Why, only the most coolest, yet
challenging mode of communication on the international air waves!
We'll assume that you're already
familiar with the
concept of Morse code, but if you need to brush up on it click [here].
Radiotelegraphy, now simply referred to as "CW," had it's
in the railroad telegraph days of the 1800s using a system of
electrical code pulses co-developed by Samuel F.B. Morse. The
first decade of radio communications would see the exclusive use of
Morse code by use of spark-gap transmitters. The signals
by these transmitters were not only inefficient but extremely messy as
their noisy "damped waves" would fill the radio spectrum.
In time, Amateur Radio operators (hams)
vacuum tube oscillators, producing very pure notes as a
"Continuous Wave" (CW) would be transmitted on an exact frequency,
which was not only more efficient, but able to be sent vast
distances, if not around the globe. Today, the
progeny of CW
technology, in the numerous variations of robust and fast digital
communication modes, make up the backbone of smartphone and
functionality and is something we all take for granted.
Morse code telegraphy is certainly not
dead in the
present day for sure. Though, no longer required by any
agencies, a sizable demographic of the ham radio hobby still enjoy
operating in CW mode. The skill and practice required to
the code denotes intelligence and dedication and hams can be quite
proud of their keys which are often expensive and often handcrafted
from many of the same material found in fine watches. CW
sense of nostalgia but is just as useful and relevant today. The CW
signal is able to pierce the worst atmospheric conditions and poorest
propagation and there are many radio designs for this mode that most
hams can build themselves, even in kit form with just a basic
understanding of electronics.
are NEW to Morse code or still have reservations about learning it -
DON'T WORRY - using some of the methods, software and information found
on this page can make your success an easy reality! It's NOT
hard to learn as you may think and once you're ready to get on the air,
there are thousands of "noobs" like yourself ready to make
For more information and resources on Morse code Telegraphy, I invite
you to visit:
link was brought to you by Samantha, who was a student in Ms. Smith's
10th grade Social Studies class at Brighter Futures Charter School in
California. - Thank you Samantha!]
PARIS - Not just
The Morse code is more about
and all about timing.
Many new to Morse code struggle memorizing and learning to
at speeds higher than 5 words per minute. Their failure is
not because they lack the talent or intelligence to do so but simply
because the method they used to learn was inherently flawed.
listening to outdated audio lessons [tapes] and muddle their brains
with mnemonics, flash cards, visual "follow-alongs" and even lookup
tree charts which can only serve to add extra unnecessary steps in the
mental process, at the least, ruining a fresh learner's
and at the worst, permanently impeding the learner's ability to
increase copying speed proficiency.
There's a beauty and symmetry to the
sound. The dash, or "dah" elements are [supposed] to be three
times that of a dot, or "dit" with a dot being defined as 1
The intra-element spacing is also to be 1 unit in
The inter-character space is 3 units and the space between
is to be 7. This
is only a suggested guideline
and in reality, spacing ends up being left to the discretion of the
sender - some having light "weighting," or the proportion in
duration of the elements, some heavy and others may have a particular
style, like the "Banana Boat Swing" or "Lake Erie Swing."
Good code is only defined by how 'legible' it is to copy and
essentially the 'voice' of the sender, but through their 'fists'.
It's all in the sound...
The proper and best way to learn Morse code is
Sound is obviously the core component to [audible] Morse
Do you (the new learner) believe that learning the distinct
of at least 40 letters, numbers and punctuations will be a daunting
task? Let me then ask you: When you go outside on a
day, stand still and close your eyes, what do you hear? Do
hear a bird? What kind of birds? Blue jays?
Maybe the hooting of an owl? Did you hear a nearby
passing? Are the tree tops filled with the buzzing of
How did you figure out what was what? There are
sounds in any particular daily experience, yet the human brain can
easily and instantly classify, discriminate and identify about each
one. Surely you can do the same with a simple code!
You only listen to the sound of
character, and then
write the character down or mentally picture it. Thats it!
Despite the numerous learning methods and money-making
that have done more harm than good to new hams over the years, there
are a couple that have proved successful to millions. The
proficiency is slow, tedious and repetitive, as they should be
like learning any language, but you too will find yourself knowing the
code. The Koch and Farnsworth methods are the two
best implementations for learning.
