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We've generated 8 blogs so far, you can see these by going to www.tinyletter.com/theCodeCircle

Here's a copy of the first blog below.

The-Code-Circle, No 1

August 30, 2014

After a recent Amateur Radio Tech exam, a number of the students indicated an interest in learning the code. Norm and I who taught the class thought great! Then at a club meeting recently a few long time members chimed in saying they’d like to give Morse another try too. Given that this behavior has not been the norm, we thought a weekly nudge of encouragement might just help these students and us - the old timers - get down to business. Hence, this blog – titled The-Code-Circle - was born; we’re coming together to encourage one another and to improve. This is issue 1.

Please keep in mind that this is a case of the slow leading the slow and new arrivals for the most part. My code is adequate for QSOs at moderate speeds; but not very good when listening to a coded paperback book, copying high-speed call signs, picking up fast moving contest exchanges and so on. And I suspect, like many hams, we fell into the habit some time ago of copying the code with pencil in hand and we started at too slow a word-per-minute (WPM) rate. Those behaviors became habit. Enough!


Let’s be clear; children learn to talk by spending hours of every day interacting with adults. It’s said they even hear and learn sounds before they are issued. They certainly talk before they begin to learn to read. And parents do not chat with them by slowing down the rate at which a word is pronounced. We don’t day “D……o……g”; we say “Dog.”

The point here is that we should concentrate on learning code at the rate we’d like to send and receive it on the air. Otherwise it seems that we must learn the code at several rates of speed. For QSOs, this means that we ought to be running in excess of 20 WPM and exchange call signs and signal reports at 20 to 25 wpm at least. So, let’s stop studying the code at anything less than 15 WPM. As I said, I’m great at 15 WPM including a pencil and paper. That will not get it for the higher speed activities listed above.

For beginners and for retreading ourselves if need be, let’s relearn and/or practice the individual letters and small groups of letters at 15, 20 and 25 WPM. There are many programs out there that will send a random selection of letters, e.g. A, B, C, D and E, at random and at a selected WPM rate. Most are programs you download for a fee but there are some interactive website senders you can use too at no cost or program download. You might try www.morsefusion.com. They feature a free-of-charge webpage they call the CHEX wherein you select the letters you want to practice, the speed, and check yourself by using your mouse to check the letters on a screen QWERTY keyboard. If you miss letters, they keep track of that and repeat those more often.  If new, start by displaying just one letter at a time and clicking its partner on the keyboard. I’d recommend two 15 minute sessions per day at first. Oh, one last thing; you’ll have to register to use this free feature. They have another scheme for learning to copy text by pronouncing the individual letters of each word and spacing out the words. Skip that for now. We have no business interest in this site.


Morse as a language is different in many ways when compared to English, Germany, French, etc. Most noticeable is the rate at which words are sent, typically at 15 to 30 WPM for International Morse Code and about 280 WPM for spoken languages. So eventually you’ll have to get used to that; more on this issue later. In addition, Morse has no vowel or syllabic sounds like those of most spoken languages. It has two symbols instead of 26 or more letters. Yet similar words sent in Morse do have their own sounds; for example  THE and THAT have a different rhyme/sound. When English words are formed from a combination of constant and vowel sounds, these combinations often vary some from word to word.

Like many languages, Morse changes over time. For example, in contest exchanges, the habit now is to send TU (for thank you) at the end of the QSO instead if the usual dit-dit. This habit is creeping into QSOs too. Perhaps more prevalent in Morse, many three or four letter “words” have been formed that really represent a sentence of information. For example, if one sends QTH, the real meaning is “my location is.” Another common “word,” is RST which means “your readability, signal strength and tone are.” So it is possible using many of these Q signals and abbreviations to increase the effective WPM rate of some small message exchanges. With practice and time passed, you’ll recognize these Q signals and effectively hear their meaning as a sentence. 

Good luck and start studying! We’ll examine some techniques for copying call signs at increased speeds next time. And remember above all, put down the pencil and listen. Your baby sister didn’t use a pencil!

73, Phil Anderson, WØXI