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The Art and Skill


A Manual For Learning, Using, Mastering And Enjoying

The International Morse Code As A Means Of Communication

William G. Pierpont NØHFF

“What Hath God Wrought!”
Third Revised Edition July 6, 2ØØ1
Copyright © 2ØØ1William G. Pierpont, NØHFF

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 1

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

“For those who are interested in telegraphy, for those who would
like to learn it, for those who love it, and for those who want to
improve their skills in it.”
William G. Pierpont NØHFF
The art and skill of telegraphy is unique. The psychologists who have
seriously studied those who have developed this skill have been fasci-
nated and challenged to try to understand it. Isn’t the very idea of
being able to communicate your thoughts to another by means of in-
termittent tones something intriguing in itself?
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy currently has the following known trans-
lations and web adaptations
French: Third Revised Edition: Editor Maurice Colombani-Gailleur
F6IIE,Øhff.htm or
Danish: Editor: Jens Henrik Nohns, ØZ1CAR, Laerkevej 11, DK-7441
Bording, Denmark
Japanese: 2nd Edition 1997, Published 1Ø August 2ØØØ in Tokyo by
the JARL A1 Club, Editor: Atzu Taniguchi, JE1TRW, with assistance of
other JARL 1A Club members.
English: Second Revised Edition, First adapted for the World Wide Web
by Jon Oates GMØVIY for MEGS,Ørse/nØhff/index.htm
English: Second Revised Edition, Second adaptation for the World Wide
Web by Ronal G. Bellamy VE6SIR for RAES
English Third Revised Edition, last edited July 6, 2ØØ1, Editor, Dave
Clarke, VE6LX
English Third Revised Edition, last edited July 8, 2ØØ1, is now avail-
able for download at the following:Øhff.htm
Editor, Fred Adsit, NY2V
Preparation and distribution of the text files by Jim Farrior W4FOK along with his
program “The Mill”
This book may be freely reproduced and published, but only on a no-
profit basis in order to make it as widely available as possible to those
who need it... NØHFF

2 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

Contents 3 Building The First Floor On The Solid
Foundation 32
Preface 8
Instant Recognition 32
Introduction 8
Anticipating 32
Is the Radio-Telegraph Code What Kind Of Material To Practice 33
Obsolete? 10
Other Ways 34
Learning the Morse Code - An
How Long And What Kind Of Practice 34
Overview 11
Getting Stuck 36
Where we are going 11
The 1ØØ Most Common Words In English 36
Chapter 1 13 Passing Examinations 37
How to Go About it Efficiently 13 Chapter 5 37
This Chapter Is A Summary To Prepare You To
Learn 13 Practice To Gain Proficiency 37
How Long Will It Take Me To Learn 17 How Far Do You Want To Go 37
Make Each Practice Period A Step Forward 39
Chapter 2 17
Kinds Of Practicing 39
Principles of Skill Building and Attitudes
for Success 17 Listening Practice 39

We Are Building A Set Of Habits 17 Word Recognition Practice 40

Relax 18 Copying Practice 41

Develop A Good Mental Attitude 19 Sending Practice 41

Stage One Learning The A-B-C’s 19 Mental Practice 42

Stage Two - Practice 20 On The Air Practice 42

More About Attitudes For Success 21 Chapter 6 43

Picturing Success Is Strong Preparation For It 21 How Fast 43
Chapter 3 23 The Wrong Question. 43

Part I: Laying the Foundation 23 How Well 43

Let’s Begin With The A-B-C’s 23 Copyability 43

Motivation 24 Fast Enough To Communicate Satisfyingly 44

Learning The Morse Code Is Similar To The Proficient Operator 45

Learning To Read 25 Your Own Goal 45
The Morse A-B-C ‘S Are Patterns Of Sound 26 Shortening Things Up 46
Part II: Laying the Foundation 26 Chapter 7 48
Delayed Perception And Instant Recognition 26 Listening or Reading 48
Listen Only To The Best Quality Of Code 27 Listen 48
Getting Started 27 Concentrate 50
What Characters Shall We Begin With 28 Learn To Hear - Words As Words 50
Methods To Go About Teaching 28 How Can We Learn To Do This 51
Part III: Laying the Foundation 30 We Must Listen At Higher Speeds To Improve
Chapter 4 32
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 3
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Missing Words 53 Other Keying Devices And Their Use 7 4
Long Words 53 All Kinds of Keys 75
Decapitated Words 53 Other Kinds Of Manual Keys 75
Broken Words 53 The Bug 76
On-The-Air Listening 55 Using A Bug 76
Chapter 8 55 Setting the Adjustments of a Bug 77
Copying Getting it written down 55 Sending With A Bug 78
Practice With Familiar Text Helps 56 Keyers 78
Pay No Attention To Any Errors 57 Keyboards 79
If You Want To Become More Proficient 57 An Interesting Bug 80
In The Beginning 58 Chapter 11 80
A Better Way 58 Further Development of Skills 80
What Makes Sense Is Easier 60 Higher Skills 80
Conquering Our Fears Of Losing Out 61 Truly High-Speed CW Awaited Electronics 81
Other Suggestions 62 Looking Backward And Forward 81
How Long Shall I Practice 62 The Skilled Operator 83
Fading, Static, Interference and or Poor Fists 62 Faster – Faster - Faster 83
Correcting Imperfect Copy 63 Reading Versus Copying Skill 84
Other Observations 63 The Sound Barrier 84
98 Of The 1ØØ Most Common Words 64 How Can Such Skill Be Developed 85
Chapter 9 64 Factors Needed To Get There 86
Sending and the Straight Key – Part I 6 4 Who Can Do It 87
Quality Of Sending 64 Amateur High Speed Clubs 88
Keying And What It Means 65 Chapter 12 89
The First Morse Key 65 How Long Will It Take To Learn 89
Recommendations To The Beginner 65 Marshall H. Ensor’s Code Course 89
The Straight Key 66 Another Example - Compounded By Handicaps
The American Straight Key And Its Use 67 91

Gaining Skill, Errors, and Automaticity 68 More Examples 93

Personal Characteristics, Fists 69 Some Outstanding Examples Of Effectiveness

Chapter 9 69 Determination and Persistence 94
Sending and the Straight Key – Part II 6 9 By Contrast 94
KEYS 69 Chapter 13 95
The Traditional British Key And Its Usage 70
The Role of Memory in Telegraphy 95
Using A Straight Key 71
Some Further Questions and Thoughts 96
Glass Arm 72
Chapter 14 97
Tests for Proper Operation of a Hand-Key 73
What Is It That Makes a Good Hand-Key? 73 The Ear 97
Pitch Of CW Signal 97
Chapter 1Ø 74
Sensitivity To Duration Of Sound 98

4 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
The Ear Can Often Make Sense Out Of Poor The Original Morse Code 112
Sending 98
Who Invented What We Call The Morse Code
The Trained Ear Can Discriminate Between 112
Signals 99
Vail’s Thinking 115
Headphones Are Superior To A Speaker 99
Chapter 19 117
Chapter 15 99
A Brief History of Morse Telegraphy –
Timing 99 Part II 117
Timing Is The Heart Of The Code 99 The Original Morse Code Modified In Europe
The Basic Units 100 117

Relative Duration And Spacing Are Very Equipment 118

Important 100 Early Day Operators Up Through The Civil
Irregularities In Timing 101 War 119
Operators After The Civil War 119
Chapter 16 103
The Introduction Of Wireless 120
Other Methods 103
When Were The Terms Dit And Dah
Personal Computers And Keyboards For Self- Introduced 120
Learning 103
Chapter 2Ø 121
Many Computer Programs Are Excellent 103
Growing Up With Hearing It 104 Learning the American Morse Code 121
Learning By Listening To High Speed Code 104 Comparisons 121

Further Comments On Gaining Speed 104 Timing 122

Sleep Learning 105 No Need For Confusion 122

Another Suggestion That Has Worked 105 Learning It 123

McElroy’s Course and His Claims For It 106 Learning To Read By Sounder 125
American Morse - An Art 125
Chapter 17 106
Some Further Comparisons 125
Common Errors and What To Do About
Them 106 Some Practice Materials For Learning 126
From the MILL ØØa Operational Notes 127
Chapter 18 107
Chapter 21 128
Computer Programs And Tapes For
Learning And Improving Skill In Code Methods Not Recommended 128
107 Doing It the Hard Old Way 128
Morse University 107 The student 128
SuperMorse By Lee Murrah, WD5CID 108 Other Discouraging Processes 129
Morseman+ By Robin Gist NE4L/ZF2PM 108 So: 130
GGTE Morse Tutor Gold 108 The Futility of Wrong Practice 131
The Mill. by James S. Farrior, W4FOK 108 Chapter 22 132
The Morse Tutor Program 109
Word Lists For Practice 132
NuMorse by Tony Lacy G4AUD 110
The 1ØØ Words Grouped By Function 132
Code Tapes For Learning And For Other
Purposes 110 Some sentences composed of these words alone
are: 132
Chapter 19 111 The Rest Of The 5ØØ Most Common Words
A Brief History of Morse Telegraphy –
Part I 111 Some Common Prefixes And Suffixes 133
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 5
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Some Common Phrases For Practice 133 Sending Tests 155
Some Long Words For Practicing 133 Receiving Tests 155
Chapter 23 134 Analysis And Criticism Of Previous Teaching
Methods 156
Making Sure You’re Understood 134
Tests To Establish A Better Teaching
From The Originator’s Standpoint 134 Method 157
Feedback And Redundancy 134 Character Speed For Initial Learning 157
Repeating And Counting Words 135 Can The Rhythm Patterns Be Enhanced 158
Using Redundancy Intelligently 135
What Letters Should Be Taught First 159
At The Receiving End 136
When To Introduce A New Character 159
Chapter 24 138
Should Practice Be By Groups Of Letters
Bandwidths and Key Clicks 138 159
Chapter 25 139 Troublesome Characters 160
Code Courses and Devices Advertised in How Long Should Lessons Be And How
the Older Days 139 Distributed In Time 160
The Omnigraph 139 New Philosophy For Teaching 161
Recorders And Computers 143
Designing An Efficient Teaching
Chapter 26 144 Program 162
Speed Contests 144 Summary 164
Chapter 27 147 Chapter 3Ø 165
Abbreviations 147 The Candler System 165
Some Of The More Common Abbreviations In Background 165
CW Work 147
Abbreviations Used In Traffic Handling 148 The Course 166
Examples Of The Phillips Code 148 The Essential Principles 166
A Few Useful Z- Signals 151 Critique 167

Chapter 28 152 Lesson One 169

Lesson Two 169
Letter Frequency Counts 152
Lesson Three 169
International Morse Code 152
Lesson Four 170
Letter 152
Lesson Five 170
Structure 152 Lesson Six 170
Units 152 Lesson Seven 170
Total 1 5 2 Lesson Eight 171
Foreign Adaptations Of The International Lesson Nine 171
Morse Code 154
Lesson Ten 171
For the Original American Morse code 154
Chapter 31 171
Chapter 29 154
The So-Called Farnsworth or Spacing
The Koch Researches 154 Method 171
Tests To Determine What Competent Operators
Are Doing 154 Chapter 32 173

6 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Other Alphabets 173 Sending and writing at the same time 178
Sending and receiving simultaneously 178
Chapter 33 174
Receiving two or more messages at same time
A Brief History of United States Operator 178
Licensing Requirements and Military
Comparison with other mental functions and
Training 174 discussion 179
In the Beginning 174 Speeds 180
The First Laws 1912 to 1927 174 Some Interesting Examples Of Young Skilled
The Radio Act Of 1927 176 Operators Of The Past 181
1933 And After 176 Examples Of Effective Code Learning 181
1951 And After 176 Learning 181
1954 177 Appendix 183
Various Military Training Requirements 177 A New Way To Talk 183
Chapter 34 178
Talking 183
Examples which Illustrate the Nature of QRQ Operators 185
Real Skills 178
Sources of Material 205
Receiving Code While Doing Something Else
178 Index 208

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 7

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Ch.15, now Ch. 19, on the devel-
Preface opment of the Morse code itself.
The first edition of this book was This Third Revised Edition fills in
prepared under a strong time- where the second revision left off
pressure to collect and preserve and reveals a summary to the
the results of years of reading and Koch research and adds some of
research into the best ways to the High-Speed material into the
learn the code initially, to gain Appendix. It is hoped that this
skill “how the experts say they do edition will be welcomed by those
it” together with a number of who love the subject of telegraphy
other associated aspects of inter- and will continue to be helpful to
est. The urge was to get the major those wishing to learn or perfect
principles and features organized this fascinating and worthwhile
before they got lost or buried in skill.
my files.
It is my hope that you, as reader,
Diskettes of that first edition were will find it to be of both interest-
shared with a very few people. It ing and useful. I make no claim
was soon replaced by a revised that it is complete, perfect or final,
first edition in which a number of or that it contains everything of
accidental errors were corrected possible value or interest. I have
and some clarifications made in had to leave out some interesting
wording. It was also produced items, especially of history. Per-
under considerable pressure, haps some of these, plus anything
leaving quite a number of addi- you, as reader, may wish to con-
tional items of general or specific tribute, could be added in further
interest lying unincorporated in editions.
the files.
Many diskette copies of this edi- Introduction
tion were distributed, a thousand The research behind this book
diskette copies were made and would probably never have been
distributed free by the Virginia done at all if I had not been so
Beach Ham Fest and Convention, eager to learn the telegraphic
it was copied and printed by the code, but made such a terrible
FISTS CW Club of America and flop of it. I just barely qualified
by several others, including my for a license in early 193Ø, and
friend James (Jim) Farrior, for a very long time could not
W4FOK, who has reproduced it in receive it well enough to really
his “The Mill” code leaning enjoy using it. Like most others in
programs. those past days, I memorized the
The second revised edition filled “dots and dashes” from a printed
in selected items, clarified and table.
expanded several areas, brought A good teacher might have
some of the appendixes into the helped, but.... If only I could have
body of text, as well as corrected a had just the following key para-
few instances, particularly in old graph from the QST article of

