Tag Archives: CW Class

Why Ham Radio?

Fred's Truck Antenna
Fred’s Truck Antenna

Every so often, I drive Fred’s truck into work and people ask me what that big antenna on the back of the truck is for. I explain to them that it is for Ham Radio.  But the reply is usually, why ham radio – isn’t that outdated technology?  We have cell phones and IM, etc…what do we need Ham Radio for?  So I thought I would put down my thoughts as a relatively new Ham about why I enjoy spending so much of my time with Ham Radio.

Amateur Radio for Public Service

Public Service

The number one reason we still need Ham Radio along with all the other technology we now have is for public service.  When there is a disaster and cell phones, television, etc are all not working, Ham Radio operators provide the critical communication.

Ham Radio operators help locally to keep hospitals and first responders in contact with each other to help those affected by the disaster.

Hams also use our ability to communicate around the world on HF bands to help family members around the world to get in touch with loved ones affected by a disaster.

Ham Radio operators have been on the scene helping in every disaster from the earthquakes in Nepal to the recent flooding in California.

Amateur Radio Cube Satellites

Technology and the Maker Movement

I only became a Ham 5 years ago but many of my fellow Ham Radio operators got their license when they were in their early teens and used what they learned to launch their careers. Many have had very successful careers in STEM fields, all launched by their interest in Ham Radio at a young age.  As technology advances, so does the technology used in our hobby.   We even have a nobel laureate, Joe Taylor K1JT who is a ham. Joe has developed weak signal digital communication modes that let us communicate by bouncing signals off the moon!

As technology has advanced, so has the use of it in Ham Radio.   Most Ham Radio operators have one or more computers in their shack.  Many also have a software designed radio (SDR), where much of the radio functionality is implemented using Software, we use sound cards to run digital modes, which are a lot like texting over the radio, and we use the internet extensively as part of operating.  We can also make contacts through satellites orbiting the earth and even the International Space Station.

Most hams love do-it-yourself technical projects, including building a station, home brewing an antenna, building a radio or other station component.  In my day job, I am a program manager for software development projects, but its been a while since I have built anything. As a Ham I taught myself how to code in Python and about the Raspberry Pi and I built the DX Alarm Clock.

QSL Card from VK6LC in Western Australia

International Camaraderie

One of the coolest things about being an amateur radio operator is that you can communicate with other hams all over the world. Ham Radio is an international community where we all have something in common to talk about – our stations and why we enjoy ham radio.    The QSL card above is from a memorable QSO with Mal, VK6LC, from Western Australia, who was the last contact that I needed for a Worked All Zones award.  I must have talked to him for 1/2 hour about his town in Australia and his pet kangaroos!

Amateur Radio Map of the World

Geography Lesson

I have learned much about geography from being on the air and trying to contact as many countries as I can.  There are 339 DX Entities, which are countries or other geographical entities and I have learned where each one is in order to understand where propagation will allow me make a contact.  I have learned a great deal about world geography. Through exchanging QSL cards often get to see photos from so many areas of the world.

DXCC Challenge Award Plaque

Achievement – DXing and Contesting

DXing and Contesting provide a sense of achievement and exciting opportunity for competition. Many Hams work toward operating awards. You can get an operating award for contacting all 50 states, contacting 100 or more countries, contacting Islands, cities in Japan, countries in Asia, or anything else you can imagine.  Each of these operating awards provides a sense of accomplishment and helps to build skills.  Contesting builds skills through competition among Hams to see who can make the most contacts with the most places in 24 or 48 hours. Contesting also improves our operating skills and teaches us to copy callsigns and additional data accurately.

Teaching a License Class

Teaching Licensing Classes – Passing it On

Recently I have joined a team of club members who teach license classes to others who want to get licensed or upgrade their existing Amateur Radio licenses.  Teaching provides a way to improve my presentation skills and also helps me to really understand the material that we teach about Amateur Radio.  It is always a thrill at the end of the class to see so many people earn their licenses or upgrades.

