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I have gathered some information from various sources on the subject of morse code, plus a few helpful links, which I hope will assist those hams that are interested in some methods of learning cw. I have also linked to a few clubs that focus on cw. You will find most cw oriented clubs focus on exchanging their member number (which you are given when joining the various clubs) in order to achieve awards. Before you get too excited, these are not the Oscars they are handing out, just a paper certificate that claims you have achieved a certain level of number exchanges within the club. The more numbers you collect, the higher your award ranking, more or less. This may not be all that appealing to some cw ops, and may be just the perfect thing for others, but one can decide how much they want to be involved in each particular club, depending on the club focus.
One thing about the individual club challenges - it's a good way to practice your code without having to get involved in contesting or ragchewing, where a lot of new ops just don't feel comfortable. A quick exchange of sending and copying RST, name, location, and member number is not too demanding, and gets one more comfortable and efficient the more of these exchanges they make.
I got into the hobby in 1996, and started learning morse code by learning what each characters make up was, "A" was a certain dit and dah combination, "B" was another combination, and so on. This has caused me to be counting dits and dahs and then forming those dits and dahs into characters, which is definitely not the way to learn morse code, which I found out too late, and has caused me much grief in working code above 20 wpm. So now I am having to re-learn the proper way, by recognizing the sound of each character, and also the make up of some words.
There are some good cw learning programs available to download, as well as some good tutorials which can steer new hams wishing to learn cw in the right direction. Copying code must be a thought-free process. When you hear a character, you should know, without thinking, what it is. It should be a reflex. Code training should completely bypass the lookup-table phase and begin by building copying proficiency as a reflex. This was recognized in the 1930s by the German psychologist Ludwig Koch, who devised the most efficient method known for Morse training. I have also supplied links to a few cw clubs that may be of interest.
Koch Method CW Training Program by G4FON
Morse Trainer This site was initiated by Dave Finley (F1IRZ), and contains good information on learning cw.
SKCC (Straight Key Century Club) This club provides a variety of challenges for the avid cw operator. Everything from a variety of awards to go after to even finding a cw Elmer (someone to work on-air skeds with you to help improve your cw skills). They also have a sked page where you can find many cw ops on line and waiting to give you a call and exchange member numbers or just say "Hello". However, these op are pretty much trying to collect as many member numbers as possible in order to get to the next level, so be prepared for some short exchanges of name, QTH, SKCC number, RST, and then a "thank you, see you next time!" You can decide how much you want to participate, but it's good cw practice for sure, and the various levels you are trying to reach can keep you rather busy and interested!
FISTS CW Club FISTS is a well established and recognized CW (Morse Code) organization in the world of amateur radio. Founded in 1987 by Geo Longden, G3ZQS, it now has a world-wide membership in the thousands and growing daily. Their claim is to further the use of CW on the amateur bands, encourage newcomers to the CW mode, and to engender friendship within the membership. They are similar to SKCC in that they offer various awards for achieving certain contact levels of cw exchange. Some of the awards are for working a cw with every state, which is a nice challenge, and keeps you busy looking for that elusive state you are trying to hook up with. Also, as with the SKCC club, there are a variety of little challenges popping up on a continual basis.
CW Operators code of Conduct
There are many common sense operating procedures that apply to all ham radio amateurs, but there always seem to be a few hams that don't have the common sense, or courtesy required to operate properly. A common lack of courtesy is tuning on a frequency in use. This is especially true on a net frequency. It doesn't take a lot of thought to move a KHz or so to one side or the other of the net frequency before tuning up, especially if there is a bit of a chat taking place before the net starts. Yes, some hams tune up right on top of a QSO taking place before the net starts. Perhaps they think this QSO doesn't count as being interfered with because the net has not yet started, but tuning on ANY active freq. is unacceptable.
....to be continued.