These methods are really just two sides
of the same
coin and each modern leaning platform uses some variation of them,
whereas you start off with one particular character, with the practice
code being sent at a [higher] speed such as 20 wpm, but the space
between each character sent is spread out to whatever the learner is
comfortable with, like 5 wpm. Like I described above, the
is the easy part. Faster-sent code has more a sound to it
it's often too fast for you to count elements or look up on a mental
table, which are bad habits you should avoid at all cost.
only the proficiency to copy that takes the effort. But ONLY
after each particular new character has been mastered with at least 90%
accuracy will a new character be added to the practice list.
Sessions should be at least 5 minutes long a piece.
all  of the characters have been mastered then it's time to
practice actual words and prosigns which do have their own particular
Learn it Quick - Master it
If you've come to this page with a new
learning Morse code and getting on the CW bands then you're in luck!
Listed below are links to many of the best tools out there
learning and you could be copying code in just one weekend!
Well... That is unrealistic to say and
learned that quickly with no continued practice becomes a
soon-forgotten novelty. I do promise that you'll amaze
even as you master just the first few characters, but this will be an
endeavor that you must 'endure to the end' for and honestly put in at
least 15 minutes a day. DON'T worry about sending or learning
use a key at first. Learning to copy the code is the ultimate priority.
Before you get started,
check out these fine articles:
As you hear each letter, think and see
in your head. Write it down on scrap paper, type it out on
keyboard or on your tablet and even say the letter aloud to yourself.
Just DON'T move on to the next new character until you get
ones your have down pat [90% or better.]
You must visit LCWO.net
ASAP! At LCWO you can learn Morse code (CW) anywhere around
globe online in your browser with no need to install an app or program,
and you'll always have your personal settings available. Plus,
can also easily track your progress by means of different statistical
functions. Learn at your own pace mastering letters, words,
signs and more. SIGN
UP NOW for FREE to log in go to Lessons and learn!
From your PC, you can learn CW and work
level with G4FON's Koch Method CW Trainer Version 10.
copying Koch character sequences and increase the challenge level by
customizing the sound environment to simulate tuning into the 'real
thing'. The software
is FREE and has helped countless hams reach proficiency!
Learn CW and get wicked fast from
ANY Android device...
Morse Machine for Ham Radio
by Andrea Salvatore, IU4APC, can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or from Amazon
for only $1. A Morse machine is a method by which a list of
characters are displayed with some kind of stats or bar graph, whereas
when the code is played you are timed on how fast you're able to press
the keyboard key for that character.
As per the
method, only one character at a time is added until you master it.
Getting the wrong character will set back your score for that character
so the app will try to work with you to master it. A Morse
will train you to better connect the sound to the character in your
mind as quickly as possible.
Take the W4EEY Morse Code Class Today!
[CLICK HERE] For the 10 Course Play
A classroom setting
alongside other hams new to CW may be the most effective
learning tool for you. Many local radio clubs offer such
classes, either in person, over a Zoom conference setting or on the
air. You'll also find many YouTube Morse code training
sessions which will definitely be worth the investment of time.
Keys - So many to choose from!
Once you've learned the code you'll
wish to send
it, and maybe even try your hand at practicing with others [who are
often very willing] on the air, it will be time to choose the right
key. A key, for those who are really new, is basically am
electrical switch, even hearkening back to rudimentary 'Steampunk'
aesthetic of the 1800's golden age of railroading. There's no
need these days to use a CW key as you can send with your computer of
course, but just as with an automobile, motorcycle, firearm, knife or
watch, a fine example of a key will practically 'sing' in your hand and
you'll connect with the code as with any precision instrument.
The better the key, the better the feel and even the timing.
Many keys, especially limited edition
models, just like the other items mentioned above, can come with hefty
price tags to go with the heft of their weighted bases. You
get what you pay for BUT you certainly don't need an expensive key to
enjoy the CW bands! Using my tutorial, you can build a
key for around $10, although there are many quality keys for purchase
online which are in the $80 - $150 range.
