Getting Started with the Code

Getting Started with the Code!  by Jim Goudie, AF3Z


CW has taken me all over the world; it’s a blast!  I know it’s not for everybody and it takes some work, but if you haven’t given it a good shot, lately, you might want to consider it now.


Reasons NOT to try the code:  Your mind is made up; not interested at all; could care less; it’s not your thing!   [ Stop reading now 🙂 ]


Reasons to give morse code (CW) a good try:

  1. At times you have wished that you could copy the code.
  2. It connects you with the roots of radio that go way way back.
  3. It can be lots of fun.
  4. Your signal often “gets through” more easily and effectively on CW than on phone.
  5. You can send it with very simple equipment.
  6. Low power CW lends itself to home brewing and kit building.
  7. There is a satisfaction that comes from learning to operate CW.
  8. Using headphones, operating CW can be very quiet, not disturbing others in the house.
  9. CW signals are narrow, low bandwidth, making better use of the bands.
  10. You’ll be able to understand those CW IDs on repeaters :-).  And did I mention it’s fun?!


How to get started:

  1. Learn the letters by the SOUND and rhythm of each character!. ***

(Not by looking at or talking about dots, dashes, and such.)

  1. There are CD’s, recordings, and computer programs that are a big help!

** check out

        ** among other things there, G4FON’s cw program is a good one to try.

  1. Start by learning to copy… listening to the code… learning a letter or two at a time.  Work at it some each day.  A number of short sessions can be better than long marathons.
  2. Keep copying and learning to hear the code first; don’t work on sending it until you can copy 10 to 13 wpm.  This allows you to get the sound and rhythm of the code in your head which will help you send good code (good code has well formed letter sounds, and good timing and spacing between letters and words).
  3. When you start sending, use a ‘straight key.’  Wait until you copy fast enough to need a keyer to send… before taking that step.  You want to get the feel and rhythm of the code!
  4. Once you have learned all the letters, numbers, and some basic punctuation, just listen to the code sometimes.  Don’t worry about trying to copy every letter and don’t write down what you hear.  Just listen.  Listen to code that is a bit faster than you can copy!  Believe it or not, just listening will gradually help you relax and hear the code better.
  5. Finally, getting on the air and making QSOs will do wonders for your code skills.


***  To “think” and “say” code,  use ‘dits’ and ‘dahs:’  A = didah  B = dahdididit  C = dahdidahdit. Notice!  There is a “t” in a ‘dit’ only at the end of a letter or character!

2 thoughts on “Getting Started with the Code

  1. Thanks Jim for promoting CW with your great article. If anyone wants to start a weekly code class on 985 contact me about the details of doing it. It can be a lot more fun learning CW in a group setting and 985 would be an ideal setting.

    Liked by 1 person

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