Learning Morse code with CW Academy

I signed up for the CW Academy online course with the goal of learning Morse code. You can learn this via self-study – there are many apps (e.g., Morse Mania) – but it seemed like more fun to have some synchronous time with other learners and to get to try to communicate live. I was inspired by my friend WT8P, who has taught this class in the past (sadly, not while I’m taking it!).

There are some great online tools available for Morse code learning and practice that anyone can use:

  • Morse code trainer: Listen to learn in progressive “sessions” that introduce a few new letters and numbers at a time
  • Morse code keyer: Practice keying your own Morse code using the `z’ and `x’ keys on your keyboard

We were instructed to set the “character speed” to 25 words per minute (wpm) and Farnsworth speed (spacing between letters/symbols) to 4 wpm. The goal is to hear the symbol patterns as a unit, rather than counting dits and dahs. 25 wpm is pretty fast, and it definitely takes practice to be able to discriminate similar patterns!

But apparently the real way to practice is to get a physical “paddle” that sends dits and dahs. I ended up getting this cute little paddle, which is “iambic”: you press one side for a dit and the other for a dah; holding one down gives you a stream of dit-dit-dit or dah-dah-dah; holding both gives you dit-dah-dit-dah…

On receipt, I discovered that it needed a keyer, which is what actually generates the signals (and “sidetone” sound so you can practice without sending your fumbles out on the radio). My teacher was kind enough to loan me a keyer until I can get something myself! I can now make dits and dahs to my heart’s content :)

So far I have learned (E, T, A, N), (O, I, S, 1, 4), (R, D, L, 2, 5), and (C, U) (they come in batches). My favorite letters are O and C, and my biggest challenges to send are L and R. My D and U also need some work. Letters are introduced in (roughly) order of complexity which also corresponds (inversely) to frequency. Here’s a great visualization of the alphabet and numbers 0-9.

Interestingly, Morse code wasn’t actually developed by Samuel Morse. Although he had the original idea to encode content in a similar fashion for transmission via telegraph, his encoding was quite different.

Class meets twice a week for an hour, during which our teacher drills us by transmitting Morse code words until we indicate we got (“copied”) them, and then we get a chance to try to send our own words, with varying success. After an hour of this, my brain DEFINITELY feels full. But in general, I look forward to learning, and practicing, more!

1 Comment
1 of 1 people learned something from this entry.

  1. jim said,

    June 3, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    Very proud of you for taking two completely different languages, one aural, one visual.

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