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My New Hobby - CW

The day before Mother's Day, my family went up to the Golden Spike National Monument. We went through the museum, checked out the exhibits, and they even had a reenactment of the ceremony there on Promentory Summit. It was a fun day. On the way back to the car, I head some radio operators:

CQ CQ CQ. This is KB7MRL. Over. CQ CQ CQ. This is KB7MRL. Over.

Contact was made, a short conversation ensued, and they went on to the next band. I knew immediately they were hams, and I wanted to check out their rig, where they were from, and how long they had been doing amateur radio. They were handing out Golden Spike QSL cards to anyone they could make contact with. So, I headed over to their pavilion, chatted with them for a bit, then went back to my family for lunch.

During my meeting, they gave me a couple ARRL magazines, their personal QSL cards, and a Morse Code CD (bundled with Windows software). I've always been interested in learning Morse (commonly called "CW" for "continuous wave"), ever since I was a scout. So, recently, I decided to set to the task of learning it. Why, you ask? What's the point, when we have the Internet, cell phones, satellites, and other forms of communication? My answer: I like a good challenge, and I just want to see if I can learn it. I can still get involved with satellite radio, and packet radio.

So, I fired up the software, and set to task. I'm learning CW using the Koch method, which means learning the number of characters I want, at the target speed I feel comfortable with. So, I set with 10 WPM, and I'm up to 7 characters: ABHJMTW, with about 90% accuracy. I'm hoping by the end of the month, I'll have the entire alphabet down at 10WPM, where June I can focus on doubling the speed, as well as reaching the assigned 40 characters of CW. Maybe that's a bit optimistic. We'll see.

Eventually, I'll set the goal for getting my Amateur Extra license here in the States. I understand that CW is no longer a requirement for obtaining that license, and as already mentioned, that isn't the reason for me learning CW. However, when I do get my license, and eventually a rig setup, I would like to chat on the CW-only bands from the outset. So, becoming proficient with CW before then is important to me.

I'm not sure how my wife will enjoy me picking up a new hobby, especially seeing as though I have so very little time in my life for anything, let alone a hobby. She probably won't be excited about me setting up my ham shack when we move. But, on the flip side, she's always complaining that I spend too much time on IRC/IM, so maybe this can take that place. After all, hams step up for public service when they can, win awards, and just enjoy good company. It's a bit more involved than IRC, with actual purposes, so we'll see. Maybe she'll get her license as well. I know I would like to see my daughter licensed. That would be cool.

So, anyway, there you go. Learning CW for fun. I'll keep progress on this blog as I go along. No promises, or threats, on the frequency of the posts.

{ 14 } Comments

  1. Trey | May 22, 2010 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    A good site that a ham built is it's great for learning CW.

    Also, CW stands for continuous wave.

    Good luck and 73!


  2. Stan Kain | May 22, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Best of luck with the CW. I've been a ham radio operator since 1967, so CW was one of the basic requirements for licensing. In those days, before computers, radio opened the world to me. While my speed is quite rusty today, I've never forgotten the Morse Code. As antiquated as it may sound to those who have grown up with high speed electronic communications, it's still one of the most reliable means of communication we have today. Under most any circumstances, it's possible to communicate with Morse, when all other methods fail. Simple as being able to make sounds, flash lights or most any other means of "making and breaking" a signal from any source.

    Just a tip from an old guy and I'm sure you're already aware, but if you want to acquire speed and comfort with CW, learn not to count dots and dashes, but as with music, learn to hear a single sound created by the combination of dots and dashes. Once you have that secret, you will pick up speed in no time!

  3. Joseph | May 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Greetings! Good to see another linux/gnome/ubuntu hacker getting into ham radio. 🙂
    Definitely go to extra if you can; you get full privileges that way and really that's where the stuff starts getting *really* interesting.

    If you have questions or just wanna chat, there are a bunch of linux and non-linux hams in #hamradio on freenode. Come on by sometime; we'd love to have you!


  4. ethana2 | May 22, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I learned morse so I could hear my text and Google chat messages beeped out in 17.4 KHz during boring classes from my Droid.

  5. ethana2 | May 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Ok, it says I'm using "linux", not "Ubuntu". That's not acceptable, I'm using Chromium from Ubuntu repos, I don't want my browsing giving stats collectors the idea that the linux desktop is still fragmented. I thought they fixed that. Guhh.

  6. ethana2 | May 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Okay as long as I don't use Gmail, iGoogle, Facebook, Google Calendar, BlackBoard, Digg, my banking site, or any other web app where JavaScript performance actually matters, I should be fine for now..

  7. ethana2 | May 22, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink


  8. ethana2 | May 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Midori on Ubuntu, test.

  9. ethana2 | May 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    My comments 4, 5, 6, and 7 can be deleted. New hypothesis:

  10. longfellow_ca | May 23, 2010 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Glad to learn I have company in this new opportunity!

    I'm hoping my 75 year old brain can meet the challenge!

  11. aaron | May 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Permalink


  12. Steven Rosenberg | May 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Aaron, I've had a Ham license for quite a long time - KC6FYL. I haven't been on the air in years but like you CW was what interested me.

    I was also interested in homebrewing and did manage to make my own crystal-controlled transmitter for 40 meters as well as an antenna tuner. I never got around to making a receiver, but I'd like to do that someday.

    It's funny - getting more into computers and Linux/BSD pretty much gave me something to do that wasn't amateur radio, so that's part of the reason I'm not doing it.

    I will probably sell off some of my equipment, but I just might keep an HF rig (got one of those in the early '90s) and give it another try.

    I just found my old 73 Magazine code tape in my boxes of old junk - and I even have a cassette player on which to listen to it. I did manage to do 13 WPM for the General test but never got the 20 WPM for Extra.

    Now you don't need 20 WPM, but I'd have to learn all that theory to get an Extra license.

    Maybe getting on the air is the answer ...

    Good luck Aaron. I don't know where the sunspots are at, but in the late '80s the solar activity meant that 10 meters was a very hot band for worldwide contacts with cheap equipment. If/when that happens again it could spark some interest.

  13. Dick Smith | May 25, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Way to go Aaron. I've been licensed for 59 years now and CW has always been my first love. Learned it the hard way, but it got me my Novice back in '56 and been going strong ever since. Good luck with your testing. It'll be easy, you'll see.

  14. | January 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Here it is a couple years later. How's it going with cw? It happens to be my passion as well.

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