Teatime Morse with Bernard and Tom (QUA 34)

Hello everyone and welcome to the latest edition of the Tea Time Morse net on paper and in words rather than “dots and dashes” or “dits and dahs” on 80 Metres!

Who’d have thought twelve months ago we’d still be talking about the net one year later, but, here we are bordering on April 2021 and the net is still helping those interested in learning or improving their Morse Code skills. How many have benefitted we’ll never really know, however it’s clear Bernard and Tom’s initiative to use lockdown to improve their own skills has borne fruit elsewhere too.

The pair were very pleased to receive some “fan mail” from SRS member Bob G4GBG which I think echos how many others may feel.

“Hi Guys,

Just to say I have found these sessions very useful. Having taken my morse test in 1977 and then shortly after I let my license lapse, my skills are more than a bit rusty.

Keep up the good work. I’m learning many useful things. Like, whereas Bernard seems to have a preference for tea, Tom likes coffee hi hi. One day I might get brave enough to chime in.

mni tnx

Bob G4GDG”   

Thank you Bob for your kind words and we hope to hear you on the net soon.

It’s true, Bernard and Tom do seem to have differing tastes when it comes to tea time beverages and it would be interesting to know what some of our other regular listeners/contributors chose to lubricate their digits with at tea time.

Maybe there should be some cake and a bottle of bubbly consumed around the end of March as on the 22nd the net will see it’s first birthday. Daily sessions with only a handful of blank days is an amazing achievement and testament to the dedication of the pair to provide a service to the society plus the local and wider amateur community.

That was evidenced just before Christmas when a Twitter message posted by Practical Wireless and Radcom contributor Tim Kirby GW4VXE congratulated the society for the daily net.

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As I put together these notes the number of daily sessions are approaching the 350 mark and it’s pleasing to have a regular band of members ready to join in the fun. One of those members is David M0WDD and I am sure you will have been following his story in previous issues.

Well, David now continues his story with the third and concluding part which I hope will serve as an inspiration to others who would wish to follow in his footsteps, or should that be keystrokes.

My CW Adventure Part 3 by David M0WDD

Introduction

This is the third of three short articles, sharing with you my experiences of learning CW through my attendance on the daily SRS CW net on 3654 Mhz at 4pm daily. This net is run by G3SHF (Ben), M0DCG (Tom) and Nigel (G0RXA), with Nigel and Heather recording and uploading net audio files to the SRS website.  2E0KJC (Chris) is also a partner in crime and regular participant, and other members and non-members join in from time to time. Attending the net continues to be an incredible experience. For me it has been a way to touch base with my regular CW learning, and the net CW copying exercises, live QSOs and feedback all help me move forward. 

About the SRS CW NET

If you listen to the SRS net, you will hear CW practice text at the start. This begins currently at 6 wpm and increases in steps to 18 wpm, so you can copy at a slow speed and build up and see how far you can get. There is also a section on random text and numbers at 12 wpm. Then you have an option to have a QSO at a speed that suits you. For me this is excellent experience in copying and sending practice and I’d encourage any member thinking about taking up CW or wanting to improve their skills to have a listen and join in if you can. The contact details for the SRS afternoon (teatime) CW net are on the SRS website.

This part 3 article covers what I have been doing in addition to attending the SRS net as part of my continued CW learning. I also like to keep stats about my CW QSOs.

My CW progress; QSOs and CW speeds

Since I joined the net in April 2020 I’ve had 225 CW QSOs on the SRS net, and 242 QSOs outside the net. I do try for one QSO on the bands each day and 80m has become my favourite band. This is a long way from when I first joined the net when I could barely copy CW at 10 wpm, and sending was a big unknown for me.

After nearly a year on the net I’m now able to copy CW to paper around 15-17 wpm on a good day and around 12-13 wpm head copy.  More on head copy later. As regards my sending, I have only sent CW with a paddle. However I have now got a straight key and will be learning to use this soon as well. Using my paddle I can now send at 17-18 wpm, provided I pay attention. Learning to send at the same time as learning to copy CW has been one of the strengths of the SRS net for me as this has been great for my QSO confidence building. The net has other strengths too such as training on using the QSO formats.

CW QSO Formats

Early in my SRS net experience I learned to use three QSO formats. These are – the basic QSO, the more detailed basic QSO, and the rag chew QSO.

The basic QSO is an exchange of callsigns, signal reports, names and locations, then a final 73 and SK EE.  The more detailed basic QSO also includes an exchange of details of rig, power, antenna, the weather & temp, or variations, before the final over.  Most operators seem to stick to these formats and I have had many excellent QSOs of both types. Sometimes the order of detail changes, but the essence is the same. On the SRS net these formats are practiced lots of times and the routine becomes very familiar. Some parts of the basic QSO become a bit like instant recall. So when I hear some of the standard QSO words in CW I get an immediate impression of the meaning without having to try to figure it out. Not so for the other words though. This means for most CW I do have to write down words, for example in a rag chew.

