Learning Morse Code

Although passing a Morse code test is no longer a licence requirement in many countries, CW is still a popular mode especially amongst low power (QRP) enthusiasts. There are many programs available to help learn the code.

When I learned Morse code back in 1995, I used G4UXD's Supa-Tuta PC program. Derek's program is still available via his web site http://www.g4uxd.talktalk.net/g4uxd/

More recently I have used LB3KB's Just Learn Morse Code program, although I found it more of a typing test than a Morse test to start with!

Both programs allow you to set the speed and character spacing independently, and to choose characters, numbers, punctuation, pro-signs in any combination. You can also set messages to send for QSO-style practice.

When I was learning Morse code I was cycling to and from work. To learn the letters I would concentrate on a few at a time and learn them by repeating them over and over in my head as I cycled to and from work. I gradually worked up to reciting the entire alphabet, numbers and common punctuation on my journey.

Learning Tips

  • From Day One learn the characters at the correct speed. Use longer spaces between characters to give more thinking time, then shorten the spaces as you improve.
  • Copying random characters is far harder than copying QSOs. If you can copy random mixtures of letters and numbers at 12WPM then QSOs at a similar speed will be a doddle!

On-Air Tips

  • Keep away from band edges, they are the haunt of DXers and speed merchants it seems. Move up about 50kHz to where things area little less frantic.
  • Can't think, spell and send CW at the same time? Then write out a prompt card, especially if you live in a town with a long name. My first few QSOs consisted of repeating the overs I had just received (and written down), inserting the correct name,QTH, report etc. Very soon the CW takes care of itself and you are free to think ahead to what you are going to send next.
  • Don't send your "CQ" calls too fast. You are bound to get a reply at the same speed! Everyone can send "CQ CQ DE <own call>" at twice the speed they can copy. Be aware of this fact, and make sure that you don't send faster than you can receive, because someone will come back at the same speed as you are sending!