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HINTS, TIPS AND
FOR LEARNING MORSE CODE (CW)
Presented by Bill, WJ5O, VE
These tips, tricks, hints
and techniques for learning and receiving Morse code will get you off
to a better CW learning session and help you when copying code on the
They are shared
by Bill, WJ5O of Corpus Christi, Tx.
Bill's tips are worth
their weight in gold. Follow his instructions below and
be certain that
you will get better results when using Morse code on the air!
followed similar tips and techniques years ago to pass my CW exam when
Morse code was a requirement....THEY
These notes are from my experience's of
administering the CW examination as a member of a VE team...... even
before the FCC turned it over to the Amateur community in mid- eighties.
--- all NOVICE Class 5 WPM examinations were administered by a General
Class or higher prior to that.
TIPS FOR TESTING
Get the code "under Your belt".
Learn it just for the fun of it!
A little background!
It is a
relative simple matter for anyone to broadcast a message using voice and
the English language. The only requirement is that the
sending the message should speak into a microphone connected to a
transmitter. At the receiving end, the procedure is just as simple,
the individual desiring to understand the transmitted message needs
only to tune a receiver to the broadcasting station and listen to the
spoken words as they are reproduced by the receiver.
transmission of messages by code however, requires a special skill on the
part of both the sender and the receiver.
WHY USE CODE TRANSMISSION IF
VOICE TRANSMISSION IS SO MUCH SIMPLER?
1. Radio communication by code requires less elaborate, less
costly and less bulky equipment than does voice radio
2. Code transmission will penetrate radio and
atmospheric interference more readily than will phone transmission.
Code transmission will usually be intelligently received
under conditions that render voice transmission and reception
impossible. The spoken word with it's inflections,
a tremendous variety of sounds is infinitely more complex than is the
single piercing note of a radio telegraph signal.
3. The radio
telegraph code constitutes an invaluable method of sending
"secret" messages or security information with a greater amount of
4. A transmitted code signal requires much less frequency
space than does a radio telephone signal. Approximately 6 KHZ for an
AM signal and 15 KHZ for the wideband FM signal. The typical CW
signal is 1.5 KHZ.
5. Amateur radio operators use "Q" signals which
have common meaning in languages other than English. This permits the
exchange of basic information in CW between operators regardless of
speaking ability. (Editor note: These five reasons above can be
to the ARRL from many years ago and passed down over
time. I am certain that others can find more reasons to use
The Morse code is made up of letters as
is most spoken languages. The code letters consist of sounds of short
and long duration which are called DOTS & DASHES, (sounded like
DITS & DAHS). These sounds are usually high pitched tones of about
500 to 800 Hertz or approximately the sound of a high C on a piano.
The long sound (DAH) is three times as long in duration as the short
sound (DIT). Each letter of the alphabet, each number and each
punctuation mark is composed of a different combination of these
long and short sounds.
Since Morse code consists of sound
combinations it is very similar to music. A person listening to the
National Anthem hears only the melody and not the individual notes of
the music. Morse code is quickly mastered by listening for the
"melody" of the letter sound rather than counting the individual dits
and dahs. (Editors note....learn code by sound,
do not count the dits and dahs.....sound =
character!) REPEAT....LEARN EACH CHARACTER BY
The following tips, tricks
and information below was originally designed to aid you in preparing for
the previous Morse code exam but still remain as extremly valuable methods
of learning Morse code! They are based on preparing for the exam as was
required by the FCC. These methods can be readily applied to actual on the
air conversations between Amateur radio stations using Morse code and will
be very valuable to you when using Morse code on the
NUMBER NUMBERS NUMBERS ... KNOW THE NUMBERS It's
difficult to have ten questions about a five minute QSO without four or
five of them requiring numbers. (Call Signs, RST, Antenna Height, number
of tubes, power, age, years a ham....etc)
Expect to have a CALL Sign with a DAH DIT DIT DAH DIT ( / ) ...
FCC exams are required to have all 26 letters, zero thru 9 numbers,
at least 4 punctuation marks including the slant bar & procedural
SK. Learn the common configurations for CALLSIGNS like 1x2, 1x3, 2x1, 2x2
& 2x3 ... That way there will be no surprises if something
The exam was a typical QSO
that would last for a little over five minutes.
Before the exam
there would be a one minute warm-up to insure that everyone can hear
the message. You would be given a paper to copy both the practice warm-up
minute and the QSO . The QSO would start with a
series of six
"V"s and end with the procedural sign SK.
A passing score was
achieved by answering 7 out of the ten questions
correctly or 25
characters in a row. (Not counting the V's or Warm up)...
punctuation marks counted 2 and letters counted 1.
What is the Call of the receiving station?
the location of the receiving station?
What is the Call of the
What is the location of the transmitting
What was the name of the receiving operator?
What was the
RST report given by the transmitting operator?
What was the radio being
used by the transmitting operator?
What did the transmitting operator
say His power output was?
What type of antenna did the transmitting
What was the height of the antenna?
