Dave Richards AA7EE

January 26, 2010

The Perfect CW QSO

I’ve started the packing process for my sojourn to Southern California (see previous post) and it looks like this particular move will be the most enjoyable so far.  I’m putting much of my stuff into storage in the Bay Area and moving down to So Cal with a small truckload of belongings.  Because I’m a QRP’er,  there will be no big heavy radio gear, and due to the tall trees at the property I’m moving to,  a roll of dacron antenna rope, a couple of hundred feet of stranded insulated wire and a pulley or two will pack into a small space and should make for a great antenna (with the help of a slingshot to get it up there.)

The ham radio gear at this end may well be some of the last stuff to be packed.  It gives me a good diversion from packing every now and then. Trust me – you don’t want to own 10,000 CD’s – it’s more music than anyone can properly take in during a lifetime, and all those boxes weigh a lot.

So while plonking CD’s into the umpteenth box this afternoon, I heard a very weak but fully copyable CQ on 7030 from KG6SNV. I called him back and we had a brief but very enjoyable QSO.  I gave him a 519 (he gave me a 529), but it was armchair copy.  I don’t have an S-meter on the Norcal 2N2/40 but band noise was probably at about an S4.  His sigs were almost imperceptible at an S1 (and below the band noise) but due to no QSB, no QRM and his excellent sending (his speed and rhythm were perfect for the conditions) copying him was a breeze.

I’m not sure how to put this into words, but any CW operator reading this will be able to identify with these sentiments. There was something very satisfying about receiving a signal so weak that I was able to copy with ease. There was nothing groundbreaking about our QSO; we were only 61 miles apart, in adjoining counties.  Mario was running 10 watts into an indoor vertical at 20 feet (apartment antenna maybe?), and I was running 4 watts to an outdoor vertical also at 20 feet. The thing that made this QSO so much fun was that I was able to take such a weak signal and decode it in my head. For anyone who is either thinking of learning morse code, or who has started and is having trouble becoming fluent, take it from me that your effort will be rewarded many times over if you keep on plugging away. Your brain has an amazing number of built-in algorithms and a lot of  “filtering”, and using it to decode CW signals is fun.  Just think – free DSP!

I’ve had one or two e-mails in the past from folk reading this blog who are learning the code and have taken inspiration from some of the blog posts here. I hope that if you’re on the fence about either beginning to learn, or continuing, that you’ll take heart from reading this.

Incidentally,  I’m no veteran CW op.  My speed lies somewhere in the 10 – 20 wpm range and I have a long way to go with the code, but I’m on course.  I guess a good analogy would be with learning the guitar.  Let’s just say that I’ve taught myself to play 3 chords and can bang out a lot of rock n’ roll songs at this point. I haven’t learned to play like Mark Knopfler or The Edge yet though.

On a side note, it looks like the Fort Tuthill 80M Direct Conversion CW Transceiver Kit is days away from going on sale and I hope to bag one of the kits in this first run of 100. Dan N7VE has just uploaded the assembly manual to the Yahoo Group and this looks like it’s going to be one fun rig to build.


September 21, 2009

CW As A Second Language

Filed under: Uncategorized — AA7EE @ 1:54 am
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In this blog I’ve documented my recent commitment to, and preoccupation with CW.  As I mentioned before, this is the first time in my amateur “career” (which began in 1978) that I have made a protracted effort toward being active on CW.  I’ve only been at it for about 2 1/2 months but I’ve made definite progress.  I wouldn’t say that at any point it was hard, but for the first couple of months I had to consciously apply myself. CW felt a bit unnatural and there were times when I had to “force” myself to copy it. I’ve made attempts to become more fluent in CW before, but they were so half-hearted and brief in their nature that they don’t really qualify to be even called attempts. For some reason, I persevered this time.

I had a fun morning on 40m today.  I got out of bed just before 5am local time and called CQ on 7030.  As a station who is running just 5 watts to a Buddistick vertical 20 feet above ground, I don’t usually expect a reply when I call CQ.  This time however, JA1KIH came back to me and gave me a 569! An hour later, I worked DS5USH in South Korea. That QSO wasn’t quite as easy, but he gave me a 439 and I have never had a QSO with South Korea before, so that was fun. I then spent a happy hour or so listening to the pile-up on 7005 generated by T2G on Tuvalu, as well as 8J2MC/2 in the Phillippines, and  a Russian station – all on 40M.  It was a good morning.

It was then that it occurred to me that I hadn’t felt like I had had to “force” myself to think in terms of morse code in order to be able to copy the stations. I still had to concentrate of course, but the effort felt more natural and was enjoyable.

I think I’ve turned the corner. Now would any of those employers that are advertising positions on Craigslist as needing bilingual applicants consider someone who speaks English and Morse code?

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