From General to Morse Code (The Kits Made Me Do It!)

In a previous post, I explained how I went searching for what I thought were simple requirements in a kit and came out with all my hopes and dreams dashed upon the rocks of the QRP shore. It was messy, I pulled the various parts together and began to assess what changes to the strategy were required.

One of the things that became clear is that participating in the QRP kit world or even building any simple radio would probably require CW mode. CW, continuous wave, mode is the mode used to send morse code between ham radio stations. It is really simple to send and receive because it doesn’t require demodulation. The tone is being sent or it isn’t, no extra parts to figure out if what the amplitude or frequency of the signal has encoded within it like AM, SSB or FM modes.

I’ve had an interest in morse code since I was a kid, so I was seeing this more as an opportunity. The idea of tapping out a message somehow seems mythical. Humans make great effort to speak and communicate in person. Could I master this minimization of language to simple dits and dahs? It is time to figure it out. I’ve begun messing around with various Android applications to see what learning can be done. What I’ve realized right out of the gate, is that some of the applications really work better if you already know the alphabet or have some competency. I’ve decided that the Koch method is clearly the winning way to learn in the computer age. The history is interesting to get into, but simply, this method has been around for a long time, but typical hams couldn’t really learn with this method because randomized CW was not able to be generated without an instructor who would have to invest a METRIC TON of time tapping out letters & numbers for your personal benefit.

So far, I’ve not yet nailed down the letters, but I’m quickly realizing that being able to hear the letters is one thing and being able to hear them all put into words is another thing. Many of the apps I’ve used present one letter at a time and look for immediate feedback. I thought this was what I was going to want, but as I’m realizing quickly that my brain is faster at associating sounds with places on the keyboard than it is at associating sounds with letters. Conclusion: Touchscreen apps may not be a great fit for learning morse code, at least not exclusively.

Lots of the more experienced folks have recommended lcwo.net so I tried it. After spending time with the more accessible mobile apps in 5 minute sessions here and there, I thought I was doing pretty well. After trying LCWO, I realized I wasn’t doing as well as I thought. I could barely copy 3 letters at the same speed I was using in the apps. I did find that tweaking the tone a bit helped marginally, but getting CW over HF, I’m sure ideal tone is abnormal.

So, I expect I need to dedicate time to this uning lcwo.net in order to actually be able to copy words and sentences. This means being in front of a computer and that means I can’t pull it out for 5 minutes here and there. Time to rethink the process. I think this must have discouraged me a bit as I’ve nearly put this aside entirely for the last few weeks. I do intend to get back to it, but I haven’t found the motivation yet. Maybe the motivation to keep this blog running will motivate me to get back to it sooner.

Have you learned CW? What worked for you?

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2 thoughts on “From General to Morse Code (The Kits Made Me Do It!)”

  1. I’l tell you what worked for me – old Gordon West’s 5WPM tape. I was on a camping trip and it rained for three days straight. Had a walkman with me and listened to those tapes. By the time the trip was over I went and convertd my no-code tech license to tech plus. Then it was on to 13WPM and 20WPM and my extra.

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    1. Thanks for spewing your truth! I haven’t really had much exposure to Gordon West outside the Ham Nation podcast. I probably should figure out why, besides his personality, he’s famous in the community.

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