8 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
July 1923, it would have at least counts them mentally. (It is wise
gotten me off on the right foot: indeed for the beginner never to
hear code characters sent at
“The first step in learning the speeds below about 13 wpm.)
code is to memorize the dot These two errors largely account
and dash combinations repre- for getting stuck at higher speeds
senting the letters. They must also - they mean we have not
not be visualized as dots and really learned the characters.
dashes, however, but rather
should be “auralized” as Today, there are many tapes and
sounds. There is no such word computer programs available
as auralized, but if there were which teach the Morse code in
it would express the correct ways that avoid making either of
method of grasping the code. these basic errors. This book has
The sound dit-dah (meaning a been written to share the results of
dot followed by a dash) in the this research of the literature -
head telephones must impress also including talks with skilled
your mind directly as being operators - with those who want to
the letter “A” for instance, learn or teach the Morse code, or
without causing black dots to improve their own skills. It
and dashes to float before majors on the methods that have
your eyes for an instant. This proved most successful, but also
is a point that always troubles discusses some which should be
beginners, but if you learn avoided. It offers guidance for
from the first to recognize the those just beginning, and help for
sounds as letters immediately those who are stuck and want to
without reverting to dots and improve. It also tells how those
dashes, you will make much who are proficient and those who
better progress...” are experts operate.
Some history and related items
More succinctly: “Don’t try to are included in the later chapters
teach the Ears through the for those who are interested in
Eyes.” (Wireless Press 1922) telegraphic communication. My
I was not alone in making this hope is that you will find it not
first false step: very many others only interesting but helpful. This
did it that way, too, and probably is a “How To” book, not a scien-
some today still do. It was and is tific treatise. Source credits for
the inevitable reason why most individual items have rarely been
people who start this way get noted. Many a contribution has
stuck at some speed, around ten come from multiple sources. Most
words per minute or less, and of the significant sources are
can’t seem to get beyond it. listed under Sources.
The second mistake, even in “I have never known a person
learning by hearing, is in hearing who was truly proficient with code
the characters sent so slowly that to dislike it: on the contrary, the
the learner tends to analyze each more proficient they are, the more
one into dits and dahs, and even they love it.” The Morse code is a
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 9
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
means of communication, a new built up from simple, available
way to enjoy expressing yourself. parts.
William G. Pierpont NØHFF These factors have not escaped
the Russian communists. They
Is the Radio-Telegraph were also deeply impressed with
Code Obsolete? the reliability, simplicity and
lower cost of equipment for code
Outsiders and some of those communication and ease in
looking into Amateur radio maintaining it. (In the same line
often ask this question: “Isn’t of thinking, their military radio
the Morse code obsolete? gear has all been vacuum tube
Hasn’t modern technology type to avoid potential damage
displaced it?” due to radiation.) Therefore,
through the years they have
Back in 1912 nobody balked at popularized and promoted learn-
learning the code: it was simple ing the Morse code and develop-
then - if you didn’t know the ing skill in its use. It was included
code you couldn’t even listen and among their civilian “sports”
understand, much less communi- activities. Contests and prizes were
cate by wireless. offered to the best and fastest op-
But today, however, it refuses to erators. This would assure them of
lie down and die. Why not only a pool of skilled, high-speed op-
old timers, but many newcomers erators in event of war. Several
have found that it is a skill worth years ago a couple of American
learning, a pleasure just as any soldiers who were amateurs were
other skill. There is a real sense of taken captive from a ship which
pleasure and achievement in was too close to North Korean
communicating this way. Some shores. They were surprised to
find it an excellent means of es- find that very many civilians in
cape, a way to forget immediate that country readily understood
work-a-day problems and com- code.
pletely absorb one’s attention. In recent years our own military
There is practical value also. It seem to have awakened to all this,
can get a message though where and have re-begun to train some
other methods fail. Operators personnel for Morse code opera-
have long known that Morse code tion. In addition, they have real-
signals penetrate distance, and go ized that Morse is an effective
through interference and static means of communicating during
where voice signals can’t hack it. periods when the enemy is jam-
This is why low power (QRP) en- ming. There are other advantages
thusiasts find that it is far superior also. It uses the narrowest signal
to voice. Besides this, the equip- bandwidth, which for amateur use
ment required, both transmitting means more channels are avail-
and receiving, is much simpler able within a band. It has the best
and smaller, uses less power, and signal-to-noise ratio, and in addi-
in an emergency can often be tion, an operator can soon learn to
separate (mentally “filter”) sig-
10 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
nals which are very close together Not very long after this beginning
by differences in pitch, speed and operators became so skilled that
style of sending. they began to chit-chat easily over
the wires among themselves, much
Learning the Morse Code - like radio amateurs do today
An Overview when they “chew the rag”. That
kind of freedom should be our
Where we are going goal - easy, natural use of the
If you are looking for any code to communicate, similar to
magic, any secrets, any tricks the way we read and talk. That’s
here - or hypnotism - you where we are headed.
won’t find it. What we do of- The code is not a new language. It
fer is just practical, time-tested is the language you already know,
working methods, which to- “written” in sound patterns in-
gether take advantage of all stead of patterns of ink on paper -
that has been learned over the it is your own language. You will
years about how to teach and learn to “read” by ear the lan-
learn the Morse code effi- guage you already read so well by
ciently and well. eye.
George Hart, long time code ex- This is lesson one, it is most
pert with ARRL put it this way: important always to think of it
“The greatest obstacle in learning this way:- Every Code Letter,
code is the method used.” Number And Symbol Is A
Ted R. McElroy, teacher and long Unique Pattern Of Sound.
time code speed champion said Psychology teaches us that when
that any normal person can easily we start to learn something new, if
achieve 25 wpm. This is an easily we think of it as being easy, it will
achievable and reasonable goal. be easy. The best teachers never
One who can handle this speed hint or suggest that there is any-
comfortably is a good operator. thing hard about it, and their stu-
The original American Morse dents learn it quickly, usually
code of 1845 was designed to within a week or two. They also
communicate: to transmit over the make learning it fun. We learn
telegraph wires any and every much faster that way; so think of
kind of written message or infor- learning it as fun - enjoyable. If
mation in letter-perfect, number- you want to learn it - you can.
perfect, and punctuation-perfect Our foundation is the alphabet,
form. It was recorded as a wiggly numbers and punctuation marks.
line on a strip of paper tape to be Learn these sound patterns so well
read or interpreted by eye. Very that when, for example, you hear
soon the operators discovered that “dahdahdit” you immediately
they could read the recorder’s recognize it is “G”. This is basic,
noises accurately by ear, and so in but don’t stop there. Code is to
time sounders slowly began to communicate: and we don’t talk
replace the recorders. in letters, but in words. Words are
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 11
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
our smallest thinking units. Even ning to become proficient. So our
while we are still learning to mas- plans are
ter the alphabet we can begin to _ to learn the alphabet of
recognize small common words, sound patterns so well that
such as “the” and “of” as words we recognize each letter in-
when we hear them. stantly, then
When we first learned to read, we _ to learn to recognize most
could already talk, but reading of the words we hear as
was something new, and it took a words, and finally
little effort to learn. At first we
had to spell out each word, then _ to learn to listen to the
try to figure out how to pro- stream of code as we would
nounce it, and then remember to someone speaking to us
what we had already deciphered in words and ideas.
while we tackled the next words That is proficiency, whatever the
until we had laboriously “ r e a d ” speed is being received. We can
the whole sentence. The begin- learn to do this at any speed. Our
ning stage of learning the code is goal should be to learn to use the
that way, too, but it doesn’t need code so that it becomes easy and
to stay that way. Words are written natural, like the way we read and
as strings of letters, one letter after talk.
another. But we don’t read them
that way - we read the word. If we
couldn’t spell we couldn’t write
either - or else we would have to
use hieroglyphics. Words must
become our units of thought in
Morse because words make sense
and they are easy to remember.
Reading code, like reading print,
becomes much easier and faster
when we have learned to recog-
nize words instead of spelling
them out as strings of letters. A
good reader reads words, and
even strings of words at a glance.
We can learn to do it: many, many
others have. We are hardly con-
scious of the letters which spell
out the words we read so easily
now. Our attention is focused on
the thoughts written in print, and
our reactions are to the ideas ex-
When we begin to reach this stage
with Morse code, we are begin-
12 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

Chapter 1 _ Have a “Can-Do-It”

attitude, because it is
How to Go About it Effi- easy to learn. If you
ciently don’t tell people that
learning the code is
This Chapter Is A Summary To hard, it won’t be. If
Prepare You To Learn you really want to
learn it, you can. Ap-
Learning the Morse code is ac- proach it as if it were
quiring a New set of Habits. It is a impossible to fail. Mo-
skill subject governed by the same tivate yourself.
principles that apply to learning
tennis, shorthand, typing, playing _ Keep a Relaxed At-
a musical instrument, etc. Regular mosphere, free of ten-
consistent, repetitive Practice sets sion, pressure, any
in concrete what we do and the sense of hurry and
way we do it. anxiety.
Some people have managed to _ E n j o y the learning
master the Morse code without process itself.
any help. Others have used poor _ Picture Yourself Being
methods, and both have all too Successful.
often given up when they came to
a plateau, short of proficiency. Comments:- Whenever we think
Today methods are available of anything as “hard,” it creates
which almost guarantee success, a stumbling block, and that tends
and a number of fine courses ex- to discourage us. - Most people
ist using these methods. find that competition during the
initial stages hinders learning. In
These principles are outlined be- actual reading and copying code,
low and will get the beginner off any anxiety or undue concern
on the right foot and bring him to about “getting it all”, or too in-
proficiency. If you are one who tense interest in what is being re-
has gotten stuck, use them to get ceived, or trying to outguess what
back on track. They offer the is coming next, can cause us to
most rapid way to success in miss out some of what follows. -
learning the telegraph code and People who do things well do not
achieving a real mastery of it. struggle with them. - “Relaxed
Prepared - prepared with the right receptiveness” works.
Attitudes, and with knowing What 2. Get your first impression of
to do and H o w do it. This can the code characters by Lis-
mean the difference between suc- tening to them - By Ear -
cess and failure. the way you will actually
1. Your A t t i t u d e toward use them.
learning is crucially im- Throw away all printed code
portant: It is essential charts and any trick memory
Preparation for success. methods people offer - they will
inevitably slow you down and
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 13
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
may even discourage you as you Instant recognition is what we
advance. strive for.
Comments:- The reason learning These Four Principles Are Ab-
the code by eye or by mental solutely Essential.
pictures will slow you down is be-
cause our visual and auditory 5. Concentrate On One Aspect
(hearing) memories are com- At A Time.
pletely separate from and unre- For example, don’t try to learn to
lated to each other. Trying to block print or typewrite while you
learn by charts or “sound alikes” are learning to copy.
slows down learning because they
make us go through one or more 6. Learn To Receive The
needless steps each time we hear Code Accurately - this is
a character. In both cases the our primary goal.
mind has to go through a con- In receiving we must wait until
scious analytical or translation each character or word has been
exercise for each signal. See completely sent before we can
Chapters 4 and 13 correctly recognize it. We must
3. From the very first learn to develop that patient, receptive
hear each code character as state of mind that allows us to
a Unit Of Sound, a whole recognize each character instantly
pattern, a rhythm. and accurately as soon as it has
been completed.
At first each character should be
sent fast enough, preferably from 7. Listen only to Accurately
about 18 to 25 wpm or even Sent Code.
faster, for us to hear it as a unit, Accurate character formation -
and with a wide space before and timing - is essential for efficient
after it. Never, never try to ana- learning. Proper spacing between
lyze it into parts. This is most im- letters and words is as important
portant. as the correct formation of the
4. The Code Character Is The characters themselves. and be-
Letter. comes even more important as
speeds increase. At first it is best
For example, when you hear “ d i - to listen to cassette tapes, com-
dah” recognize it immediately as puter or keyboard generated
being “A” - you are “hearing” code. If you have a teacher follow
the letter “A.” Associate the code his advice.
signal with the printed letter so
intimately that when you hear or If you listen to poorly sent code
think of the one, the other imme- you will needlessly distract the
diately pops into mind. Our mind by forcing it to try con-
mental “equation” should be sciously to figure out what the
immediate, like this: characters are supposed to be.
(Once you become proficient,
“didah” “A”, you can learn to read such send-
“A” “didah”. ing.) Likewise, in the early stages

