I'm John. I've been lurking around these forums and really enjoying them for a few months now and I thought it would only be polite to introduce myself before posting my own questions. I don't usually do that with forum boards but the atmosphere here is different than most other boards. It's more like a gathering of friends than simply a place to pick other people's brains for their knowledge.
I've been a general class ham for almost 10 years. I'll be having to do my first renewal in the next couple of months. I marginally learned CW at 5WPM in order to pass my general exam and then promptly forgot it. I purchased a 2 meter mobile rig and a couple of HTs to play around with but until recently that's all I've done with my license.
The knowledge I gained in becoming a ham has been helpful at work though because until 3 years ago we used to use HF radios at work to keep in touch with our coworkers. Now that satellite internet is so easy to get in remote areas, we have retired all our HF rigs at work. Most of us used single freq. crystal controlled radios because we all used one common freq. around the 80 meter area. One coworker had been using a ham radio though and after he got satellite internet he gave his radio to me knowing I am a ham. Long story short, I've recently started into the world of HF.
It didn't take long to discover though that HF voice is no more interesting than 2 meters, maybe less. So my interest in relearning CW (for real this time) began to grow. Than I found these forums and that sealed it. I had to lean CW! These forums have been a huge help to me in finding CW learning aids and I continue to find great advice and encouragement here in my ongoing struggle to learn CW.
I've been pecking away at it for about 3 months and I can copy 10-12WPM when it is sent by a good fist (computer) without much (any) QRM. I have a $15 straight key I've been practicing sending with but I have yet to make a real contact. A couple of times I've heard people calling CQ at rates I can copy and have been very tempted to answer but when I start to think seriously about answering I get too scared and I don't. I think I may wait until I can copy 15WPM at near 100% with static and everything before I make a contact.
Anyhow, I'm excited to have found a forum that focuses on two interests of mine, radios and prepping. And what makes it completely awesome is the quality of people here.
Hi vwflyer, and welcome!
Yes, it is a bit different here; nicer.
Good for you, learning CW. What will stunn you is how with CW you can work the world on a rig that fits in your lunch box, including wire antenna and batteries. I have 2 suggestions. Switch to paddles and start making contacts.
I stuck with a straight key for probably too long. The guy giving the Morse class was right that my ear would start "hearing the music" sooner if I could make the music easier and better. Sending definetly helps with copying.
There are lots of hams who love to work cw newbs and will slow right down for you. Reply to their CQ at a speed you are comfortable with and they should reply at your speed. If they don't, eff 'em. You don't want to talk to folks like that anyway. I once watched my son (11yo at the time) spend half an hour stumbling at 5wpm with a guy in France who was loving the contact. CW operators that aren't contesting types like to just get on and operate. For some, copying a newbs sloppy fist is an enjoyable challenge.
Thanks for the warm welcome cockpitbob.
Until a few months ago I didn't even know that paddles existed. I'm still fuzzy on the differences between paddles and bugs and the pros and cons of each. I think that bugs are the ones that I have trouble copying because while the sender may be sending at 10wpm his dits are all run together like they are going at 40wpm so I can't tell how many dits there are.
I guess I should do some more research online and figure out which paddle will be good for a beginner on a budget. I just figured that a straight key would be easier to learn on because they are dead simple in concept (short presses for dits and long ones for daws). I guess I should actually touch a paddle before I form an opinion about them, huh? Are paddles the fully automatic ones that use a keyer to actually form the code? That means I have to shop for a keyer too right?
QuoteAre paddles the fully automatic ones that use a keyer to actually form the code? That means I have to shop for a keyer too right?
Hello John and welcome aboard :) You certainly landed in the right place for what you want to do!
