About CW


Fred Beatty


A number of folks have asked me about learning CW and commented on problems they are having doing so. I try to answer their questions and explain my experiences with the mode, and refer them to “Getting Started . . . with CW” on the MARC website. Learning to copy and send Morse code is really an accomplishment and, while challenging, it is not beyond the capabilities of the great majority of us.

In thinking about questions that come up, several points stand out. Having “been there and done that,” I thought I might put down the more important ones to encourage folks who have an interest in becoming proficient with the code. Nothing in the list below is new, and it is covered in the website tutorial, but I thought it might be worthwhile repeating.

First, plan your practice sessions and stay with them. The approach that seems to be best for most of us is to work on copying for half-an-hour or so twice a day, spaced with several hours in between.

Second, do not memorize the dots and dashes. Instead, learn the sound of the character in connected dits and dahs. Download the freeware we recommended on the website and use it in your practice sessions.

Third, practice your sending at separate times from your copy periods using the same characters that you are working on in your copy session. Your sending will come, along with your copying. Sending speed, by the way, is secondary. What is most important is accurate spacing and characters.

Fourth, start at the simpler characters and work up, becoming thoroughly familiar with each letter, number, and punctuation mark before advancing. Do so in stages, again as we recommend in the website tutorial, and work on them methodically.

Fifth, repetition is key. Review in each session, particularly characters that you may be having difficulty with. Then periodically go back to the beginning and work through what you have already covered.

Sixth, expect to “plateau,” which is when you will stop advancing in speed for a time. We all encountered that, sometimes even for several days or more. Just keep at it and suddenly you will realize you are progressing, again.

Seventh, most of us aren’t going to learn CW overnight. Don’t expect too much! That is the problem with a lot of folks who say “they just can’t get it.” Unless you are really unusual, it’s going to take several months. The best way to deal with that is to not think about the end, but rather focus on one level at a time. Pretty soon you will realize that you are copying the code and ready for real-time CW contacts.

Eighth, get familiar with common abbreviations and Q-signals. They are in the Getting Started tutorial, as well.

Ninth, listen to CW on the air. The W1AW code practice sessions are helpful. Actual QSOs are, as well . . . in fact maybe more so, as you will be listening to real operators sending real code to each other. The advantage of that is obviously the practice you get from it, but also hearing how different operators send code (their “fist) and what they say to each other in a typical contact.

Tenth, when you feel that you are basically competent, get on the air! You will be nervous, like we all were, but not to worry. There are many, many, operators new at the code just like you, and will be glad to have you join them on the bands. Seasoned CW operators, too, welcome new brass-pounders and will adjust their sending to accommodate your skill level.

So, that’s it. CW is an art form and learning to copy and send it well is tremendously satisfying. Hopefully, these points will encourage you to take the plunge. Go through the tutorial methodically and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to get with one of the brass-pounders in the club. We will be most happy to offer our thoughts, suggestions, and encouragement. So, go forth, my friend, go forth and become a brass-pounder!!

KG5HVO Wins Award

KG5HVO Awarded the 2018 Bill Pasternak WA6ITF Memorial Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year

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Congratulations to MARC member Bryant Rascoll, KG5HVO, for his selection as 2018 Bill Pasternak WA6ITF Memorial Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year. Bryant will receive the award at the Huntsville Hamfest on Saturday, August 18.

Bryant has numerous personal accomplishments. He holds the rank of Star in Boy Scouts and is working toward Eagle. Homeschooled by his mother, Lauren, KG5TQO, he received a Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Achievement on the 2018 National Latin Exam. A member of the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame, he plays baseball with the Triton Rays here in Montgomery. Earlier this year, he won a first-place and People’s Choice awards in the Classical Conversations Montgomery Science Fair for his “Antenna Height Effectiveness” project. He has also written articles for the CW Operators Club newsletter and the “K9YA Telegraph” e-zine.

Bryant became interested in ham radio at age eleven after earning the Radio merit badge in Boy Scouts. He subsequently began working on his Technician License and joined the Jefferson Amateur Radio Club in the New Orleans area, where he lived at the time. Club members exposed him to all aspect of amateur radio, sparking his interest even more. He so impressed the club membership that they selected him for the Jefferson Amateur Radio Club Member of the Year Award for 2016.

