Getting Started With CW

Fred Beatty, K8AJX


Getting Down to Business

Okay, we have established the foundations, set forth the basics, and set up the “Just Learn the Morse Code” program. Now we are ready to begin learning the characters and here’s a “methodical” way to do it. If you haven’t printed out character listing in the “The Basics” page, do so now and have a pencil and piece of paper handy to copy down the characters so you can cross-check your copy with the “Output” window, then proceed as follows:

  • Refer to the first character set on the list (“eish”) and then click on each of those characters in the character list in the program. You will hear the sound of the characters as you click. Do so a number of times until you have an idea of the sound of the “dits” and “dahs” as a whole in each. Remember, don’t count the dits and dahs individually.

  • Now go to the “Source” pull-down menu and click on “Selected Characters.” Enter “eish” (sans quotation marks, of course) in the window that comes up. The click on “OK.”

  • Now click on the “Play” arrow at the top left of the screen. You will see the characters loading, which will only take a few seconds. The program will then begin sending those characters in random order and print them out on the “Output” screen as it does so. The characters will come quickly, which is exactly what we want to force us to listen for the sound of the each letter as a whole rather than counting individual dits and dahs. Mentally compare that sound with the sound that you heard when you manually clicked on them in the character list, cross-checking them with the printout. After two minutes, the program will cease sending.

  • Repeat the process a couple of times. The “Output” window will clear each time, so you can start cross-checking yourself. Now take pencil and paper in hand and click on the “Play“ arrow again, copying the code characters without looking at the “Output” screen. After the “transmission” ends, cross-check your copy with the screen.

Guess what? Now you are copying code! Made some mistakes? No matter. As a review, in the character set on the right, click on the ones that you missed. Then click the “Play” arrow. The program will begin sending the same group until you enter a new one.

Okay, we have “eish” down pretty well, though you don’t need to be perfect, as we are going to “methodically” implement a process of repetition that will fix them in our minds. Now, let’s move on:

  • Your next set of characters are “tmo.” Again, go to the “Selected Characters” option in the “Source” menu and enter, you guessed it, “tmo.” Follow the same approach that you did with “eish” until you are comfortable with these three characters.

  • Now what? Let’s do a review, which we will “methodically” continue to do as we go through the alphabet. Go to the “Selected Characters” option and enter both “eish” and “tmo” in sequence with no spaces. You don’t need to mix them up, as the program will do that for you. Then click on “Play” and follow the same procedure you have up to this point in your practice.

Well, what about the rest of the characters? You probably know what is coming:

  • Go through the entire alphabet in the manner described above, taking the groupings one at a time. When you are comfortable with each, enter a couple at a time, paying particular attention to those characters that might be giving you a bit of trouble. You can also mix them up by including only two or three characters from each set at a time.

  • Do the numbers separately after you have completed the alphabet. Similarly, do the punctuation separately. Once you feel comfortable, you can mix them as you did with the character sets previously until you familiar with all of them. You also should become acquainted with the prosigns. We will address them later when we get ready to take the plunge for our first QSO.

  • As you progress, you will encounter some characters/numbers/punctuation that are more challenging than others. Keep track of them and include them with other sets that you practice.

Now, what about actually copying the code. As mentioned above, write your copy down on that piece of paper so you can check yourself. You will miss some characters now and then. Don’t worry about that and don’t dwell on a letter that doesn’t immediately come to mind, because if you do, you will miss several of the characters that follow it. When you check your copy, you can make a mental note of those characters that you miss more frequently so you can emphasize them in your review sessions.

So, now you have a “methodical” approach to learning the code. Follow it and don’t be discouraged when you encounter characters that give you a bit of trouble. We all did. Just work on them through repetition and you will learn them. It takes time and practice, but it is worth it.

Now that you have learned the code characters, what is next in our “methodical” approach? Well, “Just Learn the More Code” happens to offer more options that we can take advantage of.

Next Page: Moving on to Words and Text