Posts Tagged ‘CW’

Whats going on with Morse code?

   It would seem from the blog reading I have been doing that CW seems to be on the rise within our ranks. I am not sure what it has to do with but Parks on the air, summits on the air and so on are getting popular these days and maybe folks are realizing you may get more bang for your buck with CW. If you have read my blog for any amount of time you know that I am "into" CW. Way back CW was a must if you wanted your ham licence to get onto HF. At that time I forced myself to learn CW to get my licence and that was it. I hit the needed 12 wpm for advanced and then put CW on the sidelines. 

I moved into a townhome and had to operate stealthily as the HOA cops were always out and about and antennas were a BIG no no. I set up an antenna in the attic the Alpha Delta DX-EE and it worked great. I was operating SSB in the Canada Day contest and having a blast. Later that day my next-door neighbour said she could hear "CQ contest" from her speakers!!! If I wanted my love for ham radio to continue I had to change things up. I had to drop the power and in doing so SSB was going to be tough for contesting. It was then I decided to take up CW again and go QRP with it. 

This meant basically relearning the code, I did it before but this time it was for keeps! Below is my journey with the code and some of the pitfalls and joys. I found the second time around learning the code was not like the first. This time I wanted to learn it and not have to and that made a big difference. 

Certain letters came easy such as M, O, T, E, C, Q and then there was J, H, B, S, F, L. As I started out I thought my frustration would subside as I learn more of the code. It did but I found it reared its ugly head for various reasons. Frustration comes with most learning and is not specific to CW. Learning a language, playing an instrument, or driving a car they all come with frustration but we press on. When learning anything one must understand that you may not become a pro. You may not be Peter Frampton, Mario Andretti or top-end CW ops. We may not be wired that way but we have to be thrilled with where our ability, hard work, work and family constraints fit us onto the scale of skills. 

What is the best way to learn the code....well it's personal and the short answer is we have to ferrite out the method that works for us. Understand this can be one of the most frustrating parts and if you are not committed to learning the code this could be your excuse to give up. Through trial and error find the way that greases your wheels to learn the code. I tried code-learning CDs in the car at home and so on that was a flop for me. Getting on my laptop for short sessions and having the program throw letters at me and I had to type in the correct letter did it. 

Things you will run into while on the journey: 

- Moving 3 steps forward and sometimes 4 steps backwards. Get ready for it will happen and understand it will pass. 

- You feel there are certain characters you will never get. Hold on and I guarantee you will get them some just take longer than others. I see parents who are all concerned that their little one is not walking at the same age as everyone else. I tell them to look around and see how many adults are not walking but crawling ...some take longer than others but we all will get there. 

- Counting the dits and dahs, I found this more so with the numbers learning. Understand it will happen and later I will tell you what I did to break this habit.

- So you know all the letters and numbers but why then all of a sudden are you have issues with certain letters or numbers that you had mastered? Understand this is part of learning and will happen. Remember 3 steps forward and 4 steps back. As you increase your speed this for sure will happen. 

- As you begin to listen to words or QSOs's your going to hear a letter and not get what it is. You then will stop to think about it and then get behind in your coping and frustration. This happens to all of us you have to learn what they said in the movie The Goodfellas "forgetaboutit", It's time to train your brain to skip over it and move on.
- As your speed increases you will have a tendency to assume the next letter and when it's not that letter you will be thrown off. Guessing the next letter is normal and you are going to have to ignore it and wait and see. This is very true with copying call signs. For me, it was I hear V and I think VE and it's VK. I hear D and I think DL and it's DF. Guessing ahead with CW will get you further behind. Let me be clear thinking ahead is not the same as listening ahead. 

Ok, enough of that for now let me go back to counting the dits and dahs and how I overcame that. I increased the sending speed to a point where it was impossible to count any part of any letter or number. This trained me to listen to the complete sound of the letter or number. With this over time came instant character recognition. We all know CQ in Morse and most of us don't hear individual C and Q but we know the sound of it and know it's CQ. 

For me, morse code is an adventure and my understanding is to get to your happy place with it in regards to speed and understanding. Why are you learning the code POTA, SOTA, Contesting or general QSO's or a combination of them? Depending on what you will be doing with the code will determine your learning path. For example, I love contesting. So accuracy, speed, letter and number recognition and being able to keyboard without looking at the keyboard. Other Morse code adventures require word recognition, sending code via a key and adjusting to weather and operating.
Enjoy the journey, have fun and keep expanding on the art of Ham radio.


Winter field day….burrrrr well not for me.


Well, last weekend I completed my 2nd field day "event" Some don't consider it a contest. I had a blast and can't understand why I have not taken part in this event in the past. This field day was the winter field day, now I am NOT a snow bunny at all so I was at my home station with the classification H and it was only me which made it 1H for the session...event....contest. I enjoy this contest (ops I said it) because max power is 100 watts and lots of folks are operating with minimal setups. This means I have to listen hard and pull some stations out of the noise floor. I operated only CW ( surprise surprise) and the speed is not rocket speed and things are much more laid back! I found the average CW speed in around 22-25wpm and that is fine with me. It gives my ears a break from the 35wpm and up I am used to in contests. The way I look at it any practice at any CW speed is great practice. In this...contest I hone my skills by digging calls out of the noise floor and there are lots of them. So cheers to all who took part in winter field day especially those who braved the snow and cold temps! Looking forward to the summer field day coming soon.

