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It Ain't Dead!

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by NW7US, Jun 4, 2020.

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  1. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Once and awhile, I hear, "Morse code is an outdated method of communication."

    The argument might include comparisons to digital modes, or to the various ways to talk to other amateur radio operators--from HF side-band, to digital modes on repeaters or over the Internet.

    Sailboats and sail power are also outdated modes of transportation. Yet, we see, on any given fair day at the harbors around the world, large numbers of sailboats being navigated around the harbors and inlets as large groups of sailing enthusiasts harness the power of the wind.


    But, it ain't dead, dude!

    The truth is that Morse code is very much an active mode, with a utility still applicable in this day and age. Preppers know this: when computer networks go down, and when modern communications technology fails, Morse code can be generated, transmitted, received, and decoded with the most minimal of technology.

    Not only that, but the efficiency of CW (continuous wave modulation, A1A) in terms of propagation is impressive. Morse code can be effectively used to communicate over much greater distances than voice modes and many digital modes, using the same equipment, antenna, and power levels.

    In terms of general use, take a look at the activity typical of an evening on shortwave bands:

    I'm an SKCC enthusiast. I'm SKCC member 4758s, and the s at the end of my membership number is the indicator that I have achieved the level of Senator. Information on the levels are on their pages at

    At the same time, I'm always pushing to increase my ability to copy code at a faster clip. I'm relearning the code.

    I used to do the mental gymnastics of translating dits and dahs. But now, I'm learning to hear the entire sound of a letter and just know the letter.

    If I hear someone say, "A, B, C," I hear exactly those letters. Now, in the same way with Morse code, I hear letters and even whole words. Thus, my speed has increased.

    I wish I'd first learned the code using the Koch method. That's basically the same as what the CWops Code Academy teaches (see for more about them--the activity in this video is one of their weekly events).

    At you can learn to hear the code. Don't learn it by counting dits and dahs!

    73 de NW7US

    PY2BRC, GM4JPZ, F8WBD and 6 others like this.
  2. WA4KCN

    WA4KCN XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think it may be the most popular mode in ham radio.
    AD0RX, N2RRA, N7RD and 6 others like this.
  3. 2E0TWD

    2E0TWD Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I’m quite sure nobody would dispute the point. I’ve never heard anybody say “Morse code is Dead”.
    K6VOX, N7RD, AA2EC and 7 others like this.
  4. G3SEA

    G3SEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    All of the points made by NW7US are valid.
    However it's the speed of many of the heard cw signals ( The CW Sprint for example ) that has always been a deterrent to many Hams wanting to learn code. It is however a mode worth learning for many of those points made above.
    N6PG, VE7DXW and PU2OZT like this.
  5. KW0U

    KW0U Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree, it can be very satisfying to learn, practice and use code. My experience was learning it when you had to do it for licensing, and that wasn't fun. But now that the pressure is off it is a pleasant challenge, and I've been working to get my speed back up. And Tomas is right--to get any decent speed you need to hear the whole letter, not just count dits and dahs (and I can see how professionals start hearing whole words too). If you want goals, the ARRL has a nice certificate for copying code from an easy 10 wpm all the way to 40, HB9HQX offers pins for proficiency in their downloadable program, and I believe the RSGB and some other national societies also offer Morse awards. Anyway, it's fun to use; I floored one of my students when I said that her phone was sending "SMS" before each text announcement.
    NO7E, N7RD, GM4JPZ and 1 other person like this.
  6. W7MBR

    W7MBR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

  7. W7MBR

    W7MBR XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Military's around the world including the U.S. are still teaching Morse Code especially to their Special Forces
    because the equipment needed for CW is minimal and it can be heard under adverse conditions when other
    modes of communication cannot. It is an art form when done right and a real pleasure to listen to. Almost musical.
    I think the ARRL and FCC together removed the code requirement from the Amateur Radio exams for two main reasons.
    Our ranks were shrinking some so they thought removing the "outdated" Morse Code would bring in more people to the hobby.
    Secondly, the equipment manufactures with ARRL approval would have a larger and perhaps less technically inclined "Operators" to sell to.
    Things do change but not always for the better. I agree with the Author that Morse Code is still alive and well despite organized efforts
    to eliminate it. Try it you will like (love) it! W7MBR
    WA6YPE, F8WBD, N3GY and 4 others like this.
  8. N0SAP

    N0SAP Ham Member QRZ Page

    First of all using CW is not a speed contest, it's about communicating. If you can only copy 10 WPM you are communicating. Do not be afraid to send QRS to another operator if he is sending too fast. Too many times I hear a someone come back so fast the other operator will send QSB or QRM just to end the QSO. Do not be afraid to send QRS to another operator is he is sending too fast. Morse Code should be fun, do not make a chore, or you will lose interest. It is like learning a second language it takes using it daily to perfect just like another foreign language. CW is not for everyone just like Digital Modes are not my bag. But if you interested in learning Morse Code, you must put in the time, you can't learn it and not use it often.
    G4NAK, 2E0WPW, IS0GVH and 9 others like this.
  9. KI4POT

    KI4POT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Meh. I don't think I've ever heard anyone claim CW was dead, nor have I noticed any organized efforts to "kill" it (I don't view removing it as a requirement as "killing" it as a mode). I don't know CW myself, but one day I'll take time to learn. It's a good fit with my main interests in amateur radio, so it's a forgone conclusion I'll get around to it eventually.

    N7RD, N7KO, KU4GW and 2 others like this.
  10. AD0IM

    AD0IM XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    If I had been forced to learn code to get my ticket, I wouldn't be here. Now that I am here, I've learned code at my own pace and continue to work on improving speed. 98% percent of contacts are now completed in code, though the occasional operator who won't slow down for me is disappointing.
    N2OKA, K1KTF, N7KO and 4 others like this.

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