When choosing a key to purchase, you should take the time to
"test drive," not only different types of keys, but different models
from many different manufacturers. An easy way to do this is
visiting a regional Ham Fest. What? You've never
Ham Fest... man, is that going to blow your mind when you do!
local events are the Huntsville, AL fest and the Orlando, FL HamCation.
There are often many vendor booths with their wares sitting
on display tables, each connected to code practice oscillators.
They encourage your to try them out because, maybe you'll
love with one.
When a key comes to
mind, many will first think of the old single arm straight key like the
old brass ones found at railroad telegraph stations of the Old West
days. Well there are [at the least] four other kinds! You
basically have two categories of key types including both Hand-Sent and Electronic.
The hand-sent varieties include the Straight Key, the Side-Swiper and
The electronic keys include the Dual-Lever Paddle
and the Single-Lever
There are also other variations including finger tap keys (in
dual and single) and even capacitive touch-sensitive which consists of
just two contact studs built into your radio for instance.
you can see some of my key anatomy breakdowns. Model
materials and actuation methods are as individual as the designer,
machinist or homebrewer who thought them up.
The Straight Key is the simplest and most iconic.
range of speed generally goes only into the low 20 wpm's, but more if
you're fast. There's just a lever, a knob, some springs and
contacts. The sending method requires more arm than wrist
and may be quite fatiguing, but the sound produced by this key can be
the most personal.
otherwise called a "Sidewinder," "Cootie" or "Double-Speed" key was the
next obvious evolution and employs a piece of spring steel mounted
sideways with redundant contacts facing each side. When the
handle is gripped and moves the arm left or right a contact will be
made. There is a special method of sending whereas you always
start each character's first element off with a movement to the left,
alternating direction on each element. You can easily reach
speeds up to the 30 wpm's and is much, much less fatiguing to use than
a straight key as the arm can rest on the table. They are
to build at home, requiring an old hacksaw blade and a few pieces of
hardware. The sound of a side-swiper comes across with a
The "Bug," otherwise
known as a Semi-Automatic key is still a very popular option, going
back to the early 1900's and can still be purchased new today from
companies like Vibroplex with very little variation from early models.
It's generally the most mechanically complex of most keys
side-actuated swing arm held in place by spring returns.
the arm to the left causes a contact to be made which is exactly the
same as a straight key, but turned to the side. Dashes are
with that actuation and can be used to send code as a straight key if
desired. Moving the arm in the rightward direction causes a
weighted pendulum, comprising the back portion of the swing arm, to
vibrate or oscillate against a spring-loaded contact point, which
produced "automatically" repeating dots. Moving the pendulum
weight or changing it will likewise change the oscillation speed of the
dots. Sending speeds, by default, sit in the 30 wpm's and
hams can send into the 50's! However, many hams enjoy slower
beginner speeds by adding weight. The sound of this key comes
across as having a potentially "light" weight with tell-tail dashes of
seemingly longer duration.
Dual-Lever Paddle, otherwise called a "Squeeze Key" or "Iambic" paddle
and came about around WWII with the advent of more advanced electronic
keying circuits. Each paddle needs only move a very minimal
distance [even the thickness of a piece of paper] to make contact and
for this reason is the least fatiguing and most comfortable to use.
Sending speeds can also be at blinding rates, even into the
but because the two contacts actuate electronic timing, new senders
especially like paddles as they can send perfect 'PARIS' code as slow
as they wish! Pressing the Left paddle with the thumb
actuates automatic dots and pressing the Right paddle with the index
finger will actuate the dashes. "Squeezing" and holding them
down at the same time actuates an "iambic" action whereas each elements
will alternate, generally with the first element, either dot or dash
happening first depending on which key was held first. Iambic
keying is not hard to master and I go in depth on the subject in my Minty Keyer post.
The Single-Lever Paddle is implemented
same setup as the dual-lever paddle, with each opposing press of the
paddle swing arm actuating their associated contact. The only
difference is that there is not squeeze keying so iambic-like timing is
up to the keyer circuit. Many prefer this variation as it is
forgiving and less error prone to send over that of the dual-paddle and
for that reason some of the high-speed code sending champions of the
world use this key to send code at "plaid and ludicrous" speeds into
the 100's of wpm's! The sender can also wire each of the two
contacts together and use as a variation on of the side-swiper.
