Thank you Sam!

Posted by in Morse

Its time to learn Morse… again…

First, a quick history lesson…

I’ve been trying to recount how many times I’ve learned morse:

  • Age 12(?) – My big brother was interested in Amateur Radio and so he was teaching me morse. He used index cards with the morse di-dahs written on one side of the card and the alphabetic character on the reverse side. I specifically remember him helping me to remember the letter V. V for victory (to the tune of Beethoven’s 5th symphony).
  • High School – I attended a Naval College Preparatory School so I guess I figured that learning morse would be a cool thing to do for NJROTC (Naval Junior Recruit Officer Training Corp).
  • Age 20-ish – Preparing for the Novice Amateur License Code Test (I think I did this several times over a few years until I was finally brave enough to go for my Novice license)
  • Present day – Got my Extra license so now its time to take advantage of all that beautiful bandwidth!

So, a minimum of 4 times – probably closer to 8, yet I keep coming back!

The good news is that even though its been a healthy number of years since I last learned morse, I appear to have retained quite a bit of it, so its more a matter of a ‘refresher’ than having to learn it all from scratch. That is huge good news if you ask me!

This time around, I am going to learn/relearn it the right way! As rhythmic cadences instead of by mental ‘table lookup’. I also remember something I told myself from the Novice days…

Practice sending while I practice receiving!

I think this is very important and where I went wrong each time. Sending is sort of a different world than receiving and it doesn’t do you much good if you can receive at 20wpm but only send at 5wpm. Its not that there is anything wrong with operating that way, but…

I would say that this is an ‘aside’ but actually its my main reason for writing this particular post. I came across a very interesting read today. It is the U.S. Army’s Morse Code Training Manual (1968 edition). I think it contains some good advice!

As luck would have it, I also found some recordings that more or less accompany the Army Training manual: U.S. Armed Forces Radio Code (circa 1942). I do, however, strongly urge you to not use these recordings to learn from (very poor tone quality) – I only provide the link for contextual interest.

One thing in the manual which was interesting and enlightening is on page 19 of the PDF. Specifically, Figure 4-1. A chart depicting the cumulative hours required to pass 5gpm (groups per minute) to 15gpm for different ‘types’ of learners. From the chart, you can sort of gauge how long you should give yourself to move from one speed to the next. The slopes of the different gpm curves are meaningful in themselves.

Back in my Navy days, I tried desperately to get sent to two courses but my seniors didn’t think either of them particularly pertained to my rating (Submarine Sonar Technician), which I strongly disagreed with (and still do to this day!):

  • Microminiature Repair – High Quality Repairs on Complex Circuit Boards
  • U.S. Navy Radioman Code School – Morse Code, of course!

Oh well… musn’t grumble. I picked up the skills on my own anyway – now all that is left is to resurrect, and improve on, my morse skills!