Getting Started With CW

Fred Beatty, K8AJX


The Challenge

Okay, now we are ready to get serious about the code. Before we do, consider these basic rules:
  • Do not memorize and count dots and dashes if you wish to become a competent CW operator. For example, “A” is a dot and a dash, but don’t think “dot dash.” Instead focus on the sound of a complete letter in terms of “dits” and “dahs,” which in this case is “didah.”

  • Approach the code “methodically” . . . in other words, in a planned, measured manner. We offer some thoughts for doing that in the pages that follow.

  • Concentrate on learning to copy code before sending it. Sending will follow and will be easier. If you do opt to practice sending as you work on copying, send only the characters that you are familiar with from your practice receiving sessions.

  • Do not spend more than half-an-hour at a sitting working on your code. Beyond that one can “burn out.” Practice copying at least once each day without fail, but twice a day is better (separated by several hours), in that a second session reinforces the first. Note the word “copying.” Do not count practice sending time in the half-hour sessions, should you decide to do that at the same time.

  • Expect to plateau as you progress . . . meaning most of us reach a level of speed and then stay there for a few days or maybe even a week or so. Don’t be discouraged when you do. Just keep on practicing and you will suddenly realize that you are again increasing your copy speed.

  • Learning the code requires effort and a degree of self-discipline. You may have heard people say that they have a “mental block” that prevents them from learning the code. With all due respect, the real problem is that they have not made a serious commitment to learn the code and put consistent effort into doing it. Hang in there and you will be successful!!
Now, you are probably wondering how long it will take you to achieve a basic proficiency. That varies from individual to individual, but you aren’t going to do it over night. For the average person who pursues the code “methodically” and faithfully, you can expect one to two months and longer to become really comfortable with it.

Okay, now that we have some basic rules out of the way, let’s get started.

Next Page: The Basics