Bryant earned his Technician License in May 2015 and General Class three months later. Late last year he upgraded to Extra Class. He taught himself Morse code and began “pounding brass” by making CW contacts with push-to-talk switch on a microphone. Now an exceptionally competent CW operator, he is a member of the CW Operators Club and can copy code at 40-50 wpm.

On the air, Bryant’s achievements have been similarly impressive. He holds the ARRL Worked All States Award. Particularly interested in contesting, the young man entered the 2017 Dave Kalter Youth DX Essay Contest and so impressed the committee that they asked him to join the Youth DX Adventure team trip to operate from Costa Rica last summer. He was subsequently chosen as a member of the 2018 World Radiosport Team Championship in Germany in July, where he paired with Mathias Acevedo, CE2LR, from Chile. Bryant was the only youth competitor from North America at that event.

In other contest activity, Bryant won first-place in the low-power rookie category in North America in the 2017 WPX SSB contest and first place in the Louisiana section for single-operator, low-power unlimited category in the ARRL 2017 DX CW and SSB contests. Last fall he operated the MARC CW station for the BSA Jamboree on the Air CW. He also has been named an honorary member of the Georgia Contesting Group and a recent article published in the ARRL National Contest Journal highlighted his accomplishments and named him and up-and-coming contester.

Not surprisingly, Bryant served as ARRL Alabama Section Youth Assistant Coordinator and has recently been named Coordinator. He also was a speaker at the Dayton Hamvention Youth Forum.

Bryant Rascoll is an exceptional young man with an extremely bright future. Congratulations on his successes, past and future, from all of us in the Montgomery Amateur Radio Club.

Sources: Newsline, ARRL Letter, KG5TQO

W4AQT Gets Runner Up Award


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Congratulations to MARC member Marissa Robledo, W4AQT, for being named as a runner-up for this year’s ARRL Alabama 2018 Outstanding Youth Ham Award. At eleven years old, Marissa has made a number of impressive achievements in amateur radio, school, and the greater community. Her recognition is well-deserved and highlights her bright future.

Eleven-year old Marissa is in the fourth grade at Wilson Elementary. Her grades are exceptional and she is enrolled in the Montgomery County Public School’s QUEST program for gifted students. She soon will be attending Starbase Maxwell, which is a Department of Defense initiated and funded program to inspire student interest in a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) career. She is also a member of the Student Government Association and sings in the school choir, which performs at PTA and community events.

Marissa became interested in ham radio when she joined her dad, Jeff Johns, WE4B, with his handheld Arrow antenna to make contacts with other stations through the satellites. She passed her Technician License exam in April 2017 at the age of ten and recently upgraded to General Class. Doubtless she will soon be passing her Extra Class exam.

Of particular note is a contact she and her dad made with TI2CDA, Charlie, and his daughter, Alyssa, in Costa Rica through the AO-91 satellite early this year. The two young ladies chatted briefly, forming an international friendship and goodwill that will continue into the future and highlighting the father-daughter bonds on both ends of the contact. The experience, which was published on the AMSAT News Service earlier this year, will be of significant benefit as Marissa pursues her scientific interests, as well.

While a Technician licensee, Marissa pushed the boundaries of the license class. By utilizing FM amateur radio satellites, she confirmed contacts in Logbook of the World across the country from California to New York, as well as with stations in Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Mexico and Panama. All were made on VHF/UHF satellite frequencies with a handheld antenna and a five-watt handheld radio.

Since getting her license, Marissa is often on the 146.84 repeater and is a regular on the Friday night Whootie Owl Simplex Net on 147.550 MHz. She is active in Skywarn and has attended National Weather Service Skywarn classes.

Marissa is an excellent ambassador of amateur radio. Despite her young age, she quickly became very active on the air and in public promoting amateur radio. Over the past year she has given many satellite demonstrations at hamfests and for other clubs and groups, and to the public, demonstrating ham radio and its capabilities not only to her peers, but also to adults. She is a member of the ARRL and AMSAT-NA, and is a registered ARRL instructor. She recently signed a model release form for the ARRL and will be in an upcoming League video about women involved with STEM. Marissa is a member of the Montgomery Amateur Radio Club and the Elmore County Amateur Radio Society and has participated in Technician License classes with the latter.

