An early hand morse key
Samuel Morse was the inventor of the Morse Code.
What is Morse Code?
There is little so sure to upset and divide amateurs than the question of Morse Code (or CW as we call it). There was until October 2001 a 12 wpm requirement for anyone wishing to transmit under 30MHz. Now that requirement has been removed. Most countries are following suite.
But CW is the oldest mode of transmission. It survives best in poor conditions and has a sort of language of its own which transcends the ordinary language barriers. Russians have a particularly good "hand" at CW and many friendships and and QSOs have been made between parties who in voice mode (SSB) would not have got much further than QTH and name.
You may need Morse Code (known as "CW" - Carrier Wave) if you wish to speak on the high (short wave) frequencies. This applies still in most countries. Having acquired it, you are not obliged to use it however.
Most amateurs use voice or digital transmissions these days, but Morse code can often get through difficult radio conditions far better than voice transmissions. There is a considerable skill easier to acquire by some than by others - in sending Morse. Russian stations, for example, show a remarkable aptitude for it: speeds up to 40 wpm and beyond are not unknown.
It has the advantage of having its own universally understood language. The Q code for example - eg: QTH = Location; QSL = Confirm my signal etc - This considerably lessens the problems caused by not speaking the same language between two parties.
The Armed services have just dropped the necessity for Morse proficiency for the first time this century. It is no longer used to any extent commercially where it has been replaced by digital and voice modes of communication.
(Greek, Japanese, Finish and South Americans still use morse a lot.
The US army still teaches it, too....)
It is no longer a requirement for the amateur radio licence in the UK.
Is it hard to learn?
Some people find CW difficult to learn; others find it easy. Once you have learnt it, it usually sticks.
There are classes you can attend at your local radio club or college, or you can buy a morse tutor on sale for about £70 or less or buy a computer programme for the purpose and go solo.
You can also listen to the ARRL morse practice bulletins http://www.arrl.org/w1aw/morse.html
The Titanic sent its last urgent call in Morse code.
Dr Crippen was arrested - the first criminal so caught - by early radio message to the London police.
The earliest telegraph was in code though the form of Morse Code underwent some changes before settling down. Samuel Morse's original code was modified considerably from the original.
All diacritical marks (accents used in foreign languages) and punctuation are possible in CW.
The First Class CW Operators’ Club (FOC)
The Essentials of the Club
One of the club's past members, W4TO summarised the essentials of the organisation in one of the monthly news-sheets. An excerpt is reproduced below:
"FOC is more than a club; it is a way of life, a camaraderie. It is an organised effort to that which is good for all by example. FOC means more than a clean CW operator capable of transmitting 60 wpm in Old-English characters with a 6" brush. FOC means a clean signal, a willingness to QRS to 3 wpm for the struggling beginner, a helping hand for the aspirant down the street, a feeling of one-ness who would like to see the level of amateur radio rise. FOC is not an award, it is a goal."
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