Keys can come in any size and material,
nice table-top works of art, to micro-mini "trail-friendly" ones that
can strap to your leg. There has even been a more recent
3-D printed models and alternative sending implementations
including capacitive touch-sensitive, laser path blocking and finger
movement machine-learning image classification. Really, the
is down to the CW operator's imagination and wallet, and are even great
to collect and curate.
If your pockets aren't deep enough to
spring for a
decent key, as some of them can be really expensive, then consider
making your own. See below for instructions on making your
Side-Swiper "Cootie" key. Before you do, check out one I made
just a few minutes out of a bunch of junk parts! [CLICK HERE]
K4ICY's CW Weekend Projects
If you're a CW enthusiast
with an itch to homebrew then have I got the works for you!
Let's start off by building your very
key for $10... or even
$0 if you have the parts! I invite you to
make it your own and to share your final build pics with me where I'll
post them on my tutorial page. [CLICK
you'll need some practice. Build my ultra-simple Code
Oscillator with the pleasant sound and you won't be disappointed! [CLICK HERE]
Do you have a "boat anchor" (old radio)
or maybe a
QRP trail-friendly or homebrew rig without a built-in iambic keyer?
My circuit has no Arduino to program and only uses 3 very
logic IC. I even provide Gerber files where you can
your own mint leaf-shaped PCB that even fits in an Altoid's mint tin.
Many hams have built their own and all say it works great! [CLICK
It's not cheating if she
never finds out...
[Oh, did that sound wrong?] With an inexpensive
microcontroller board and a few parts (all available on Amazon,) you
"cheat" and decode Morse code (CW) up to 70 wpm, both electronic keyed
and hand-sent! My sketch uses my own custom algorithm on any
Arduino Uno or Nano, along with an inexpensive 4 x 20 character LCD
LM567 tone decoder IC with associated discrete components.
ALSO, it works great as a 'proofing'
device to help you send better code, improving your 'fist'. [CLICK HERE]
Got an ancient CW rig with
no selectivity? If you need a cleaner signal and desire the
ability to cherry-pick one CW op out of the rest then you may want to
try out my 4-Stage CW Audio Filter! [CLICK HERE]
Homebrew, QRP &
Check out some of my homebrew/kit radio
portable QRP (low-power) kit setups. There are many options
low-power CW radios on the market that won't break the bank.
What's stopping you?
Check out my build journal for my
implementation of the SW+40 QRP Rig. Built-In keyer, voltage
indicator, Digital Dial, coverage for the entire 40 meter CW band plus
0 - 12 watt input. [CLICK
HERE] for so much more!
Have motorcycle, will QRP!
Can you believe all of this fits inside of a small waterproof
container - which fits inside of a motorcycle pannier? Fun to
be had... POTA's, SOTA's and LOTA's, oh my! [CLICK HERE]
[More to come for sure... I would like to include more links
resources on obtaining inexpensive low-power CW radio as well as kits.]
Join the Club!
There are countless CW enthusiast out
just waiting to make contact with you! Here are a few clubs
help you get the most out of this aspect of the hobby:
The Straight Key Century Club is the
group of mechanical-key Morse code radiotelegraph operators in the
world. Founded in 2006, the SKCC has thousands of members around the
globe. Joining is FREE (open to licensed amateur radio
only,) and the game is to make HF radio contacts using any of the three
early original types of manual telegraph keys [as described above:] the
Straight Key, the "Bug" and the "Cootie." With the SKCC, you
gain on-air experience in sending and receiving by swapping member
numbers with other members. You can enter club sponsored
contests and special events, rag chew, earn activity and achievement
awards, and with membership, access thier online resources, newsletter,
forums and chat.
With no dues or membership fees, the
NAQCC is open
to any licensed radio amateur or shortwave listener (SWL) worldwide
with at least some interest in CW/QRP operation. They
the use of CW and in helping all hams increase CW speed and proficiency
as the club's top priority. Club activities are dedicated to QRP/QRPp
operation [meaning to transmit at 5 watts maximum and below,] using CW
and emphasizing the use of simple wire antennas.
