I have a lot of admiration to those undertaking the challenge of learning Morse today as there is no specific reason for learning apart from being able to communicate long distances with low power.
Celebrating 50 years of using Morse this year, I ask myself one question. Would I undertake learning Morse if I was not professionally trained? My answer always is “I don’t know”.
When I was a 13 year old, I had dreams of becoming a Ships Radio Officer which never happened and aged 15 I bought my first Morse Key from the local electrical shop. Did I learn Morse? No! It was not until 1965 when I had turned 18 and joined the RAF that I was professionally taught Morse.
Having a good Morse aptitude I did not find it difficult to learn and after 10 months was up to 18wpm and passed out as a Leading Aircraftsman. Subsequent training and exams over the next 3 years brought my speed up to 30+wpm.
Spending years of being first a Morse Examiner and now a Morse Assessor for the RSGB, also mentoring people learning Morse, I know about the grief, frustration and dedication involved in learning the language which I never had.
It is very enjoyable using Morse on the bands and I get a lot of pleasure from it, I always encourage people to learn the language as it is a unique experience having a CW QSO. Would I undertake learning Morse if I was not professionally trained? My answer still is “I don’t know”, this is why a have a lot of admiration for those undertaking the challenge and I am willing to spend time helping them get the same enjoyment from Morse as I have.
I think that one of the most common methods which is widely promoted on web sites, is to look and learn the characters visualy before listening to Morse Code. On a lot of Morse Code learning sites there is a chart with dots and dashes that you can memorise and this is the worst possible thing that you can do. You are learning the Morse Code LANGUAGE visually which does not work.and will only cause you problems in the future. LISTEN TO MORSE CODE, don’t read dots and dashes.
Last year at the National Hamfest, I was testing a candidate at 12wpm and they struggled as they were trying to visually imagine the character. I told them if they were trying to visualise the character in their head then it would be a waste of time taking the test. Using your ears works, using your eyes only adds another brain process and you will be lucky if you get beyone 10wpm.
When a student approaches me and excitedly tells me that some characters are just popping into his head without thinking and the Morse has slowed down in his head has achieved instant recognition on some of the characters and can only go forward more quickly now.
I talk about the reflex action, but for someone starting to learn Morse it is difficult to understand what it actually is. Only by continual reinforcement of the characters you have learned, can you achieve instant recognition and it does not happen overnight. The reflex action can’t be given a time when it will happen as it is unpredictable and is reliant on the aptitude of the student but I can promise you it will happen and when it does you will suddenly be surprised everything is easier.
To encourage the learning of Morse code, I am willing to visit clubs within a radius of 60 miles of Market Rasen in Lincolnshire to give my presentation “Cracking the Code, the easy way of learning Morse” which has proved to be a success. The only restriction I have is that I must have my travelling costs covered. Please contact me for more information.
I am working on a portable presentation on the same subject that does not need my presence, so that the presentation can be viewed without my personal appearance.
When I started the Morse Crusade in 2011, I was told it would never work and have proved this wrong by the amount of people I have helped in the few years it has been running. I tend to be a bit lax now in posting on this web site, but this does not reflect the work I am doing with the people who contact me by email as they always get a reply as soon as I get their email.
The Facebook page certainly needs to be more active as I have to admit that I don’t post on it very often due to the lack of people on it. I have now revamped it and invite everyone to join and post on it to be able to share your Morse experiences with others.
I have been asked to have a stand at the National Hamfest again this year, but find it difficult to man because of my other Hamfest commitments with the Morse tests and also I am the Outside Trade Manager. I felt very guilty last year as I asked Carl M0SER to help me with the stand, and he had to man the stand by himself most of the two days. This year I wondered if anyone would like to give an hour of their time at the stand talking about Morse. Anyone interested please contact me.
On another tact, I am intrigued by the amount of interest on recent posts on Fists about reinvigorating 2 meters CW which has got me thinking of buying a beam for the first time in my amateur career and going active again on 144.050 as the last time I worked CW on 2 meters was 1983 with a vertical on the chimney. Because I live in a very rural village (4 miles to the nearest shop). I would need a good beam to make any reasonable contacts due to the amount of CW ops in my location.
A lot of people think of Morse as a Code, a series of dots and dashes that you need to translate into characters, but think about it. We use our ears to listen to Morse and a good Morse operator takes the message in their head without thinking about it. Could we not relate Morse to a foreign language?