Reverse Beacon Network strange event

During the 2023 Canada Winter contest I had an odd thing happen twice with the Reverse Beacon Network website. But before I go into that let's talk about what I use the Reverse Beacon Network for in contests. This site has a huge amount of stations that just listen for stations calling CQ. If you are heard then you are shown on a world map along with your signal strength to that location. This is a great tool during a contest for me as it shows where and how strong my signal is. I have used this site for years but in the last contest, something happened that never has and it happened twice.

I was calling for some time on 40m CQ contest and I was getting Reverse Beacon Network feedback from my signal. The reporting station MM0ZBH reported me but on 20m? Informing me my signal was 6dB and on 14036 and not 7.030 where I was calling CQ contest this was at 2337UTC.

 Earlier at 2212UTC the same station had reported me again on 20m this time at 14030 when I was calling CQ on 7030 and my signal strength this time was 28dB. This was odd and even more so when it happened twice in the contest. Any ideas out there and has anyone had the same issue happen to them?

MM0ZBH is the 6th station down on the list

Canada Winter contest results


Final score

 I am a bit behind with my posting about the Canada Winter contest that happened last weekend. I have been occupied with looking back on 2023 and my New Year's post. As said last weekend was the Canada Winter Contest I took part in the CW-only category and had a blast. The contest covers from 2m to 160m (excluding WARC bands) SSB and CW in which you can do either of both. The conditions were great in this part of the world and the bands were busy with contesters. I called CQ contest (running) for over 90% of the contest which helped me greatly to improve on working pileups. 

Some of the contact highlights were contact into the Yukon, South Africa and Australia. My average QSO's per hour was 66 and my highest was 90 per hour. The antenna I was using was the Hustler 4BTV (10m-40m) this limited me from 80 and 160 therefore on Friday evening I had to pull the plug at about 0120 UTC as 40m was closing down for me. The contest finished at 2359UTC on Saturday but I was getting tired and pulled the plug at 2330UTC. 

During the day on Friday here in New Brunswick, we did have some freezing rain and that affected some radio ops down this way. Fortunately, I can tilt my antenna over which I did and cleaned the ice off and put it upright again. I did this just before the start of the contest and had no issues. 

I loaded my log in ADIF format into Log Analyzer which gave me a map representation of my contacts. You can see my two distant contacts in South Africa and Australia. This software uses the station's grid square for map location. The issue with this is incorrect grid squares give you some odd results. In my case, the map shows one station in Saudi Arabia and another in the middle of the ocean. Both are a result of an incorrect grid square. But overall the program works great and gives you a nice visual of your contest contacts. The Log Analyzer software does have a workaround for when this happens details are found in a link in red at the top of the website page.
Almost worked all provinces.

ARRL 10m contest has come and gone.

This past weekend was the running of the ARRL 10m contest for both CW and SSB. We are in a very nice time in the solar cycle which makes the 10m contest a popular one. The weekend solar conditions were great with the Kp index floating between Kp0 and Kp1. With good solar weather meaning an active sun also comes solar storms with very high Kp index and poor conditions but this weekend was great. As always here at VE9KK I was CW only entry in the contest. Compared to last year's contest I noticed the window into Europe in the mornings did not last that long this year. I did notice more of a window opened in the afternoon toward South America. 

I heard no what might be called exotic DX at my end and most of my scoring was contacting U.S. stations. Due to the propagation of 10m here, I was on the radio at about 7 am local time and off at 5 pm. I found that after 5 pm signals were just not reliable, with many repeats and then the station would just fall off the face of the spectrum. I had a few stations contact me from the Netherlands including Bas PE4BAS a fellow blogger. We did talk a week before the contest about trying to touch base in the contest but you never know. 

I have a program called log analyzer in which you load your contest log in ADIF format (other formats are supported). The program gives you a world map of all your contacts, there are many options the program offers. I do find that if a station you contacted in the contest has an incorrect grid square then you may see an odd country you contacted. For me, the contest showed a U.S. station that was in Saudi Arabia. It was due to his incorrect grid square but that only happens very seldom. 

