Thursday, March 05, 2009

How To Learn Morse

Today, we rely heavily on modern technology to communicate. Telephone, mobile or satellite phones, it's so easy to use. So, why bother learning a 163 year old system called Morse? Morse is one of the most basic ways to communicate, but also one of the most reliable and flexible. You can send Morse by land line, by radio, with a signal lamp, or even as an alternative to the tap code, by replacing a dot (did) by a knock and a dash (dah) by a double knock. But the probably most important advantage, the system uses a very sophisticated noise filtering and error correction system: the human ear and brain! More about Morse on Wikipedia.

The military has used Morse for many years. As modern equipment took over the job, Morse was generally abandoned in the 1990's. However, realizing that they lost the only reliable way to communicate over long distance with HF radio in poor condition, many armed forces re-introduced Morse courses, and its usefulness has been proven for signal operators, Special Forces an many others. And it's here to stay! Satellite and telephone will remain prime targets in any war and if knocked out (even China has done successful tests to blow satellites out of space), Morse would be the only way to get your message across, even in the worst conditions. For the same reasons, Morse still is very popular among amateur radio operators.

So, why learn Morse? Well, I know a few reasons. As a start, it's fun to learn and to play with. Also, you never know you might end up in an emergency situation where communication could save your life. With a simple flash light you can easily send a message over several miles in the dark. Finally, Morse is like riding a bike: once you get it, you never loose it. Now, how do you learn Morse? The most popular ways are the Farnsworth Timing and the Koch method. Both of them makes it easy to learn Morse in little time.

On the Just Learn Morse Code website you can download a free software tool to learn Morse. Personally I prefer the free G4FON Morse Trainer, which has less options, but is less complicated in use. Both programs use the Koch method, described on David Finley's website. You start by learning two characters at relatively fast speed, and once you master them, you can add more and more characters to the exercises. Write down what you hear and check it after the exercise with the program output. A character speed of 15 words per minute (WPM) and a code speed of 9 WPM are ideal to start. You'll be amazed with your progress in just a few hours.

And how fast is Morse? Below there's a nice video. It's a SMS (mobile phone) vs Morse contest. Check it out and see who's the fasted.

More information and a vast archive of images about Morse equipment is found on Tom Perera's wonderful Telegraph Museum

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

excellent article.

actually many c.w. signals on air

c.w. with various strange types / modulations.

use of long/short dash , special signs.

forms of c.w. seeming to use

wide band like spark gap tranm.

one month before i noticed a

very peculiar phenomenon,

c.w. station sending signalson almost all m.w.
contium/carefull observation

revealed short of "noise" burst
in between.
not as a spark transmitter .clear as usual a1a
except burst.
secret:c.w. used but denied by some personnel/misinform.

secret:high w.p.m sounds like a jamming stn while actualy may not be but only very fast c.w. like 1000W.P.M.