What was the
weather described as?
How long had the transmitting operator been a
What was the reason given for ending the
ADDITIONAL HELP: Learn the names
of as many type of radios as possible...especially the more common ones
like KENWOOD, ICOM, YAESU, TEN-TEC, SWAN, NATIONAL, HALLICRAFTERS, SBE
Learn the names of the common antenna
configurations..... like DIPOLE,
DELTA LOOP, WINDOM, ZEP, BAZOOKA,
YAGI, BEAM, INVERTED VEE, LONGWIRE & rhombic.
THAT WAY IF YOU
COPY A PORTION OF THE RADIO NAME OR
ANTENNA TYPE IT WILL BE
EASIER TO FILL IN THE BLANK.
Callsigns (If you
miss part at first, they will also be in the closing)..
The first call
given is the RECEIVING operator followed by DE .. and
Call of the TRANSMITTING operator.
Names of the operators
(receiving operator usually near the first of message)
short names like JOE, JIM, JACK, BILL rarely a SAMANTHA or CLEMENTINE but
often a MARY, JILL, BETH
When you hear UR RST or SIGs is/are ---
know there will be three
numbers coming next. Most likely the
first will be a 5 and the last a 9
(know what RST is ....and that the
first number is never over 5).... remember, it's possible to get a RST
report like .... 599 W/QSB (with fading)..
....QSB....QRM ..... QRN are the only ones I have ever seen on a 5
If you miss a Character----FORGET IT (for now) --
mark your copy
with a "-" or just a space where the letter should be.
can be filled in later.... see below.
QTH - look
for City & State. Sometimes just the CITY or the STATE is sent.
When you hear weather or WX it's usually a two
word description following.
(WINDY and WARM......... COLD and FREEZING
.....DAMP and RAINY)
Sometimes followed by "TEMPERATURE IS _
Type of radio (rig) --sometimes descriptive like OLD TUBE
or QRP but
most often the name of a manufacturer.... KENWOOD, ICOM or
(TEN-TEC, SWAN, NATIONAL, HALLICRAFTERS, SBE,
& HEATHKIT). ... be familiar with names of Rig
Antenna used. Know the names of several
configurations. DIPOLE, DELTA LOOP, WINDOM, ZEP, BAZOOKA,
YAGI, BEAM, INVERTED VEE, LONGWIRE & RHOMBIC.
By knowing the
configuration names of the antennas it helps to fill in the "holes" in
Comment like "BEEN A HAM 30 YEARS" or "AM IN 12TH
Listen for why ?? QRT........ "I MUST QRT FOR
WORK".... "QRT FOR BED"
Listen closely for Callsigns.
They can be confusing at times.
Scan your copy -
fill in the" holes" of the letters missed. (GROC_R) most
likely GROCER (EN_INEER) likely ENGINEER .... GET THE IDEA?.... This
filling in of the "holes" helps in getting better copy. A copy of CHICA-O
and later adding the G, tells you the station is in Chicago.
QTH corresponds to the callsigns (KL7XXX should be Alaska--WH6XXX
in Hawaii & etc).... KNOW the Call sign
Look at the "doubtful" ones. Are any a "toss-up"
between 2 responses? Like is it a four or a six? If it's in a
Callsign ..... see if you got Florida for a location ...
Florida is in 4 land.
Look for "tell-tell" letters in your copy--if
a couple of letters
match to what you have knowledge of , MARK
IT. (DI_O__ is likely DIPOLE.... even if the copy is just D_____ and it's
about an antenna it's probably DIPOLE if the copy is just _a___ and it's
about a radio it's probably YAESU.
If there is one "I have no idea"
it's worth a guess. If it's a callsign,
Count the numbers You have
If You are missing a ZERO or any other number, put it in the
Callsign that doesn't have a number in Your copy.
If an Op says His
age is 78, it's likely He's not a go-go dancer. If an Op
don't expect a number over 20 for age.
As a last resort-----
EDUCATED GUESS......you can always have the station re-send that part you
did not understand.
All of this is NO substitute for CW
skill and lots of practice however, but it's a sure thing to
help overcome the on the air apprehension when you are learning
and to secure better communication using CW.
Good luck! YOU CAN DO
I would like to know if this information helped
Send Me a message......... firstname.lastname@example.org
"I believe one of the most rewarding facets of Ham Radio is
being able to help others......
and the more widespread the continued
use of CW, ... the more Hams can benefit"......73....Bill,
See Bill's 10
Meter Beacon Information page.......loaded!
July 2005 the FCC released Notice of Proposed
Rule Making and Order (NPRM),
.... It was acted upon February 23, 2007 eliminating
the Morse code requirement.
The Morse requirement WILL BE NO LONGER REQUIRED IN THE U.S EFFECTIVE
February 23, 2007 for any Amateur Radio License!
Even with the requirement eliminated by the
Morse code will NEVER be outdated. It will always be a
reliable method of getting a message delivered when all else
It has been around for about 100 years and
can be used very effectively......
DON'T LET IT'S USE
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