I first became interested in HAM RADIO when I was about 10 years old. My grandpa gave me a kit from
Radio Shack: 50 ELECTRONIC PROJECTS
(I found about 100 things to do with that kit)
My journey towards Ham Radio had begun. Working with the electronic parts and putting together various simple devices was great fun. Looking for more than Radio Shack could offer , a HEATHKIT store near our house came into play. Going there with my father and just looking around, introduced me to my first closeup of Ham Radios.
Thoughts of becoming a Ham Operator and building my own rig someday captured my imagination.
It took 30 years and going to a HAMFEST to finally motivate me to get my license.
While studying to take the CW exam, I experienced a surprising enjoyment of learning how to copy
morse code. A growing passion for CW took hold of me and has never let go.
Frank, kb0pb(sk), got me started on QRQ CW @1992. My first CW keyboard was the mfj 451.
Frank worked with me, training me on my copy speed over the air on 40 meters. He introduced me and supported my membership in my first QRQcw club, THE CFO CLUB. (I am member #967) CFO ROSTER HERENOTE:
a new gathering of CFO OPS are now located HERE
Bert, AK4G, was also instrumental in helping me improve my QRQ CW skills. He shared with me some of his methods that enabled him to copy over 100wpm. One of his techniques was...He would type in a paragraph into his computer cw sending program
and have that program send the CW of that paragraph over and over again, slowly increasing his speed until he reached @100wpm copy. Then he would write another paragraph and do the same thing. Bert was an excellent QRQcw ART
IST in his morse code sending. He taught me to eliminate all the commas and periods etc from my CW sending and just put some spaces in their place. This allows the mind a rest from the continuous stream of the same repetative cw tones, keeping the mind fresh for the best cw copy and cw copy endurance. Bert also had a very beautiful CW NOTE from his gear that he homebrewed and "tweaked" to "perfection". He also had one of the strongest signals on the band using a homebrew QSK AMP and a very unique directional 4 loop verticle antenna. He was able to switch the loops around not only to be able to transmit on all the HF bands without a tuner, but he was able to steer this antenna to beam his signal in a north, south, east or west direction. He shared with me his design and its discovery from a prayer he prayed asking GOD to help him find the best antenna to spread the "good news"
via HAM RADIO around the globe. He has prayed for many ham radio operators over the years now and always been there to help out his fellow CW OPS who needed some spiritual guidance or special prayer requests.
Early on in my QRQ pursuits, I met a good friend, Bryan, ab4kx. We both had similar schedules so we were able to get on in the mornings often and practice our qrq cw copy and qrq typing. We have had an ongoing regular schedule for at least ten years now. We were able to push each other a bit and reached about 65wpm. It was very helpful and a heck of a lot of fun too, qso'n most mornings that the band conditions would allow. Bryan is an excellent typist and all of his rigs had some of the best sounding qrq cw notes... a pleasure to listen to and being somewhat of a musician and audiophile, I really appreciated the quality of the CW audio in Bryan's setup.
After a few years of relaxing at this speed and not working much to pursue higher speeds, something caught my attention and I decided to push harder in my training and go for the TRIPLE DIGIT COPY. It took a lot of work to get past 65wpm. But once it started to happen, I felt that it was an easier ride up to about 80wpm. When I started to feel more comfortable at 80wpm, I wanted to train over the air with someone who could also copy and type CW at 80wpm. ENTER: FRED W3NJZ !
Fred was game for setting up a regular schedule on SATURDAYS during the fall and winter months. Over the last few years we have been QRQ'n on 40 meters around 1:30pm central time on most Saturday's @ 7024. This was quite a challenge for me, I had not typed that fast ever....so it took some practice to get my typing speed up to 80 wpm. Since I have been playing piano all my life, I had the potential to get my typing speed up....I just needed some practice time. We were eventually able to get up to 100wpm typing and head copying
. One thing was still slowing us down....BRAIN SPEED !
It is one thing to type that fast while looking at some already written text, but it is a far-far greater task to THINK THAT FAST on the spur of the moment during the natural flow of a conversation and get all that data down to your fingers with enough ahead time
to get the buffer filled up with a couple of words ....or...at least a couple of letters. WOW ! THAT WAS QUITE A CHALLENGE and actually became the limiting factor in how fast we could communicate. It seems that once you get over the 100 wpm hill...there is an ability to move up to about 140 wpm as far as copy goes. I have found that as you go from 140 wpm to 150 wpm, there is an increasing difficulty and struggle to comprehend what is being sent. My current goal is to reach 150 wpm copy as it relates to the typical flow of a conversation. My training is built around that pursuit. There are many speed bumps
along the way as one travels the highway to NASCAR QRQ
. In my experience it seems to take at least 1-2 hours a day, most days per week...for several months if not a couple of years to get over these natural barriers we all run into during our journey up the long, steep hill to ever increasing QRQ COPY PROGRESS. The brain does not seem to recognize the stream of dits and dahs at the "new" higher speed and you have to retrain your mind to learn the "new" sound of much of the vocabulary.
To help increase my cw copy speed, I started recording cw onto tapes and listened to them on a variable speed cassette tape deck while driving to work everyday. When I heard a word that I was not able to copy, I would hit the review button on the tape deck to hear the word again. After a few times, if I was still not able to discern the word, I would slow the tape down, hit rewind and try again... and again, and again, until I got it.
With so much repetition I thought I would benefit by converting bible texts into cw and listen to them. That is about the only thing I thought would be worth hearing over and over again. I took out all the punctuation so that all I heard were the words. Instead of using periods and commas i inserted spaces of 6 and 3 spaces respectively. Ak4g taught me to not use punctuation while sending code and instead use spaces. The advantage to doing this is to allow some "rest" for the brain and ear and help prevent tonal fatigue and burnout.
I started sending keyboard cw with a 286 DOS COMPUTER and a program called CWTERM by W1HKJ. Now 15 years later, Dave has written a new program called FLDIGI. This new software has many digital modes available including cw. It is my favorite program now for sending cw and includes many features for QRQ including QSK timing, raised cosine with variable rise/fall time, speeds up to 200wpm , weight adjustments and dot to dash ratio adjustments. I am using the program to send MODULATED CW or a2 afcw mode. Any rig can be used with this method to send beautiful raised cosine shaped waveforms to the cw elements. My icom 735 is now able to send qrq cw at full qsk over 100wpm using this method without chopping the cw elements whatsoever. With the QSK timing feature that Dave has implemented into the program I can switch the PTT button on the ICOM first , then send the raised cosine cw audio into the USB LINE IN of the rig. A beautiful raised cosine shape to the cw on the RF OUT is what you see while viewing the wave shape on a SCOPE.