My Favorite Mode: CW
I really do believe that amateur radio has something to offer almost anybody. If you do a little research, you’re sure to find aspects of the hobby that will excite you. I have friends at my radio club (W7DK) who are interested in all sorts of activities. Some love the emergency preparedness side of amateur radio, doing all things needed to help in the event of a disaster. Other are interested in digital modes, using computers and sound cards to communicate with other hams across the planet using a variety of different protocols. For some, older radios are a passion, where the warmth of a vacuum tube is all that’s needed to get pumped up. For me, my craving is CW.
CW, which stands for “continuous wave”, is simply radio communication by Morse code. There are several aspects to CW that I just love. First, is is very useful when radio propagation is not ideal. CW tends to do much better than SSB (voice) when conditions are bad, such as right now when solar activity is at a minimum. The second reason I love CW is the challenge of it. When I was first introduced to amateur radio, I was around ten years old. Back in the mid-1990s, in order to get your ham radio license you needed to demonstrate proficiency in Morse code at 5wpm. While I was fascinated with the idea of ham radio, Morse code proved a little too daunting for my 10year old mind when there were other things to do. Fast forward to 2014 when I got licensed as a ham. I knew almost right away that the very part of the hobby that kept me from getting licensed as a child was something I needed to master today. I started learning the code in December of 2014.
After my daughter was born in 2016, I stepped away from ham radio for awhile to focus on family and really didn’t get back into the hobby until the summer of 2018. I decided almost right away to continue my pursuit of CW and to get more proficient. I came up with a challenge to myself: make one CW contact a day. I have to say, the first week was terrifying. I’d almost cringe after I’d send a CQ, almost hoping nobody would come back but when they did, I started to write down what they were saying. It’s been a couple of months now and I’ve been filling up my log with more and more CW contacts. Every time I get out there, I feel more confident at the key.
This is my current CW station. The desk is a mess, but that’s ok, everything needed for some CW fun is all here. My primary rig is the amazing Icom IC-7300. The key in this picture if a Vibroplex straight key I picked up a few years ago at a swap meet. As weird as it sounds, I really enjoy using the straight key as you get a physical connection to the code you’re sending. It’s almost like it’s a part of you, which is pretty stinking cool.
Last weekend I had the opperuntiy to send some CW at my radio club’s historical museum W7OS. I was operating a reciever and transmitter from the mid 1950s which a combined 37 vaccum tubes! What a treat. I was able to work two stations on the East coast using the might W7OS callsign. Here is a look at that setup.
There is really something to be said for honoring the legacy of radio telegraphy by learning the code and working CW. I love the history behind it and how it still has its place in 2018. For those who are interested in learning the code, please let me know. There are a ton of great resources I’ve used in my journey and I’d be happy to share them. It’s not that hard, it just takes time and practice.
The key is calling, I’ll be back in a bit…
73 de N7CPM