14 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
of learning avoid all distracting letter or number immediately af-
noises, and interference, such as ter hearing and recognizing it
static and other signals. (that’s called “copying”). See
Sending becomes relatively easy Chapters 7 and 8.
after you have a good timing Teachers differ on the best way to
sense. It is also easier because you start out. Your teacher or course
know in advance what is coming may start out having you write
next. However, listening to your down each character as you hear
own sending at too early a stage it. Either way is to help you asso-
may hinder learning because the ciate the sound with the letter or
characters are not being sent ac- number. Sooner or later you will
curately enough. want to be able to do both.
8. Plan for regular daily In any event, as skill increases we
Practice Periods. are going to have to learn to
The learner needs to know exactly copy. At first it will be letter by
W h a t he is going to do and letter. But that will prove to be too
When. Make them Short Enough slow as our skills increase. - In
to prevent fatigue, boredom or order to advance we need to learn
discouragement. S p a c e them to copy behind: that is, to be
widely enough apart to let what writing down what has been heard
you have gained sink in. Practice while listening to what is being
is building habits: let’s practice sent. This only needs to be a syl-
only what is right. lable or two or a word or two be-
hind, even at high speeds - this
We all have our ups and downs. takes the pressure off. For many
Some days we will do better than people it seems to develop almost
others- this is just a part of normal automatically as they practice and
learning, so don’t let it discourage use the code, but most of us need
you. It’s better to put off prac- help. There are several exercises
ticing to advance at a “bad” time which can help us. See Chapter 8.
(if you’re tired out, sick, down in
the dumps). Make practice mate- Some hams started out copying
rial enjoyable - interesting in vari- everything, and have become so
ety and content. tied to their pencils that they just
can’t seem to understand any-
9. Listening And Copying. thing without writing it down first.
If you are studying alone, start That is an awkward way to con-
out by just listening without writ- verse! “Throw Away Your Pen-
ing down anything. (See section 2 cil” is good advice. It forces us to
above.) Listen to the signal and learn to receive by just listening.
say the name of the letter or (I knew a ham who for over 6Ø
number out loud immediately years couldn’t receive without a
after you hear it. After you get pencil. When he became almost
familiar with all the letters and blind, he had to learn - and he
numbers so you feel somewhat did, very quickly!) We need to
comfortable recognizing them, learn both ways - to copy and to
then practice writing down each listen. So what if we miss a few
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 15
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
words here or there? - We can still units of sound and recognition-
get the gist of it. Remember - heard and sent as words.
even the best operators sometimes Our list of 1ØØ most common
miss a word or two. words is a good place to begin
1Ø. We gain Speed by the right (see end of Chapter 4). Practice
kind of practice. them by listening to them, and as
It depends on more and more you send them over and over -
nearly instant recognition, first of until when you think of the word
characters, then of words and fi- it just seems to flow naturally as if
nally of larger units of speech and you were reading or writing it.
thought. To advance in receiving Practicing with these common
speed we must push ourselves. words seems to help the brain be-
Short bursts of speed work best - gin to learn to handle many other
even as short as a single minute at words as words, too. We can ex-
a time, rarely more than 3 to 5 tend this skill by practicing some
minutes. If you want to increase of the word prefixes and suffixes,
your speed, listen to code at a such as pro-, per-, com-, -ing, -
speed faster than you can get it tion, etc. The bigger the units of
all, and pick out all the words you sound we recognize as units the
can recognize. In copying, pick a easier receiving and sending be-
speed just a little too fast for at come.
least part of your practice time. This kind of practice, with careful
How fast you want to be able to regard for spacing and timing,
receive is up to you. Set your own will prevent forming the sloppy
goal. habits some hams have fallen into
Remember, however, that the goal as they run the letters of short
is Communication of intelligence, words together like a single com-
not just speed for the sake of plex character, and also when they
speed. forget to space between words.
These things make reading and
11. We advance in skill after copying very difficult, and as
mastering the letters, num- speeds increase, can make it al-
bers, etc., by learning to most impossible.
Hear Words As Words in-
stead of just strings of let- 12. Over-learning is the secret
ters of real proficiency.
This is the second stage in mas- It is achieved when we simply re-
tering the code. Most people find ceive and send in code with the
it already beginning even while freedom and ease that we have
still working to master the alpha- when we talk, read and write, vir-
bet, as they recognize little words tually unconscious of the code as
like “of” and “the.” We need to code at all. One old-time operator,
extend it to include at least the when asked whether the other
words we use most often. Start by ham had used a certain word, re-
deliberately listening for and plied that he didn’t remember the
practicing them until they become actual word - he had the thought
clearly in mind, but he couldn’t
16 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
remember the exact word. That is code once they have learned it.
a mark of the expert. All of these factors play a part in
From the language arts we learn the time it will take. The main
how people become fluent in a thing is to want to learn it, what-
foreign language. It is by Repeti- ever time it may take, to realize
tion, saying the same sentences that it is EASY and to want to
over and over, with or without lit- USE it when it has been learned.
tle variations until they become Those who just learn it to get a
automatic. Or in other words, Just license, and do not intend to use it
Becoming So Familiar With It will probably find it not be useful
that it seems natural. When we within a year or two. Yet some of
reach that point, no matter what them may even find that it is in-
our top speed may be, we have teresting and really interesting
achieved a mastery of the code. It and worth while. Some have done
is a goal well worth our efforts. this already. Read Chapter 12.
These points are expanded and Code is a pleasure when we know
explained in considerable detail in it well. It is an art worth acquiring.
the rest of Part I. If you are a be- It Is To Be Enjoyed
ginner, go immediately to Chapter
3. Chapter 2
Chapter 2 will help you under- Principles of Skill Building
stand the why’s of our recom- and Attitudes for Success
mendations, and the further
chapters are yours to grow on. Two factors are of primary
importance in building a skill
Experience has shown that under efficiently:
normal conditions, like riding a
bicycle, once your code skill has 1. Right Mental Attitudes
reached about 13 or more words 2. Practice - doing it the right
per minute (wpm) it is never for- way from the very start
gotten. You may become “ r u s t y ”
but the skill quickly returns. Neither one alone will maximize
How Long Will It Take Me To
Learn Here we apply these principles to
learning the code.
Those who have been taught us-
ing these principles and methods We Are Building A Set Of Hab-
have taken from a minimum of its
one week to an average of about Skill-building is generating a set
three up to eight weeks to achieve of habits. It begins at the highly
a satisfying 15 to 2Ø wpm work- conscious levels of letter by letter,
ing speed. People are different in number by number, etc. Gradu-
background, in attitude, in ap- ally your skill will build up -
proach to learning, in interest, sometimes by sudden break-
enthusiasm and drive, and in what throughs. More and more sub-
they want to do with the Morse conscious control takes over and
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 17
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
there will be less and less con- process and with using the
scious thought about it. As it be- code.
comes more and more automatic,
your full attention can be given Relax
over to the thought content, the
ideas expressed while listening, In the process of learning, mini-
and when copying, you may find mize tensions by having a clear
yourself thinking of something picture of where you are headed -
altogether different. the goal, what you are going to do
and the steps you’re going to take
Telegraphy is a skill somewhat to get there. Take little steps, one
like playing golf, a musical in- at a time - small enough that you
strument, typewriting, etc. It is know you can do each one. In-
learning a set of habits which can troduce new material little by lit-
be called into operation whenever tle, in small enough bites that you
desired, and which work auto- don’t feel overwhelmed - yet not
matically and without conscious so slowly that it becomes boring.
effort when we want them. It has Provide enough variety to keep it
an active and a passive aspect. It is interesting, and introduce new
active when we are sending, and items as soon as you are ready.
passive when receiving. The goal
is to become able to receive and Take it easy. Especially in the
send as easily as the expert does - early learning stages keep things
he is comfortable about it - just as at low key, comfortable and free
if he were carrying on a conver- from strain. Some people learn
sation faster than others, so it is a good
idea to avoid all competition (be-
Skill is developed by consistent, cause it tenses us up) while you
repetitive practice of materials are learning the new game of the
which become increasingly fa- A B Cs in sound - learn at your
miliar (letters, numbers, words, own rate.
punctuation, etc.). Never practice
error! Only correct practice is Avoid all unnecessary tensions
beneficial. This builds confidence because they tend to distract our
and proficiency. attention. That also means being
we need to get rid of all kinds of
Our major focus will be on distractions, worries, duties and
learning to receive (which is lis- anything else that makes us feel
tening with understanding or by concerned so that we can concen-
writing it down). Ultimately con- trate on what we are doing. That
scious thinking of the code must makes learning easy.
be eliminated, and we respond
automatically. Then sending will Relaxation and confidence go
be easy, too. hand in hand. Each promotes the
other. Easy does it. When you
Anything know you are doing the right
1. That produces tension or thing in the right way, this pro-
motes confidence, and that makes
2. Requires thinking interferes learning easier.
both with the learning
18 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
There are many schemes to learn and must be guarded carefully.
how to relax. They generally be- “If you think you can, you can.”
gin by learning to pay attention to Don’t fight negative attitudes,
specific parts of the body one af- such as anxiety, fear, worry and
ter another, such as starting with doubt. But if you do feel any of
the toes and feet and going up- them, admit it, and then ignore it
wards, to legs, abdomen, chest, and let it die of inattention.
arms, hands, neck, head, face,
eyes, etc. As you concentrate on Make learning fun. Enjoy the
each part, first tense it so that you learning process itself. When I am
know what tension feels like, and so eager to learn that I can hardly
then deliberately release that ten- wait to get going, how receptive I
sion and recognize what relaxing am and what energy surges up!
it feels like. With practice this can Watch how youngsters play and
be done in a relatively short time, learn as they play. They are good
an almost all at once action. models: they’re relaxed and hav-
Breathing can also be coordinated ing fun. They don’t pay any at-
so that deep inhalation, followed tention to mistakes. Imitate them
by exhaling easily is thought of as and enjoy learning the code. That
producing relaxation. Try it makes it even easier, and more
Develop A Good Mental Attitude
Stage One
Anticipate success. “Nothing suc- Learning The A B C’s
ceeds like success.” In order to
succeed you must first believe that Our first impressions are the
you can do it. Everything possible strongest and most long-lasting.
must be done to guarantee success So be sure your very first expo-
at every step, and to prevent any sure to the code signals is right -
sense of discouragement or fail- by hearing it. Otherwise, it may
ure from developing. Never even raise a roadblock, a “plateau“,
suggest that learning it could be somewhere along the path which
hard. - As for errors, ignore them, will require us to go back to line
except that when they are persis- one in order to advance.
tent they merely point out where _ Code is sound - heard with
more practice is needed. With the the ears, not read with the
right approach and right practice eyes.
you can’t fail.
_ Listen from the very begin-
Mental attitude is critical: We ning only to perfectly sent
should approach every aspect of code until you have mas-
learning with interest, enthusiasm tered it.
and a positive “can do” outlook.
Anyone who really wants to learn To advance rapidly your mind
the code can learn it. If you have should hear only consistent pat-
the ambition to learn it you have terns of sound. This hammers it
the ability to do it. A feeling of into the mind, hearing the same
confidence is vital to achievement, character formed exactly the same
way each time. Poor quality code
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 19
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
will tend to confuse the mind, terest and enthusiasm start it up
distract your attention, and slow again fresh and naturally. If the
down your rate of learning. distraction is one which you can
A recent study by Dr. Henry Hol- identify, clear the mind by either
comb of Johns Hopkins Univer- settling it at once, or by setting it
sity on learning new skills says aside to handle later.
that after first learning “how to It is impossible to try NOT to at-
do it”, engage in routine activities tend to something, such as a dis-
of some other kind to allow a five traction. Attention to it will only
hour time period in which no make it more distracting.
other new skill learning is at- It has been suggested that the
tempted. He claims that experi- mind resembles a portable built-in
ments show that it takes abut six computer, but it is far superior. It
hours for to permanently transfer can do feats of information proc-
the new learning from the front essing and recall unequaled by
brain to permanent storage in the the largest computers. First we
rear brain. This is something to must debug it and get rid of any
try and see if it helps speed up old bad attitudes about the code
Morse code learning. He also and replace them with a positive
added something we already “can do” and “enjoy it” out-
should know: that it takes lots of look. Next, feed it with a
practice to learn rapid, complex, “lookup” table of sound-
and precise hand motor-skills. equivalents for the various char-
Develop a sustained attention. acters, and we’re in business: an
Attention to the thing in hand is automatic motor-response to the
the starting point of all learning. audio signals: we hear didah and
_ Identify what needs atten- immediately visualize and write
tion, and “A”. Don’t put an artificial limit
on your speed of comprehension.
_ Do that, focusing on it
alone, Stage Two - Practice
_ Do it early in the practice Once the fundamentals are well in
period when energy levels hand and our speed is increasing,
are highest. we need to apply pressure in short
The more interesting the subject bursts in order to advance. At this
is, the easier it will be to concen- stage begin with a few minutes of
trate on it. Direct your mind to go warm-up at a comfortable speed,
where you want it to go by then use familiar materials to try
stimulating your interest. for a burst of speed for a minute
or two at first. Keep it short to
A stop-start technique will help minimize the discomfort. Then
you gain control of your attention drop back to a more comfortable
span and lengthen it. It works this speed, and you will find the mind
way: When attention lags, don’t responding faster.
fight it, but stop all thoughts and
clear the mind, then let your in- Avoid practicing when too tired,
ill, or all upset and distracted -
20 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
little or nothing will be gained awkward and unproductive, but if
and it may even discourage you. we stick with them - improvement
It takes time for associations to will begin and grow much more
develop. Be patient and learn at rapidly than without them. Atti-
your own rate. Some days will be tudes are critical, and for best re-
better than others for various rea- sults we need to individualize
sons. Progress will not be uni- them, fit them to our very own
form, but that should not bother needs. We can lay a foundation
you because you know about it for positive attitudes if we do the
beforehand. When you feel good following:
and can enjoy it you will advance Feel confident, it promotes learn-
the fastest. On days when you ing. If you have an opportunity,
don’t feel very good it is best not watch a skilled operator, observe
to push, but rather to work at a how calmly and quietly he goes
comfortable level which will give about it. He is in no rush, and is
you some sense of accomplish- not concerned about missing
ment. anything. He goes about it just as
As these processes improve, con- if it were everyday listening and
scious thinking tends to drift talking. Instead of filling the
away, and we need to keep the mind with problems, worries and
mind focused on what we are do- concerns, occupy the mind with
ing in order to advance. But ulti- the way things should be done. In
mately, conscious thinking must learning, build confidence by
be completely eliminated and re- taking one firm step at a time,
sponse become automatic (we no telling yourself, “I can do this”.
longer even think of the code it- Build a sense of achievement, that
self). That’s proficiency. good feeling of doing something
well. As a guard against frustra-
More About Attitudes For Suc- tion be sure to provide periodic
cess successes, with simple little re-
wards for each. Keep a record of
Achieving our best performance the goals and your progress: as
in any skill, including telegraphy, you see your progress it will help
is a personal matter. We need to: build positive attitudes. Give
l. observe how we think and yourself some little reward after
act when doing our best, each practice session.
and then
Picturing Success Is Strong
2. learn to control those atti- Preparation For It
tudes and actions so that we
can use them when we want Mentally Practice the thoughts,
them. feelings and actions necessary for
While each of us behaves as an good performance and you will
individual, there are definite prin- greatly speed up achievement - a
ciples which will greatly speed up valuable tool to accelerate learn-
our success as we adapt them to ing. How can it be done? In a
ourselves. At first they may seem general over-all way you may
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 21
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
picture yourself quietly and with- yourself receiving and sending
out strain listening to the incom- while you are doing other things
ing signals and easily recognizing (such as driving, walking, work-
them as the printed or spoken ing, etc.), not making any par-
letters and words they represent, ticular effort to fill in details.
and as sending well-formed char- You may want to try it right after
acters without hurry or strain. you have learned the sounds of
Picture yourself doing it, and do- the first group of letters. Sit qui-
ing it well, like an expert. It helps etly in a chair, close your eyes,
to have a real model in mind. relax, and imagine you are hear-
Watch or imagine a skilled per- ing each letter sound (just as you
former (a telegrapher if you can heard it), taking them one at a
find one) at work. He isn’t in any time, and immediately recogniz-
hurry. He isn’t flustered or con- ing it or writing it down with a
cerned, he just does it and enjoys pencil. Make the picture as realis-
it. Repeat and rehearse this picture tic and vivid as you can, even to
often in your mind. imagining the “feeling” the pen-
There are at least two ways to use cil writing on the paper. Feel a
this tool. One is to sit back and sense of satisfaction of doing it
relax and deliberately form the right. Three to five minutes prac-
picture. To get started, set up a tice this way at any one time is
general over-all picture first. As probably enough. You can then
you continue practicing the men- repeat this kind of mental practice
tal picture of how you want to do, with each new group of characters
add details, making it more and as you learn them, and it will
more realistic until you have a greatly strengthen the habit you
solid lifelike picture in mind. See are trying to build.
yourself doing it, how you will do When you know the whole alpha-
it step by step. The more vividly bet and have a clear mental pic-
you can mentally see, hear, and ture of how each character should
feel it as you rehearse the picture, sound, you can mentally practice
the better the results will be, how visualizing short printed words
doing it right looks, and how it and then imagine “hearing”
feels. This is not mere wishful them spelled out in code. Feel it
thinking, it is building up a in your mind as if it were actual -
working pattern to become real- a mental “sending” practice.
ized in time as you continue ac-
tual receiving and sending prac- Mental picturing practice may be
tice. This kind of mental picturing extended to prepare you to mini-
can have much the same effect as mize distractions, such as static,
real practice. It creates memories, interfering signals, noisy people
models of the behavior as you in the vicinity milling around,
want it to be - but it is, of course, being watched closely, etc. Pre-
no substitute for real practice do- pare for these by picturing your-
ing. self calmly receiving and sending
while extraneous noises - talking,
Another way is now and then to shouting, crashes - are all around
“see” brief “snapshots” of
22 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
you Think of what a war-front any guidance as to how to do it
operator would have to contend can make things all the more dif-
with!. It may also be used to help ficult later. Most learning trouble
learn to copy on a “mill” (type- is due to: one’s attitude, the
writer or keyboard), and other method, or the teacher. One ex-
aspects you may need to meet. pert wrote: The most difficult stu-
All this is preparatory and sup- dents at Harvard were those who
portive of real practice, not a sub- had learned the code by them-
stitute for actual practice by do- selves by practicing alone without
ing. The goal we seek is for the guidance.
use of the code to be as natural The Telegraph Code is an Alpha-
and easy as talking, reading, writ- bet of Sound. It is Learned by
ing. These mental images take Hearing it. When we learned to
some real effort and practice. read our language, it was, or
Don’t expect instant results, give should have begun by first learn-
it time to grow ing to recognize the ABC’s by
sight. Telegraphy begins by
Chapter 3 learning to hear and recognize the
ABC’s by sound. This difference
Part I: Laying the Foundation is important. Code is learned by
Let’s Begin With The A-B-C’s hearing it. Recognition of the
sound patterns is the name of the
Many good ways have been de- game. For example, when you
veloped through the years for hear “didah” as “A,” without
learning the telegraph code easily translating, you are thinking in
and efficiently. Our purpose here code. The sound is the letter.
is to present the very best ways to There is no reason ever to see the
learn it efficiently and to com- code in written form.
press the learning time to a mini- So Throw Away Those Code
mum. It is too bad that so many Charts, All Of Them, Burn Them
hams have learned poorly and as
a result have not been able to en- Saying the letter immediately, or
joy it as they should. The trouble writing it down immediately, each
often began by imagining that time the ear hears it is one of ways
code would be hard to learn, or to build the code habit quickly.
by learning it in an inefficient, or We need direct association be-
round-about way, such as visually, tween sound and letter. Anyone
by sight, rather than by sound or who is stuck on a “pla-
by “sound a-likes”. teau“because of having learned it
visually or some other inefficient
Everything depends on how you way will have to learn it all over
set about learning it. It is much again by sound. It is unfortunate
more difficult to go back and that some still try to learn it this
unlearn something which was way. To teach it this way today is
learned wrong, than it is to learn inexcusable.
the right way from the very start.
Trying to learn by oneself without It is Easier Than You Think
Someone wrote: “Mastering the
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 23
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
art of code communication is ten Morse code and become a very
times easier than learning to talk - good operator, able to copy it
which you did by about the age of with a pencil at 25 wpm and send
two.” You aren’t learning a new it clearly, smoothly and readably.
language, a whole dictionary full There is no real justification for
of strange words, and sentences the statement that “some people
where the words are all scrambled just can’t learn the code.” (They
up. You are just learning how to don’t want to.) It’s a matter of
“read” your own language B y motivation, the secret of learning
Ear instead of by eye. It’s no big any skill. If you are one of those
job. who tried in the past and some-
Almost anyone who can learn to how didn’t make it, or got stuck
read can learn the code. There is at 8 or 1Ø or 12 wpm, take heart.
no such thing as a normal person Forget what you previously
who wanted to learn the code and “learned”, and start over with the
couldn’t. “I can’t learn the principles set forth here, and you
code” nearly always translates will succeed.
into “I won’t commit myself to Some Naturally Learn Faster than
the time necessary to learn it,” or Others Just as some people have a
that a person doesn’t really want knack for learning to play golf or
to, even though he may think he tennis more quickly than others,
does. Age, whether young or old, so some have a special knack for
and intelligence, bright or dull, learning the code. They catch on
are no barriers. Youngsters of more quickly, but most of us take
four or five can learn quickly, and a bit longer. Kids tend to pick out
oldsters of 9Ø have succeeded, the sound patterns easily and
too. You wouldn’t want to admit naturally without straining so they
that a four-year old or a 9Ø-year- learn very fast
old could outdo you, would you?
It doesn’t require superior intelli- Motivation
gence, just right application.
Most handicaps, such as blindness Nothing beats enthusiasm to
or even deafness, have not learn. Stir it up - eagerness. Cou-
stopped those who want to learn. ple that with determination, and
Deaf people have been able to failure is impossible. If you want
learn and receive using their fin- to so badly that you can almost
gers on the driver of a speaker at taste it, you can do it. If you are
3Ø wpm or on the knob of an teaching it, take advantage of any
electromagnetically driven “ k e y latent fascination with the idea of
knob” bouncing up and down at a special skill, secret code for
2Ø wpm. (Even some people with communicating: many youngsters
dyslexia have been able to learn have it and maybe some older
to a useful extent.) It is easy if people, too. One lady who later
you really want to learn it and became a code teacher said she
then go about learning it in the got started because “the code
right way. Any person of reason- sounded like fun.” One man
able intelligence can learn the found that the very idea of com-
24 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
municating his mind to another under pressure to certify code
by intermittent tones is most fas- ability, who have been given “ a
cinating. taste of the way it used to be” by
A sense of achievement and the listening, have often gotten inter-
intimacy found in code commu- ested and want to learn at least a
nication make the effort a lot of few letters to start with. Quite a
fun. CW is fun if you take the few no-code licensees, after hav-
time to learn and to be comfort- ing had some fun operating, are
able with it. Be motivated. Fix it looking for more ways to enjoy
in your mind that you can do it. ham radio: the Morse code
Then relax, be willing to learn at doesn’t look so abstract to them
your own rate, refusing to com- as it did before.
pare yourself with others, and take Learning The Morse Code Is
time to enjoy the learning proc- Similar To Learning To Read
ess. Make it fun. (Trying too hard
or trying to hurry, can create a Learning the Morse code is much
kind of tension which impedes like to learning to read by eye.
progress.) Take it easy. Keep it Learning to read print has several
leisurely. The more you expose stages of skill level.
yourself to it and the less hard
you “try” the better and faster _ First we learned to recog-
you’ll become good at it. You nize the individual letters,
can’t help succeeding. Enthusi- and could slowly spell and
asm and determination will win sound out words.
out _ Next we began to recognize
The sudden beginning of WWII and read many common
required a lot of operators in a short words as words, in-
hurry. Many Amateurs volun- stead of having to spell
teered and served directly as op- them all out.
erators or by teaching new re- _ Before long we learned to
cruits. However, the attitude of recognize short phrases
some recruits was often indiffer- (“of the”, etc.) and some
ent or poor: many of the draftees of the longer words as
had no desire to learn it, and some whole words.
even disliked the idea of learning _ Finally an expert reader can
it at all. No wonder it took them read whole clauses, sen-
so long to learn and a good many tences and even a para-
failed! -- Telegraphy is a skill graph as a unit of thought,
whose success depends greatly almost at a glance.
upon the right attitude.
This gives us a clue as to how to
One school teacher demonstrated go about learning and improving
the code, both sending and re- Morse code skill. The essence of
ceiving. The class got so fasci- code learning, like language
nated that they managed to learn learning, is familiarity - that
14 characters in that one class pe- means over-learning. That is,
riod. No-code students, no longer learning to the point where it has
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 25
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
become automatic, without unique sound pattern, just like
thinking about what you are do- spoken vowels and consonants do.
ing: the dits and dahs, or even the Morse code is Sound Patterns, to
words. The highest skill comes be heard by the ear. Any method
when you just seem to be hearing of learning the code which uses
words and sentences and you are the eyes (such as charts for
conscious only of the ideas being “memorizing the code”, or some
expressed - that makes communi- other scheme (such as rhymes or
cating: a most worthwhile and “sound-a-likes”, etc.) will prove
gratifying goal. But it doesn’t to be a serious handicap to later
mean you have to become a speed progress. This is because it makes
demon. us “translate”, something we
The Morse A B C ‘S Are Pat- must do consciously. If you have
terns Of Sound been doing it by thinking: “dit
dah stands for ‘A’, “you have
The Best Beginning is by Listen- been thinking in terms of separate
ing “dits” and “dahs”. That makes
it hard. So forget that there are
Phase One such things as “dits” and
Learning To Recognize Each “dahs” and learn to think in
Letter And Number As Soon As code sound-patterns. Start train-
We Hear It: the “A-B-C’s” of ing yourself like this: every time
the alphabet of sound. This is the the ear hears the sound pattern
goal of stage one of code learn- “didah” you think “A”, and if
ing, building the foundation. The you are copying, the hand writes
code must be thought of as sound “A”. With some practice, like a
patterns. good operator,you will find that
the character just seems to come
If you have been having trouble, to mind from nowhere. Proceed
the moment you begin to think of directly from sound pattern to
code solely in terms of sound letter, with no intermediate inter-
patterns, you will have made pretation of any kind. It may help
much progress. A printed letter is if you whistle or hum the sound
a combination of lines which patterns.
form a shape. But children are not
taught to recognize the letters of Part II: Laying the Founda-
the alphabet by pointing out the tion
various lines which make it up,
they are taught to recognize each Delayed Perception And Instant
letter as a whole, at a glance. The Recognition
same principle applies to learning There is one obvious difference
code: each letter and number is a between reading by eye and
unit of sound, a unique sound reading by ear. While a printed
pattern, a rhythm, different from letter is to be instantly recognized
every other letter or number. at a glance, a code character can-
Each code character has its own not be recognized until the whole
pattern has been heard - at the
26 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
end of the short time it takes to out. That pattern or rhythm of the
send it. We must “hear it out”. letter is to be heard as a whole
Two important factors are in- over a short period of time, and
volved here: cannot be recognized until the
whole pattern has been heard as a
_ The characters must be complete pattern. We must “hear
heard at speeds that compel it out” before we can identify it.
us to hear them as complete When we get the sound patterns
patterns, as wholes, not as well fixed in mind it is good to
strings of “dits” and listen to faster and slower speeds
“dahs” - Tests have shown and hear the letters roll out.
that speeds of at least about
13 wpm are required and Listen Only To The Best Quality
that faster speeds are pref- Of Code
erable (18 -25)
In the early stages it is very im-
_ The spaces around them portant to listen only to the most
must be long enough to perfectly formed code you can
make the sound patterns find. The ear and mind need to
stand out clearly and dis- get intimately familiar with the
tinctly rhythm pattern, consistently
This is why the so-called Farns- formed. Poorly sent code gives a
worth method is used: making the sloppy, irregular rhythm which
spaces between characters quite tends to confuse the mind and
wide at first and then gradually slow down learning. Don’t expect
reducing them to the standard. to develop any real speed listen-
Combining these two ways we ing to hash. Listening to poor
soon recognize that, while we sending on the radio has some-
know that the sound patterns are times discouraged learners be-
formed of “dits” and “dahs”, cause it distracts the mind by
we never allow ourselves to try to compelling us to think con-
analyze or count them. sciously about the details instead
of the wholeness. We have to slow
We must first consciously listen to down. Listening to poorly sent
each letter until the mind accepts code defeats the learning process.
it as a complete letter without (Later, with improved skill, you
there being any kind of conscious will probably be able to under-
thinking about it involved. We stand most of the poorly sent
forget the dits and dahs and just code. But for now avoid it.) This
listen to the patterns, the rhythms. is also why you should not try to
So, the ear’s “glance” is a little send code yourself until you have
longer than the eye’s - it hears a good sense of timing.
each sound pattern separately be-
cause of the wider spaces which Getting Started
separate it from the preceding and
following sound patterns. There are several ways to intro-
duce the student to the code. One
These spaces are very important - highly effective way to create the
they make the sound pattern stand
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 27
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
right impressions for the beginner
is to dictate a sentence or two, What Characters Shall We Begin
spelling each word out in ordi- With
nary letters at about a 2Ø wpm Teachers disagree on this. Some
rate for him to write down, like suggest that taking the simplest
this: characters first (such as E I S H 5,
YOUA R E G O I N G T O F I and then E T I M, etc.) helps to
NDITISEASYT O L E A R build up a feeling of confidence.
N T H E M O R S E C O D E. Others point out that this may
lead some students to try to ana-
The teacher then assures the stu- lyze the longer characters, so they
dents that they will do equally recommend beginning with
well as they learn the code. “All longer characters (such as (Q 7 Z
we are going to do is to change G, Ø 9 8 J P, or the numbers 1 2
the names of the letters:-- instead 3...). This has the advantage of
of ‘Y’, that letter is going to compelling the student to wait
sound ‘dahdidahdah’,” and so until the whole character is com-
on. Now the student is ready to pleted before identifying it. Per-
learn the first few letters by haps a good way would be to start
sound. with a couple of short letters first,
Another good way, because and then go to the longer ones
nearly everybody can quickly and meet both goals. No matter
recognize the difference between what order is used in teaching,
a few words sent at about 2Ø each character must “stand on its
wpm, to begin the first session, is own feet,” and not depend on
word recognition:-- send a simple comparing it with some other
word or greeting such as “ H i ” character in order to learn and
and a good-Bye, such as “ 7 3 . ” identify it.
Send each one at say 2Ø wpm The important thing, of course, is
half a dozen times until everyone to hear the characters at speeds
gets familiar with its sound, then high enough that they are heard
send them randomly and have as complete unified patterns, and
them say the words. Then stick in preferably at first to present in the
a different word like “the” and same lesson characters which have
see if they protest. Tell them what quite different patterns of sound
it is and send it few more times. so that there will be no attempt to
This can whet their appetite and compare them
show that them that it isn’t hard
those sound patterns really mean Methods To Go About Teaching
There are at least two ways to start
For people who are afraid that out: a) listening only at first, and
they can’t learn to identify sound 2) listening and writing it down.
patterns, some have suggested that For those who learn by them-
“V” and “B” be compared by selves, one experienced old time
sound initially by sending them teacher wrote: “The beginner
alternately. should listen to the sounds until

