You might find it amazing that Morse Code endures. Nearly 180 years since the first dot-dash was sent. Long before even radio.
Like most hams of a certain age, I cut my teeth on Morse Code. Back in the day, we took for granted that radio operators, ham or commercial, required code proficiency. Back in the 1960’s, I needed 10 words per minute to get started, then up to 15 WPM.
To be honest, I was never that interested in CW – just voice – so over the years I never advanced much beyond 20 WPM. Some hams love CW, I am just a casual user like most. So, how is it that since it is no longer a mandatory for most ham licenses, Morse Code endures?
I think there are two reasons. In general, Morse Endures due to its simplicity and efficiency. Anyone can learn and use it, typically at slow speeds. You can send Morse Code by wires (original telegraph), flashlight, touch and sound. Quite versatile. You can send a secret message to someone by just tapping on her shoulder or squeezing her hand. Try doing that with more complex modulation.
On-Off keying was required for first telegraphs send on noisy wires back in 1845. Even today, CW offers great distance over noisy radios with low power. Without computer assistance, it’s probably the most efficient manual communication system around.
So, as we move into a good solar cycle, I plan to get back on the air with CW (continuous wave) and have some fun, especially on higher HF bands.
Morse Code Endures – Keys to Success
In the picture above, you can see the three Morse keys I have used over fifty years or so. I started with the manual key, shown upper right. You send by tapping up and down, and getting a sore wrist. Quickly, I moved on to the Vibroflex semi-automatic key or “bug”. Shown left, bugs” use an easier side-to-side motion with your fingers, and sent dits automatically. Less strain and better cadence. Popular since 1905!
Finally, at lower right, most of us today use a simple set of paddles with an electronic keyer. All of the logic for timing and speed is done by the keyer. You use your paddle to simply switch between dots and dashes.
First licensed in 1956, I have never left CW. A little use of digital modes and very little use of voice. If I want to use voice, why not make a phone call? For me, CW is another language and by using CW it keeps me a bit sharper. Last month I was TI7/W2BEE and joined the fun of the ARRL CW DX Test. I learned that my cognitive skills began to improve as I spent more time in that fast paced environment to the point that I have resolved to spend more time in contests, not for competitive reasons, but to help my near 80 year old brain function better. 73, Greg
Even as amateur radio has adopted new and amazing technologies, I’ve kept my (occasional) on-air activities very simple. I enjoy the challenge of QRP, and there is no better or simpler mode of communication than CW when you’re operating with 20 wpm!
Good thoughts, Colin. My good friend Jim is a devoted CW guy. Maybe one day, me too.