(Now a bi-weekly program)
October 2, 2012
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Morse Code ...
Dying Art or Thriving Specialty?
On any given night,
especially on weekends, and amazingly so on contest weekends, seemingly
thousands of CW stations can be heard on just about any band. Where are
they coming from? We've heard that CW ops are dwindling in numbers.
Code is no longer even required for new licensees. And it seems that appliance
ops using FM HTs can barely spell CW anymore.
In this episode of CWTD we'll explore a bit of the
background, overview the various equipment out there for CW operation, and then
hunker down on what makes a CW operator tick. What his tips and tricks
are. If you've never considered using CW mode and Morse code, or or if
you've let your fist drift away over the years, or even if you are currently
active and in the A1 operator club, we think you'll find the discussion of the
"original mode" interesting and eye-opening.
73, George N2APB & Joe N2CX
to the MP3 podcast)
<20:21:21> "Al K8AXW": Joe, I had the pleasure of being one
of those CW "spooks."
<20:24:46> "Charles WC5MC": Jerry Ziliak, KB6MT "High Speed Code" Audio Course
(I'm not affiliated. I just think his course is superb.)
<20:25:22> "Ray K2ULR":
<20:25:24> "Terry WB4JFI": I have a Norcal kit 1/2 put together
<20:27:24> "Joe N2CX": Bencher is still run as an independent company - they
bought out the Butternut line of antennas.
<20:32:10> "Pete - WB2QLL": "The Hallicrafters Model HA-1 T.O. Keyer employs
digital circuitry, similar to that found in modern digital computers, to form
perfect code characters at any speed."
<20:32:13> "Joe N2CX": K1JDV also sells a very inexpensive keyer chip.
<20:33:20> "Nancy - NJ8B": Bencher still makes the iambic keyer. They acquired
the Butternut antenna line in the 1990s.
<20:33:32> "Paul - wa0rse": I remember building a keyer with solenoid-based
relays... late 70's?
<20:33:59> "Charles WC5MC": Oh yeh I have used the K1JDV. Very nifty little
keyer chip indeed.
<20:35:35> "Pete - WB2QLL": And then there's Ultramatic mode.
<20:39:41> "Ray K2ULR":
<20:41:04> "Al K8AXW": ZL1AZS---- Google Titanic's last transmissions..... there
are examples of what spark sounded like..... very interesting.
<20:41:32> "W3SFG": Another spark example:
<20:54:29> "Paul - wa0rse": meteor scatter uses ultra high speed cw, doesn't it?
<21:02:38> "George - N2APB": Yeah, so the transmission gets through before the
reflecting meteors change or travel enough to stop the reflection!
<21:10:51> "Joe N2CX": Atlanticon warbler effort used Digipan software to copy
pileup. Dave Benson and I logged the received signals.
<21:20:19> "John ZL1AZS": Thanks Al
<21:22:13> "Terry WB4JFI": Thnks again guys!
<21:22:17> "Frank N3PUU": thanks guys! 73!
<21:22:57> "Terry WB4JFI": Does anybody know of an Arduino project that decodes
morse code from audio?
<21:23:28> "Ray K2ULR": 73
<21:24:18> "John ZL1AZS": Fascinating session guys! Thank you and GN
<21:25:52> "Pete - WB2QLL": reverse beacon network
<21:26:25> "Pete - WB2QLL": Anyone who wants to see my video on the fully
automatic (as opposed to semi) bug I designed and built need just look on
YouTube under my call.
<21:27:29> "Armand WA1UQO": Thanks again Joe & George - great as always - see
you in two weeks!
Now simply called "CW", radio communication
by Morse code was the only way to communicate for the first decade or more of
Amateur Radio. Radiotelegraphy, the proper name, descends from landline (wired)
telegraphy of the 19th century, and retains some of the old culture, including a
rich set of abbreviations and procedures. Morse sent by spark gap transmitter
was the first wireless communication mode. These "damped waves" were very broad
and inefficient for communication. They were soon replaced by "Continuous Wave"
(CW) transmission, using vacuum tube oscillators that were capable of a very
pure note. Today, modern Amateur Radio transceivers use solid state components
and microprocessors to support a variety of communication modes including CW,
voice, image and many digital data modes. ...
Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872)
American contributor to the
of a single-wire
system based on European telegraphs, co-inventor of the
and an accomplished
On the sea voyage
home in 1832, Morse encountered
Charles Thomas Jackson of
Boston, a man
who was well schooled in
electromagnetism. Witnessing various experiments with Jackson's
electromagnet, Morse developed the concept of a single-wire
telegraph, and The Gallery of the Louvre was set aside. The original
Morse telegraph, submitted with his
application, is part of the collections of the
National Museum of American History at the
In time the
Morse code would become the primary language of telegraphy in the world, and
is still the standard for
rhythmic transmission of data.
closure turns on oscillator, or biases a buffer stage to allow the RF oscillator
to pass on through to the transmitter
HB Bug QST
An iambic keyer is normally used with a dual lever paddle. It
consists of two separately actuated switches. I am right handed and use my thumb
for the dits and index finger for the dahs. You can also use a single lever
paddle with an iambic keyer but you won’t be able to take advantage of the
iambic properties of the keyer. Single lever keying is sometimes called slap
keying since you can only depress either the dit (slap to the right) or dah
(slap to the left) switch - you can’t depress both at the same time. Finally,
some folks “slap” a dual lever paddle - this is OK, too!
The difference between mode A and B lies in what the keyer does
when both paddles are released. The mode A keyer completes the element being
sent when the paddles are released. The mode B keyer sends an additional element
opposite to the one being sent when the paddles are released. The original
Curtis chip is mode A - the WB4VVF Accu-keyer is mode B. You can tell the basic
difference between the modes with the letter C. In mode A you could squeeze both
paddles (dah before dit) and you would let go of both after hearing the last dit.
With mode B, you start the same BUT let go of both paddles after hearing the
second *dah*. Here is a diagram of sending a C with mode A and with mode B:
More on Iambicitynousishness ...
Built-in KX3, NUE-PSK, etc.
CCW -- Coherent CW ...
Coherent CW was invented by Ray Petit, W7GHM. He is also the inventor of
Clover now manufactured by HAL Communications. The first amateur QSO was by
Andy McCaskey, WA7ZVC using a Ten-Tec PM-1. CCW was promoted by Chas.
Woodson (Woody), W6NEY a professor at Stanford University. Woody published a
newsletter in the eary 1970's. Ade Weiss, W0RSP wrote some articles in CQ
and Woody, W6NEY publish a series of articles in QST in 1979 - 1981 period.
In February 1994 VE2IQ published his circuit for CCW using a PC and DSP
techniques. Peter Lamb, G3IRM wrote a newsletter on CCW techniques in the
CCW moved on to BPSK techniques and is presently being used on 80 meters. A
lot of this work, software, etc. is available on the web. The ARRL had
information in the 1980's handbooks and still has some material in the
Amateur CCW was developed before we had nice microprocessors, DSP and other
current technology. It's been around for 25 years, is only as complex as an
SSB transmitter, and certainly within the building ability of all most all
amateurs. One does not need power ... it is a QRPp mode.
CCW is slow ... 12 wpm CW. You need a good freq standard, but today we can
use GPS timing (see TAPR web site). It works in noise and under poor
conditions and has been proven to work on the ham bands.
-- Extremely Slow CW ...
QRSS is a derivative of the CW Q-Signal QRS for "Please
lower your code speed". By using extremely slow CW, it is possible to use a
computer sound card and special software to extract CW characters from below
the audible noise floor. Morse code element lengths of 10 to 30 seconds (or
even longer) per dot are commonly used.
Amateur VLF operators have used QRSS techniques to span
the Atlantic at 136 KHz and to receive very weak VLF beacon transmissions
from distant locations. By adopting these same techniques, QRP operators can
push the envelope of very low power HF communications.