Some QSO experiences

I had a good early experience of the rag chew format when returning a CQ call from an operator I’d already had a couple of QSOs with, so we had already gone through the basics of name, location and so on. So with pen and paper to hand we had more of a CW conversation. I was writing down the incoming words whilst writing down what I wanted to say in reply.  Wow, writing both sides was really stressful. So I thought I’d better work more on my head copying skills as I didn’t want to have to write down both sides of the conversation for every rag chew. For me head copy practice is a major ongoing challenge. Head copy gets a little better with lots of practice but there is still so much to do to improve.

The net has also taught me other important aspects of CW, for example use of 73.

One of the best pieces of advice G3SHF (Ben) gave me on the net was to listen for 73 during a CW over. This would indicate that an op wanted to finish the QSO, or I could send 73 myself when I wanted to finish. So this helps me get a sense of when a QSO is about to end or develop into a rag chew. I myself have ended QSOs when I’ve been nervous in my keying or making mistakes and ops have ended QSOs with me when they want quick contacts and then move on. I think a QSO can sometimes develop into interesting conversations and on occasions, particular QSOs stick in the mind for a while.

For example I have had two really interesting QSOs involving use of 73. Firstly I remember answering a CQ from an op located in mid Wales I think, who called at 12 wpm and keying was a little hesitant. So I slowed and we had a good standard QSO with most of the usual details. The op then ended with a sudden 73, and we had a short final exchange and all was well.  Some months later I saw by chance an online blog post about CW from that same operator. It turned out that the QSO with me had been his first ever QSO and he said in his blog that he had been petrified, but was reassured that I had keyed at his speed and that he was delighted to complete the QSO. Well that was humbling, and I felt honoured to have been his first QSO. That of course had been me six months previously.

The second one I remember was answering a CQ from an op in rural Devon, who also keyed at 12 wpm but the keying was hesitant in a different way. We went through the usual QSO exchanges. I remember waiting for any 73 but none came. So I asked about hobbies and we continued with the QSO about this and that for some time. I kept on going until eventually after about 30 minutes the 73 came along. We went through a closing exchange and again all was well. That was a great rag chew. Later l saw on the operator’s QRZ web page that he had been using CW for many years and I never did find out why the keying was hesitant. I learned from that QSO experience not to jump to conclusions. Some QSOs can give different impressions of keying, but can also have a natural flow before the 73 I thought.

RSGB Slow Morse and Facebook groups

So what else have I been doing? Here is a summary of my other CW learning activities. This covers listening to two of the RSGB slow morse transmissions and also my experience of a particularly helpful Facebook group.

Soon after joining the SRS net I also started listening to two of the regular RSGB GB2CW slow morse transmissions for code practice. The first is on Thursday mornings, 9am on 3605 Mhz on SSB. This is listening one way only rather than two way CW. The op welcomes listeners on SSB voice, and introduces listeners to the following short text and numbers sections at speeds of 8 wpm, 10 wpm and 12wpm. I think the op then switches to his VFOb, CW mode, tuned slightly away from the SSB frequency and sends the CW sections. Listeners keep listening on the original frequency on SSB so they hear the CW sidetones. The op then switches back to his VFOa SSB and invites voice signal reports and comments. It all works well and I found it a very good experience for confidence building, and later for head copy training. The op does receive quite a few callers after sending the CW, so this is clearly an effective activity.

The second is on  Monday evenings, 8pm on 3555 Mhz CW.  The op sends text passages at different CW speeds and after the text sections calls CQ for QSOs. So all is in CW mode and this time there is a QSO opportunity as well. I found this to be another excellent way to practice copy on air CW and have a real QSO, sometimes with fading and interference thrown in too. As a bonus the op kindly emailed me a constructive critique of my keying after such a QSO. This was a welcome and helpful surprise.

Facebook can also be a useful place to build ham radio experiences including CW as you will be aware. I’ve joined several ham radio groups. One in particular really helps me. This is the Slow CW Ops group aimed at beginners and returners. The group posts include helpful discussions, hints and tips, and opportunities to arrange on air schedules, SKEDS, mainly around the slow morse frequency of 3555 Mhz. The group also promotes regular one hour slow CW sessions on Wednesday and Saturday evenings at 8pm for members to call or answer CQs. As this frequency has other users, so other activities can sometimes be there too, so the slow QSOs can be a few Mhz higher. I’ve had a good few QSOs here too and some excellent rag chews as you get to know the members a little. Above all else this group is really effective in helping ops gain confidence and get on the air.

Helpful Websites

I am starting to use websites too now to help with my CW activities and I am sure there are lots more still to discover. For example for propagation forecasts I look at  https://www.predtest.uk/ to see propagation predictions at different times of day.

Recently I’ve started to use the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) to see ops which ops are active on which bands. As you may know this shows frequency, callsigns, CW speeds and signal strengths at different locations, so this also gives me an idea of possible CQ contacts at a speed I can manage. I can also call CQ TESTING and see where my signal is spotted, so this is very helpful in assessing how effective my rig and antenna is, (or isn’t!).

My next steps

I’ve made plenty of mistakes, questioned my CW learning progress, answered CQs at too fast a rate, entering a CQ contest and messed up the logging, and much more.  However, I have found no one seems to mind, everyone makes mistakes, and there is lots of help out there in the SRS club and in the ham radio community in general. The SRS net seems like a club within a club as the support there from the other participants is really excellent.

