Posts Tagged ‘Straight Key’

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:
73 de NW7US dit dit

Old, But Still Useful!

This old WWII military training video is still useful regarding Morse code:

This is an antique United States Navy Training Film from 1943/1944, in which proper hand-sending of Morse code is demonstrated. The film covers some basic principles and mechanics of manual keying of the International Morse code, as used during WWII.

Amateur (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.

There’s more about Morse code, at my website:

For additional joy, here are a few of old films regarding Morse code:

Morse Code – Principles and Basic Techniques (US Army Signal)
(Learn to Send Perfect Morse Code by Hand – Vintage Training Film (Ham Radio / CW))

Vintage 1944 Radio Operator Training: How to Send Morse Code (CW) by Hand

This one is a pretty cool film:
1939 Film: New Zealand Shortwave Communications; Morse code (CW)

I’ve also created a play list, and most of the videos are still online. Once and a while something changes and I have to update the list. Here is the list:

CW Play List

Original Title: TECHNIQUE OF HAND SENDING, by Department of Defense, Published 1944

Usage CC0 1.0 Universal

PIN 23735 1944


Producer Department of Defense


I Need You in My Log! SKCC K3Y/0 Special Event (January 2016)

I need your help!

Come meet me on the shortwave (HF) ham bands for the Morse code (CW mode) special event, the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) celebration, with special callsign, K3Y. During the shifts (time slots) listed below, I am the control operator as K3Y/0.

Tomas, NW7US - operating Morse code as special event station, K3Y/0I need you to make a contact with me.

This special event takes place every year during January. We celebrate the legacy of Morse code, and promote Morse code and manual creation of the code by any non-electronic (digital) device and method. Which means that we love mechanical bugs, straight keys, two ends of a wire, or any other manual device, if Morse code is generated. The Straight Key Century Club is a free membership group. The link to their website is below.

I need you to make a contact with me, during my scheduled times, listed below.

NOTE: YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE A MEMBER OF THE (free) SKCC GROUP. To get into my logbook, you meet me on my frequency, and use Morse code to communicate with me. It is painless. If you must, you can use computer-generated Morse code. Or, you can tap it out on any Morse code signalling device, like a bug, a set of paddles, or a straight key; whatever you choose to make Morse code emanate from your HF transmitter.

HOWEVER: For those of you who want to get fully immersed in the spirit of this event, you are invited to use a straight key. And, as a bonus, you may and can join the SKCC group for FREE. Then, you would have your own SKCC number. That’d be cool; we SKCC members use that number in our exchange during our QSO information exchange. But, you don’t need that. Since it is free, why not?

What is needed is simply you, getting on the shortwave band, finding me, hearing me, and responding to me with Morse code. In other words, we need to have a QSO using Morse code. I am not a fast operator, so no problem if you are not very fast. I’ll meet your speed.

In any case, here are some of the times I will be on the air as K3Y/0… please dust off your straight key, bug, paddles, whatever, and make a QSO with me. Thanks!

My current schedule:

UTC Start/End (remember, these are NOT your local times, but are the UTC (GMT) times!)

(revised times, as of edit date)

00:00 - 02:59 19-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 20-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 21-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 22-Jan-16
00:00 - 05:59 23-Jan-16
14:00 - 18:59 23-Jan-16
20:00 - 21:59 23-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 24-Jan-16
14:00 - 18:59 24-Jan-16
21:00 - 21:59 24-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 25-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 26-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 27-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 28-Jan-16
00:00 - 02:59 29-Jan-16
00:00 - 05:59 30-Jan-16
13:00 - 18:59 30-Jan-16
20:00 - 21:59 30-Jan-16
00:00 - 03:59 31-Jan-16
13:00 - 23:59 31-Jan-16

Now, what frequency will I be on?

To find out what frequency I am on:

Visit and look on the right side for my callsign, NW7US. I usually post my frequency of operation right after my call sign.

Typically, evening operation is 30m, then 40m, and then possibly 80m.

If you are trying to alert me to your presence, you may message me on my personal Facebook profile, under my “Tomas David Hood” profile messages, but I may not see that right away.

Here is the detail covering the K3Y operation and the SKCC group:

73 de NW7US
dit dit

This was last year:

Tomas, NW7US - operating Morse code as special event station, K3Y/0


Get Ready: Month-long Special Event for SKCC, the 2016 K3Y Celebration

Are you ready for the annual, month-long special event by the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC)? The SKCC Group membership is free, and celebrates the longest tradition of amateur radio: Morse code. But, not just any Morse code. The manual creation of Morse code by “straight” keys means no electronic origin, only mechanical. This is a month-long event, during January 2016, modelled after the ARRL Straight Key Night.

Here’s a video that I made showing my activity as the control operator of the special event station, K3Y/0, during one of the many shifts during January (2015). K3Y is the special event callsign of the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC). The special event operates each January. I’ll be doing this again, this coming month, January of 2016.

K3Y, the Straight Key Century Club’s annual January celebration, commemorates the club’s founding in 2006 following the American Radio Relay League’s Straight Key Night. A small group of participants wanted to extend the fun of SKN throughout the year. The SKCC is the result.

For the first three years, the club’s founders used K1Y, K2A, and K3Y as the celebration’s special-event calls. But someone cleverly noticed that a 3 is nothing more than a backwards, curvaceous E. This “KEY” event has operated under the K3Y call ever since.

The on-air party is open to members and non-members alike. It runs from 0000 UTC Jan. 2 through 2359 UTC Jan. 31. It’s a great time to introduce others to the joys of hand-crafted Morse code using straight keys, bugs, and side swipers.

This year, January 2016, we’ll be fielding K3Y operators in each of the 10 US call areas, plus KH6, KL7 and KP4, along with specially scheduled stations in each of six IARU continental regions. Your QSOs with event operators in all these 19 areas will be tabulated in the Statistics section and can be confirmed with a K3Y QSL card and Sweep Certificate.

+ The SKCC website is at

+ The K3Y special event page is

73 de NW7US​

dit dit

WB9LPU’s Marconi Centenary Key

A Marconi style straight key homebrewed by Rich, WB9LPU

A Marconi style straight key homebrewed by Rich, WB9LPU (copyright Richard Meiss, used with permission)

After my last post on my visit to Signal Hill I have been contacted Richard Meiss, WB9LPU, who constructed a straight key in the tradition of the keys made by the Marconi company, to celebrate the centenary in 2001 of Marconi’s reception of the first transatlantic signal. Rich has a written an account of the construction of the key, which is mounted on a piece of Newfoundland soapstone and it can be accessed below by clicking on ‘WB9LPU Marconi Style Key’; it is well worth reading.

WB9LPU Marconi Style Key

Rich manufactures many keys, paddles and bugs and his craftsmanship is outstanding.  There will be more posted on Rich’s work on the blog in the near future, but to whet your appetite here is a video of one of his homebrew bugs.

Please note Rich’s materials (photograph and PDF document) are included here with permission and do not fall under the Creative Commons license that I use on this blog.

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