In this contest my best 1 hour of running was 100 contacts but most of the time it averaged in around 45-70. I did very little searching and pouncing or S&P as it is called. I enter the contest as unassisted meaning I do not use any spotting software. I do this as it gives me more of a challenge. If I entered the assisted category I would have call signs listed on the waterfall of N1MM+ contest software. I could mouse-click from one call to the next and bang off contacts and points. Also, I could see multipliers as well this way. As for me I have fun unassisted and call CQ contest and S&P the waterfall. Below are the results of this year's ARRL 10m contest. Oh and before I go I did have Murphy visit me during this contest or maybe it was just plain old age. I all of a sudden lost mouse control. No matter what I did there was no movement. I ended up restarting my PC which during a contest is a major deal. Once restarted my old age moment passed and I realized I had mouse control again. It was due to the fact I was using the mouse on the left of my desk before the restart and that is the mouse for my Linux PC!!! On the right side of my desk is my Windows mouse and I did not even realize I was using my left-hand side mouse. No restart was needed in the end after all. 


The Art of DX Pileup Busting


Recently, I came across some questions another amateur radio operator posed to a group of CW enthusiasts. Since I have an interest in Morse code, I thought I would explore these questions:

— begin quote —

1. When chasing some particular CW DX station needed for my DXCC punch-list, what are some things(s) that one can do to improve one’s chances of snagging that DX contact amidst a congested pileup? Is it truly the luck of the draw or roll of the dice? Or are there some time tested methods, less than obvious, that the experienced CW DX chasers have used that seem to improve one’s chances of snagging the DX contact? Yes, I’m aware that there are many variables to consider. I’m just looking for some general suggestions to improve my odds of success based on the experience of others.

2. If, let’s say, a DX station appends “UP 1” or “QSX 2” to his CQ call or just “UP” appears in a DX cluster spot listing, what is considered an acceptable amount of “UP”? I’m amazed sometimes at the amount of “UP” that I hear. LOL. Does a hefty amount of “UP” actually improve one’s chances? What does the DX op expect?

3. After a DX station sends their callsign how long should one wait to reply with one’s callsign? I hear stations respond immediately. But sometimes I hear others wait just a “bit”, and then respond to DX. And sometimes when the DX station is responding to a chosen station, other callers are STILL calling the DX op. What do most DX operators expect with regard to the response of a reply? Immediate? One-Mississippi …?

4. I hear stations reply to DX with their callsign once. Others sometimes twice. If I send my callsign twice I run the risk that the DX station has already begun his reply back to me with my sig-report while I’m still in the midst of sending my 2nd callsign reply. So … I should send my call just once?

— end quote–

Great questions!  And, the answers translate over to working DX pileups on voice, too.

Waterfall with split operation displayed.

Here are some of my off-the-cuff remarks, based on my limited experience DXing since 1990:
(I am an avid DXer, with 8BDXCC, etc.)

1. Listen, Listen, Listen: The DX station typically does work split – the DX station on, say, 14.023 MHz, and the DX station is listening anywhere from 14.028 to 14.033 (up 5 to 10). You first, of course, need to listen to the DX station, but, also to hear the stations that are calling the DX station! The trick is to be able to hear some of the stations that are piling up on the DX, and to determine if the DX is working a station, then tunes up a little, or down a little, from the frequency on which the last caller was chosen.

Once you know this, you want to position your signal so that the DX operator tunes to or very near where you are transmitting your signal. If the DX station does not call you but continues in the same tuning direction, you reposition your transmit frequency (always in the pileup window) and try again. If you do not know where the DX station is listening next, and especially if you cannot HEAR the DX station, you are calling blind and are in for a long effort.

If you have a way to see the waterfall at and around the DX frequency, you can often see the general spread of “UP” where the callers congregate. When listening (and, let me tell you, listening is key) to the DX station, watch the waterfall for the responding caller (the station in the pile-up calling the DX), as sometimes it is very obvious who is answering the DX. Watch this exchange for a number of new callers – and get a sense of HOW the DX operator is moving through the pile-up. Anticipate where the DX might listen next. Choose that “next frequency in the pattern of movement” and use that as your calling frequency.

2. Timing your call: this takes a bit of effort. I typically listen to my chosen transmit frequency, trying to call never at the exact same time as others, on or near my calling frequency.

3. I always send my callsign TWICE… something like this:


There are some fine CW-oriented DXing books, PDFs, and websites that talk about this. For instance:

I hope this personal observation of mine about working a Morse code pileup is helpful in some way.

73 de NW7US


A bit of a damper

I awoke this morning to darkness and rain and according to the weather report, it's going to be all day. Over the past week, I have been having a rainy day of the mind. This happens now and then and it happens to everyone who is in the process of stretching the mind. I got up one day and for the life of me when I was doing my CW practising I was lost when it came to hearing the letters S and H. Which was which....I never had this issue for ever and now I am getting very frustrated as when I hear either of those letters I am at a loss which one it is!! At my speed of 34-36wpm if you have to stop and think you lose everything. With my practice simulator, I would replay a call sign over and over and it was only a guess when I committed to either H or S. This also made the CQ WW CW contest at times very frustrating and at times embarrassing for me. 

This has happened in the past and it's nothing new to those who are into Morse code. The word on the street is keep at it and the mind is an amazing thing and it will come around. I am happy to say that as of today for some reason I am back in the zone. I can't explain it but now when I either hear S or H I know exactly which letter it is. Below is one of my practice sessions and the proof is in the picture.


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