SOTA – Morse Code my next journey in Amateur Radio

2016 is my year to learn the art of receiving and sending Morse Code (CW) using a CW iambic paddle with a focus on SOTA activations.

My first entry into Morse Code was in 1990 where the aim was to decode and send CW using a straight key at 5 words per minute (WPM) for the sole purpose of passing the VK Amateur Radio Novice Exam.   In 1990 the common CW teaching method was a set of 8 audio cassette tapes, a Sony Walkman and headphones.  Each lesson comprised of a male voice reading a letter, number or a series of characters followed by spoken ‘dits’ and ‘dahs’ followed by a Morse Code audio (800 Hz) generated by a practice oscillator, straight key combination at 5 WPM and 10 WPM.  My one and only Morse Code QSO was with the instructor sitting on the opposite of a table using a CW practice oscillator.   I haven’t attempted a single CW QSO since passing the Novice exam 26 years ago.

To restart my CW journey I have decided to use the Koch method to learn each letter, number, pro-word and abbreviation at 20 WPM.  I am using two versions of Koch CW software; IZ2UUF Morse Koch CW for Android and Koch Trainer for MAC and iPad.   I’m giving myself 9 to 12 months to be proficient at receiving and sending CW at 10 to 15 WPM.  In the meantime I will be listening to CW ops and practicing sending using the FT-857D built-in Electronic Keyer in ‘sidetone’ practice mode.  When I get to the stage where my brain has remembered each CW character, yep those CW characters are buried in the grey matter somewhere, I will be looking for a VK1/VK2 CW practice buddy.  😉

My first CW purchase is an Iambic Paddle kit from American Morse Equipment – Iambic Porta-Paddle II
My plan is to master sending CW with the paddle I will use for SOTA activations.  The skill is in manipulating the iambic paddle to produce the correct series of dits and dahs corresponding to the text I intend to send.

Photos: © Copyright 2016 Andrew VK1AD

Porta-Paddle II Kit


Porta-Paddle II kit supplied by Doug W6AME

Assembled Iambic Paddle


Assembled Iambic Paddle

IMG_0768  IMG_0771IMG_0769


4 thoughts on “SOTA – Morse Code my next journey in Amateur Radio

  1. Must admit I’m on the same journey, starting from scratch. I’ve had some success with CW trainer (Android) and More Fusion (Windows). I’m also keen to develop a deplorable digital station (tablet sized) as I know the EU and RA stations are keen on PSK and WWFF. Good luck in your endeavors!

  2. CW is like music, Andrew. Listen to the tune an resist the temptation to ‘count’ the dits and dahs, decipher them and then write them down. Not good practice. The Koch method teaches you to listen to the tune of each letter etc so it becomes instinctive to decipher. Much like talking. The key looks great. The beauty of using an iambic paddle (apart from the obvious) is that you can operate it with either hand, which is real handy when up on a summit and need your right hand to write or fiddle with the VFO knob or filtering. Very handy indeed.

  3. Hi Andrew,
    I have a similar confession to make. I learned the code 39 years ago in 1976/77 and passed 10 words a minute in early 1977. I will have been an amateur for 40 years in December this year. I had the Tandy cassette tape and a few from the WIA of hand sent CW. I had a Toshiba ‘Walkman’. I had quite a few contacts and enjoyed it but other amateur radio interests started to intervene and I gradually gave up. I have used the same two programs as you and have set the Koch program to 20 wpm. I am going OK and have tortured a few SOTA operators with contacts!

    I like your paddle. I have the pico (not the real small one) and will use that in the field when I pluck up courage but at home I use a hand key.

    Good luck with your endeavours and I look forward to a contact or two in the future.

    John D

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