If we look at languages that we can’t understand for example French, it can be classed as a code because we do not understand it. If we learn French and can understand it, then it becomes a language. A radio operator who has learned Morse treats it like a language because he has learned it and can understand it, a bystander who does no know Morse will treat it as a code because he can’t understand it.
If you learn Morse as a Code, then it will remain a Code and you will have difficulty understanding it at any speed. If you learn Morse as a language you will excel and enjoy using your new language.
In less than 1 hour it will be 2014 and looking forward to the new year, starting with a talk I am doing about learning Morse, in February at RAF Waddington ARC, Lincoln to which everyone is welcome.
I finally got the pictures that was taken at the National Hamfest 2013 which I have added to the post and again thank Carl M0SER for supporting me as I could not have done it without him and also Martin G6BD for helping out with the Morse Tests. (I should actually say taking the Morse Tests with the help of Peter M0EJL)
Setting up the Morse Crusade Stand
It was a pleasure to meet the Fists Team at the National Hamfest and I hope they come back again in 2014
A call to look out for is the latest email student for the Morse Crusade HB9IIS Michel who has dusted off his paddle and getting back into CW. Good luck in 2014 and keep using the key.
If you need help with Morse, just contact me as it is free and painless and lets make 2014 a good CW year.
This is a result of a question that I was asked on how to add a new character to G4FON’s Koch Trainer. It is quite simple and self explanatory, just click on the highlighted buttons on the program.
If you are using “Just Learn Morse Code”, it comes with a comprehensive character set. To include new characters into your training section, just click on “Tools”, “Options” and just tick the characters you want to include.
The first thing I have got to say is THANK YOU CARL. Carl M0SER gave up two days of his time to help man the Morse Crusade stand, and although I said help, with my other commitments at the National Hamfest Carl done most of the work on the stand.
We had a lot of interest and I had brought my selection of Morse keys for the visitors to play with, we had some serious conversation about Morse including one visitor setting up my Marconi 365A to the same standard that he used on his own 365A as a Radio Officer in the Merchant Navy including thin piece of paper between the back contacts to dampen the clicks.
Carl brought added interest to the stand when he set up his Elecraft KX3 and small magnetic loop and started working CW stations from inside the main entrance of the George Stephenson Hall.
Morse training in amateur radio has too many experts and not enough professionals, I am continually finding this out much to my displeasure and frustration. If you consider the amount of money it costs to train a professional Morse operator, they will have been taught using the quickest and best methods to get them up to standard as soon as possible.
In 1965 I was taught Morse in the RAF using the Farnsworth / Koch method, I did not use any visual aids, slow Morse or any other method and was doing 20wpm at the end of the course. I like to offer students the same excellent tuition that I had.
In the 1980’s it was deemed a good idea to bring the standards of the Aldus Signal Lamp to amateur radio with the introduction of the 5wpm Morse Test. Today I am still dealing with the fall-out that slow Morse has caused, being detrimental to the learning of good Morse and which can seriously prevent the student achieving a decent standard.
90% of websites promoting Morse can be detrimental but 10% are good so choose carefully before starting on your journey so you can enjoy it and not end up pulling your hair out.
Speeds above 20wpm have not really been covered on the Morse Crusade and it is only a recent inquiry that made me think about it and you are getting into an area where writing down the Morse on paper starts to get difficult. So how do you increase your Morse speed if you can’t write it down?
Before you even consider fast Morse, you must have a “Reflex Action” with ALL CHARACTERS or you will struggle, to find out more about this read Nancy Kott’s article on “Instant Recognition”
Presuming that you have a “Reflex Action” with all characters you have a choice of which road you want to go down with your Morse, Hard Copy where you will have to learn to touch type to be able to copy the Morse and “Just Learn Morse Code” is a good program to use for this. (I was trained to touch type at 60wpm and copy Morse at 30wpm)
Most fast Morse operators on the amateur bands take the Morse in their head up to 40wpm and only write down relevant facts of the QSO. This is achieved by lots of practice without putting pen to paper.The secret of this is to listen to random commonly used words at the speed you want to achieve and you can listen to it in the background while doing other things as this still works. You will find that your Morse proficiency increases.and Instead of getting instant recognition with characters you are getting instant recognition with words.
There are two freeware program that can help you gain a higher proficiency, they have been designed for high speed Morse but you can just use them at the speed that you wish to achieve. RufzXP and Morse Runner.
