Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Mysterious Mode - CW

I can still remember vividly nearly one year ago, sitting in front of my new rig, listening intently to the mysterious strings of dit's and dah's that clutter the 40 meter band at night. At the time, I wondered how could anyone make sense of the varied tones so close together, and what was the traffic? What veiled message could be so important that it would be encoded in a seemingly endless tense of audio and tonal music. I can remember straining to catch one or two of the only characters I knew at that time; K and N. It was a blaze of mind bending speed beeping to be sure. At least it was then.

Now, I spend my evenings doing part of my practice either copying W1AW or one of the many random contacts taking place a guy can choose from. Now, the mysterious chant of echoed song is made plain. Who would have thought? Operators chatting about work, the weather, kids, grandkids, radios, and all manner of ordinary talk. Who would have guessed? Guys making ordinary human mistakes while others tap along like a computer generated CW program. Straight key operators who key with express style so musical it might do well on the top 40. Contest operators operating with the speed of a modem. Who would have guessed? One operator calls and suddenly there is a flood of responses that even now sounds like an unintelligible push button phone gone haywire. Strong signals, weak signals, some that have blown a cap or have a rotten power supply. Whoop whoop... Who would have guessed. But everyone seems to seamlessly participate no matter the skill or tone and most seem to grasp the time hardened art of CW. On some nights it seems a dance of orchestrated chaos funneled into the very origins of high order.

For me, the spectral visage cover of CW has been somewhat blown. VHF repeater style conversation with the time honored class of Amateur Tradition, and all the finesse of the human mind. I suppose some of the coolness factor has been taken off the edge of things for me, but not the excitement. Not the trepidation and fear I still get when attempting to work CW live. Like that impending stomach floating thrill of that first monster dive you take on the latest rage in roller coasters. Not yet anyway. There is still something new and cool about hearing your call echo back to you after answering a CQ that the phonic humdrum of voice cannot replace. A Whistle of technical jazz playing the electromagnetic spectrum in resonant cadence.

I find all the operating modes fascinating. Every operator seems to find an affinity with at least one of them and there is no shame in that. Each has a unique and steadfast place in the world of Amateur Radio. But for me, CW is still, just too cool...

Amen and GB
D Keath - N0WKZ


  1. Great description David .... I can still remember communicating with the road signs when I traveled to KC to the FCC office to take my test for my General class license. Then 13 words per minute seemed like an unattainable goal. But, with practice, all things are possible.

  2. Thank you Jack. Thank you everyone here. I know exactly what you are saying. I remember thinking "how in the world will I do this?" Tnx es 73, hp to cu, sk tu ..

  3. Wow, David!
    I really like your writing. You can really incorporate a lot of emotion into the thrill of learning and growing. I am glad the SEKARC page is at least one opportunity for you to reach an audience.

    Keep up the good work!
    -bill, WBOLXZ


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