The Conejo Valley Amateur Radio Club is a not-for-profit international organization of amateur radio enthusiasts. We provide education forums, publications and peer interaction opportunities that enhance the knowledge, skill and professional growth of our members.
Note: CVARC meetings are always held on the third Thursday of the month in the Community Room of the East County Sheriff's Station, 2101 E. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks, beginning at 7:30. The April Pre-Meeting Dinner is at 5:00 at Yolanda's, 590 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. Guests are always welcome.
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As many of you likely know, Steven Gillis-KZ6H recently started a group within CVARC specifically for Morse code enthusiasts and those who want to learn Morse code or improve their skills.
Since the group began, Steven has been sending out periodic emails with attached audio files, for group members to practice copying, as well as other helpful information and ideas. So far, the group has about 20 members. If you’re interested in becoming part of this “club within the club,” contact Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I started learning Morse code about two years ago, and I still think of myself as a beginner. I know the letters and numbers (although I don’t always recognize them as fast as I’d like), and I know some basic punctuation, and some of the more popular prosigns and other shortcuts, but I’d really like to improve, and this new group concept is really serving to motivate me. I can currently copy at about 10 WPM. Sure, I’m not breaking any speed records, but I can do it! But, the thing about learning Morse code is that, while a group can offer resources and support, it’s something that you really have to work at on your own. It takes time, and there is a certain level of commitment required.
However, and fortunately for us, we live in a time when we can learn just about anything online or on our phones, and often for free. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few of the resources I used and, in some cases, continue to use, which might be helpful to you if you’re interested in learning Morse code or improving your speed.
One of the first things I tried was a free app called Morse Toad. It was designed to look like an 80s-era video game, and it’s a really great way to learn letters and numbers. It utilizes the Koch method and Farnsworth timing, meaning that the student learns the characters two or three at a time, building with each lesson, and the characters are sent at full speed, say 20-25 WPM, rather than slowed down so your brain gets accustomed to hearing the characters at the faster speed.
After I learned my letters, I started using another free app called Morse Words. It sends complete words at speeds as slow as 5 WPM, but you can adjust the settings to have the character speed at something faster, perhaps 20-25 WPM. Again the idea is to simply adjust the spacing between the characters, not the characters themselves. After you’re comfortable copying words at a given speed, you can increase the WPM, which is really decreasing the spacing between the characters.
On my computer I used G4FON, which you can use to learn the letters and numbers in a similar fashion, by choosing a small number of characters and then increasing that number as you learn them, while also choosing the character speed and effective WPM. There’s a lot more here to help simulate the on-air experience. You can add noise and weaken the signal strength. You can purposefully choose to have it simulate a straight key user with a bad fist. And G4FON is free too!
Finally, on my phone, I subscribe to several podcasts called QOTD, which are also available in iTunes. They are free on either platform. The podcasts are nothing more than a series of quotes, sent in Morse code, and they are offered at 5, 8, 12, 15, 20, 25 and 30 WPM. It’s great that, on my phone, I can rewind 15 seconds when I miss a letter or don’t understand a word. I am currently going back and forth between the 8 WPM and the 12 WPM versions. Hopefully soon I’ll be fully comfortable listening at 12 WPM, and ready to start trying 15 WPM.
So? Anyone else wanna join in the fun? Until next time, 73.