Why Learn and Use CW, by Bill Weinhardt W9PPG

     Updated 26 September 2001       URL is http://our.tentativetimes.net/opine/whyusecw.html

For anyone new to this concept, CW is the amateur radio term for Morse Code.


Why Learn and Use CW?

by Bill Weinhardt W9PPG

hat in the world can I say about operating CW? These were my thoughts upon learning that I was supposed to write a column about CW operation for this newsletter. It occurred to me perhaps putting down my thoughts as to why I choose to operate the ham bands using this obsolete method might be interesting.

s CW obsolete? It certainly is. Army, Navy, and Air Force MARS no longer have CW nets for message traffic. This is handled by more efficient digital communication techniques. Ships at sea and marine shore stations no longer maintain a CW watch on 500khz (The international distress frequency). Ship message traffic is pretty much all handled through satellites with digital communications. I have been told the military no longer requires CW training for their radio operators.

If you insist on operating CW, why don’t you hook up one of your computers to your radio equipment and let the computer do the mundane work of copying and sending CW?" Some have suggested this.

hese things went through my mind as I wondered what I could say in a column about operating CW. So why do I operate CW? My number one answer is that I am hooked on it, I suppose in the same way that someone who likes to ice fish is hooked on that. Why get all bundled up and go out in the miserable cold and try to catch a fish when it could be done on a nice warm day or better yet buy a fish in a store and not have any of the bother?

nother reason that I enjoy operating CW is that it keeps the human element in ham radio. CW requires some amount of skill that a person must develop. Much the same as one who enjoys carpentry and building furniture develops the skills to do so even though it would be easier and quicker to buy the furniture assembled and finished. I guess there is a certain amount of pride in one knowing that he or she has developed the skill to do something fairly well, but there is the ever present challenge of knowing that you could be even better.

hen there is another reason. I live in town and after we moved here 5 years ago, I didn’t get around to putting up a very elaborate antenna system. While the tower and beam are one of the projects I intend to get to sometime, I still use a rather simple wire antenna that was meant to be sort of …. well temporary. On top of that, I don’t use a lot of power. My transceiver puts out 100 watts on a good day and I don’t own an amplifier. I’ve had all the parts to build one for over 20 years and still haven’t gotten around to it…well you get the picture. Operating SSB on the crowded HF bands with these constraints can be challenging and even frustrating to say the least (particularly on 75, 40, and 20 meters).

On CW, I can get on the air and either call or answer a CQ, make an interesting contact or two with someone anywhere in the world, and not be insulted because of my less than 50 over S9 signal or be told to get off of someone’s "private" frequency. CW operators tend to be more polite and considerate than many of the operators in the voice segments. After spending the day at work dealing with people problems and problem people I would rather not do that on the ham bands.

hen there is my final reason for operating CW. I have a short QSO with my father every morning before I leave for work. He lives about 100 miles from Bluffton and is nearly 89 years old now. We have kept this daily sked for several years. His hearing is very bad so he has trouble understanding what I am saying on SSB. The pure CW tones are much easier for him to detect.

ad’s memory is not what it used to be and keeps getting worse but he can still send and receive CW pretty darn good. In fact I think the brain work involved in sending and receiving CW has kept his mind sharper than it would be otherwise. (A clinical study of the therapeutic value of this kind of mental activity among those developing memory problems might show some interesting results.) Until we can get him moved to Bluffton, we will continue these daily schedules.

his sums up why I operate CW almost exclusively. To me it is fun. In future columns I will get into some other aspects of CW operation so stay tuned.


article ©1996 Wm. J. Weinhardt

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