28 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
he becomes sound conscious. He letter followed by random
should not write anything down letters learned, and so on
for a week or two , but concen- for a half dozen or so at a
trate his efforts on recognizing session, however many the
the sounds. He can already write, students can do without
but he cannot write with any de- confusion or becoming fa-
gree of ease, if at the same time he tigued or bored. Note: Each
is trying to do something else one should write or print
which he is not familiar with [rec- the way he usually does.
ognizing code characters]. B. The teacher sends a dit and
As a beginner, he would hear a says: “This is a dit. It is the
letter, take a short interval of time letter ‘E.’ Now here it is
to decide what it is; with the result again: write it down each
that when it comes to him, he time you hear it. Forget that
quickly tries to write it down and it is a dit - it is the letter
misses the next letter. Wait on ‘E’.” Then he simply
learning to write it down until you sends “E” a number of
can recognize the letters as letters, times as the students almost
and this confusion will vanish. automatically write it down.
Learning to read code is recog- Then: “Now we will hear
nizing the sounds immediately, the letter ‘I’. Listen.” He
that is, the letters.” This is wise sends ‘T.’ and says “This
advice if you are studying by is a ‘I’. Now here it is
yourself. again. Write it down when
Probably most teachers prefer the you hear it.” And so on
second approach in a class situa- through the group for that
tion. Such might be, for example, lesson. After each new letter
the following (taken from actual has been drilled in, there is
teaching procedures):- random letter practice, us-
ing all the letters previously
A. The teacher says: “This is learned. Finally, because
F” and then F is sent. Then even for the first lesson he
he says: “Now here it is has chosen letters that can
again. Write it down with be used to construct small
your pencil each time you words, he sends these words
hear it.” He repeats it sev- with the instructions: “Now
eral seconds apart quite a here is a word. Write down
few times before taking up the letters just as you did
the next letter, which ought before.” He waits a few
to have a quite different moments while the class
rhythm pattern, such as G, writes it down and says:
introduced in the same way. “Now then, you have cop-
Then he sends these letters ied the word . . .” And so
in random order until the on to the end of the first
students get them right lesson of 3Ø - 45 minutes.
about 95% of the time. Subsequent lessons follow
Next, he introduces a third
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 29
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
this general pattern until the 5 or 6 times in succession, but at
alphabet is completed, etc. one place a different character is
Part III: Laying the Founda- sent. The students, who are just
tion listening, not writing, are to hold
up their hand when the “odd-
Most sound recordings for self- ball” is heard. A few minutes of
study introduce each letter some- this can liven things up and give
thing like this: “when you hear variety. It can be extended to
‘didah’, say “A” to yourself short words, too.
each time you hear it, as soon as
you have heard it. Do the same Learning on a one-to-one basis
thing for each new character as it with a good teacher who can tailor
is introduced.” Then they begin, each lesson to the student makes
for example with the first letter possible the strongest initial im-
‘F’: sending dididahdit and say- pressions of the sounds and
ing “F”, dididahdit “F,” and rhythms of the code characters
then follow with a long string of and to concentrate on any weak
“F’s” alone for the student to areas. The teacher can also safely
say “F” after each one, before introduce use of a key earlier than
taking up the next letter. otherwise. Character “echo-
ing“method to reinforce learn-
Whether learning with a teacher or ing:
in private study, repetition to the
point of familiarity is vital. A 1. Teacher says: “Listen as I
teacher can usually judge quickly send the character” He
from student behavior how many sends it and says its name as
repetitions are needed. For the he sends it. “Now listen as I
self-study student it is probably send again and again, and
good to over-do the number of say its name each time as
repetitions of each character be- soon as I finish sending it.”
fore going on, but don’t do it -
thoughtlessly. Some teachers use 2. “Now listen and write the
up to a dozen to two dozen such letter down each time as
repetitions of each new character soon as I finish sending it.”
before going on. Since the whole –
superstructure of telegraphy is 3. “Take your key now and
built on this foundation - be sure send it back to me each
it is solid and secure. Repetition time I send it, and say its
sets in concrete what we practice. name as you send it.” It is
Do it wisely. Repetition with at- important that steps 1 and 2
tention builds expert skill, making have enough repeats of the
the connection between stimulus letter so that the student has
and response so strong that the a clear “feel” for the
response automatically follows the proper timing when he
stimulus. comes to step
In these early lessons a little game 4. Lastly, The teacher will in-
of “odd-ball” may help. It goes sist on accuracy of sending.
like this: the same character is sent
30 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
For those studying alone, build up speed and greater confi-
there are a number of good dence by practice. One may then
code-learning tapes and begin to reduce the spaces be-
courses, as well as computer tween words, which will speed up
programs which have great the overall rate of copying.
flexibility. E.g., a code Every effort should be made to
computer program which stimulate a sense of success in the
can project the printed student all along the way. This
character on the screen an makes learning so much easier
instant after the character is and faster. Let them taste success.
heard can encourage the Forget errors: praise achieve-
student to mentally “ s e e ” ments. The goal Is Instant Recog-
the letter as soon as it is nition Of Every Character. That is
heard. See Chapter 18. what the next stage is to carry us
If some students think that certain forward to. If there are letters you
characters sound alike, send them don’t recognize quickly enough
several times alternately so the now, go back and practice listen-
real differences stand out. Typi- ing to them until you do. This will
cally the alphabet and numbers save you time later.
may be covered in a series of no Some of the published orders for
more than five lessons. Every- learning the characters are: 5 Ø E
thing possible should be done to TAR-SLUQJ-HONCV- I
make learning interesting and fun, B Y P - W K Z M - D X F G. F G
and to avoid any sense of bore- HMJRU-BDKNTVY- CE
dom or needless tension.. One I L O S - A P Q X Z W. E T A I
teacher says: “I write words on MN-SODR CU - K PH G W
the board and the students sound L - Q H F Y - Z V X J. E I S H - T
them in unison., It is like directing MO-ANWG-DUVJB-R K
a choir, a fun class, where every- L F - P X Z C Y Q. F K B Q T C Z
one feels good about practicing HWXMDYUPAJ O E R S G
the code.” N L V I. E T I M S O H - A W U J
If one is expecting to do a lot of VF-CGKQFZ-RY L BX D
copying in use, starting out by N.
copying on a typewriter has the A E I O U - vowels first, then
advantage of a better link up be- some of most frequent conso-
tween code, brain and typewriter nants, such as T N R S D L H, etc.,
key than between the brain and a so that many words can be prac-
pencil. When this stage of learn- ticed from almost the first conso-
ing has been completed, the nant letters learned.
foundation - quick recognition of
every character by its sound pat- Note: The teacher should ex-
tern - should have been laid, and a plain at each new step ex-
speed of at least about 5 - 6 wpm actly what is to be done and
achieved. All the pieces are now why, so the student will
in hand for the students to be able know what is expected of
to practice with normal English him. Back in 1895 some
words and sentences, ready to psychologists asked expert
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 31
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
telegraphers: “What is the
learner’s attention mainly Instant Recognition
directed to as he pro- The first secret of increasing your
gresses?” Their answer was: receiving speed is to shorten the
1. At first you hustle to get time it takes you to recognize
letters each code character as soon as it
has been completely heard. The
2. Next you look for words shorter that time interval is, the
3. Later as a fair operator, you faster you will be able to receive.
are not held so closely to Aim to make it instantaneous. If
words, but can take in sev- You Do Not Instantly Recognize
eral words, a phrase or even The Sound Of Any Character,
a short sentence as a You Have Not Really Learned It
‘mouthful’, and Yet. (That is the one character
you need to practice on until you
4. Finally as a real expert, you know it immediately.) The goal of
have such automatic per- practice and drill from here on is
fection that you pay practi- to speed up your recognition of
cally no conscious attention characters, and then of words, to
at all to the details of the the point where you can both
code, but concentrate on “read” them easily without writ-
the sense of the message, or ing, and copy them down more
to transcribing (copying) it and more automatically.
while our mind thinks
about other things. Anticipating
Chapter 4 In ordinary listening and reading
many of us habitually anticipate
Building The First Floor On what the next word or sentence is
The Solid Foundation going to be, and we are ready to
Gaining Fluency in Code to a jump ahead or help out. Most of
Useful 15 wpm Level us can do this without losing
anything that actually comes next:
By the time you have reached a what actually does follow just re-
steady speed of about 15 wpm places whatever we anticipated. By
you will have a useful and com- contrast, even at high speeds, the
fortable communicating tool. This code signals are so slow compared
will require practice of what you with the speed we think that for
already know, and you will have some of us anticipation can create
to push yourself in little spurts to a severe mental block, causing us
speeds where you cannot get it all to miss out completely what actu-
at first to reach this goal. Such ally comes next. In the very slow
bursts in speed should be no speed learning stages this risk is
longer than about one minute at a greatest.
time, and you will be surprised
how effectively this will help raise If you become conscious that this
your receiving speeds. habit is interfering with your re-
ceiving at any point in learning or

