This is my Bencher iambic paddle. I’ve had it for about 7 years now, but have yet to use it for an actual CW contact with anyone. Come to think of it, my last CW contact was in 2001. I had a total of 2 QSO’s on CW that year. I’ve probably had no more than 10 CW QSO’s TOTAL since being licensed back in the late 1970’s.
What the heck have I been thinking? Maybe you don’t think this is weird. Back in the day when the code was a requirement for gaining access to the HF bands, I’m sure that many amateurs did what they had to in order to pass the test, and then promptly forgot about the code, spending their entire amateur careers using phone or digital modes. With the exception of the approximately 10 CW QSO’s I’ve had in the last 30 years, I’m one of them. Now that a knowledge of morse code is now not even a requirement for earning an amateur license with access to the HF bands, I have no doubt that large numbers of amateurs don’t even learn code, and don’t ever think about the possibility of learning it so that they can use it on the air.
So what is my problem?
My problem is this. I really like the idea of morse code. I always have. I have spent many hours since being a teenager fascinated with radio, looking at circuits and plans for homebrew QRP transmitters and transceivers, and thinking about how beautiful the concept is of communicating over long distances with such simple, efficient transmitters. I think QRP with CW is a brilliant idea; a fabulous concept.
I just don’t use code on the air, and the absurdity of this is starting to bug me.
For a start, my amateur activity in my adult life has not been consistent. I operate for a year or so, then become inactive for a few years; then I start up again. During the periods when I am active, I often find that I get more enjoyment from listening than I do from actually making QSO’s, so the need for a distance-busting low power wonder mode like CW doesn’t seriously rear it’s head. I think this is the reason, I have not been seriously motivated enough to use code on a regular basis.
I didn’t have much trouble learning the code so that I could pass the standard UK amateur radio morse code test at 12 words per minute at a Post Office testing station when I was 15. I also didn’t experience any problems getting my code up to the 20 wpm required for the US extra class license about 10 years later. Some folk find learning very difficult if not impossible; I wasn’t one of them. It came fairly easily to me. The only reason I think that I didn’t pursue the code once licensed was sheer lack of gumption.
So things are going to be different this time. I have always wanted to build a small and light low power transceiver for 30, 40 or 20 meters and have the satisfaction of having made lots of contacts with it. I’m going to do it this time.
Oh – and the picture of the Bencher paddle at the top of this post? I took it so that I could sell the paddle on eBay. I had decided that paddles and I didn’t get along. I was going to trade it in for a straight key. Well, I am still going to get the straight key, but for some reason, I have been practising with this paddle and have realised that I really can get comfortable with using it.
I think I just found my gumption.
Don’t wish me luck. I don’t need it; I now have gumption!