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Learning Morse Code After Getting My Licence

A Communicator Reprise: February 2013

It is clear to me that the use of Morse code is holding its own on the ham bands. Further, I’m meeting hams who have recently become proficient in Morse and are making QSOs on air – something that I have want to do for a long time.

In 2004, when I determined to get my ham licence (after thinking about it since 1961) I began learning Morse code.  I took the test and passed the Morse test soon afterwards (before I got my call sign). Almost immediately the Morse code requirement was dropped and it has remained as an optional method of achieving HF privileges. I did not use CW on air and soon lost my capability to copy and send.

With encouragement from John Brodie I recently began practicing again – and am now practicing up around 6-8 words per minute.  I have been using an excellent free Morse tutor created by a New Zealand ham ZL1AN which I would recommend to any ham thinking of learning morse. The link is

Another learning tool that has been very useful is a website sponsored by AA9PW on which there are a number of options – copy text sent at a range of speeds – which I use to practice copying – and to gradually pick up my speed. The link is This is a slick resource which has changing content every day.  There is also a podcast which can be subscribed – to download the “Quote of the Day” at a range of different speeds. This allows me to copy when I have a few free moments – and with an earphone it is very private.

Several times a week I make a Skype connection with Brett Garrett or John Brodie and we each send and receive for about 10 minutes each – just allowing the computer microphone to pick up the sounds from a keyer run by a paddle. This is tougher than working with machine sent code – as humans are not as consistent and methodical – and this really puts me to the test. They are both very patient with me – and I find my speed is picking up.  Mostly my confidence is increasing – and I expect to start making local slow speed contacts on-air very soon. Maybe there will be enough interest to start a slow speed contact group?

I find that the practice is keeping my brain agile – forcing me to use brain capacity which has grown idle – and if nothing else it has slowed the effects of aging. I highly recommend learning Morse even if you never plan to use it on air – and take advantage of the free resources on the web to help you along.

~ John MacFarlane VE7AXU

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