32 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
later use, you should take imme- International amateur call signs,
diate steps to prevent it. This is Q-signals and common abbrevia-
most important in the early stages tions make good practice, because
when we are forming code habits. they are somewhat “random,”
It will require discipline to con- but realistic and also useful. “Re-
centrate on listening strictly to the verse English” is good because it
incoming signals. (See next sec- keeps normal letter frequencies
tion for help in preventing antici- by sending words and sentences
pation.) However, if you are con- backwards: e.g. “my antenna is
scious of anticipating but that it is up 5Ø feet” becomes “ y m
not in any way interfering with annetna si pu Ø5 teef,” or “teef
actual reception, the best thing is Ø5 pu si annetna ym.” - You can
to forget it and keep concentrat- hardly anticipate those “words”!
ing on the incoming signals. In The 1ØØ most common words,
this case, anticipation will not listed at the end of this section,
hurt. (We also tend to evaluate make excellent practice. This not
what we are hearing or reading. only makes you familiar with
This is natural and should not be them and gives you a boost in
discouraged if it does not inter- feeling at home with the code, but
fere with reception.) A tendency also it will help you gain further
to anticipate does tell us one good proficiency as you continue to
thing: we haven’t reached out advance. Work with them along-
limit yet and can learn to read side other practice materials until
code faster if we go at it in the you recognize these words, or
right way. (See Chapter 11 for most of them, at once as words -
further discussion of this.) patterns of sound that have
meaning in code. Along with the
What Kind Of Material To 1ØØ most common words prac-
Practice tice with some of the common
Most of the materials for practice phrases, such as “of the” “ I
should be in regular English and am,” etc. See Chapter 22. Once
as interesting as possible. Have a again we must emphasize the im-
variety in every practice period so portance of Repetition.
that nothing becomes monoto- The best way to get these com-
nous. Select the kind of material mon words impressed as units of
you intend to be working with as sound to the mind is to repeat
you use the code. To prevent an- each one a number of times be-
ticipating what is coming next, fore going on to the next one.
during the early phase of learn- Use a keyboard or computer to
ing, some practice material in generate a tape, on which each
each session should consist of word is repeated from at least
non-English. Three to five min- three to five times. Space the
utes per session is long enough words widely enough apart that
for this, unless you intend to be you will be able to say the word
working with enciphered mes- each time after you have heard it.
sages - it must not be used to a Then listen to that tape over and
point where it becomes boring. over again, saying each word to
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 33
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
yourself as soon as it has been rather the sounds of those letters,
sent. Practice listening to it until putting the sounds represented by
the words come as easily and the letters together as they come
naturally as if you were sitting, in.
listening and talking. Make your-
self thoroughly familiar with How Long And What Kind Of
them. Practice

Other Ways Keep practice sessions short and

with some resting time in between
Several other simple practices can - doing something else - such as
help you gain familiarity and into ten minute practice periods,
confidence. One of these is to followed by a five minute rests.
read road signs and ads you see Three or four such periods per
while driving or riding, whistling session are adequate at the early
them aloud or mentally to your- stages. They can be lengthened
self in code. If you have friends gradually so long as fatigue does
also learning, try whistling code not set in. Remember that fatigue
back and forth among yourselves and boredom tend to defeat rapid
as conversation. There are lots of advancement.
other possibilities - find them and Teachers are divided as to whether
make it fun. For example:- The it is better to major on receiving
Two-Way Word Game This is a practice without copying or to
good speed builder, and works major on copying. The best
this way: the instructor sends a course would seem to be to do
word and student sounds out the some of both. Some teachers in-
word to himself (see phonics, sist that the student not copy for
Chapter 7) as the letters follow some time after initially learning
one after the other to build up the the characters. They prefer for
word until a space comes to show him just to listen. The idea is to
that the word is completed. build up and strengthen sound
For example, the instructor sends pattern recognition without the
the word “was”. As the student distraction of writing. (See
hears W he thinks “w-”, then as Chapter 7 and Chapter 8.)
he hears A he combines them As for sending practice, it is best
(WA) to think “way”, and finally not begun until the student knows
as he hears S and then silence, he how good code sounds. The
thinks the word “was”. Then the sound patterns need to be firmly
student immediately sends it back enough established in mind that
to the instructor. The student the student can imitate them with-
writes nothing down. Begin with out the discouragement of hear-
two-letter words, then four or ing his own poor character for-
more letters as the student catches mation and bad or irregular
on and speeds improve. Remem- spacing, and also to minimize
ber that it is a game. Make it fun. criticism. It seems best to defer
Never again will you try just to using a key until a receiving
retain the letters in a word; but speed of about 1Ø wpm is
34 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
reached. At all times aim for have a familiar pattern.) It is the
beautiful, perfect sending, where coherence of a grouping that
the timing and rhythm produce helps speed up its recognition.
accurately formed characters and There is another factor which we
spacings. Aim for it, and don’t be should be aware of. It is this:
satisfied with anything less. (See when we are practicing by listen-
Chapter 9.) ing to the radio and must strain to
One good form of early practice “get” the signals - because of
sending is to listen to a character, weak signals, interference, static or
then send it; hear the next and poor sending (trying to figure out
then send it, etc. Another helpful a bad combination) or to recall
way is for the student and teacher some word previously sent, this
to send a short series of words or brings the conscious mind into
sentences simultaneously, aiming action, to try to reason things out.
to be in unison. As the conscious mind works
Copying has the advantage of harder and harder, the receptivity
verifying accuracy of recognition of the unconscious mind tends to
and identifying areas needing im- cease. This mental friction inter-
provement. In the early stages the feres with advancement in the
use of random groups is best be- earlier stages of gaining speed,
cause it avoids anticipation. Lis- and may even bring all receptivity
tening practice, without writing to a stop. Whenever you must
anything down is of great impor- strain to “get” the signals - be-
tance and value. To gain skill this cause of interference, static or
should be done at speeds almost poor sending - to try to figure out
as fast as you can receive by just something being sent, this brings
listening, and with frequent short the conscious mind into action. to
burst of listening to still faster try to reason things out. As the
sending. This will help the mind conscious mind works harder and
get used to more rapid recogni- harder, the receptivity of the un-
tion. conscious mind tends to cease.
This mental friction may bring all
It has been found that it is receptivity to a stop.
grouping which largely deter-
mines how fast one can receive Familiarity with what is being sent
code. What doesn’t “Make makes learning easier and faster.
Sense” tends to slow us down. At Words which are unfamiliar to the
almost any skill level, random operator are more likely to be
characters will be the slowest, and read and copied wrong. Progress
isolated, unrelated or unfamiliar is about 5Ø% faster using con-
words come next. The highest nected text than words alone.
receiving speeds are achieved with Many more mistakes are made
connected text, and it tends to be with non-word letter groups which
receivable at twice or more the are not words than with normal
speed of scrambled letters. (Even texts.
nonsense sentences can be re-
ceived fairly fast because they
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 35
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
characters to identify them at
Getting Stuck speeds up to as high as 2Ø wpm,
To have a “plateau“means to be or faster! That’s the way they
stuck at some speed. It may be learned them, but what a waste of
just a temporary condition which time and effort! Counting and
is passed over with a little more analyzing both tend to keep the
practice, or it may be something conscious, analytical mind in-
that stubbornly refuses to yield. volved where it should not be.
Several different factors may This will slow us down and tend to
cause the stubborn kind of pla- bring on needless fatigue. One
teau. A plateau is the result of in- experienced old timer wrote:
terpreting the sound as something “Once you start becoming fa-
other than the letter itself. Some- miliar with [code] sounds as in
one has written that it is the con- speech, there are no plateaus.”
dition” where the conscious mind
is fighting o translate, while the The 1ØØ Most Common Words
subconscious mind is quietly try- In English
ing to get through and tell you go am me on by to up so it n o
it’s got perfect copy.” A plateau of as he if an us or in is at m y
is a battle in the mind, with the we do be and man him out n o t
conscious mind trying to translate but can who has may was one
the dits and dahs and not being she all you how any its say are
able to keep up, while the subcon- now two for men her had the
scious mind is quietly trying to our his been some then l i k e
get thru and tell you it’s got per- well made when have only your
fect copy. work over such time were w i t h
At speeds of around 7 - 1Ø or so into very what then more will
wpm it usually occurs because they come that from must said
one is “translating” the code them this upon great about
characters first into some inter- other shall every these first
mediate form (such as a mental their could which would there
picture) and then translating that before should little people
again into the ordinary letters. (Six of these words take the same
That is a two-step operation which time to send as the number zero
takes more time than the proper (Ø): are him men on so no.
one-step operation does (e.g. Fourteen more of them are
“didah” is “A”). Such a situa- shorter still: the its to; us am if; as
tion is often the result of using be we an; me at is; it.) Twenty
one of the old and obsolete short words. Listening to, copying
learning methods Again, when the and sending the 1ØØ most com-
characters are initially sent too mon words is good daily practice.
slowly the student tends to count Also the 1ØØ words makes good
the dits and dahs and analyze typing practice.
them in this way. I have known
old time operators who by long
practice routinely counted the
components of all the longer
36 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
that to be able to handle some-
Passing Examinations what higher speeds will greatly
Our primary interest here is to improve your communication
help you learn and use Morse skills. How shall we go about it?
code so you can fully enjoy this Mere repetition won’t do it We
beautiful mode of communica- need intelligently directed prac-
tion. Passing exams is of secon- tice it must be done in the right
dary interest, though necessary to way. This is what we discuss now.
obtain full licensing so you can
enjoy conversing by means of How Far Do You Want To Go
Morse code on the air. Many stu- For the sake of discussion, we
dents who have started out with may divide advancement some-
the recommended 2Ø wpm mini- what arbitrarily into four stages.
mum character speeds have found which we will call:
that they were able to achieve 13
wpm within as little as a week or _ A “good” operator up to
two of intense guided practice. It about 25 wpm,
is important to know what to ex- _ A “skilled” operator up to
pect in a license examination: the around 35 - 4Ø wpm,
format of an exam, the types of
questions asked, etc., so you can _ An “expert” up to about
practice them and not be sur- 6Ø wpm, and
prised. Such materials are avail- _ Over 6Ø wpm a “super-
able for current examinations expert.”
from the A R R L and other
sources. These things will not be Each stage should bring increas-
treated here. The only one who ing personal pleasure in accom-
fails is the one who does not try plishment up to whatever point
again until he succeeds. If this is you feel satisfied with and have
your problem, learn where your no desire to go further.
weaknesses lie and practice to You determine where that point is.
overcome them for the next test. Advancing is by “changing
Many a ham has tried twice, three gears” like going from” low
or more times before he passes. gear” where we recognize char-
Don’t give up acters, to second gear where we
recognize small words and some
Chapter 5 common syllable as units of