Yes, paddles use a keyer. Most radios have a built-in keyer and you can use either, paddles or straight key. I use paddles myself and think it creates more readable code. If your radio doesn't have a built-in keyer you will need to get an external one. As for a paddle, I'd suggest a Kent: http://www.kent-engineers.com (http://www.kent-engineers.com) though I use a small one from American Morse for my MTR and a Palm Paddle for my KX3. See http://americanmorse.com (http://americanmorse.com) and http://www.mtechnologies.com/palm/ (http://www.mtechnologies.com/palm/).
Do you fly a kit plane powered by a VW engine?
Welcome to the forum, glad to have you aboard. I'll echo your sentiment about this being more like a gathering of friends as opposed to a traditional forum, if that's what you're looking for you found it and I think you'll be a great fit here.
Congrats on learning CW! Your story is very similar to mine; I spent close to 12 years as a general with my only exposure to code being for the test that I had to pass to get on HF phone. I finally got interested in code and re-learned it a few years ago and haven't looked back. Since then I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've picked up a microphone.
You've been practicing for 3 months and you're up to 10-12 WPM but you haven't gotten on the air yet!? Trust me, you're way past ready, get on the air! Yeah, you're nervous and no doubt worried you'll screw up, I don't know anyone who wasn't their first time, myself included. You'll probably screw up somewhere during that first QSO just like we all did, but so what? It's not the end of the world and CW operators are some of the most kind, helpful and encouraging hams I've ever encountered with sometimes unbelievable amounts of patience with new CW op's. You'll do fine, now go jump in there with both feet!
73 de KK0G
Thanks for the encouragement KKOG!
I'll let you guys know how it goes after I've gotten up the nerve for the first one. I saw one youtube video where the guy videoed his first CW QSO and posted it. I've considered doing that but that would probably just make me more nervous. Plus, I'd have to clean off my desk :)
Nothing to be nervous about. Who cares if you botch it up? Nothing bad will happen :o I had my first QSO as a Ham in CW minutes after I got my call-sign! With France to boot, and I sure wasn't ready. I have no idea what the guy said but he repeated my call-sign so.. ;D Just jump in and make a lot of mistakes, it's the proper way to learn!
A great place to start is the upper end of 40 meters, somewhere around 7.100 - 7.125 MHz, give or take. It tends to be a hang out area for slower speed code with a lot of ragchewing. If you're copying at 10-12 WPM, drop your speed down to maybe 8-9 WPM and either call CQ or find someone calling close to that speed. If you hear a good strong signal of an op with a good sounding fist that happens to be calling a little too fast for you to copy, don't hesitate to call him at a slower speed that you're comfortable with, he'll slow down for you. Very, very, very rarely have I encountered a fellow CW op that wouldn't slow down, especially for someone new - they really do want you to experience the fun of CW. Remember that everyone of those guys screaming along at 30 WPM had that same nerve racking first QSO and they probably made many of the same mistakes you'll likely make.
Well, I see I'm going to just have to bite the bullet, take the plunge, face the music, cross the Rubicon... I appreciate all of your encouragement. I'll start listening around 7.100 and if I come across a signal that meets the description you gave I'll do one of the before mentioned idioms... maybe tomorrow, or the next day :)
I'll take a good look at those keys you mentioned Gil. I don't think my radio has a built in keyer. It's a Kenwood TS-140S but I'll look for the manual to confirm that. I might want to get an external keyer anyway as I'm considering getting a basic CW transceiver kit to build as my first kit like the NS-40 that Rob_ma recently brought to our attention.
Unfortunately, I don't have my own VW powered plane. People call me VW because they are the initials of my last name. Piloting is my ministry and so my newsletter is called the VWFlyer.
Hello and welcome!
If you're nervous about that first CW QSO, check out Straight Key Century Club. If you go to their page and look at the sidebar on the left, you'll see "operating frequencies." As it says on the page, most people who are interested in QRS hang around 1-2kHz below the listed calling frequencies. It's a nice group of people and very patient when you're slow (like me).
Also, try to schedule a regular QSO with someone, which is the best practice of all. Lots of folks on this site looking for regular skeds.
Good luck and again, welcome!
