Back to Basics: Morse Code

Okay, I have a disclaimer to make before I start this discussion. When I took my Novice license test, back in the Dark Ages, I proudly passed my code portion with ease..then immediately forgot Morse and never used it again.

That being said, I think I’ll focus on why I think it’s important to embrace Morse code, continue to push it’s relevance and if you don’t know it, take some time and learn it. I’m not sure why I came to this conclusion, so I figured it’d be something best hashed out on the blog, and so here I am.

Of course, Morse code was the de facto way to send correspondance in the early days of both wired and wireless communication. Starting with the telegraph, and moving through the first radio transmission, Morse is firmly rooted in our hobby — not only as a nod to the Old Timers upon whom we’ve built ths hobby — but simply because it worked, and provided the infrasturcture to all of our modern comms.

So why learn Morse code? There are several rationalizations for spending the time with hand to key. Firstly, and probably the most controversial, is that it’s a way to preserve the history of the hobby, and there are many who think that it’s a right proper way to respect the roots of radio. Of course not everyone agrees about ‘right’ or ‘proper’ in that sense.

But another way to look at it is purely pragmatic. Morse code is still (almost) the best, most reliable way to send a message regardless of how the sun and magnetosphere is behaving. I say ‘almost’ because it’s been knocked out of first place by extremely sensitive digital modes like JT-65A and some of those other singsongy modes. The difference is that Morse only requires, well, only two wires actually…or perhaps even a key, if you’re spoiled that way.

I’ll now digress a bit to point out that Morse isn’t only used in amateur radio. It’s also used by naval forces across the globe to communicate via light flashes in the dark, in aviation to identify radio aids to navigation, and by commercial operators up until the last decade as a matter of course in sending data to ships.

There are a lot of people in our hobby who would probably resort to kicking and screaming  before they’d have to learn Morse, and there has been much resistance in the past decades to retaining it as a requirement. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I learned it, and it didn’t kill me. I think it’s a challenging and rewarding way to explore yet another of the myriad ways to use our radios, even in such a technologically advanced time.

And I have promised myself I’m going to get right back to it!

About MikeC

Bay Area Amateur Radio operator licensed in 1984.
This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Back to Basics: Morse Code

  1. Gerry says:

    Hi Mike,

    just wondered if you would care to read my blogs….

    “Morsepower” is about using a program called CWCOM ( links for downloading on the blog ).. to transmit “live” morse over the internet.

    ( I have 14 straight keys attached to my laptop and use a different one each day. I am on cwcom every day from about 1300GMT to 2200GMT, my call is GEMS as I am not licenced radio ham).

    My other blog details the keys mentioned above, with a story about each one, it`s history, and a video of me using the key at the end of each story ..

    Check out the “Archives” on the left, for earlier key stories.

    if you like what you read, please promulgate about CWCOM and you are welcome to add the url`s to your listings.

    Thank you for your time.

    Gerry ( qth Portsmouth, England, age 73 ex Royal Navy Wireless Telegraphist 1960 to 1972 )

  2. MikeC says:

    Brilliant, Gerry! I’ve been designing a similar app for internet Morse QSOs as a way to marry my profession (software engineering) and one of my passions (Ham radio). You may wish to look into getting licensed yourself as you can always find Morse conversations on the air!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *