lg opine logo      Updated 26 September 2001       URL is http://our.tentativetimes.net/opine/billcode.html

LEARNING THE CODE

by W9PPG, Bill Weinhardt

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With the advent of the "no code" technician license, why even learn the code? Some who achieve this license will not, but if you desire privileges on the HF bands, you must learn the learn the code and pass a test at 5 words per minute. Doing this will earn the "novice" class license privileges on the HF bands.

These are CW privileges on the 80, 40, 15, and 10 meter bands as well as voice privileges on 10 meters. Beyond that is the "general" class license which requires a code examination at 13 words per minute but allows the licensee considerably more HF privileges.

So how do you go about learning the code and becoming proficient enough to pass the required tests? There are many ways and among them, some of the most popular are summarized in the following paragraphs.

For those who have a computer, there is a vast variety of Morse code software available. At any of the booths selling software at a hamfest, you will find at least several Morse code learning programs. The CD ROM "QRZ" which has a ham call sign data base as well as many amateur radio utility programs has some that are meant for learning the code. Local computer bulletin boards and ham radio file servers for those with internet access have software available for downloading or transfer.

My wife, Sandra Weinhardt, N9PXK, went from no license to "tech plus" to "general" and came within one answer of passing the 20 word per minute "extra" class test in a little over one month using software called "Morse Tutor 3.1A" by Jay Duthler-N0IAI. I just checked and this software as well as a number of other Morse Code learning programs are included on the "QRZ" CD ROM.

Most of these programs take you step-by-step, first learning the letters, numbers and punctuation. Then they teach by sending you words and/or 5 character nonsense groups in a random fashion. Finally, they teach by sending typical amateur on-the-air-type QSO's (conversations) much like will be the actual code examination when you take it. Most of the software allows the speed of sending, spacing, and pitch to be adjusted by the student.

Morse code cassette tapes are another popular learning method. The two most accessible sources for these are the Radio Shack stores and the ARRL (American Radio Relay League). Most Radio Shack stores stock these as well as other license preparation materials. The ARRL is an amateur organization and it has a monthly magazine called "QST" which is available at many newsstands. In the back of the magazine is a catalogue and order form for league publications including code tapes.

Locally, QST is available in the magazine rack at Scotts. The only deficiency I know of with the tapes is that after much repetition you can begin to memorize the contents. The tapes take the student through the process of learning in the same sequence as the computer software.

If you have a short-wave receiver capable of receiving single side band and CW transmissions on the HF amateur bands, you can use code practice sessions as transmitted by W1AW to improve your Morse code proficiency. W1AW is a station operated by the ARRL which has scheduled code practice sessions daily on a particular frequency in each of the HF amateur bands.

The W1AW schedule is listed each month in QST magazine. I copied a lot of W1AW code practice in building my code speed to pass the "extra" class exam.

If you have a receiver capable of copying code, simply copying on-the-air QSO's will help. If you are currently licensed for CW operation, just getting on the air and making contacts will help build your code speed to take the test for the next higher license class.

Remember, the code is like a foreign language. It takes practice and usage to become more proficient. To become better at it you need to push yourself a bit.....try to copy code that is being sent a little faster than you can comfortably receive it. Just like in tennis or any sport, you need to sometimes play against someone who is better than you to become better yourself.

If you need some help with learning the code, some computer software for assistance or the loan of code tapes, feel free to ask me, wswart@parlorcity.com

73's...W9PPG

article ©1996 Wm. J. Weinhardt

W9PPG, Bill Weinhardt's Radio Columns
1. Why use CW?
2. Learning Morse Code
(the easier way)
3. Great Fun
with CW

4. Antenna Ideas
5. Old Equipment
I've bought and made
6. More Radio Nostalgia
7. W9ASX, My Elmer, Glen Rogers
8. Surplus Equipment
9.Questions from my e-mail, with answers
10. Antenna design; then Indiana's Historic Radio Museum
Science Fair Project, Keyer
Who saved my life?
All columns ©copyright Bill Weinhardt 1996-1999

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