finger or the tips of your first two fingers should touch the top of the key button at the far edge or just overlapping the far edge. Keep your fingers away from the metallic parts of the key to avoid a possible shock.
    (3) The thumb and third or fourth fingers should teach the right and left sides of the knob lightly to guide and prevent slapping the key.
    (4) Allow the large muscles of your forearm to do most of the work when transmitting.

Figure 5
Figure 5

Putting strain on the smaller muscles of the wrist or hand will result in glass arm, a common term for temporary paralysis caused by overfatigue.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Proper hand position on key.

    b. Figure 6 illustrates a good hand position. This operator prefers to send with his index finger on top of the button, using the thumb and third figure as guides at the side. Compare figure 6 with the hand illustrated in figure 8.
    c. The drawings is figure 7 illustrate various incorrect positions of the hand on the sending key.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Examples of incorrect hand positions.

    (1) The NIBBLER pinches the edge of the key button, curling his fingers unnaturally, and using the small wrist muscles to operate the key.
    (2) The TEA DRINKERS fingers are strained and uncomfortable, and he will tire quickly.
    (3) The SLAPPER has no control over his key, and his sending will be rough and inaccurate.
    (4) The HITCH HIKERS thumb does not aid in guiding the key. His hand will slip off the buttom and spoil the rhythm of his sending.
    (5) The TAPPER makes no attempt to control the key, and his sending will be halting and erratic.
    (6) The JITTERS band trembles constantly. He often sends too many dits and tends to end his dabs too short.
    (7) The CLUTCHER is tightened up. His sending will be slow and clumsy, and his hand will cramp after a short time in this position.
    (8) The POUNDERS sending is stiff and uncontrolled. His fingers are tense, and he will tire quickly since the muscles of the hand instead of the forearm are employed in this position.

figure 8
Figure 8.

    d. In figure 8 notice that the index finger slightly overlaps the edge of the key button.

figure 9
Figure 9.

    e. In figure 9 the operator touches the top of the key button with the tips of the first two fingers. The thumb and fourth fingers are at the sides of the button to guide and control it.

Figure 10

    f. The operator's forearm shown in figure 10 is slightly larger than the one shown in figure 8, and therefore more of the muscle rests on the arm support in figure 10. The shirt sleeve has been removed in all of the illustrations to show how the arm is supported on the table.

15. Preliminary Sending Practice

    a. You will be ready for your first sending practice after your instuctor has checked and approved your position. Begin by transmitting a series of dits to develop timing and to get the feel of the key. Concentrate on spacing the dits equally. In this preliminary practice it is recommended that you copy from a model. Send as smoothly as you can and increase speed as you feel your muscles limbering up. The dits will be rough and tend to "stutter" if you try to send too fast. When you have achieved a rhythmic, steady swing, have an instructor check your transmission, and then try s series of I, S, II, and 5.
    b. When you have mastered sending dits satisfactorily, send a string of dahs, preferably imitating a good model. Concentrate on regular spacing, and remember that the space between dahs should be no longer then the space between dits. When you are satisfied that your dahs are rhythmic and properly spaced send a series of T, M, O, and 0.
    c. Begin to combine dits and dahs with simple characters such as R, K, A, N, and V. When you have mastered the basic characters, continue your practice to develop speed.
    d. Send to another person whenever possible. Your aim from the beginning of your code training must be to transmit so that other operators can readily understand what you send.

Semiautomatic Key

49. Use
The semiautomatic key (Key J-36), also known as the Vibroplex or "bug," is used chiefly fixed situations where operators are required to send for relatively long periods of time.

50. Operation
    a. In sending with the bug, the thumb presses the dit paddle (fig. 54) to the right and the index finger forms dahs by pressing the knob to the left. The key will send successive dits when the paddle is held to the right. One dot or a series may be sent, depending on how long the thumb pressure is maintained against the paddle. One dah is formed every time the knob is pressed to the left. Dahs must be send individually.
    b. During the sending, the hand pivots at the wrist, and the hand and arm motion is horizontal.

51. Key Adjustment
    a. Best operation of the semiautomatic key will be obtained when it is adjusted to send dits and spaces of equal length. Locate the parts in figure 54 when adjusting the key. The top view in figure 54 shows the section of the key between the dah contact and adjusting screw and the front stop screw.
    b. Before adjusting the semiautomatic key, examine it for mechanical and eletrical defects. First, make certain that both dit and dah contacts are clean and in perfect alignment with the faces parallel. Second, make sure that the lever pivoting screw is losse enough to permit the lever to move freely. Signals will sound unsteady if it is too loose. Third, examine all supporting parts to make certain that they are firm and steady. Fourth, make certain that stop screws and locknuts are tight. Fifth, inspect the cord and plug for short circuits or loose connections.
    (1) Place the key on a level surface.
    (2) Adjust the back stop screw until the reed lightly touches the deadener. Then tighten the locknut.
    (3) Adjust the front stop screw until the separation between the end of this screw and the reed is approximately 0.015 inch. (Approximately 10 pages of this manual inserted between the screwn and lever will serve as a convenient guide.) Then fighten the locknut. A greater separation is permissible if the operator prefers more lever movement.
    (4) Operate the dit paddle to the right. Holf the lever in this position and stop the vibration of the reed. Adjust the dit contact adjusting screw until the dit contacts just meet. This important adjustment determines whether the dits will be too heavy, too light, or perfect. The adjustment must be made without flexing the contact spring. Tighten the locknut on the dit contact adjusting the screw without disturbing the adjustment.
    (5) If the dits are too fast, move the weight located on the reed in the direction of the deadener. If the dits are too slow, move the same weight in the opposite direction.
    (6) Adjust the dah contact adjusting screw to a clearance approximately the thickness of the cover on a War Department Field or Technical Manual.
    (7) Adjust the dit retractive and dah tension springs for the most comfortable operation.

    d. CAUTIONS. Do not readjust the dit contact adjusting screw unless a complaint is received or unless you are certain that your dits are too heavy or too light. Never change the back stop screw adjustment when the bug is correctly adjusted. It should not be necessary to change the front stop screw adjustment. However, if the locknut on the front stop screw should become loose, it will be necessary to readjust the dit contact adjusting screw. If the dah contact adjusting screw is too close the dah contacts will remain shorted.
    e. PERMISSABLE CHANGES. A change to the position of the weight for the speed of dits or a change in the tension of the retractive and dah springs to suit the individual's requirements will not throw the bug out of proper adjustment.
    f. If the adjustment instructions are followed carefully, the bug will make 25 or more dits before stopping. The first 12 to 15 dits will be practically perfect with the dits and spaces equal.
    g. The bug is designed to make sending easy rather than fast, and perfect control of the key is far more important than speed. Be especially careful to send dits accurately. Not all radio operators have equally sensitive hearing, and careless sending on the semiautomatic key will not be understood.

Figure 54

Blast From The Past

    Thomas Hedgesm W8BKE, came up with a neat idea that was published in the February 1934 issuse of QST, to help people learn to copy Morse code.
    When starting to learn the code and working at copying perhaps 5 WPM, just place your pencil on the star at the center of the graphic shown. When you hear a dit, move your pencil in a horizontal direction along the lines; for a dah move it vertically. When you have "traced" the path of all the dits and dahs of the character, your pencil will be pointing at the letter they represent. Someone who knows nothing about Morse code can be quickly trained to recognize the difference between a dit and dah, and in a first session can be translating (not really "copying") at a 5 WPM rate. A few practice sessions later, he or she will be learning characters because of the repetition.
    Give it a try. This shows that the KISS principle really works (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).