Learning Morse Code, some thoughts…

The International Morse Code, also reffered to as C.W ( Continuous Wave) in the amatuer circles, is considered the international language of the radio amateur.

Knowledge of the International Morse code is necessary for obtaining a General grade amateur wireless license in India. The test is conducted at a speed of 8 Words Per Minute.It is necessary to understand the basics of Morse code in order to learn it.

  • Morse code is a binary representation of alphabets, numbers and punctuation marks.
  • The basic element of Morse code is a short element or a “DIT”. This is the most basic element as it sets the time duration of the other elements and thereby the speed of the code being sent. It is represented by a dot.
  • The secondary element , is the long element or a “DAH”. A Dah should be 3 dit’s long .That is, a dah element’s time duration is equal to the time duration of 3 dits sent continuously. It is represented as a dash.
  • The third element, which is most often overlooked is the timing for space between elements. Spacing between elements can be seen as the grammar of Morse code. The space between 2 words is given as 7 dits, between 2 characters is 3 dits and between 2 elements of a character is 1 dit.
  • These dits and dahs combined in various combinations give us various morse code characters. For Example , E is a single Dit. T is a single Dah. A is DitDah. B is Dah dididit., and so on. The international Morse code is arranged in such a way that the most commonly occurring alphabets are given short patterns.

    Learning Tips:

Morse code is a language of sounds and should be learnt as such. The combination should be learnt as a sound pattern. For example, A is didah, and not dot dash.

By learning Morse code as series of dots and dashes rather than as a pattern of dits and dahs , the learner subconsciously starts counting the individual elements, which can slow them down drastically!

So always remember to memorize the sound, rather than counting individual elements.

An excellent way to learn morse code is by adopting the Koch method. The Koch method consists of learning each character individually, at a fairly high-speed (around 20WPM).Once the learner has achieved copying 95% or more , the next character is added to the learning sequence. In order to make copying easier, the Farnsworth speed can be decreased, which increase the spacing between characters while sending at a slightly higher speed.

For Example, a Farnsworth Timing of 15 on a 20 WPM code transmission will result in the individual characters being sent at a speed of 20 WPM, but the spacing between words is at 15 WPM, which results in a significant delay between characters, instead of having it shoot out at the original speed of 20 WPM.

Some resources for learning Morse code are:

It is very important to attain proficiency in receiving morse code before attempting to learn sending morse code. Hand sent Morse code needs to have good timing, which can only come from listening to well-timed, rhythmic code. Once bad timing in code is imbibed in someone, it is very hard to unlearn!

An excellent video on Morse code Sending , circa 1944, by the U.S. Navy! 

Learning and working CW can be challenging  but extremely rewarding too! Patience is the key and regular sessions of 15-30 minutes a day can help a student get up to speed in no time.

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