On the receive end, the audio output from the station
receiver is fed into a computer sound card. When processed by special QRSS
software, the magic happens and signals in the receive "window" are
displayed. QRSS morse code character elements are visible as horizontal
traces in the slowly scrolling display. In effect, the computer becomes a
very narrow bandwidth filter by which coherent CW signals are extracted from
the non-coherent receiver noise.
In the photo above, the characters "Ø" and "C" of callsign
WØCH are visible. This Spectran screen shot was taken by AA4XX on March 2,
2002. The mode was QRSS30 (30 second dots) and the WØCH 30 meter transmit
power was 1 milliwatt for this test.
Learning to use Morse
on the air ... <www.netwalk.com/~fsv/CWguide.htm>
Newbie practices vs
Being too “wordy” and not using common abbreviations and prosigns
repeating K2XXX de W3YYY when handing back over to the other station
not needed with strong signals BK is fine since you only have to identify
yourself every 10 minutes
Getting familiar with
Write down typical exchanges
practice sending them to a Morse reader
look at how your fist is copied
repeat until comfortable with what you will be sending
Use (???) software to generate typical replies to your exchanges and send
them to you in Morse
make up a number of them with different content
receive them and write down what you copy to get practice in the process
find a “buddy” at your same level of experience and practice making
contacts with him using code practice oscillators
find on-the-air contacts and copy them on paper to get comfortable with
how a contact is conducted.
(click on the
QSO string to hear the audio!)
(Thanks to John Shannon, K3WWP ...
http://naqcc.info/cw_qsos.html ... for the format of this whole sample QSO!)
this sample QSO, we'll use a fictional contact between George N2APB and Joe N2CX.
N2APB does the initial 3x3 call of a CQ and Joe answers. Here's the way it goes:
If in the course of your QSO, someone else happens to come on
frequency while you are transmitting and you can hear them because you are using
break-in or QSK, here is a little trick. It's possible the interfering station
can't hear you, but may be able to hear the station you are working. So turn it
over to the other station as quickly as you can. Perhaps the interfering station
will hear him and move on. This works especially well if you are working a
higher power station.
CQ CQ CQ de N2APB N2APB N2APB K
And Joe replies to me ...
N2APB DE N2CX GM
TNX CALL UR 599 599 IN BROOKLAWN NJ BROOKLAWN NJ NAME IS JOE JOE HW?
AR N2APB DE N2CX K
That's 111 characters including spaces that have conveyed 3 important pieces of
information. Let's analyze it a bit more in conjunction with my comments before
the QSO example.
let's the other station know you're answering him. The DE means 'from' so you're
saying N2APB from N2CX or it can also be taken to mean N2APB this is N2CX. It
should always be used when sending both calls.
GM TNX CALL
means Good Morning, thanks for answering my CQ with your call. Obviously this
could also be GA - Good Afternoon or GE - Good Evening depending on the time of
UR 599 599
means your signal is being received 599. That's the RST report, as described a
bit earlier on our whiteboard here. You can also use the term RST as in UR RST IS
599 599, but I think that is superficial as it is really understood that you are
giving an RST report when you say UR 599 or 559, 349, whatever.
IN BROOKLAWN NJ
of course is giving your location. A pause between the town and state is
sufficient to separate them. You don't need a comma. Alternately you can say
QTH BROOKLAWN NJ which means my
location is Brooklawn, NJ. The Q signal QTH means 'my location is' so it is
incorrect to say my QTH is as then you are really stuttering and saying my
location IS IS Brooklawn, NJ.
NAME IS JOE
JOE is just what it seems to be. Some folks, especially in DX
QSO's for whatever reason like to use OP IS JOE JOE meaning the operator's name
I like to send RST,
NAME twice each which gives the other ham a chance
to be sure he copied right and to write the info in his log.
"how did you copy?" or "how are you copying?"
Again it's common knowledge what you are asking and you don't really need to
send HW CPY?
the letters AR run together and is a procedure signal meaning that's all I have
to say for this round or 'end of transmission'.
DE N2CX is turning things over to N2APB to transmit now and...
go ahead and transmit now. You can also use
KN to indicate that only N2APB may
transmit. No one is welcome to break in. A plain K is technically an invitation
to N2APB or any other station to transmit and anyone is welcome to break in.
