Getting Started With CW

Fred Beatty, K8AJX


Why Become a CW Operator?

First of all, why should you want to learn the Morse code and become a CW operator? After all, code is no longer used by commercial and military services and the FCC doesn’t require it for any amateur license. Well, there are some really good reasons, both practically and personally. Consider the following:
  • QRM, or interference, is greater on phone. Have you listened much in the phone bands? There are a lot of stations there that, by virtue of propagation, nets, and even poor operator courtesy, make it difficult to make contacts and maintain QSOs by the average amateur station. This is particularly true on the lower frequency bands. These issues are much reduced in the CW bands.

  • DX, if you are interested in contacting and confirming QSOs with foreign stations, is also more difficult to work for the reasons mentioned above. Conversely, there are many DX stations operating CW on all the ham bands.

  • Equipment needs are greater to operate more effectively in the phone bands. The average amateur station runs 100 watts output to a wire antenna, making it more difficult to compete with phone stations running higher power and directional antennas. With CW and the same amount of power and same antenna, you can work stations farther away than you can with phone.

  • Phone operation does not require much skill, once a person has a bit of experience. Code proficiency does. There is nothing like pure and clear CW signal well-sent by a skilled operator who can copy code at the same speeds that he or she (yes, there are lady CW operators, too) sends. Pounding brass also provides a link to the past from the very beginning with Samuel F. B. Morse right up to the present.

With these thoughts in mind, let’s move on and take a look at how to best learn the code.

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