Should contest rules allow and act upon 599K QRM reports?

Sunday, 21 December 2008


My favourite mode is CW. I was asked during a foundation course why CW was so good, and in the following discussion it became apparent that there is an enormous gap in education about what it's like to operate in CW after you've learnt the morse code. Here is my attempt to hopefully inspire more Hams to give it a go.

I've always thought that learning morse code is like learning to ski. At the start it isn't much fun, you look at how effortless everyone else seems to find it, and you wonder if you will ever get to that level. You can see others enjoying themselves, but it seems impossible to get a rythm going at the speeds you are forced to go at. You make lots of mistakes and the effort necessary to complete one run just doesn't seem worth it.

I'm teaching my five year old how to read at the moment and the books she is learning from just aren't that exciting due to language restrictions. TV to her is just so much more accessible, reading simple stories about Dick and Jane just doesn't hack it in comparison. I've tried to tell her that when you read a real book you can let your imagination run riot and suddenly you are there in technicolor. When the film comes out it's never as good as the way you had imagined it.

It's no lie to say that the effort required to ski or to read is immense, neither can be learnt over night. It's only through watching and listening to others that we can tell that learning how to do them is worth the effort.

I think part of the joy of the cw mode is from the fact that it was such a hard won skill. The other part is when you start to realise the added benifits that this new mode brings you.

1) Less background noise.
CW is a narrow bandwidth mode and as such you can reduce the passband of your receiver (using narrow filters) which causes the background noise to fall from the comparitive raging static required for voice mode communication to a quiet, easy listening hiss.

2) More space within the allocation.
You can fit in at least 10 CW stations in the same bandwidth required for 1 SSB station. Imagine having an SSB band allocation increased by a factor of 10. There would be much more room for everyone, meaning more chance of getting that crystal clear frequency on a wide open band to catch that elusive DX. This is the norm in CW mode.

3) More discernable signals.
A CW signal can be copied easily against this hiss and way down into the hiss unlike that of any voice mode. In voice modes, when a weak signal is heard, it is normal to only be able to hear the 'peaks' of the other stations voice, enough to know that they are there, but not enough to understand what they are saying. In the CW mode, each morse code element sent is a 'peak' so in the above case 100% copy is achievable. This is due to the on/off nature of the morse code against the large range of sounds possible in voice modes. It is therefore possible to extend the range of reliable communications that your setup is capable of.

4) Less QRM.
The on/off nature of the morse code allows the receiver to be open/active during off periods of transmission. This allows the sender to partially hear 'through' their own transmission. The advantages of this are many but imagine calling in on a pile-up and being able to tell that continued transmisson was pointless as the DX was now sending back to someone else.

5) Cheaper Equipment
The circuits involved in the creation of a CW transceiver are very much simpler with less components than that of any transceiver with voice capabilities. This allows for easier home construction, less battery current comsumption, smaller more portable transceivers and ultimately therefore cheaper to buy. You can buy a brand new CW transceiver kit for £25.

The above points are only some of the many benefits that make this mode of communication such a joy. All of the above allow more DX to be worked, but the joy of the CW mode goes further than this. Following the reading/TV analogy made earlier, some people find that during a cw conversation your imagination is on full throttle and is filling your mind with clear pictures on the topic allowing you your own version of what the other station is communicating.

I hope that this added information may help inspire someone out there to go that extra mile and make the extra effort learn the morse code.


Sands Contest Group. said...

Well its got my other half, G0VGS going again Doug! Nice blog, have added it to the M0SCG blog list
Linda g0ylm

mitch_dcba said...

All I can say is wow, and just to think that most of these weren’t planned this way that they just happened to be!!!
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