Practice To Gain Proficiency sound, 3 gear where we have in-

creasing freedom from conscious
When you have reached about 15 spelling and sense of increasing
wpm code will have become a pleasure as one hears and sends
useful tool for communication: words pretty much as words, and
You will have become an opera- then finally “overdrive” where
tor. we are hardly conscious of spell-
However, it is pretty slow, but now ing except occasional rare words
you have come to feel some satis- or proper names, and are hardly
faction of mastery, and can see
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 37
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
conscious of exactly which words bly can too. How? The “pro” in
are used, but mainly of the ideas. code is completely relaxed: he
Reaching higher speeds will turn knows he can read and copy it,
out to be easier than you might even while doing something else.
suppose. It is mostly a matter of He hears it like the spoken word
determination, right approach and and often can even remember it
practice, and building on what well enough to copy it down later
you already know. Your rate of if he needs to. He doesn’t get
gain will depend mostly on how tensed up. He is a good model,
you go about it, and will be about whatever speed he has achieved. If
proportional to the square of the you know one, imitate him and
time invested. So, how far do you keep relaxed and enjoy the chal-
want to go? (Remember: it is not lenge of advancing all the while
speed, but accuracy that counts --. you are progressing. If you don’t
We want to communicate. Time is know any expert code operators,
lost by mistakes, whether in watch any skilled performer, a
sending or copying.) So take one violinist, a pianist, a tennis player.
step at a time, and when satisfied, See how easily he goes about it.
stop. When we read a book, the Enjoy the experience of learning.
bigger the “bites” we take, the Make each practice period fun.
faster we can read and under- Those who engage in the learning
stand. It is the same in telegraphy: process with a carefree, unhurried,
how much can we take in and unworried attitude and enjoy it
immediately perceive as a progress the fastest. So don’t
“unit?” How big are the units? press your ultimate objectives,
This determines how fast we can don’t try too hard, this will hinder
receive the code. It is the coher- our advancement. Be content to
e n c e of the groupings - what go ahead a step at a time. We need
makes sense - which makes for to let go any unconscious resis-
rapid recognition. Whenever tance, and permit our subcon-
something doesn’t make sense it scious minds to function without
tends to slow us down. interference. The more we give
Word recognition is what makes a ourselves permission to let go of
proficient operator. The real “ a l - any concern and the more fun it
phabet“of the expert telegrapher is, the better we will do. Someone
is largely one of words; it is his has written: “When I’m fresh and
“language,” and interpreting it is right on it [which means he is all
as easy for him as talking and lis- keyed up and going to try too
tening. (See “Kinds of Practic- hard], my code speed is really
ing” for an exercise to help de- bad, but when I’m tired I can
velop this.) It cannot be stated keep up with the best of them
too often that: The skilled opera- [because he has let go].” (Please
tor does not hear the dits and review Chapter 2 for details.)
dahs, but only the letters, words, One ham who is a doctor wrote:
sentences. Relax and Enjoy It We “Communicating in Morse is
need to remind ourselves, that if special. With my headphones on
anyone else can do it, we proba- listening, usually with eyes shut, I
38 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
feel that I’m communicating speed, we need to push without
without talking or hearing voices. pushing too hard or for too long
After a long day of talking and at a time, just a minute or two. It
listening it’s pleasant. The mes- seems best to start a practice pe-
sage seems to come in a whisper riod with speeds faster than you
or even represents to me some- are comfortable with, pushing
thing I’m remembering rather when your energy is initially high
than hearing. I no longer formu- (to recognize sound patterns more
late what I want to say and then quickly), then slowing down a bit
translate into code for my fingers to a more comfortable rate. This
to send. It doesn’t feel like it is way you will be able to see your
coming from the conventional improvement - growing. Keeping
speech centers. The thoughts just a record will help you see your
come out - relaxed communica- progress.
tion.” Learning does not stop when a
Make Each Practice Period A practice period ends - it continues
Step Forward on for a while afterward as the
mind continues to digest it, pro-
In pushing for higher speeds, ad- vided that we relax or do some-
vancement is pretty much up to thing quite different. So space
you. So what follows is directed to your practice periods widely
you. However, the principles ex- enough apart to give learning a
pressed here are fully applicable chance to maximize.
to a teacher at any level from be-
ginning to the highest level. Try Kinds Of Practicing
to plan your practice periods so There are several kinds of prac-
that you can see or feel you have ticing we can do:-
accomplished something in each
and every session. Maintain a _ Listening practice,
positive attitude. See how far you _ Copying practice,
have come. Imitate the good be-
ginning teacher who shows his _ Sending practice, and
students how the bits and pieces _ “Mental” practice.
will soon fit together to make
words, and how the context can Let’s consider each one:--
help to fill in what’s missing; and
how to learn from failures - things Listening Practice
that need more practice - and to Listen, Listen, Listen to well-sent
learn from them how to do better code. Listen at every opportunity
next time. as well as at planned practice ses-
Encourage yourself to keep going sions. Listen to the radio, to tapes,
and not give up. Know you can to computer-generated materials.
succeed. Visualize success and be Do it whenever you don’t have
encouraged. It also helps to pro- something else to do which re-
vide some small reward after each quires conscious mental activity:
practice session. In developing try it during lunch, while driving -
listen and enjoy it. There are sev-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 39
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
eral kinds of listening -- first, lis- L i s t e n at every opportunity to
tening at any speed where we can good sending even if it is some-
understand all or nearly all of what too fast for you to get it all.
what is sent; next, there is listening Listen. Listen. Listen while doing
at speeds where we can “read” other things that do not require
maybe 75% of it; and finally close mental attention. Let your
there is listening to sending so fast “ears be filled” with good code
that we can only catch some let- signals. Don’t let yourself get all
ters or a word here and there. wound up: keep relaxed. - The
Each kind is valuable to us. Our mind is strange - it relaxes when
purpose in listening at “ e a s y ” asked to perform at a rate lower
speeds is two-fold. We want to feel than it is used to, but tends to
comfortable with the code, just as tighten up when asked to perform
we normally read and talk without at a level which it thinks it can’t
struggling with how we do it. To quite hack. The essence of code
become comfortable we need to learning, like language, is famili-
get familiar with the everyday day arity that means over-learning.
words and expressions, how they That is, learning to the point
sound. (Engaging in personal where it is automatic, without
QSO’s - over the air or through a thinking about how we are doing
wire - is one way, and it provides a it: the dits and dahs, or even the
strong motivation.) We need to words. The highest skill comes
feel comfortable, too, at various when in reading by ear, we are
speeds, from slow to as fast as we conscious only of the ideas being
can handle it. Listening over this expressed, just as if we were talk-
range helps gain this familiarity. ing. This is communicating at the
This is a second goal. But take it highest level.
Word Recognition Practice
When we let the mind be quiet
and just listen to very fast code, Are anticipation and delayed per-
letters and words will soon begin ception related? We previously
jumping out at us. Want to hear noted that we must not attempt to
them. This stimulates the mind. identify a character, particularly a
Learn to see them on your longer one, until the whole char-
“mental blackboard.” (There is a acter has been received. Here we
limit as to how fast we can spell are concerned with word recogni-
words.) Give yourself permission tion in the same way. Not jump-
to let go of the need to con- ing to a conclusion about what the
sciously recognize each letter. total word will be when it is a long
The less we “try,” the better and or compound word but waiting
faster we can become. That is, let until it is complete before identi-
the subconscious, automatic mind fying it. Suggested drills are with
operate without restraining it by compound words such as “way-
conscious interference and con- side, mockingbird, chairman,
trol. salesman, notebook, lifetime,
customhouse, morning-glory
hereabouts doorbell, nevertheless
40 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
watermelon household”, etc. and long enough to become tired and
words with suffixes such as then still keep on copying. As the
“cheerful, personable, fellowship. conscious mind gives up and
finality, dictionary, mechanically, stops guessing, this lets the sub-
characteristic”, etc., or where the conscious mind more and more
first part make look like an inde- take over. Then any mental strain
pendent word, but with a totally you feel will subside, and you can
different meaning as it stands or copy page after page, and yet
e.g. “axiom, category, handicap, may hardly be aware of a single
climax, magnificent”. sentence in it.
Copying Practice For teachers: Sometimes it may
prove best to let the student think
Copying at easy speeds is of the speed is slower that it actually
some, but not great value for im- is. That way he may just go
proving speed. To improve we ahead and copy it anyway!
must keep working at short bursts Random character practice at
of a minute or so at a time, at speeds above about 15 - 2Ø wpm
speeds where we can get maybe is of questionable value unless
only 5Ø - 75% of it - where it is you are planning to do a lot of
just too fast for us - speeds where copying of enciphered messages.
we write down what we can get It tends to prevent the develop-
and ignore the rest. ment of the important sense of
If you don’t recognize a sound word recognition, something
pattern immediately, just skip it, which we must develop for nor-
leave a space and go ahead. - mal use of the code in communi-
cation. Practicing with words
Never let yourself stop to try to spelled backwards is a good sub-
figure it out, because if you do, stitute for random groups: it
you will miss what immediately eliminates anticipation, yet gives
follows. Don’t frustrate yourself give normal letter distribution and
this way. Keep pressing on, the feeling that one is dealing with
copying what you immediately words, not nonsense. Foreign lan-
recognize and ignoring the rest. guage texts may also be used
Remember that here we are only profitably, where no special char-
practicing - missing out is no big acters used diacritical marks, etc.
deal - at this point we’re still
learning. We must condition our- Sending Practice
selves to this. Gradually the holes
will fill in and we will be getting it Using a Key To Practice “It is
all, and without straining. more blessed to send good code
Often, even when we’re trying to than to receive it.”
make good copy, missing a letter Most CW operators are more im-
here and there won’t matter pressed by quality of the code
much. If we are interested, the than by speed.
gaps can often be filled in later Readability is the number one
from the context. After reaching a requirement. It is the sender with
fair speed, it is helpful to copy
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 41
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
his key who has control of this. If effective to whistle it or say it out
it isn’t intelligible, what’s the use loud in rapid dit-dahs. Another
of sending it in the first place? valuable form of mental practice
Most people consider sending is the picturing of yourself using
easier than receiving. This is the code, as described in Chapter
hardly surprising, because we al- 2.
ready know ahead of time what
we are going to send before we On The Air Practice
send it. However, we may be
fooling ourselves unless we have “Reality Listening” and “ Q S O
developed accurate sending hab- Practice” Don’t hesitate after you
its. There is no excuse for sendingget your license to go on the air.
sloppy CW. When we get in a If you flub up, remember that just
hurry we may tend to shorten or about everybody’s first few con-
eliminate spaces between charac- tacts are more or less “failures”.
ters in familiar words and between Stumble through them, muddle
through and make it as easy as
words - this makes it very difficult
to read. (When static or interfer- you can.
ence is present, it is even harder.)
If you miss, stay calm, ask for re-
And - if we think we can send peat if it seems important. If you
faster than we can receive it is don’t understand some abbrevia-
very often hard stuff to copy. tion or word (he may have spelled
Remember that What We Do Re- it wrong) muddle thru. Laugh off
peatedly Is Practice, whether we your blunders. Become comfort-
are learning or using code. We able about it. You have no job to
need to watch the quality of our lose. Listening by pulling weak
sending as we use the code, not to stations out of interference and
static is a skill to be learned. A
slip into bad habits. Most bad fists
have probably come about from good IF or audio CW filter will
imperceptible shifts away from help. If you have one, practice
good timing. Avoid the use of using it. Static crashes which take
buzzers for practice, as they have out pieces of text is another
a delayed start and promote bad problem: filters can sometimes
sending habits. Use an oscillator help, but some have found that by
instead. using speeds up to around 2Ø-25
wpm the characters may be
Mental Practice squeezed in between crashes, and
so less may be lost. This is one
Thinking between regular practice incentive for advancing in speed
periods is one of the many valu-
able means of learning. It is both
thinking about the skill you are
developing and thinking the skill
itself. One way is to think the
code to yourself when you see a
street sign, car licence plate or
other printing. It is even more

42 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
was always secondary. Battles,
Chapter 6 lives and expensive ships - often
How Fast the outcome of the battle itself -
depend upon perfect accuracy in
The Wrong Question. communication. A single errone-
ous word or number during war-
How Well time or emergency might be ru-
inous and tragic. Accuracy comes
“How fast?” - that’s really the first always, at all times there. The
wrong question when standing all telegraph code was devised to
by itself. The question which communicate - that is its sole pur-
ought to be asked is “How well?” pose.
or perhaps “How effectively?” or If the code is not understood it is
“How intelligently” a waste of time and effort. If we
The telegraph code is simply a send personal “dialect” or in a
means of communication, and strongly personalized manner we
communication is transferring make it hard, or even impossible
ideas from one person to another for the receiving operator to make
in the form of words and sen- sense out of it. How do you like
tences. If a person talks too to struggle to make sense out of
slowly, attention tends to lag and what a speaker with strong dialec-
comprehension becomes difficult. tical speech, or with a serious
If too rapidly, things may be speech defect, says to you? If
missed or misunderstood. Mum- there is anything that causes
bling is usually inexcusable. downright joy in an amateur’s
Speed itself is not usually the ob- heart, it is the pleasure of com-
ject, except perhaps in case of municating with an operator who
emergency, such as “Help!”, and really knows how to send and how
even then it may hurt rather than to receive. Aim to be one of these.
help communication The normal
goal is coherency and accuracy. Copyability
Speed for us is just convenience.
How fast can you copy? Even for
Commercial operators have al- a highly skilled operator this is
ways prided themselves in their almost wholly dependent on the
ability to handle a large volume sender’s quality of articulation -
of traffic with dispatch and 1ØØ% his rhythm, spacing and keyer
accuracy. One operator wrote: weighting. One of them said: “ I
“Over 5Ø years ago as a trainee can read a super operator at 5Ø
commercial operator I was told wpm, but there are some hams I
that it is better to send at 2Ø wpm, strain to copy at 1Ø wpm - some
and be received 1ØØ% the first old timers hard to copy because
time, than to send at 28 wpm and of bad habits.” The key to high
be involved in time wasting re- speed reception is to recognize
peats.” the pauses between letters and
The U.S. Navy insisted on accu- between words. This means that
racy above everything else: speed the sender must not run things