Although I don’t have an Apple Mac, I had a query if I knew of any Morse Programs that run on the Mac System. I found “Morse Mania” which looks good, using the Koch Method but I have no way of reviewing this software and I hope that someone sends me a review that I can post on the Morse Crusade website.
Because I recently found an app for my Andriod Smartphone, I have now found an app for the iPhone which may be of use to Morse learners using the Koch Method “Ham Morse”
For those with Mac’s, there is a list of amateur related software for the Mac on DX Zone
I would like to give a warm welcome to Brian Hall GW0EDC who has volunteered to give up some of his busy time to help out with our Mentoring Scheme in North Wales & Cheshire. Brian is an Ex Royal Navy. man and boy and been a Morse lover for 53 years, former senior examiner for the RSGB. He has been successful in teaching Morse to both groups and individuals.
The Morse Crusade is actively seeking new Mentors who are willing to give up a little of their time to help learners in their area, If you would like to add your name to the Morse Mentors Directory then please contact me. If we can help one learner become a good Morse Operator then we are happy because the Morse Crusade is achieving its aims.
I would like to thank Graham G3ZOD for helping me publicise the Morse Crusade by publishing my article “Morse Mentoring by Email” on the FISTS quarterly magazine “Key Note”. Graham is a very busy man being the FISTS Membership Secretary, Webmaster and Editor of Key Note and last year FISTS celebrated 25 years of promoting Morse Code.
All my plans for the Morse Crusade being at the National Hamfest have had to be cancelled as my son has decided to get married in Gretna Green on the 28th of September and we have to travel up on the 27th.
As part of the National Hamfest Management Team I am getting things organised for the Morse Tests and have enlisted the help of Martin Farmer G6BD from RAF Waddington ARC to stand in for me. Peter M0EJL and James G0EUN from Lincoln Short Wave Club will be there as usual.
The Morse assessments are friendly and informal, on demand and best of all FREE! so why not have a go and get a nice certificate to hang up on your shack wall.
Having just got rid of my Vodafone Brick and moved to the new technology of the Smartphone,(to me it is!) my first task was to find an android app that would be suitable for learning Morse and also be useful in Morse tests to save me lugging my laptop about at the National Hamfest.
On my search for a decent app for my Smartphone similar to “Just Learn Morse Code” and Ray G4FON’s “Koch Trainer” I came across “Morse Trainer for Android” by Wolphi W8DA. I have to admit that I gave it the full thumbs up as it was exactly what I was looking for and now I can get rid of the laptop and just carry my key, oscillator and smartphone to tests.
Below is the developers own description of this marvelous Morse App
Published on 2 Nov 2012
Learn or improve Morse code with Morse Trainer.If you are a ham radio (amateur radio) operator or just want to learn Morse code. With a lot of settings it is very comfortable to adjust Morse Trainer to your current level.
The following settings are available:
– Frequency (200 – 2200Hz
– Waveform (sine / triangle)
– Fading (to reduce click at the end of a dot or dash)
– Speed (2Wpm – 52Wpm)
– Spacing (spacing between dots or dashes)
– Dot-Dash Ratio (length ratio of dashes compared to dots)
– Letter Spacing (Space between letters)
– Word Spacing (Space between words)
Five different learning modes are available in Morse Trainer
– Random groups of five mode: Morse Trainer will play groups of five randomly selected letter, numbers or special characters. Those characters can be individually selected. If you want to learn just “s”,”i” and “e” just select the 3 letters and Morse Trainer will create groups of 5 with those 3 letters.
– Real ham radio callsign mode: Morse Trainer will randomly play real amateur radio callsign from a database of 5000 callsigns which appeared in Contests over the last couple of years.
– QSO text mode: Morse Trainer will play randomly play QSO text. The database consists of 300 different qso texts.
– Most common English words mode: Morse Trainer will play randomly the 500 most used English words.
– Own text mode: Enter your own text and Morse Trainer will play it over and over again.
– Ebook mode: Text files can be loaded from SD card
Morse Trainer is priced less than the cost of a fancy coffee and it is a great app to learn and improve you CW speed away from your amateur radio station or your PC.
Peter Day G3PHO SARC Secretary trying out the keys I took to Sheffield
The Crusade presentation at Sheffield ARC was very successful and I would like to thank the officers and members of the club for their excellent hospitality. I hope that my talk has prompted some the members to take up CW and wish them all the best on their journey onto the Morse bands.