A group of CW operators using Morse
established several informal radio nets to promote the use of the
Side-Swiper, or "cootie" key [described above.] Listen to the listed
nets and you'll find a nice sounding Morse code. All Side-Swiper users
are warmly invited to take part in our nets. At other times,
Side-Swiper aficionados can be found on the recommended calling
Elmer's & Code Buddies
[I'll be adding more to this
section as time
goes on... So if you have a great resource on the subject to share, I'd
be willing to consider adding it here.]
Having help from other CW enthusiast
within the ham
radio hobby is an absolute must for success. I can't stress
enough! It doesn't matter if the helper, either a mentor
the hobby, generally known as an "Elmer," or another friend who is just
as new or inexperienced as you may be. Getting on-air
essential and having a forgiving 'fist' on the other side will help you
get over the 'butterflies' of getting on for the first time, overcoming
mistakes or just plain helping you increase your code speed.
are there to gather like-minded CW enthusiasts on certain 'practice'
frequencies and slow speeds are welcome. You should locate
ask someone at your local ham radio club about any CW Practice Nets
that may be offered and if there isn't, consider spreading the word and
setting up a local informal net once a week on a quiet 10 meter or 2
meter frequency. Encourage other hams new to CW to just
if they wish, but at the least, invite them to just give their call
sign. Have a live Zoom conference session while the net is
on so that quick questions and any possible issues can be addressed off
I spent a few years learning
the code using online tools and software, but it wasn't until one of my
dearest of friends, now a "Silent Key," invited me to joint the local
practice net with him that I saw an increase in my proficiency.
We would then spend an hour, and sometimes two each Wednesday
night doing "GUD CODE BAD," and I soon found myself having rag-chews on
the HF CW ham bands.
If you can't
find an "Elmer" in the local club, or even a "Code Buddy" to help you
out, then consider offering your services as one of those over your
weekly emcomm net, monthly club meeting or through the local club's
newsletter. You've got nothing to lose from asking and
NO ONE in this day and age will judge you for your lack of skill.
We are living in the days of the "CW Renaissance," where it
NOT A REQUIREMENT to know CW to get your license... it hasn't been for
nearly a decade and a half. Most of the "speed demons" who
to crowd the airwaves have 'retired' (in one way or the other) and it's
pretty much mostly us slow-code guys, but we're having fun and you can
join in just because you wanted to rather than be compelled.
So, dive on in feet first,
Know the Code - Keep Learning!
Part of perfecting the CW
aspect of the
Amateur Radio hobby is continue your education. Read up on
vast history of radio and telegraphy, discover the secrets to increased
proficiency and broaden your horizons as you learn of other CW
operators on-air, out-of-doors adventures. Discover the world
"Radio Sport" contesting, increase your technical skills and learn to
build and experiment with your own homebrew equipment. The
limit is much farther than you know and you're invited to be the best
CW ham you can be!
Please take time to check out the
book offerings from a few great hams. A couple of them are
to download and read for absolutely FREE!
And Don’t Forget to Bring Y’all’s
Dawg Along! is
a 120 page read that can be yours for the great price of absolutely
Art Marshall, W1FJI, now Silent Key, was one of my great "Elmer's" as
well as my "code buddy" who spent countless hours over the years
chatting on the air with me. His favorite aspects of ham
were, of course, CW via QRP, especially operating from lighthouses
(LOTA) around the country and he was also a PACKET
For years, newsletter readers of the Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society
(TARS) were treated to his wit, wisdom and easy-going outlook on the
joys of operating.
The title, Art’s favorite signature line says it all, when the
weather’s great, just get out there and operate! When you do,
just don’t forget the ones most important to you. He will
be missed by the many family and radio friends that crossed his
path. All 40 of Art’s fantastic articles on topics such as
and our hobby’s prestigious history have been compiled into this wonder
publication for you to enjoy for free.
[73 old friend!]
Sets to Sideband A
Guide to Building an Amateur Radio Station By
Frank W. Harris, K0IYE [2019
- Revision 15]
K0IYE, challenges YOU to be "The Complete Ham!"