There are so many interesting aspects of Ham Radio which is what makes is such a great hobby.  Getting your license can open up a world of possibilities.  Upgrading to a new license class provides more opportunities to communicate over longer distances.  Our club provides many resources to help you get your first license, upgrade to a new license class, and learn about the many aspects of our hobby.

The Secrets of CW

This is a summary of an interesting take on Morse Code. The author has some interesting takes on learning cw! I never thought about ‘Sleep Learning’ CW. Also I agree: one should become proficient at the straight key before moving on. Also the comparison of how typists learn is good…


THE SECRETS OF CW by Frank Merritt, VE7FPM

Many CW Amateur Radio operators never get beyond the very elementary mode of operation. In dealing with this fascinating situation it is necessary to go right back to the beginning with operating CW. In the beginning many operators just don’t like CW. We humans are individually programmed. The CW operators in-training used the punching bag to relieve the tensions of learning CW all day. Experimentally it was found that if a radio receiver was tuned to an RTTY signal the CW trainees would be gone in less than two minutes. The CW trainees were used to the random rhythm of CW and found the repetitive nature of RTTY to be very disturbing. The very nature of the CW signal was incompatible with the RTTY signal.

The very interesting feature of this tale of subliminal conflict is that the sound of RTTY was familiar and acceptable to me but not those students of CW. Years later when I was studying CW to prepare for my Amateur Radio examination I found that as I accepted the rhythm of CW I no longer had any difficulty in learning CW. Those trying to learn CW virtually always have a mental block or pre-conditioning that causes a conflict when learning it. How many times have we heard prospective Hams say that “learning CW is just too hard”.

The manner of dealing with this deep-seated emotional feeling is amazingly easy. When learning CW it is necessary to condition the mind to accept the rhythm of CW. A source of random CW is required that can be varied in both speed and volume.

What is new is the way that the CW practice unit is used. By playing the random CW at a low audio level it is just barely perceived by the brain. Periodically change the selection of the random CW text. Make no attempt to recognize the CW characters. Sleep teaching? If using the unit for sleep teaching be sure that if you use a pillow speaker the level is very low. Years ago I jammed an old record player to continuously repeat a record and then used a record with random CW characters. The second problem was found to be that eventually the brain has the capability of memorizing an amazing length of random CW. Hence it is desirable to be able to select one of a number of random CW offerings.


It will take time and perseverance. Little by little you will be able to notice an improvement with the ease that you hear and remember CW. Along with this practice it is wise to use a newspaper as a source and gain practice sending CW. In sending code the greatest emphasis should be placed on sending PERFECT code. Use a straight key for this practice. Learn to send perfect characters and words using the proper spacing of one space between characters and three spaces between words. This term goes back to the early years of CW sending in which the short muscles of the wrist get tired and the operator just has to stop sending. Just keep the wrist muscles taut without strain and do no pivot at the wrist. In a matter of time borrow a Ham receiver and tune in to the CW portion of the band that seems to work the best for you.

First learn to send perfect CW with the hand key. It is a good training for learning to converse in CW with other noises within and without the car. Yes, there is still more to the mystery of operating CW. We now delve into the innermost byways of this interesting facet of Amateur Radio. The earliest forms of communicating intelligence by radio were by CW. The CW that we now use is a derivative of the land-line Morse communications. From CW the state-of-the-art progressed (?) to voice as with Amplitude Modulation (AM). There remained many operators who did not abandon CW in preference to voice communications. Many CW operators realized that there was something more to the International Morse Code than just memorizing the representations of the letters, numbers and punctuation.

Typists find that there are different levels of typing. As proficiency increases it is found that the typist can read a bit faster than the actual typing. As time goes by the typist notices that there is a mental translation that permits the eyes to provide the input to the brain resulting in typing without any conscious action. Again, as time goes by the typist finds that he/she is able to read the typed text and edit it for typing errors. This diversion has nothing directly to do with our premise of CW operation but indicates the power of the brain.

As time goes by in the practice of CW the operator becomes aware of small words at first that just “pop out” of the audio. The eventuality of this characteristic is that in a matter of time the operator finds that he/she is copying two to three words behind and that the word/words are mentally checked and corrected for errors.


