In pursuing amateur radio as a hobby we sometimes need a challenge to keep the hobby fresh. In my own experience this has been true. Sometimes new challenges need to be demanding if they are going to be fulfilling, otherwise they are not worth doing. My new challenge was learning CW.
Why CW? Well there is the romantic notion of getting back to basics, the traditional mode associated with the wireless. I grew up near to Gilnahirk Listening Station and had always had a fascination about the place, I was mesmerised by the thought of operators listening to CW day in day out. Since I progressed through the three licensing exams I was looking for something new and I found myself taking up CW.
All ARCs should try to promote CW and in Antrim and District ARC I found help from MI0GDO; we exchanged practice sessions on 2 metres. Progress is slow and it was not until I found CW Academy on the CW Ops web site that I became more serious about taking up this challenge.
For those interested in CW I would recommend googling CW Academy, they run three levels of courses, each running for 8 weeks and they offer each of these courses three times over the course of a year. Since January I have completed level 1 and level 2 and I will start level 3 in January 2019.
These courses provide a structure and a discipline which I find necessary to keep me on track. They begin gently and pick up the pace over the duration of the course. More importantly the course ensures that you don’t pick up bad habits, or if you have already will offer correction. You are assigned to an advisor who will guide you through the programme.
One of the best things about their study techniques is that you do see progress being made, provided you practice. So what’s involved? There are two Skype sessions per week with your advisor. You are allocated tasks to complete and your progress is assessed. In addition you are encouraged to go on frequency and make QSOs.
The skill taught is to recognise letters by sound, rather than my counting the dits and dahs, which is discouraged. Of course when speeds go beyond 20 wpm you can’t count dits and dahs! You also learn the sound of words and even short phrases, such as “Tnx fer call” or “My name is” etc. The purpose is to build up your vocabulary.
It is surprising driving the car and playing a CD of simulated QSOs what you pick up, despite concentrating on your driving. It’s a bit like listening to the car radio. You don’t concentrate on every word said, but you still get the meaning of what was said.
A word of caution!! Learning CW is hard work, it’s not done quickly but you do notice slow but steady progress. You need to practice practice and yet more practice and for this you need discipline and determination. So are you up for a real challenge? There is something quite rewarding about listening to CW and in this solar minimum you don’t need high power to make DX, a good reason to consider learning this mode.
If you are interested in knowing more about learning CW we would love to hear from you.