Contest Morse Code, Computers, and an Icom Rig

This past weekend (third full weekend in February, February 15-16, 2020) is the ARRL International CW Contest (ARRL DX CW link: ). This is interesting to my study of radio signal propagation as a columnist and as an amateur radio operator​ because of the contest objective: “To encourage W/VE stations to expand knowledge of DX propagation on the HF and MF bands…” This contest is a good way to get a feel for current propagation–though there are caveats.

Speaking of Morse code and the CW mode on our amateur bands: those of you using CW during contests, do you send by hand or by computer?  Do you copy the code by head, or do you use a computer for decoding?

Do you use a computer for Morse code operation?

Just curious about those of you who use CW. Do you send by hand or computer? Receive by head or computer?

In most contests like the ARRL DX CW contest, I copy by ear, and send mostly by rig keyer. If needed, I use a single paddle key with the Icom rig’s internal keyer to answer unique questions and so on.

Below is a quick demo of using the internal Morse code keyer in my Icom IC-7610 transceiver.

V47T, in the Saint Kitts and Nevis Island in the Caribbean, is calling CQ TEST in the ARRL DX CW contest.

Using the programmable virtual buttons, in which I programmed my callsign, NW7US, and other info, I answer and make a complete contest QSO.

In activity like the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC – K3Y special event, it is all manual. I send my Morse code using a WWII Navy Flameproof Signal Key, and decode with my ears.  It is contextual for me.

How do you do contesting Morse code?  Bonus question: How do you do logging while doing contest operation?

73 es best dx = de NW7US dit dit


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4 Responses to “Contest Morse Code, Computers, and an Icom Rig”

  • KB7GL:

    I do the same…although I frequently have to listen a few times to get the 35+ wpm calls. I’m able to copy the reply because I know what to expect. Other than that, much over 20 wpm is way too fast for me. 73, Vic

  • Mike ve9kk:

    Sometimes I am not sure why some of these contest stations bang out code well over 38-45 WPM. I would think (my humble opinion) that if they slowed down they might make more contacts. My reason being how many come across the contest station at machine-gun code speed and just move on. I would be curious to know how many just move on and don’t even call. I have done this as I waste more time trying to get the call. Moving on gets me a few more contacts as to wait to figure out their call.

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    I have stated this before on other sites and want to express it again…We are not in the 1960/1970’s when CW was king and many thousands of hams had to pass 13 and 20 wpm cope tests to get a license. Thus many hams mastered 30-50 wpm in the “good old days”. Now we have old farts like me who learned CW the wrong way and are trying to get back into CW and new people who just want the thrill of CW contacts. Most if us are 10 to 15 wpm and on a good day for a few minutes 20 wpm. I suspect that we out number the 30WPM by at least 2:1 if not more like 4:1, thus a contest where many hams have their electronic auto sending at 30+WPM are leaving us behind. Over the decades I have caught speed freaks slow down to 20 wpm or less and guess what..They were making contacts..Lots of them, then what did they do next? They got stupid and went back to 30+wpm and called CQ TEST for what seemed like forever with no or fewer contacts and never figured out why.

    I do not believe hams need to put a speed limit on sending for contest or for any reason, other then maybe think about why they are calling CQ and not making contacts and maybe just for fun drop down to 15 to 20 wpm and see what happens more often. I am willing to bet they will make more contacts and many qrs hams happy also. Also more contest points.

    It should be noted that my Kenwood TS-990S now does CW decoding and keyboard encoding and it does it quite well thanks to most contest senders are using computers to send clean code. When I do decide to send, it is straight key and not pretty. Most times no response.. On a few rare times I used the built in radio memories to send contest formatted response at their speeds.. Always works.. Computer to computer CW and I will bet most of the cw senders bitch about FT8 being computer to computer and have not realize they are just as bad, if not worst..


  • Gerard O 'Sullivan:

    20 February 2020.
    A very interesting subject.
    When I was at sea in 1975 to 1979 good cw was music to listen to.
    We always worked to the speed of the slowest operator.
    Re contests working sounds like let the computers run the contests.
    You are losing the personal touch / fist of each operator you would know by the keying and you would know the operators by name.
    When 500 Khz the distress frequency closed the end of an era from Marconi time finished.
    I agree if everyone slowed down the cw speed the pleasure and joy of receiving cw will come back to the airwaves.
    Slow down and enjoy the pleasure of cw good and not so good cw all have a place in communications. Best of 73 Gerard

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