Each operator has what is called a FIST. In WWII this meant that radio intercept operators knew the fists of many of the enemy operators which provided a clue when the enemy moved units to a new location. It was quite common for the intercept operators to provide names for the enemy operators which sometimes were quite humorous.

Perfect hand key sending is beautiful to hear. Also, it is easy to copy! This leads us into the problems that arise in copying CW. It is not uncommon that under some conditions a relatively good code operator may not be able to copy well if at all. It is obvious that the goal of every operator should be to send perfect code.

To be sure there are countries that have developed somewhat unusual forms of CW but for the most part Amateur Radio CW operation is in English. The first contact of any operator is very challenging to deal with this new language of CW.

The other side of the coin of CW operations is that for most operators WORK is required to master the art of CW.   In all CW operations there is a desire for brevity. This is why a number of codes have been developed to express more complicated statements or questions in the form of three letters of the code in question. The Q-code designation of QTH stands for the geographical location of the sender or QTH? Efficiency of transmission is a consideration of CW operators. CW may be sent and received with a bandwidth of 500 Hz or less! Of course, the other side of this equation is that a good stable and selective receiver is a great advantage in operating with CW.

Operating with CW with a narrow bandpass receiver means that much undesired noise and the effects of other signals is just lost. This is a very great enhancement and makes CW operating much more pleasurable.

Operating CW is an art as much as anything else. Some think that CW will just fade away. It is somewhat unfortunate that effort is required to become a CW operator. As operators in general realize that there is something more than voice or digital communications they become candidates for the art of CW. Time will tell.

Our Club Moving Forward Into 2017

Our club has accomplished a great deal in the last year. We have grown to over 130 members. We have introduced many new people to Amateur Radio, helped them to earn their Licenses and worked with them to  get on the air and develop their knowledge and operating skills. We’ve also worked hard to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about Amateur Radio for members of our club and for the Amateur Radio community which we are a part of.

Much of the credit for our club’s success this past year belongs to you, our members. We very much appreciate all that you have done to contribute to our success and the fun that we have all had as part of what we have done together. Your enthusiasm and support provides great encouragement and inspiration to the many new members who have joined us as well as to all of us who are part of our club’s Leadership Team.

We, as your club’s Executive Committee, have been working on a set of goals and plans to continue on this path during 2017 – to provide even better opportunities for our members to learn more about and to enjoy Amateur Radio, to continue to encourage people to join the Amateur Radio Service, and to provide opportunities for STEM learning for young people.

Our goals and focus for 2017 centers around continued success in and focus on the following areas to benefit both our members and our community as a whole:

To do these things and to be successful as a growing club, we are also pursuing status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. This will enable our club to more effectively secure support from other groups to further our work towards these goals.

Each of us has taken ownership for creating a focus on meeting different aspects of our goals for this year. We are planning to share more about our plans for 2017 at our February Club Meeting.

We are asking that each of you, as members, to consider how you can get the most from all of these and the other opportunities that our club provides. We are working hard to try to create something for everyone that can provide enjoyable opportunities to have fun, to contribute, and to expand the value that we all create and derive by being part of the Amateur Radio Service. We are also asking each of you, our members, to consider helping us with these initiatives in 2017.

  • Jamey Finchum, KC1ENX – Membership Chairman
  • Anita Kemmerer, AB1QB – Activities Chairman
  • Brian Smigielski, AB1ZO – Programs Chairman
  • Mike Ryan, K1WVO – Interim Secretary
  • Wayne Wagner, AG1A – Treasurer
  • Greg Fuller, W1TEN – Vice President
  • Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC – President

Nashua Area Radio Club – 2016 Year In Review

Our club has had quite a year in 2016. We initiated many new activities and our members learned some new skills. Most importantly, we contributed a great deal to the Amateur Radio Service through license classes and other educational and outreach activities.

Highlights From Nashua Area Radio Club’s 2016 Activities 

We made a video as a sort of memory book about our club’s activities and accomplishments in 2016. We hope that you enjoy it!

Fred, AB1OC