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Author Topic: Can Morse Code Still Save You?  (Read 328 times)

gil

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Can Morse Code Still Save You?
« on: May 22, 2018, 07:00:32 AM »
Hello. This article is intended for Eham. I would like you guy's opinion before sending it over, corrections, etc.? Thanks.

Gil.

#########################################################

Jack Binns was awakened by a tremendous crashing sound, screaming metal and a shudder that ran through the ship. As the wireless operator, Binns knew immediately what to do. Fortunately his long-wire antenna was still up and he had backup battery power. Jack started sending CQD on his spark-gap transmitter, ultimately saving four thousand lives from his ship, the Republic, and those of the Florida, the vessel that hit them in the fog. It was on January 23rd, 1909, and the first significant use of Morse code to save a great number of lives at sea. Can Morse code still save you today?

By 2000 Morse code was officially retired by most nations and in 2007 the FCC dropped the code requirement for amateur radio operators. Since then the amateur bands have been booming with code on the lower part of most Ham bands.

The proliferation of cheap and small CW transceivers, often offered as kits, and activities like SOTA and other “On The Air” groups has sprinkled the RF landscape with dits and dahs. Kits like Hans Summer's QCX sold and are selling by the thousand. Nary a week goes by without hearing someone mentioning their CW kit by Steve Weber or Dave Benson. Why not? Morse code is very efficient and doesn't require a computer or tablet. Radios are ultra-light and sip current, often using less on transmit than most modern rigs on receive, all the while outputting a comfortable five Watts. You can power them with eight AA cells or three 18650 cells, again very light. Amateur radio is no longer confined to the shack, or at least, portable operations are much easier today.

How long before someone calls for help in Morse code on an amateur band? Is Morse code a viable option and are we listening? If you have stories, please share them here.

I'll be honest, I use a satellite two-way system at sea or while hiking where there is no cellular phone coverage. Although I have never pressed the SOS button, the position reporting works pretty well. I also carry a small CW radio as a backup. It fits in a little tea tin can, including batteries, antenna, key and earphones; covers 20/30/40m. I would bet my life on it. I have no doubt any operator hearing the proverbial SOS pro-code would jump on it like a bear on honey. Five Watts into a full size antenna pretty much guarantees that someone will hear you somewhere. The recorded message looping function of most small CW rigs is a great asset in that regard. Not everyone can spend a few hundred dollars for a satellite handheld plus a monthly subscription...

What would you do if you heard an SOS, aside from answering of course? Do you know how to send a “Pan Pan” (non life threatening emergency) in Morse? It's XXX.

I once asked the Reverse Beacon Network if their CW skimmers detected SOS calls. The answer was no. I really would like to see this implemented, just a few lines of code, to listen for SOS and XXX.

A small CW QRP radio should be part of every Ham's collection. It might just get you off the couch and operating outside, climbing hills even. It could be very useful when stranded somewhere without phone or Internet. It can also spark interest in people meeting you. We need fresh blood in this hobby, and it won't happen without some efforts to increase visibility.

My opinion is that Morse code is still a viable means of calling for help, given the performance of new frequency-agile tiny portable transceivers. Until we get new exotic battery chemistries and integrated tablet transceivers, CW will remain the mode of choice for hikers and adventurers, even if only by a few dedicated amateurs.

vwflyer

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Re: Can Morse Code Still Save You?
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2018, 03:08:48 PM »
Gil, you’re a very eloquent writer in English. Much better than I and English is my first language. No typos or grammar errors jumped out at me but I should let my wife read it if you want a better editor’s eyes. Engaging intro and great points throughout.

gil

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Re: Can Morse Code Still Save You?
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2018, 03:25:10 PM »
Thanks. I went to college in Florida, lived in Sarasota for 22 years ;-) In many ways I feel more American than French.
Gil

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RadioRay

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Re: Can Morse Code Still Save You?
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2018, 11:28:11 PM »
The RBN "SOS" search and report is a very good idea. It would at LEAST report to some internet 'DX List' to get ears onto it.  L:et's hope that they don't simple send "599 tu" .

>Ray
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry

Sparks

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Re: Can Morse Code Still Save You?
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2018, 01:15:51 AM »
Jack Binns was awakened by a tremendous crashing sound, screaming metal and a shudder that ran through the ship. As the wireless operator, Binns knew immediately what to do. Fortunately his long-wire antenna was still up and he had backup battery power. Jack started sending CQD on his spark-gap transmitter, ultimately saving four thousand lives from his ship, the Republic, and those of the Florida, the vessel that hit them in the fog. It was on January 23rd, 1909, and the first significant use of Morse code to save a great number of lives at sea.

