More CW Practice


Merry Christmas!

Today I landed upon a video by KJ4YZI Eric of HamRadioConcepts ( entitled “How I learned Morse code fast and easy”. I found the title suspect because CW is neither fast nor easy, but he did help me a lot with this simple video.

He learned with the help of an Android app called Morse CT that allows him to practice by tapping the alphabet and numbers on his phone.

It never occurred to me that I could tap on my phone screen to learn sending. I have been so slow going because the Koch method is tedious and very hard in the beginning. I was thinking I needed to bring my key to work, and practice using it in the off hours. I started researching practice code oscillators to connect with my key, and that was looking prohibitively pricey for the purpose. There simply isn’t a prebuilt little box that hooks up to your key and outputs to headphones for private CW practice.

So seeing Eric’s video, I looked for an iOS equivalent app, and found Morse-it by Pacolabs. Now I can say, within a day I know how to send CW at around 12wpm. The app tests different aspects of CW: Tap out a series of random letters, or listen to CW and translate. Within an hour I was hitting spot-on in the composition. But half a day and I’m still about 25% on the copying from listening.

There’s truth to the comments in the video: You need to learn by listening.

That’s the hard part. Before today, while learning via the Koch Method, I was at around 10 letters of the alphabet listening at 17wpm. This little app was a boost of encouragement by helping me to learn the full alphabet in a short period of time, but I still cannot read as quickly as I need to… not even close. I can now talk to people, albeit slowly, but copying them will still be a challenge.

So I can say that CW is neither fast nor easy. But using Eric’s method is a great boost in just slogging through the Koch Method. At least now I can actually reply to people, even if I don’t understand their full message yet.

Great California Shake-Out Earthquake Drill!

EMCOMM, Radio Club

It was a quick checkin on the W6SF repeater from Folsom, CA today. In participation with┬áThe 2017 International ShakeOut Day, today Oct. 19, 2017 at 10:19am, we had a QST to check in to the drill. Most checkins had “no damage” but there could have been mock damage appended with “this is a drill” at the end of the transmission.

Hitting the 147.165+ repeater (located by Fiddletown, CA some 30 miles away) from Folsom was difficult on my 5 maximum watts with mobile-mount antenna in a business parking lot. My radio tests 10 minutes before the drill got reports back of “no copy” with lots of noise, low audio. I had to drive around a bit to find a higher vantage point to hit the Sierras on my limited QRP.

The whole drill was quick, lasting only about 7 minutes. It was great to participate.

“Kilo Foxtrot Six Uniform Juliet Sierra, Folsom, No damage.”

“Acknowledging KF6UJS in Folsom, no damage.”

More final calls for checkins then that was it! The end was a recorded announcement and NZ6Q closed the drill and returned the repeater to normal operation. (Apologies, I only managed to record the end, was too distracted.)

This exercise got me to thinking about what I need for a truly portable EMCOMM rig. A simple mag-mount fixed antenna, and especially with low watt HT (without charger, no less!), is hardly sufficient for the pockets of the valley. I might need to look into a dedicated portable mobile rig that can bump up the tx power, and an antenna that I can raise (e.g. foldable that can deploy on a stand) for clearer more reliable communications.

So if I were stuck at the office during a catastrophe, I think I’d have to resort to other closer repeaters to reach out– and miss out on my own club’s traffic until I could move to a different location. Stuff to think about and plan for.