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 43

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
together. It is this split second it is usually buy a racing car just to
the space which gives the time drive to work each day.) On the
needed to get the mind set for the other hand, when there is a lot to
next word. One of first things say, or when there is a need for
that often happens when we try to extensive personal interchange, a
send faster is to run the letters and minimum speed of 25 - 3Ø wpm
words together. For example, is really needed to keep the
when “of” comes out thought moving.
“dahdahdahdididahdit”. We can From listening in the bands it
learn to read that stuff, but when would appear that in the CW
longer and less familiar words are mode this speed range seems to
sent and word spaces also are ne- be very common. Even when one
glected, we can quickly get lost in is contesting, and ragchewing is
an maze of letters which make no out of the question, if one moves
sense. (It seems to me that as too slowly, he is going to have a
speeds get really high fewer and rather low score. But here also,
fewer abbreviations are used.) speed, in itself, is not of much
Fast Enough To Communicate value: intelligibility and accuracy
Satisfyingly are required, and correct call
signs, etc., are vital for qualifica-
It is possible to creep along at five tion. There must be a balance.
wpm, the minimum FCC amateur All through the history of tele-
qualifying speed - communicat- graphy, from almost the earliest
ing, but just barely. Many hams in days to the present, there has been
the past found lots of enjoyment the challenge for speed. The
plugging along at ten wpm, which high-speed skilled operators
for many years was the minimum achieved a sort of prestige, which
requirement for an amateur op- was salable and commercially was
erator’s license. Perhaps a major- rewarded by higher pay. The be-
ity of hams have found 15 - 18 ginner and the plug were looked
wpm to be comfortable, adequate down upon with more or less
and quite pleasant to satisfy their scorn. But as radio amateurs, CW
desires to communicate. is one element of our hobby,
Back in the days of landline tele- something we do because we like
graphy sixteen wpm was consid- to do it. We are subject to neither
ered the minimum to qualify a monetary incentive for profi-
new operator, while 25 - 3Ø was ciency nor threats for mediocrity.
considered a “standard” range of It is our own sense of need and
speed. For very many years the desire that motivates us. Those
ARRL bulletins have been at 18 among us who can race along at
wpm, which is a comfortable buzz-saw rates should not look
speed for most of us to read and down upon the rest of us who are
copy. It should be clear that content to enjoy lower rates, and
speed, in itself, should not be an we slower guys, in turn should not
object, but rather proficiency and despise the newcomer, the handi-
ease of operation. (One does not capped or the ham content with
thirteen wpm. We don’t have to
44 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
communicate with those above or important was heard. Their
below our state of proficiency sounders were continuously on
unless we want to. So, the word we the line and they could and did
ought to emphasize here is “pro- hear, almost unconsciously lis-
ficiency” - proficiency at a speed tening to everything that was said
that satisfies our enjoyment - a to anyone on the line: they knew
pleasant speed which we feel is everything going on. (It was like a
comfortable and satisfying. big party line.) Very many skilled
radio operators of the past and
The Proficient Operator present do the same thing.
He is “at home” with the code up One of them who operated com-
to his limiting speed. He is quite mercially for many years and was
comfortable sending and receiv- also a ham wrote: “During my
ing in this range, and except for time as a RR telegrapher, and as a
excessive QRM and QRN feels no [radio] operator, I could and can
sense of strain. To him or her the do several other things while still
code is just another, and particu- knowing what is going on the wire
larly enjoyable way to converse. or on the radio. As a matter of
He understands what he hears fact, right now, I have 2Ø meter
without any particular effort, and CW on and I am fully aware of
of course he hears it as words, not what is going on, who is there,
just strings of letters. Some of our what they are saying, etc., while
best written examples come from writing this letter. With speeds of
the old wire line RR telegraphers up to 3Ø - 4Ø wpm, I have always
in small stations across the coun- been able to carry on a complete
try. conversation while copying the
code on a mill, servicing the mes-
These men (few women held such sage ahead of time, etc., etc.”
jobs because of the other duties SET
required) also had responsibility
for delivering train orders to the Your Own Goal
train crews, maintaining RR prop-
erty associated with their stations, So, how high should you set your
operating the semaphore signals goal of speed? - Set it to meet
and track switches for passing your own temperament and de-
trains, answering customers’ sires, what you think will be com-
questions, selling tickets, handling fortable and enjoyable to you. Set
baggage and freight shipments, it realistically - not so high that
etc. In short, telegraphy, while of you get discouraged by how long
great importance, was but one as- it takes to get there. But not so
pect of their jobs. They were not low that you are unable to enjoy
just sitting beside their sounders much that is on the air, available
waiting for something to come to be read or copied. If you feel
through on the line. Their ears challenged to go to the top, fine,
were attuned to the sounder, and but maybe you should divide it
they would have to be ready to into stages of growth along the
interrupt other duties if something lines suggested here.

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 45

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Ted McElroy, long the code overcome by certain shortcuts. In
speed champion and a teacher, the early days of wireless, code
said that 25 wpm is an easily speeds were necessarily slow for a
achievable and reasonable goal - number of reasons, and so three
one who can handle this speed ideas were borrowed from land-
comfortably is a “good” opera- line telegraphy to help speed
tor. But if you can read or copy at things up:-
3Ø-35 wpm this added margin _ Special signals - including
will allow you to correct for er- the special three-letter “ Q ”
rors, static and other kinds of in- signals providing short
terference or losses, as well as forms for common radio
widening your contacts. We have communicating needs,
tried here to lay out for all to see
what has been done and what can _ Omitting words not really
be done. Pick what you yourself necessary to convey the
want. You don’t have to keep up sense,
with the fastest Joneses you may _ Using standard or easily
hear. understood abbreviations.
First and foremost, have fun: en- “Q” signals allow us to cover a
joy i t . Good” operator? lot of ground with only three let-
“Skilled” operator? “Expert?” ters. If they are followed by a
“Super-expert?” Up to some question mark, the sender is ask-
point each stage brings increasing ing a question; without it he is
pleasure as one becomes more making a statement. “QTH”, for
and more free from conscious example, says “My location is
effort. Reaching higher speeds ...”, while “QTH?” says “What
will turn out to be easier than you is your location?” (It is a waste of
might suppose. It is mostly a time to send: “My QTH is ...” as
matter of right approach and we sometimes hear, or “What is
practice, continuing what we have your QTH?”) See the ARRL Op-
already started. Your rate of gain erating Manual for a list of the
will depend mostly on how you most useful of these. (A similar
go about it, and will be more or but much more extensive set of
less proportional to the square of special commercial three-letter
the time invested. What do you signals was once devised, called
want? the “Z-code.” This system never
attained wide popularity, but it is
Shortening Things Up much easier to remember.)
At too low a code speed it takes so In most sentences certain words
long to say things in ordinary can be left out completely without
English that it may become tedi- altering the meaning of a sen-
ous or even boring. This can be a tence. Words such as “I”. “ t h e ” ,
major road block to the real en- “that”, etc., can often be dropped
joyment of slower CW operating, without causing any confusion.
but it is not the only reason for Several words or a whole phrase
tedious QSO’s. This can be partly can often be ignored without de-

46 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
tracting anything of importance. Amateurs must, however, remem-
These were the kinds of things ber the government regulation
commonly done in writing com- that we may not use secret codes
mercial telegrams to reduce the or ciphers - our communications
cost. must be open, which means
Various kinds of abbreviations, a something generally used and
sort of shorthand, have been in understandable. (The old Phillips
common use over the years. code, for example, would qualify
Many of them were used exten- because it is public information.)
sively by people making brief The older handbooks contained
notes, etc., others were devised by lists of the more common abbre-
old time telegraphers for their viations, a sort of standard list.
special purposes. Several different Some were for general use, others
schemes have been devised to were for handling heavy message
form them: traffic, etc.
_ Short words may be repre- When commercial telegraphers
sented by their first and last were sending press (news) at rela-
letters: e.g. “now” by NW, tively high speeds they used a
“would” by WD, “ c h e c k ” very extensive set of abbreviations
by CK, etc. called the “Phillips code”. Here
the sending operator translated
_ Short words may be spelled many of the words and phrases of
“phonetically”: e.g. a news dispatch into this code, and
“some” by SUM, “ s a y s ” the receiving operator retranslated
by SEZ, “good” by GUD, them back into normal English as
“because” by BECUZ, etc. he copied the news. This proce-
_ Other words may simply dure reduced the total number of
omit all their vowels and letters to be sent and received by
just use the consonants: e.g. around 4Ø% (estimated from
“letter” by LTR, “mes- samples given). When speaking of
sage” by MSG, etc. the speed of press dispatches this
factor must be factored in (the
_ Easily suggested parts of counts were based on normal
longer words may be repre- English spelling). Some of the
sented by a single letter: Phillips abbreviations were
e.g. in amateur practice adopted by amateurs.
“transmitter” may be sent
as XMTR, “weather” by The important thing about using
WX, “distance” by DX, abbreviations is that they must be
etc. obvious to the receiving operator.
That means they must be com-
_ Those who handle consid- mon words in normal amateur or
erable message traffic have everyday use. We must use com-
devised some very brief mon sense with them - not over-
forms, such as “aa” for doing it or using them exces-
“all after”. sively, just being careful that they
will be understood. Refer to