This awe inspiring 748 page book chronicles his experiences as a radio
homebrewer through the last two decades and does well to educate the
reader, not only on the fundamentals of electronics but time-tested
techniques for experimentation. He takes the reader step by step
through his progression of building a ham station FROM SCRATCH, sharing
an intimate journey, of not only his building successes but of the
lessons learned from his technical setbacks, detailing for you, the
reader, each circuit; their construction and fundamentals of
operation. Frank’s book has become an “icon within the ‘QRP’
community”, a bible
of sorts to the art and practice of homebrewing.
First written in 2002, Frank has donated his book to the free enjoyment
and use of the Amateur Radio community! Many sites carry
of his publication, mostly in a per-chapter format and after [at least
two] decades of exploration he is now up to the 15th revision. The book
starts off from the beginning of ham radio with a history lesson on
discoveries wrought by our technical forefathers, then it builds from
there and topics covered include everything under the ‘ham radio’ sun
from; the fundamentals of electronics, basics of homebrewing, how to
set up an electronics workshop, as well as detailed breakdowns of
nearly every step of a radio’s operation. Follow Frank from CW to AM,
through SSB to FM and more as he works with every type of component
from vintage tubes to modern micro-controllers. Did I mention that the
book is a free download?
His building philosophy is simple: to really appreciate the intimate
understanding of a homebrewed radio’s operation, it should not only be
constructed from the most basic parts such as transistors and other
discrete components, but its circuits should be sound in design and
when built, should reflect good ‘Amateur Practice’; such as using
simple and modular construction, and going out of your way to comply
with FCC emission standards. At one point, to test his ham radio
fortitude, he literally hewns galena ore from a rock to fabricate a
‘crystal’ receiver! Frank coins the term “The Complete Ham” which
describes an Amateur operator whom sets out to not only be a
well-rounded operator but strives to understand how his equipment
works, as well as being better able to repair and enhance his or her
Please visit Franks site for
UPDATES and Per-Chapter PDF downloads...
Art & Skill of Radio-Telegraphy A
Manual for Learning, Using, Mastering and Enjoying the International
as a Means of Communication
William G. Pierpont, N0HFF
This book is well known as a definitive
on the history of Morse code and CW communications and is an in-depth
primer on advancing code speed and proficiency. Art &
also gives a bit of background on various approaches to learning the
code. Even if you're new to CW it's worth the read!
This book is available to purchase from
online retailers. You can order a pretty nice paperback
from Hulu for around $16.
Amazon and other sources sell copies as well, but expect to
pay up to $50.
End of Transmission.
- when you are sending it back to the other station. Also used at the
end when answering a CQ.
End of Transmission.
- when you are at the final end of a last transmission of a QSO.
Go Ahead... Over.
Used when turning it over to another station. Used also after sending
NOT to be used after just answering a CQ because the other station has
not verified contact with you.
Go Ahead (Specific
Same as K,
but only a specific station and no one else can come back to you.
Ending last QSO and turning off station. No one else to come back or
R (often repeated)
Copied last transmission
- All information Readable.
Q - Signal
Signal Tone Quality? 1-3
Tell (Call Sign) You're
Invite - Who's Calling?
Send # of Messages?
Contact Between Stations?
Send A Series of "V"'s?
Transmit On (Time)?
Station Open For Me?
are three letter combinations used to
represent common phrases or sentences for CW operation. They may be
used as a question with a question mark (?) or statement without the
question mark. For example, "QRZ?" is used to ask for the calling
station(s) to identify again. "Please (pse) QRS" is used as a request
to send the code at a slower speed. "The QTH is" is used to indicate
this station's location.
Although originally used for CW, many Q-signals
have become acceptable for phone operation.
Other Non-Q Abbreviations:
- Best Regards
88 - Love
YL - Young
Unmarried and any Female Ham Operator
XYL - Ex-Young
Lady, A Ham's Wife
OM - Old
Male Ham Operator GE - Good
Evening TKS - Thanks TU - Thank
- See You Later ES - And
(&) ANT - Antenna RIG - Radio
BK - Back
CW Articles of Interest
K4ICY and others for The
Printed Circuit - Newsletter of
the Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society