Marissa is a young lady that is truly excited about what she has experienced in her first year of being licensed. Relating easily to older amateurs, through clubs she has gained many” grandfathers,” ”uncles,” “aunts” and friends, and earned the respect of the local ham community. Using satellites, she has multiplied these friendships across the country and to DX locations.

Marissa Robledo is an exceptional young lady with an extremely bright future. Congratulations on her successes, past and future, from all of us in the Montgomery Amateur Radio Club.

Source: Jeff Johns, WE4B

W4RRN Wins Award


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Congratulations to MARC member Warren Whitby IV, W4RRN for winning this year’s ARRL Alabama 2018 Outstanding Youth Ham Award. Kaitlyn Cole, KS3P the current ARRL Section Youth Coordinator, and the ARRL Alabama Section Manager, JVann Martin, W4JVM, will be presenting the award to Warren at the Huntsville Hamfest, August 18, after lunch on the main floor. This award is well-deserved, as can be seen in Warren’s achievements, below.

Sixteen-year old Warren is homeschooled through Sovereign Grace Academy in Millbrook, where he maintained a 3.67/4.00 GPA during his sophomore year. He is an active member of the Youth Ministry at Heritage Baptist Church in Prattville. Warren was first licensed in early 2017, and upgraded to General Class in May of that year. He is a member of the Montgomery Amateur Radio Club and the Elmore County ARES group.

Warren participated in Field Day 2017 and 2018.  At the latter, he set up an FT8 station and worked that mode all day on Saturday, making well over 30 contacts despite poor HF band conditions and RFI.  He participated in the on-air trials of the Field Day mode for FT8, as well. Warren also brought a homebuilt DMR hotspot and made Field Day contacts though it.  He subsequently gave a presentation to the Montgomery Amateur Radio Club membership on his portable DMR Hotspot.

Warren built his own VHF, UHF, and HF stations, including a dipole antenna and an extensive station grounding system, and created an APRS station. He discovered Echolink in 2017 and made QSOs and has ham friends through Echolink around the world. Not long after, he created his own Echolink node, including a simplex channel on 146.445 MHz.  His interest in Echolink subsequently led him to found the Central Alabama Echolink Net that meets Saturdays at 8:00 PM local time where he serves as the net control station.  Going a step further, he linked his node to the National Hurricane Centers Echolink node when Hurricane Irma was a potential threat to this area, providing local hams with direct information from the National Hurricane Center. The young ham is also an enthusiastic proponent of Hamshack Hotline to link local hams with Voice over IP.

Warren has mastered JT65, JT9, FT8, Olivia, and Winlink and has become an enthusiastic proponent of digital modes and DMR.  He created and installed station packages for each of those modes and earned the Worked All Continents award on FT8.  He has assisted local hams with problems they encountered with Echolink and the digital modes, station setup, and radio and associated computer equipment.

Warren is a regular user of the MARC 146.84 repeater and participant in local nets, including the Central Alabama Two-Meter Net, the Central Alabama Skywarn/ Emergency Net Golf, the Whootie Owl simplex net, the Troy Amateur Radio Club net, and the Elmore County ARES net.  On the air, he has acted as a relay for other hams when they had difficulty accessing the local repeaters during net activities. Warren also regularly participates in the Darling Downs (Australia) Radio Club’s net via Echolink and the Gold Coast (Australia) Amateur Radio club’s net, also via Echolink.

Warren represented the young generation of hams as part of the amateur radio delegation at the Alabama State Capitol when Governor Kay Ivey signed a proclamation designating 18-24 June 2018 as Amateur Radio Week in Alabama. He has also been an enthusiastic young ambassador for ham radio, regularly speaking to non-hams and encouraging them to get involved in the service/hobby.  He was recently asked to make a presentation about ham radio to interested members of his church.  Warren regularly goes to local hamfests in Montgomery and Birmingham Alabama, and attended the 2018 Orlando Hamcation.

Young Warren Whitby is an exceptional young man with an extremely bright future. Congratulations on his successes, past and future, from all of us in the Montgomery Amateur Radio Club.

Source: Warren Whitby III, KE4ITL