Perfect Straight-Key Morse Code? Can It Be Made Without Machines?

What is the proper (and most efficient) technique for creating Morse code by hand, using a manual Morse code key?
Ham radio operators find Morse code (and the CW mode, or Continuous Wave keying mode) very useful, even though Morse code is no longer required as part of the licensing process.
Morse code is highly effective in weak-signal radio work.  And, Preppers love Morse code because it is the most efficient way to communicate when there is a major disaster that could wipe out the communications infrastructure.
While this military film is antique, the vintage information is timeless, as the material is applicable to Morse code, even today.  This film has the answer to the question, “Can a person craft perfect Morse code by straight key, without the help of a computer or machine?
The International Morse Code (sometimes referred to as CW in amateur radio jargon because a continuous wave is turned on and off with the long and short elements of the Morse code characters) is a type of character encoding that transmits telegraphic information using rhythm. Morse code uses a standardized sequence of short and long elements to represent the letters, numerals, punctuation and special characters of a given message. The short and long elements can be formed by sounds, marks, or pulses, in on off keying and are commonly known as dots and dashes or, dits and dahs. The speed of Morse code is measured in words per minute (WPM) or characters per minute, while fixed-length data forms of telecommunication transmission are usually measured in baud or bps.
Why is it called Morse code? This character encoding was devised by Samuel F. B. Morse, the creator of the electric telegraph. This Morse code came in two flavors, in the beginning years of its usage. One was in use by the railroads of America, and is known as American Morse Code. And, there is a unified, internationally-used version (adopted by radio operators), now known as the International Morse Code. Now, when most people refer to Morse code, or CW, they mean, International Morse Code.
Currently, the most popular use of Morse code is by amateur radio operators, although it is no longer a requirement for amateur licensing in many countries. In the professional field, pilots and air traffic controllers are usually familiar with Morse code and require a basic understanding. Navigational aids in the field of aviation, such as VORs and NDBs, constantly transmit their identity in Morse code.
Morse code is designed to be read by humans without a decoding device, making it useful for sending automated digital data in voice channels. For emergency signaling, Morse code can be sent by way of improvised sources that can be easily keyed on and off, making Morse code one of the most versatile methods of telecommunication in existence.
More about Morse code, at my website:
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5 Responses to “Perfect Straight-Key Morse Code? Can It Be Made Without Machines?”

  • Bill KI7HYI:

    Proficiency is the only way to “(create) Morse code by hand, using a manual Morse code key.” It doesn’t hurt to have a strong interest in linguistic archeology.

  • YC2XSJ:

    It is right that cw communicaton is the most effective way to communicate. The problem is that it not easy to get our ear familiar to the cw.

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    Very interesting article and I always find old WWII training videos fun to watch. That said I am getting back into CW after 54 or so yrs. Never mastered it since I learned it totally wrong in my novice days. Now I have basically un-learned and re-learned this time copying in my head sounds. Sending was never a problem back in the good old days. I am just not getting into practice sending and I found one point in the video a bit interesting. Where to put your arm. I sort of remember that the US military pushed to have the arm on the table top and the British to have the arm floating with no support. I guess I need to try both ways. I have a Kent straight key. One heavy solid key. I also have a paddle. I am tempted to go paddle and let the radio make my dots and dashes perfect. That said, because of hearing issues 20 WPM will most likely be my top speed with 12-15 wpm being my norm. Kind of fits with the May 2019 QST QuickStats on page 128. 20% of rthe hams sa they are 1- to 15 WPM. 23% were 16 to 20 WPM. So I will be in the rage of 50% of most hams with straight keys. A FI Paddles 21 to 25 WPM ranked at 16%. 26-30 WPM at 15% AND 30 WPM or more 14%…. A bit of trivia.

    So which will be best arm fully on the table or floating.

    73 Harry K7ZOV

  • Harry K7zov:

    I need a new keyboard.. A few correcting 20% of the hams say they did 10-15 WPM, not 1 to 15..DUH.. 16% for Paddles 21 to 25 WPM15% for 26-30 WPM and 145 fpr 30 WPM and higher..

  • Zal----VU2DK:

    Interesting-my late dad the original VU2BK always had his 1st love & it was CW !
    He often joked—any fool can lift up a mike & talk into it but let him try the old morse key & then talk !!! He retired as a senior General from the Indian Signal Corps & as we all know morse & Signals have always been together–we had some fantastic manual straight key CW operators in the old days—recognised on the band by the way they sent CW without waiting for them to sign their callsign.
    Long live good old CW !

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