I’m progressing with CW. I have had some success now in entering slow CQ contests and I’ve got to know the N1MM contest logging software which helps greatly.  For regular QSOs I try to stick to answering CQs at speeds I can manage, usually.  I still make mistakes, but it’s all good fun. Sometimes I email an op after a good QSO,  and I’ve received lots of excellent replies, great tips and offers of SKEDs.  So my CW Learning continues and I’ve lots more still to learn.  I’m keeping up with my regular practice.

My current push is to achieve more effective Head Copy. I’ve been practicing trying to visualise incoming CW as characters to build words in my mind, but easier said than done.  I’ve had more success trying to visualise text that I want to send, in short pieces, before keying, rather than writing everything down first, but this is at a very early stage. When I send without writing down I’m sometimes spelling challenged.

So I’d thoroughly recommend trying the SRS daily CW net and I look forward to catching up with you on the bands.

73

David M0WDD

Once again David, thank you for providing an insight into your journey into Morse Code. Looking back over the year it is pleasing to see how David, and Chris 2E0KJC also a regular participant have taken to this aspect of the hobby and are enjoying the opportunity to make contacts both locally and further afield using what may be considered the original digital mode.

I’m sure along with Bernard and Tom, both would be happy to help any member considering “dipping their toe in the Morse Code water”. They can be contacted through the usual society addresses.


We have received contact from Bob GM4UYZ who has been a member of the society for some time having been introduced by former member and colleague of his, John Hrycan M0BEX and his son, Liam M0AWV.

Bob has kindly provided a “help file” for those who would like to use the Morse Code training program “Numorse” on an Apple Mac system.

RUNNING NUMORSE PROFESSIONAL ON AN APPLE MAC

NUMORSE was written for Windows therefore the Windows version will not run on an Apple Mac. Also, the version of NUMORE PROFESSIONAL is only the 32bit version and not the 64bit version as this was never written.

Thanks to Thomas MM0THL and Keith MM0KTC for the instructions below on how to get it running on the Apple MAC.

From Thomas MM0THL

Note:Always wary about giving wrong information out and sadly I do not have a newer Mac to try it fully on.

These instructions are not relevant for anyone running a Mac with macOS Catalina (10.15) or macOS Big Sur (11) because from Catalina onwards macOS dropped support for 32-bit applications. Wine – a compatibility layer that allows you to run Windows applications on macOS does not currently support these newer Operating Systems.

For those with a new Mac, Keith has found another application that works in a similar manner that you could pay for and use instead. Another option is to use some desktop virtualisation software like Parallels Desktop (paid), VMware Fusion (paid) or VirtualBox (free) to install Windows. But that too requires a paid Windows license, and many Mac users prefer to get away from Windows entirely. Of course the technology is always moving and with Apples move to their own Processors this may not be relevant for long.

However, if you are running a Mac with an older Operating System (up to macOS Mojave, 10.14) then there is a fairly pain free method. Because NuMorse is a Windows application it will not run natively on a Mac so we need to use some translation software to run NuMorse, one of the most popular being something called ‘Wine’.

In a Web Browser, go to https://dl.winehq.org/wine-builds/macosx/download.html and download ‘Installer for “Wine Stable”’ which is currently version 5.0. When this has downloaded, run it like any normal installer.

Once complete, go to http://nu-ware.com/ and download NuMorse Professional. When this has downloaded, when you run it, Wine will run. If you select the standard installation options, then a shortcut to run NuMorse will be put on your Desktop.

With any luck you will be able to run NuMorse and practice your CW!

From Keith MM0KTC

Details below of how to install Nu-Morse on Apple Computers running IOS 64bit systems.

  1. Download and install software called “Crossovers” from https://www.codeweavers.com
  2. You will need to purchase this software, as you only get 14 days free, but there are discount codes available (CX35 f = got me 35% discount of the £32 price)
  3. Download installer for Nu-Morse.
  4. Follow the instruction in Crossovers to install Nu-Morse
  5. Bob’s your uncle, you’re off.

Not a lot more to say, I don’t have the skills to do screen shots and all, but if I can work it out, I am sure others can.

Bob Glasgow GM4UYZ

Once again, thank you Bob and good to hear from you.  We hope all is well with you and your members at the Cockenzie and Port Seton ARC, please pass on our best wishes.


With that it’s time to wrap up this written edition of the Tea Time Morse Session. Who know’s what is in store for us in the coming months, but until further notice the sessions will continue daily. So, if you are considering giving it a try and you have some time to spare in the afternoons, why not take a listen or call in if you fancy a CW QSO.

As always comments and signal reports are most welcome and our contact details are below. So, until next time 73’s and take care from the Tea Time Morse Team.

Teatime Morse with Bernard & Tom

  • Days: Daily unless specified
  • Time: 4pm local time
  • Frequency: 3.564 MHz +/- QRM
  • Email: morse@g8srs.co.uk
  • SRS info phone: 07506 904422