I Crossed Those Hurdles

I’ve been trying to master Morse code since 2009. I have known the basic characters since my teens, but never got the speed and I freaked out whenever I didn’t get a character, stopping cold in my tracks. I never got passed those two hurdles. So when I got my novice licence and decided to get serious about learning Morse code I read a lot about different methods, why Koch is the best, software to help you and most important, that you should be fluent in taking down the code before grabbing key.

But I always had a bit of a problem with the last one. My good friend Wouter (PG2W) was a R/O in the 1970s and his story about him going to maritime school always stuck with me. Back then would-be R/O’s started out from day one by tapping out Morse code signals on their desks, not listening to them. They weren’t stupid then, so why do I have to be fluent in taking code no before I can start sending code? “Well, simply because you can’t understand what the other is sending to you, sonny!”

True, but I am a firm believer of multi-sensory – or Auditory-Visual-Kinaesthetic (AVK) – learning. I am practising it daily in my job as ESL teacher, so I should apply it to my own learning, too. So for a while I have been sending code and checking it with help of the computer. Every now and then I would answer a CQ from a station and try my hand at a real CQ while keeping Fldigi running in the background for back-up. By constantly hearing, watching and doing I felt I was improving more than by only taking down code.

So on December 23 last year I sat down itching to have a QSO. Busy with work and family I hadn’t had a single one in 9 days. I had just put together a new keyer (the AA0ZZ one, it was on my To Do-list, remember?) and hooked up my Kent paddles to test it. The power was turned down to nil (or so I thought, later it turned out I was still putting out a Watt or two) and when I heard VK2IG calling CQ I answered him, just for fun, because I thought he would not hear me anyway. But he came back to me, went QRS to my speed of 10 wpm and we had a QSO. And all-of-a-sudden it worked! I could understand his code, take it down by hand and answer him. Whenever I didn’t catch a character I simply shrugged it off and kept on writing. I felt great, because I finally crossed those two hurdles.

So later that night I tried 80 meters for a change. In Taiwan we are allowed to operate on 3.500 to 3.5125 and 3.550 to 3.5625 MHz, so CW territory. I heard JO4CTB, answered him and it worked again. BA5HAM, no problem, although he was pretty fast and I had to use Fldigi for part of the QSO. Ever since I have been having a ball. It has been CW all the way and I am glad to say that most hams I called have been nice enough to go slow. Some QSOs have been simple RST exchanges, others short conversations. But every one helps to get me more fluent and gain speed and I enjoy every one of them.

And to set a goal for myself I decided to go for the Prefix Award, which is to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of FISTS CW Club. 250 CW QSOs of which 10 need to be with FISTS members. No small feat, but one I am very eager to achieve. I know I can cross that hurdle, too.

Hans "Fong" van den Boogert, BX2ABT, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Taiwan. Contact him at [email protected].

6 Responses to “I Crossed Those Hurdles”

  • Wouter / PG2W:

    Congrats OM, speed will come I’m sure

  • Larry W2LJ:


    Fantastic news! Things will get easier with more QSOS. Have fun!

    Larry W2LJ

  • k7zov:

    Great story. I am close behind you. In my case my visual aid will be my NUE-PSK modem with the new CW decoder option. Decodes almost perfect at any speed and almost any bad fist. In any case I have my block too and I think I am getting past it. Hope to hear you on soon. I am also in the 10wpm zone so we should not have too many problem.

    Harry k7zov

  • Phil KA7TTI:

    Years ago I was up to 23 wpm unless someone else was in the room. Due to work, etc. I never did get beyond that and 20 wpm was required for a General in those days. Now I’m back with plenty of time to re-learn. Does anyone know of a Morse code course in MP3 format? I know that Gordon West has CD’s and that’s fine but MP3’s for me would be better.

  • BX2ABT:

    @KA7TTI: yes, check out this link (http://www.hamradioinstructor.com/morse.html) and look at the k7qo files. I still have them on my mobile phone in case I am stuck some where. Good luck with regaining your old speed.

  • Chuck Heath K6ZIZ:

    Hello Phil – I’m in a similar situation, handling 18 wpm easily as a teen, then letting my license expire only to return 50+ years later. Now I’m at wpm, but handling 18 for single words.

    Chuck Adams, K7QO, has a code course with over 500 MP3 files on a CD, available through FISTS for $1. I have a few extra copies if you want one for the same price. It’s the best CW training I’ve found in MP3 format.

    My second favorite training source is Learn CW Online which is free. It offers practice in many areas – word training, call sign training, a 40 lesson learn CW course, etc. Take a look.

    Good Luck, Phil

    Cordially & 73, Chuck, K6ZIZ, Hopland CA near Ukiah, Mendocino County

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