Learning Morse Code
Introduction
You will need:  
  • a means of generating Morse character sounds
  • a pencil and plenty of paper
  • a Morse key
  • a quiet place to practise
  • at least 20 minutes a day
  •  
    [morse alphabet - 13.3 kbytes]
    Getting down to business
    Your Morse sound generator will either be a self-contained, battery-operated oscillator or a computer running a suitable Morse program. In either case, it is vital that you have the facility to adjust the character speed and spacing between characters.
    Morse Programs for the PC 
    Super Morse is an excellent program for DOS written by M. Lee Murrah WD5CID. We use Super Morse for the RSGB slow morse transmissions. It has the extremely useful facility of allowing text files with embedded comments and speed changes to be imported. Be sure to register your copy with Lee if you like it.  

    Numorse is another popular program for Windows.  

    MRX  - for DOS, Windows 95 and Windows NT (including network version for multiple users) by John Samin VK1EME. Although MRX is a commercial product, John is happy for amateurs to use it free of charge.  

    The Mill - for DOS written by Jim Farrior W4FOK. This program teaches both International and American Morse. It has a host of useful features including a visual signalling module, of particular interest to seafaring folk. The Mill can now be downloaded from Jim's website or obtained on request by email from W4FOK

    At first, your practice should be directed towards listening and copying only. Once you have the character rhythms firmly embedded in your subconscious mind, you will need a Morse key to practise sending. You do not have to spend a lot of money on a key - ex-army keys can be bought for a modest sum. It is important that your key has a smooth action and that you can adjust the tension and contact gap.  

    Your first task is to learn the Morse code alphabet and numbers. You should avoid the temptation of thinking of characters as dots and dashes. Set your Morse generator to a character speed between 12 and 15 words per minute with a wide spacing between the characters. That way, you will learn Morse as sounds or rhythms and not as individual dots and dashes. This will facilitate your progress greatly.  

    Once you are confident that you can remember the letters and numbers, you need to learn punctuation and procedure signals. For the UK Morse tests at 5 wpm and 12 wpm these are:  

      AR - end of message 
      CT - stand-by signal or commencing signal 
      BT - separation signal 
      KN - go ahead the named-station 
      VA - end of transmission or end of work
    The above signals are sent without gaps between the letters  
      ? - question mark 
      / - oblique stroke 
      ........ erase
    Increasing your speed
    You should increase your word speed by gradually reducing the inter-character spacing. You should be able to copy about 80% of the code being received before increasing the speed. If you are able to copy all of the code with ease at a given speed, you are not stretching yourself enough. Alternatively, if you can only copy 30%, then you should reduce the speed a little.
    Practice time
    To obtain the maximum benefit from your practice, you should aim to work every day. A reasonable amount of time is 10 to 20 minutes, twice a day. Resist the temptation to work for more than 15 minutes at a time as you will become tired and stale. Above all, RELAX. Morse is your hobby - your life does not depend on it (though it may do one day!) 
    Speed plateaux or "hitting the wall"
    A common experience in learning to read Morse code is reaching a certain speed and then being unable to progess any further. To overcome this, have a rest for 3 days (not more!) and start again at a slightly higher word speed. You will begin to make progress again. Remember - do not expect to be able copy 100%. 
    Practice Morse transmissions
    • A number of organisations transmit practice Morse: 
    • ARRL - W1AW Morse schedule
    • RSGB - GB2CW schedule
    • VERON - PI4AA Morse transmissions:

    • Frequencies 
      3.603 MHz 
      14.115 MHz 
      144.800 MHz 
      432.790 MHz 
      • 20.00-20.30 for beginners 
      • 20.30-21.00 for improvers (times are local to Netherlands) 
    • REF (French national radiocommunication agency) provides a service FAV22 transmitting in cw at various speed, texts in french (useful for those interesting in learning this language !) and random 5 characters-words.

    • The transceiver (1kw) is located at about 80 kms from Paris transmitting twice a day except on Saturdays and days off simultaneously on these two frequencies 6.825 MHz and 3.881 MHz. 
      Schedule during the week : 1000-1030 UTC & 1545-1615 UTC Monday 7 wpm, Tuesday 10 wpm, Wednesday 12 wpm, Thursday 14 wpm, Friday 15 wpm 
      Schedule and speed on Sunday : 0800-0830 UTC at 7 wpm, 0920-0940 UTC at 10 wpm, 0940-0955 UTC at 20 wpm. 
      Information kindly provided by Phil F8AWA 
     
     

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