Getting Started with the Code

by Jim Goudie, AF3Z                                         2nd edition, 2021

CW has taken me all over the world; it’s a blast!  It may not be for everybody and it takes some work, but now may be a good time to give it a good try… or another good try!

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.)

   2.  To get started, I recommend checking out G4FON’s info and software; be sure to watch the video included:

     *For more, go to

   3.  G4FON’s video is excellent. Until you can take that in, here are some basic principles:

        ** learn by listening to the characters sent at the speed that is your goal!

        ** stay with listening until you have learned to hear and recognize the sound and rhythm of the characters.  Then work on learning to send well.  You learn to ‘speak’ by listening!

        ** I think learning to send with a ‘straight key’ can help your brain fully absorb the rhythms of morse code.  But, G4FON doesn’t feel that is necessary.  Check out what he had to say.

        ** G4FON and I agree 😉 that listening to the code without trying to write or type it down helps your brain learn to put together the words and sentences.  It helps you develop the skill of sending and receiving the code conversationally.

***  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!