Nice article, however this introduction is too short, in a way. As I know well from several years in the profession, a radio operator cannot just go ahead and send distress signals without the ship's Master ordering him to do so. That was probably a rule in 1909, too, as confirmed by a contemporary news article:

https://www.nytimes.com/1909/01/26/archives/how-binns-flashed-his-calls-for-help-drenched-and-hungry-he-stuck.html
https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1909/01/26/101863306.pdf
https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/remembering-jack-binns-heroic-radio-operator/

And "saving four thousand lives"?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Republic_(1903)   — 1,500 lives saved.
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_(Schiff,_1905).  — 900 passengers transferred to the Baltic. (The Florida did not sink.)

Also, it seems the whole story was more complicated and perhaps a little different from the summary above:

See also: http://www.jackbinns.org
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Binns
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/community/threads/news-from-1959-death-of-jack-binns.25776/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cambridgeshire/content/articles/2009/01/21/jack_binns_hero_feature.shtml

caulktel

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Re: Can Morse Code Still Save You?
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2018, 01:19:51 PM »
Sounds good to me Gil.

Joel
N6ALT

gil

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Re: Can Morse Code Still Save You?
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2018, 02:20:35 PM »
Thanks. I submitted this one:

Can Morse Code Still Save You? By Gil, the Radio Prepper on YouTube.

Jack Binns was awakened by a tremendous crashing sound, screaming metal and a shudder that ran through the ship. As the wireless operator, Binns knew immediately what to do. Waiting for the captains' order to send the call must have been the longest minutes of his life. Fortunately his long-wire antenna was still up and he had backup battery power. Jack started sending CQD on his spark-gap transmitter, ultimately saving fifteen hundred lives from his ship, the Republic. The Florida, the vessel that hit them in the fog did not sink, but nine hundred passengers were transferred to the Baltic. It was on January 23rd, 1909, and the first significant use of Morse code to save a great number of lives at sea. Can Morse code still save you today?

By 2000 Morse code was officially retired by most nations and in 2007 the FCC dropped the code requirement for amateur radio operators. Since then the amateur bands have been booming with code on the lower part of most Ham bands, somewhat defiantly in the face of its announced early demise.

The proliferation of cheap and small CW transceivers, often offered as kits, and activities like SOTA and other “On The Air” groups has sprinkled the RF landscape with dits and dahs. Kits like Hans Summer's QCX sold and are selling by the thousand. Nary a week goes by without hearing someone mentioning their CW kit by Steve Weber or Dave Benson. Why not? Morse code is very efficient and doesn't require a computer or tablet. Radios are ultra-light and sip current, often using less on transmit than most modern rigs on receive, all the while outputting a comfortable five Watts. You can power them with eight AA cells or three 18650 cells, again very light. Amateur radio is no longer confined to the shack, or at least, portable operations are much easier today.

I recently watched a video about a 66-year-old who got lost on the Appalachian Trail. She tried texting her husband but was out of range. She wandered for almost a month, unable to contact anyone, and only a couple miles from the trail. Her body was found two years later. This perfectly illustrates how a seemingly safe hike on a marked path can end in tragedy when our usual mean of communication fails. We all know the story of Aron Ralston, who had to cut his own arm with a pocket knife after getting stuck in a Utah canyon. Whether he could have deployed an antenna is debatable, but his ordeal is also a perfect example of a nice day gone wrong.

How long before someone calls for help in Morse code on an amateur band? Is Morse code a viable option and are we listening? If you have stories, please share them here.

I'll be honest, I use a satellite two-way system at sea or while hiking where there is no cellular phone coverage. Although I have never pressed the SOS button, the position reporting works pretty well. I also carry a small CW radio as a backup. It fits in a little tea tin-can, including batteries, antenna, key and earphones, covers 20/30/40m. I would bet my life on it. I have no doubt any operator hearing the proverbial SOS pro-code would jump on it like a bear on honey. Five Watts into a full size antenna pretty much guarantees that someone will hear you somewhere. The recorded message looping function of most small CW rigs is a great asset in that regard. Not everyone can spend a few hundred dollars for a satellite handheld plus a monthly subscription...

What would you do if you heard an SOS, aside from answering of course? Do you know how to send a “Pan Pan” (non life threatening emergency) in Morse?

I once asked the Reverse Beacon Network if their CW skimmers detected SOS calls. The answer was no. I really would like to see this implemented, just a few lines of code, to listen for SOS and XXX.

A small CW QRP radio should be part of every Ham's collection. It might just get you off the couch and operating outside, climbing hills even. It could be very useful when stranded somewhere without phone or Internet. It can also spark interest in people meeting you. We need fresh blood in this hobby, and it won't happen without some efforts to increase visibility. Most people who roam the countryside or even the world do not know that Amateur Radio is an option and that capable rigs are no bigger than a pack of cigarettes.

My opinion is that Morse code is still a viable means of calling for help, given the performance of new frequency-agile tiny portable transceivers. Until we get new exotic battery chemistries and integrated tablet transceivers, CW will remain the mode of choice for hikers and adventurers, even if only by a few dedicated amateurs.