That's a good idea Ray. I've signed up and am awaiting my number. Thanks.
QuoteI'm considering getting a basic CW transceiver kit to build as my first kit like the NS-40 that Rob_ma recently brought to our attention.
Tht one is a transmitter only, not a transceiver. I'd suggest a RockMite: http://www.qrpme.com/pages/XCVRS.php (http://www.qrpme.com/pages/XCVRS.php)
Thank you for clarifying that Gil. The 5 watts of power, low price tag and most importantly ease of construction is what drew my interest but I was looking for a transceiver. With the RockMite being only $5 more it just comes down to if it is within my abilities to assemble and if 500mw is enough.
Quoteif 500mw is enough.
It's very easy to substitute the transistor provided with another one. I use a 2SC799 with a 2.2Ohm resistor for R18: 1.5W on RM40 and 1W on RM20... Which is more than enough. Even 500mW is plenty for easy contacts up to about 1300 miles. I once got Estonia (5200 miles) using 1.3W on 40m and a simple end-fed! You have to fish quite a bit but it does happen. BTW the 2SC799 is no longer manufactured. You can still find them on Ebay but prices are going up.. It's the best one to use. Note though that you need a heatsink. The 2N3553 is used also.
I have trouble copying stations that are within a 1500 mile radius and are using a lot more power then that. There is just too much QRM and QRN. My radio doesn't have the optional narrow band CW filter installed. It just uses the standard SSB filter when in CW mode. I thought that maybe that is my problem and that with a narrower filter I could copy weaker signals better as the noise floor should be lower.
I looked online for the optional CW filter for my Kenwood and they are going for about $100. If this is my problem and if a dedicated CW transceiver comes stock with a narrow filter I should be able to copy better with it than with my Kenwood.
Quoteif a dedicated CW transceiver comes stock with a narrow filter I should be able to copy better with it than with my Kenwood.
Probably... That wouldn't be a RockMite though, it has no filtering.. A good kit might be a K1 or KX1 but they cost quite a bit more...
There are several good CW filter kits you can buy. They go between the rig and your headphones, or you can build them into the rig. This one (http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/10681)cost $20 and gets good reviews. I'm familiar with the generalities of the design and it should work well for you.
Another great kit is the Weber Tri-Bander from qrpkits.com, $200 I think..
That's good to know Gil. I may get something like one of those someday. I'll have to see how much I can get for the Kenwood. I imagine that a KX1 would be a decent and more versatile replacement for my Kenwood. Oh wait a minute, the guy who gave me the Kenwood called it a "loan of indefinite duration". I guess I'll have to find another way to finance it's replacement.
Thanks for the suggestion cockpitbob. I didn't know those existed. A $20 filter would save me a chunk of change over a Kenwood filter and I could use it on deferent radios too. It might also be a good way to hone my circuit board soldering skills before I tackle a transceiver kit (although the filter kit looks about as complicated as a RockMite kit).
QuoteAnother great kit is the Weber Tri-Bander from qrpkits.com, $200 I think..
That one looks very enticing. It wouldn't replace the Kenwood as it doesn't have SSB Phone but for a portable CW rig it looks great.
Hey Gil, I looked at those websites with the paddles. Do y'all recommend that I look for a single paddle or double?
QuoteDo y'all recommend that I look for a single paddle or double?
To expound on that - the only thing a dual lever paddle can do that a single can't do, is iambic or 'squeeze' keying, which in my opinion is WAY over rated. I would venture to guess that only a very small minority of dual paddle users ever utilize iambic keying. In the end your paddle choice doesn't make a lot of difference since either one will operate essentially the same when not iambic keying.
So from what I understand then, a decent argument could be made for the double paddle in that; if it is not much more money than the single paddle, and if non-iambic keying is not any harder with it than with it's single paddle counterpart, than why not go double and have the option of trying out iambic keying?
That is my opinion... Some people prefe single, but most users use double. Iambic keying is easy.