Now it's N2APB's turn to transmit and it goes:
DE N2APB GM JOE UR 589 589 IN FOREST HILL MD FOREST HILL MD
NAME IS GEORGE GEORGE HW? AR N2CX DE N2APB KN
Virtually the same format except Joe knows my name and says GM George
instead of GM TNX CALL.
On Joe's second transmission, it becomes much more free-form and
virtually anything can be talked about now that the formalities of the first
round are over. However the procedure part of the rounds stays the same:
DE N2CX R FB GEORGE NICE TO MEET YOU BT THE RIG HR IS A KNWD TS-570D AT QRP 5W
TO AN ATTIC RANDOM WIRE BT THE WX LITE SNOW ES 33 DEGREES HW? AR N2APB DE N2CX
Notice a couple of things. The beginning and end of the round is identical to
the first round, and every round should be the same way. Although not necessary
nor even required, sending both calls at beginning and end is a courtesy to
others listening in on the QSO to know who they are listening to. Perhaps one is
an old friend, and they will break in (if we use K instead of KN) or wait till
the QSO is over to call one of us (if we are using KN between rounds).
R at the
very beginning means "I copied you solidly". Never send R if you didn't. It is
contradictory to send R BUT I MISSED YOUR NAME. That means I copied everything
you sent perfectly but I didn't copy your name. Huh?
fine business and is a ham catch all expression meaning great, wonderful, that's
interesting, etc. Don't get into the habit of repeating everything the other ham
said though like FB on your TS-570D and FB on your QRP and attic antenna. I know
what I'm running, you don't have to tell me. It's fine to say something like 'I
used to have a 570 here also and liked it very much' or other such indirect
comments on what I said, but don't just repeat what I said verbatim.
BT or B and T
run together means a Break in Text and is used as a catch all punctuation mark
between thoughts. Or if your mind goes blank temporarily a good filler repeated
several times - BT BT BT.
shorthand (shortfist?) for AND. It comes from the American Morse where ES is the
ampersand (&) symbol.
Let's get to the
close of a QSO now. Some folks take forever to say good-bye while others say it
so fast you don't know it's over. I prefer something like the following last two
rounds as a good middle ground.
DE N2APB R FB ON ALL JOE BT THE XYL SAYS SUPPER IS READY SO I MUST GO BT
TNX QSO HPE CUL 73 GE SK N2CX DE N2APB K
N2APB DE N2CX OK GEO WONT HOLD YOU TNX QSO HPE CUAGN VY
73 GE SK N2APB DE N2CX (dit dit)
Pretty much self-explanatory.
- thanks for the QSO
HPE CUL (CUAGN)
- hope to see you later (again)
NEVER NEVER 73s - 73 means 'best wishes' - 73s means 'best wisheses' which is
plain silly. I've never heard anyone say 'best wisheses' in regular speech, yet
it is done all the time with the misuse of 73. If you want to emphasize a 73 say
VY 73 which means 'very best wishes' and is perfectly correct procedurally and
GM) - good evening (afternoon, morning)
at the very end of the last transmission means 'I have no further transmissions
from here'. It may be used by both stations for their final transmission in
place of AR which means as I said 'end of transmission' or end of this
transmission, but I have more coming.
Then there is the traditional 'cute' ending.
Two dits, "shave and a haircut"
"two bits", the rooster crowing, etc. I prefer the simple two dits answered by a
single dit. This is nothing official or mandatory, just something carried over
from the early days of land line telegraphy.
[Again, thanks to John Shannon,
K3WWP ... http://naqcc.info/cw_qsos.html
... for the format of this whole sample QSO! - n2apb]
1. Iambic A vs iambic B Chuck Olson <www.morsecode.nl/modeab.pdf>
2. Marshal Emm Debunking
iambic keying <www.morsex.com/pubs/iambicmyth.pdf>
3. Learning to use Morse on the air ... <www.netwalk.com/~fsv/CWguide.htm>
4. Morse Code
Operators Bid Adieu to Dying Language: ...
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