Thursday, September 10, 2009

..-. .. .-. ... - -.-. --- -. - .- -.-. - <= (First Contact)

This week marked a big milestone for me; I successfully completed my first radio contact using CW aka Morse Code. It was a tough contact; conditions were bad but the guy I worked was polite and patient with me so we managed to pull it off.

I had always believed that I simply did not have an "ear" for code; it sounded like noise to me and I was never able to get past a basic understanding of the mechanics. After the amateur radio code requirement was lifted I was thankful and quickly upgraded to the highest level license. Still, in the back of my mind I felt I should make a real effort to learn code; if for no other reason than to overcome a personal limitation. (If you think I have a strong aversion to being told what to do; I have an even stronger aversion to being told what I can't do -- even if I'm the one doing the telling.) So my 2009 resolution was to learn enough code to complete a radio contact. It took me nine months, but I made it. I don't know that I will ever be a "real" CW operator, but right now I'm having fun and feeling good about my accomplishment.

I would like to thank the following people who helped make this happen for me:
  • Gerald Wheeler (W6TJP) - Author of the Code Quick learning method. A great basic foundations course.
  • Fabian Kurz (DJ1YFK) - Developer of the website. An awesome online Koch-method trainer. Did I mention it's free?
  • Leon "Skip" Stem (WB4DAD) - CW operator, FISTS member, and the first entry in my CW contact logbook. Thanks for being patient with me.


Jonesy said...

Hi Sparqi, Well done! I am just about ready to go on air with CW and seeing your post has given my confidence a boost. I've taken about 12 months to get to 15wpm with only the PC, phone's MP3 player, Morsegen, G4FON and N0HFF for company - a hard slog.

Read N0HFF's book on the web and I think you will see that we can all be good CW operators. The first 9 months are the hardest!

Best 73s

Sparqi said...

Martyn -- thanks for the link to N0HFF's book. In return I suggest KB0OBU's CW operating manual @

At 15 wpm I'd say you're more than ready!! One suggestion based on experience; we set up an informal 2m CW ragchew after a local net this past Weds and it was a blast. 2m is very quiet, and its limited propagation means that you won't have to worry about generating a pile-up which you may not be ready to manage.

73 ...dtw

Scott Hedberg said...

Congrats & well done!

73 Scott AD7MI

Piotr Stuła SP9TTG said...

Hello Sparqi ! Welcome to the 16dB better world of CW. Well done ! There are many patient people on CW dont worry to lurk into sleepless nights codenamed CW :)
Try MorseRunner by VE3NEA to master your skill.

Best 73 de SP9TTG, Peter.

aa7ee said...

Congratulations sparqi! I'm in a similiar situation to you - recently became active on CW after having been licensed a long time.

If you ever feel like a nice easy paced slow or medium speed CW QSO, look me up. I have plenty of time to spare for such activities.


Marc said...

Congratulations, David! That is really a milestone!

Coincidentally, I also made my very first CW contact very recently with VE7BQO @ 7.041 MHz (Nov. 10, 2009, UTC 5:00). It was a real exciting moment when I heard he replied my CQ, BUT I was so nervous and can’t even copy his call correctly. I tapped slowly telling him it’s my 1st CW contact and he was so nice and patient coming back with his call a couple of times slowly. I got it right and I heard he was as joyful as me replying “.-. .-.”

It’s a very unique experience and I think we share the same mindset here as I remember our conversation at the Black Mountain. It’s a process of challenging ourselves and I really enjoy doing that.

I’m so happy to share your excitement, David. High five for the great job!!

Very best 73’s,

Marc (W5PO)

Maki said...

Hello Sparqi,
I've been enjoying your blog for quite a while now. I felt compelled to come back and leave a comment saying I made my first CW contact after nearly a year's worth of preparation this past Friday. I think I did rather poorly at it, but the other station was kind and patient. It was not exactly planned and I felt quite unprepared. I wish I had a recording(a tip I learned shortly thereafter -- just keep a recorder going) so I could go back and figure out some important things that I missed like the other operator's name. I think what I now need is a little cheat sheet with the QSO format and abbreviations like FB and ES and the Q signals which I completely spaced on.
Anyways, belated congratulations to you. I'll keep working on my skills, hope to make a CW contact with you someday.

....maki.... K4RQZ

Sparqi said...

Thanks to those of you who've left comments; I appreciate hearing from others who have recently completed their first CW QSOs!

Maki: Here is a website which offers a "QSO template" such as you described wanting:

Best 73 to all

Don said...

Way to go! That brings back vivid memories of 48 years ago and my very first QSO with a very patient ham in Kentucky who waited while I wrote down my town name so I could send it - too nervous to remember without that. I've been "pounding brass" ever since.
Don wa9eic