Morse Code Practice from W1AW
Amateur Band Chart
For Learning Morse Code (CW)
From Chuck Adams, K7QO and Rod Dinkins, AC6V
- Start! Whether you
use audio cassettes, CDs, computer software, or a partner to send and
receive, you won't get anywhere until you get started.
- As a small child
learns first to crawl, then to walk, and finally, to run, you, too, must
learn in steps. Learning Morse code (CW) properly requires both
self-study, and the help of someone sending CW to you.
- Learn each
character as a sound. Morse code is a language of sounds. Never write
dots and dashes.
- Repetition is the key
to remembering anything, including Morse characters. Some folks master
it in days, others in months. All who kept at it got it.
- The Farnsworth
Method is recommended. With the Farnsworth Method, you learn each
character at 15 words per minute with large spacing in between
characters. This has been proven to be the best method for long-range
development. Once the characters are learned, copying speed is easily
increased by decreasing the spacing between each character.
- Practice, practice,
practice. No matter if you learn quickly, or slowly, the key to learning
is practice. With enough practice, just about anyone can learn Morse
code. Sometimes, skipping a day or two of practice is helpful, and can
get you back on track.
- You don't need to
copy 100%. Being able to copy MOST of what is sent, usually results in a
- The 5
words-per-minute CW examination is $14.00. If you fail it on the first
try, practice some more and try it again. (If you don't feel comfortable
trying, wait a little longer. Taking exams you're not prepared for, only
results in frustration for you.)
- Take advantage of
all available practice. Your local area may offer Morse code practice
through a 2 Meter Repeater, which you can copy with a scanner. If you
have a rig or short-wave receiver, you'll benefit from any CW you hear.
Just listen and copy as many characters as you possibly can. Once again,
practice will pay off. The more you listen, the more you'll be able to
copy and understand. After a while, you'll be copying more characters
than you are missing. While driving down the road, I would translate
road signs to Morse code in my head - the faster the better.
- One of the best
ways to practice, is to use the "Buddy System." Get a friend,
spouse, relative, or anyone willing to share their time, to learn along
with you. Enlist the aid of an experienced CW operator for answering
questions, and making sure you don't develop any bad habits.
History Of Morse Code
Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872)
was a painter and founder of the National Academy of Design. In 1832, while on a ship
returning from Europe, he conceived the basic idea of an
electromagnetic telegraph. Experiments with various kinds of electrical
instruments and codes resulted in a demonstration of a working telegraph set
in 1836, and introduction of the circuit relay. This made transmission
possible for any distance. With his creation of the American Morse code, the
historic message, "What hath God wrought?" was successfully
sent from Washington to Baltimore.
The Morse code used in those days differed
greatly from that which is used today. Morse code originated on telegraph
lines and the original users did not listen to tones but instead to the
clicking sounds created by sounders. They used the American Morse code as
opposed to today's International Morse. When sending dahs (Morse code is
composed of dits or short key closures, and dahs or longer key closures) the
user simply sent two close-together dits. This was created by using a
conventional code key.
With the advent of radio communications the
international Morse became more widespread. Users of the international Morse
created dahs with a longer key closure, instead of two close-spaced dits. In
order to increase transmission speed on early landline circuits and later on
radio circuits, semi-automatic "bug" keys were invented in 1902 and
were widely adopted. Bug keys used a vibrating pendulum to create dits and
the user still manually creates the dahs.
In more recent times, the user can employ
keyers that electronically create dits and dahs. Iambic keyers have a memory
so that the user can operate a mechanical "paddle" quicker than the
keying rate of the keyer. This makes for very comfortable and nearly
Today experienced operators copy received
text without the need to write as they receive, and when transmitting, can
easily converse at 20 to 30 words per minute. Morse code will always remain a
viable means of providing highly reliable communications during difficult
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