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 47

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Chapter 27 for examples and lists eating, working with hands on
of abbreviations routine things). Don’t think you
need lots of new recordings. Re-
Chapter 7 member that: “To repeat often is
to learn.” Replaying of the same
Listening or Reading familiar materials over and over,
“Copying in Your Head” Just day after day, is especially helpful
listening to good code sending if you do it creatively, really lis-
is perhaps the very best way, tening to it. Play them over and
both to learn the code and to over, paying close attention, try-
advance in skill. ing to understand. As you listen,
let your mind be open and recep-
It is surely the simplest and easiest tive - intent on listening to each
- no distractions - you can give signal as it arrives. not anticipat-
your whole attention to just lis- ing or trying to remember what it
tening to and trying to understand said before. So. let yourself get
- no struggling to write at the familiar with the code by taking
same time. Isn’t that the way we some time every day to relax and
all learned our language? Watch enjoy just listening to good CW.
how little children learn.
This kind of listening is listening
Listen creatively, constructively, as it
comes along.. This has several
Many experienced teachers con- distinct advantages, not the least
sider that just listening to good of which is to take away any ten-
code without writing anything sion or strain - you know what it
down is the very best form of is talking about - you are already
code practice at all stages. It familiar with it in general and you
serves a number of purposes. feel more comfortable with it.
First, it keeps our attention to the And - you are getting really fa-
fact that code is sound, and we are miliar with the sound of code - it
learning to recognize the sound is becoming increasingly mean-
patterns of each character and of ingful to you. So, you can benefit
some words. greatly by listening to the same
Second, and very important, it things over and over in this con-
helps to reduce any tension asso- structive way - just listening as it
ciated with getting every letter comes along. But as you advance
written down (no distractions) mix in a patterns of new and un-
But there is more - it helps us get familiar recordings, too. The new
very familiar with using the code. material will become easier and
easier with this kind of practice.
So, listen, listen, listen to improve. You can make your own record-
As soon as you have some mas- ings: -- a few ARRL bulletin
tery of the alphabet, start listening broadcasts, quality QSO’s - Bible
at every opportunity to good passages are good - or other text
sending, even while doing other material and play them back over
things that do not require your and over.
close attention (e.g., cooking,
48 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Especially in the early stages of There is no need ever to become
receiving, when things go very embarrassed (or panic) because
slowly, and often again when you you can’t read or copy every-
have gained considerable skill, the thing you hear.
mind may tend to wander off Whatever You Miss, Let It Go
somewhere else, or go galloping
ahead (jumping to conclusions). Am I afraid of losing something?
As you listen, hang onto every I must let go of that fear, and re-
letter, word and phrase - hang on lax and learn to trust the mind
like a leech (that is, concentrate and to enjoy listening. It is a fact
on it), really listening to it. (This that the less hard we try, the better
also helps; take off any strain, we will receive. Don’t ever stop to
knowing something of what is try to figure out something you
being said.) Remember that in didn’t catch. Keep following the
practical communications, when sender - keep listening and you
we listen to the radio, the signals will soon be getting enough to
are here and then gone and can- make sense out of every sentence,
not be brought back unless they and in time you will get all of it.
were recorded.. You are learning But even when you are quite good
to get so familiar with the sound there will be some words which
of code that doing it right the first don’t make sense at first - in most
time will be easy. Easy familiarity cases you will make sense out of it
will help us to do that. as you go on following the
We are more likely to rush ahead sender, and without even trying.
when we are fresh and alert. The context and redundancy both
Don’t let your mind try to outrun help fill in the gaps - just keep
the sender. We must resist letting focused on the signals. (And
our minds wander off, or antici- don’t forget that the sender
pate, or pause to try to figure sometimes may have made a mis-
something out. Some of us do this take.) If you have learned only to
in normal conversation and read- write things down, it will take
ing, but we need to be especially some practice to learn to “ c o p y
on guard against this in code re- in your head” without writing.
ception. Don’t let it become a Listen to understand. Keep lis-
habit with Morse. As we listen, we tening, not worrying about losing
need to disconnect all conscious here and there. Soon the signals
analytical processes, and instead seem to be slowing down as they
maintain an eager readiness to parade before your mind or “ i n -
receive - to hear each letter, word ner eye” as meaningful words
and phrase as it comes along, and phrases. Learn to listen for
willing for it to be whatever it will whole words, phrases and the
be. That means we hang on to meaning of messages rather than
every letter, word and phrase as it single letters.
comes along, ready for the next Throw Away Your Pencil
one. Listen, keep listening and
want to understand. Let’s develop Many an old-timer has always
the desire and feel for doing this. copied down everything he re-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 49
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
ceives: he has never learned to sit whenever there was an opening,
back and relax and just enjoy he would send an appropriate
conversing. He needs to throw name from his prospect list in
away his pencil and learn to enjoy Morse code. If the man didn’t
listening for listening’s sake. answer promptly, he simply
Many a newer-comer likewise skipped him and went to the next
feels tied to his pencil and paper name. He believed that a good
out of fear he may miss some- shipboard operator should be
thing if he doesn’t get it all writ- alert, able to respond to CW. Isn’t
ten down, every letter of it. This that an interesting way to get a
creates a tension, a strain that im- good operator? -- Is he listening,
pedes the normal functioning of alert?
the telegraphic “habit” of mind.
“Throw away your pencil and Learn To Hear - Words As
enjoy just listening” is good ad- Words
Words Are The Building Blocks
Concentrate Of Thought
In receiving, we must learn more As you become more familiar
and more to shut off all distrac- with the code alphabet, you will
tions and concentrate our atten- soon be hearing letters easily
tion on the signals we are listening enough - it is time to begin to
to, what is being said. We need to think in terms of meaning, that
learn to center our attention con- means starting to hear words in-
sciously on the signals and ignore stead of strings of letters. But as
all else, until it becomes a habit - speeds go up, there is a limit to
automatic. Prepare yourself to do our ability to spell out words. Our
this immediately before starting to next goal is to hear words. Let
listen and whenever there are lulls. each word or code group develop
Make it a habitual mental clear- on the internal monitor screen of
ing-for-action, so you can pay your mind. Begin to develop
attention solely to the signals you sound consciousness of words.
hear. When we are interested in This does not mean you have to
what we are hearing this will help relearn words, but only change
us concentrate. So let’s want to your approach from visual to
know what is being said - yet not sound. Practicing with lists of
so intensely interested that we be- words, replaying texts or QSO’s -
gin to guess what is going to be this kind of practice can help you
said and miss out on what is actu- gain that familiarity with words
ally being transmitted. commonly used.
An agent who was responsible for There is a limit to our ability to
hiring ship-board operators was spell words out mentally and re-
himself a dyed-in-the-wool CW member them. As long as we
operator. He connected a tele- hear only letter-by-letter, we al-
graph key in his office with a most have to copy them down to
buzzer in the waiting room. Then understand what is being sent. To
hear code as we talk, we have to
50 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
learn to hear words as words - that mon short words over and over
makes the code readable or until they have become indelibly
“conversational,” and not just fixed in mind as word sounds, as
short or long strings of letters. if someone had actually spoken
This is stage two. If you have them to you. Extend this to
learned to hear and think of at longer words by such methods as
least some of the 1ØØ most the following which some people
common words as words, you al- have found helpful:-
ready have taken the first steps. A “Mental Screen” is like a
Words are the building blocks of typewriter writing -- visualize a
language, so we need to begin to typewriter or blackboard on
hear, not code or letters, but more which writing out each word as it
and more in words as perception comes, writing it along letter by
units. (Step three, the expert letter along the line, or like one of
stage, is to learn to hear more by those lighted display signs where
ideas - total content - than by the words walk slowly across the
words.) screen. Let each word develop on
How Can We Learn To Do This the internal monitor screen, or
blackboard of your mind so you
Listen For Meaning “see” it being written in context.
T r y “projecting” the letter or
When we begin to hear and send number, etc., for split second on
in words instead of individual let- your mental screen as you listen
ters our receiving ability and to it to encourage instantly “see-
speeds are going to improve. That ing” it in your mind when you
is part of our goal in making the hear it. Learn to write on your
code more useful and enjoyable. mental blackboard. This helps
Hearing words instead of strings focus our attention on the signals
of letters will make speeding up forming words, and learning to
natural and easy. It will require “ s e e ” them as words. Let you
some practice and effort. The mind be blank as you listen to fast
mind has to be pushed, but not code, and soon the letters jump
too hard. Let’s do it the easy way, out at you.
in short practice periods. Learn-
ing to recognize whole words be- Some have found that “Phonics”
comes an automatic process of can make comprehension and
decoding, something that lets us speed building easy and natural
understand as we hear. This is no this way:--. Relax and think of the
big job - the word “the”, for ex- sounds of the code letters, not as
ample, is no longer than the num- letter names, but as they are pro-
ber 9. nounced in words. Like this -
while the word “west” is being
Start learning to hear common received -- as each letter comes
short words until they have be- along one after the other say out
come indelibly fixed in mind as loud, or to yourself: “wuh,
word sounds. Learn to read by wuh...wee, wee...wes, wes,...west”,
words as readily as you recognize progressively building up the
letters. First learn to hear com- word in mind by sound. This
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 51
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
makes it easier to hear their word out loud (or mentally to
sounds. Sound them out one after yourself) as you recognize it. You
another as they come along until may want to make up some prac-
we get syllables and finally the tice materials which leave wider
sound of the whole word itself. It spaces between words to allow
teaches the mind to decode the time to say them. (It may also be
dit-space-dah patterns and com- useful to practice this way with
binations into their sound values, short groups of numbers, such as
the way we hear words. 2 or 3 digits.) Notice how, as you
This system doesn’t work per- listen, the silence before says
fectly, of course, because English “start here” and as the following
is not written in a perfectly pho- space says “it is finished”, sort of
netic way. Some of the letters are islands of rest. That is why gain-
“silent”, like final “e.” Let the ing familiarity with the sound of
letters combine into words as you code words is so helpful. It makes
hear them in code, much as we the word a meaningful unit, and
recognize words as we hear their you get to feeling easy about re-
sounds You can help by practic- ceiving what makes sense. The
ing with the common letter com- more words you are familiar with
binations (br, gl, ng, etc.) and the easier it is to receive. It ban-
syllables (com-. ex-, inter-, -ment, ishes tension.
-ing, -tion, etc.) to get familiar One ham put it this way: “ t h e
with them. Reading whole words code just flows into my ear and
this way then becomes a process comes out as words.” Just as we
of decoding from something we have learned to let the mind rec-
hear in bits and pieces into ognize each code character and
something we hear and under- present it to us consciously and
stand as meaningful units. It even automatically, now we must take
can help with abbreviations. You that next step and trust the same
may like to try this approach and mind to store these letters and put
let it become automatic. When we them together into words without
have learned to hear words as demanding to be conscious of the
words, we can often also mentally process and “hear” each letter
correct a sender’s errors or signal individually. We have to learn to
drop-outs while listening. let our subconscious mind present
The importance of Proper Word us with the words they form. As
S p a c i n g should become more long as we insist on recognizing
obvious now. It gives the mind a each individual letter, we are inter-
split second to make sense out of fering, meddling with our normal
the stimuli it has just received. habitual mind’s functioning, and
Those word separating spaces are misdirecting our attention.
vital. The following exercise is The goal is to learn to listen to
worth a try - as soon as you rec- the code as you would to the spo-
ognize a word by the space which ken word. Eventually the sound
follows it (if the sending is not too will trigger your consciousness
fast, and the spaces between words just as the spoken word does and
are long enough), try saying each
52 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
then, when you can do this, it will and then not be able to read any-
also be easier to copy it down. thing more than a letter here and
there for some space. All this is
We Must Listen At Higher part of normal learning. Keep on
Speeds To Improve listening: give the incoming sig-
nals your undivided attention and
To improve we must begin by keep relaxed, as though listening
listening at a speed higher than we to a friend talk. Soon you will be
are comfortable with, in order to catching not only small words, but
get used to it and speed up our longer ones, until you are getting
recognition. We ought to listen at it all. You will discover, with
different speeds, both slower and practice, that the signals, which
faster than we can easily read. We were too fast before, will seem to
need to be flexible - to avoid be slowing down as they parade
staying at any one speed too long before your inner eye as mean-
at a time. Along with this, let’s ingful words and phrases. - An
practice listening to lots of stan- interesting example is the blind
dard English at speeds close to amateur who could copy 35 wpm,
our limit. This limit should keep and came across some code prac-
going up as we continue to prac- tice and listened. He lost a letter
tice this way. A total of a half- here or there, and then was star-
hour a day spent just listening at tled when they said it was 55 wpm
speeds we can barely follow will practice!
work wonders in a couple of
weeks. Listen as you would at a Missing Words
concert, enjoying it as you go.
Sometimes we should pick speeds Long Words
so high that we can only make out
a character here and there. This Decapitated Words
kind of listening will quickly help
us to begin to get more and more. Broken Words
Small words will start jumping out
- as soon as they have been sent Static, interference or fading can
we will know what the words are, momentarily wipe out a letter or
although we didn’t consciously two, a small word or part of a
spell them out as they were com- longer word. Momentary inatten-
ing in. We need to continue this tion (due to mental fatigue, dis-
kind of practice, and soon we will traction or something else) on our
be getting enough of each sen- part while sending or receiving
tence to make sense out of it. can do this, too. When a word is
Learning Is Variable Some days decapitated the first several letters
you’ll do better than others, but are missing. This makes things
don’t let this trouble you - that’s particularly difficult in English,
normal. All of us are like that for because word beginnings are so
a while at each speed. important for us to be able to
make sense of a word - and worse,
You will discover that sometimes this is often the accented part. In
you can read several words solid, fact, when we can get the first sev-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 53
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
eral letters of a word don’t we doesn’t make sense, we realize
often know pretty well what the something is wrong and wonder
whole word is likely to be? what word that last group of let-
When reception is solid as we are ters was. (Let this be a warning to
just listening, some strange things avoid it our own sending.)
may happen: a little word or the When a wrong letter (mis-
first part of a long word comes spelling) or a non-character is
along which seems unfamiliar - sent or a word is left out it may
has no recognizable shape - and distract us in much the same way.
we stumble a moment trying to Really, isn’t this much like a mis-
make sense of it. This tends to print in reading. Don’t we often
blank our minds against hearing skip right over a misprint or
the next few letters and then we missing word and hardly notice
are likely to lose the what imme- it? How do we do that? Isn’t it
diately follows, in the case of a because we understand it in the
long word, the whole word. At context? Can’t we learn to do this
other times our minds sometimes in telegraphy also? -- Where one
seem to go into reverse after the or more letters or even words are
first few letters of a long word, wrong or missing, can’t we often
then misses a couple of letters in fill them in correctly? We can
the middle, tries to pick them up, learn to do this for missing or ex-
and finally loses the whole word. tra dits, etc., mentally correcting
How to can we stop this? We them as we listen. As we have em-
mustn’t let missing out first part phasized before we must just let it
of a word distract us so that we go and keep on listening. If we
stop hearing the rest of it. - How pause try to figure it out at this
can we prevent this? Is part of the point, it will divert our attention
tension caused by missing out or from reception to analysis, and
losing first part due to recogniz- seriously disrupt with our auto-
ing a time gap with nothing rec- matic reception as we try to make
ognizable to fill it? -- We may be sense out of it. Frequently we dis-
able to recapture long words if we cover that as we go it will clear
just keep on listening. (When we itself up.
are copying we can often fill it in First, we must keep focused on the
afterwards from the context.) A incoming signals without strug-
broken word (interrupted, dis- gling to make sense out of them.
jointed) results when the missing Trying to make sense is a con-
letter (or letters) occurs in the scious activity, interfering with the
middle of the word. Sometimes automatic mental functioning. A
this break is due to the sender sense of concern is involved -
who inadvertently hesitates an in- concern that we won’t be able to
stant too long between two letters. remember the first part until the
In either case, the space between word is finished, or that its begin-
letters is too wide and our minds ning is peculiar, has no recogniz-
interpret this as a break, marking able shape (e.g. technical or
it as the end of one word and the medical terms), or that it is going
beginning of the next. Since it to be a word we won’t be able to
54 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
recognize at all (doesn’t seem quality, so long as two signals are
familiar). For many words, one not identical, can help us separate
way to help is to get familiar with them, while the speed and style of
the common prefixes and suffixes sending also help greatly to sepa-
so that they are “heard” as units rate the one we want from the
instead of separate letters. We other. In addition, the ear can be
must learn not to let conscious trained to read incredibly weak
thought block further reception. signals in the midst of strong dis-
tractions. Some operators have
On-The-Air Listening learned to get almost 1ØØ% copy
in spite of all these.
When we listen on the radio, static,
fading and interference tend to Some have found that by listening
slow us down. Under these condi- in the dark, or closing their eyes,
tions high quality sending (accu- they can focus more sharply on
rate timing) will get through far signals which are in the midst of
better than sloppy sending. But interference and other distrac-
there are certain adjustments or tions. You may want to try it and
changes which can be made in see if it helps you develop or im-
our receiving equipment which prove this skill. Finally, sometimes
will help: e.g. the use of RF and writing it - copying - may help us
audio filters, changing the tuning to concentrate.
of IF amplifiers, etc.. These will
help separate signals and reduce Any experienced telegrapher,
noise. regardless of what he is doing
effortlessly hears what is being
Static and irregular non-signal said on the air or on the wires
types of electric interference can
often be reduced by turning down Chapter 8
RF gain and increasing AF gain to
bring the signal up. Some noises Copying
can be canceled in the brain by Getting it written down
using headphones wired so that
they are out of phase with each This is really an extension of
other. Dual-diversity reception Chapter 7 To the principles
can greatly reduce or eliminate given there add these: -- If
fading, but this requires a major you are going the easy way,
equipment change: two separate copying is the next step after
antennas and two identical RF “listening” -- advancing in
front ends are necessary. The ear code skill by adding the new
is an excellent discriminator of action of writing it down.
CW signals in QRM, noise and What we hear as letters and words
other interference, much superior are now to be written with pencil
to any equipment available today. and paper or with typewriter. It is
We can train our ears to minimize learning to co-ordinate ear-to-
interference by focusing our at- mind-to-hand. Copying by hand
tention to the one signal we want exposes all the senses to what you
to hear. The musical pitch and are hearing, and it is nothing

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 55

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
more than listening to and writing so well that it has become second
down what is being received. An natural for them.
old 1854 book on telegraphy de- Here is an interesting example of
scribed it as “taking dictation” - copying properly:- One night, as I
at first letter-by-letter, later as was copying mixed groups in a
word-by-word, etc. That is a good very relaxed manner, and feeling
way to think of it. So, hunt up that quite comfortable with the code, I
pencil again. Operating ability is asked my friend if he would
measured by copying: if you speed up to 25 wpm from the 2Ø
don’t write it down - putting wpm he had been sending. He
down everything you hear exactly started sending them at 25 wpm,
as you hear it - you aren’t copy- and I was vexed at his misunder-
ing. standing, but began to copy any-
A skilled operator is trained to way, wondering why he was using
copy what he hears 1ØØ% per- voice to send these simple data. -
fect. Most people can learn to Voice? What voice? He was
copy with a pencil up to about 25 sending clear code with letter-
wpm (a few can reach 35, rarely number combinations at 25 wpm
45), but above that speed almost and I was copying it easily.” Aha!
everybody needs a typewriter The listener was now thinking in
(“mill”). (On a typewriter it may terms of letters and numbers, not
also be done “mechanically” by as code characters at all. He had
direct ear-to-typewriter-key trans- become proficient.
fer without processing it through To copy just Write Down what
the letter stage to the typewriter you hear, everything you hear -
key. - See later in chapter) Re- not what you think your hear -
member - don’t try to do more and you will make progress. The
than one new thing at a time. You faculties of hearing and under-
already know how to write. When standing code signals work best in
you copy by hand, make it easy learning to coordinate this way to
by writing the way you usually create a useful copying ability.
do. For example, don’t try to
block print unless this is natural Practice With Familiar Text
and easy. Likewise, don’t try to Helps
copy on a typewriter (“mill”)
before you have learned how to As in listening, this helps by dis-
touch-type. pelling the fear of missing some-
While most of us would like to thing, because we already know
know what we are copying as we what it is about. By using things
copy, this isn’t necessary. It can which we have read, or recorded
become so automatic that we copy material we are already familiar
something correctly without real- with, we feel more comfortable.
izing what we are copying. (I usu- When we know, at least in general,
ally like to know what I am what it’s about or what it says, we
copying, don’t you?) People who know what to expect and not
do these things well do not strug- worry about not understanding
gle with them - they have learned and losing out. It helps build con-
56 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
fidence in learning to copy be- material and choose it to be as
hind. The more familiar we are interesting as possible.
with what we are copying, the One student, speaking of ARRL
easier it all becomes. This confi- practice materials, said: “I made
dence will begin to carry over into more progress in learning code in
receiving new and unfamiliar weeks than I did in years previ-
materials also. ously, because it is more interest-
Pay No Attention To Any Errors ing to copy and understand solid
copy.” Some practice copying
Condition yourself to copy what random 5-character groups is
comes easily. As you practice, good in the early stages to make
copy everything you instantly sure we are recognizing the char-
recognize and pay no attention to acters correctly and to prevent
any errors -- just forget them and anticipation, but because it is
go on. meaningless it soon tends to be-
come boring. -- Too much of this
If You Miss Anything Just Go may also lead the mind to expect
On a break after each five letters
Let it go, forget it and keep going when we are trying to copy nor-
on. Train yourself to leave a mal English. This has happened!
blank space and go on, because if (Practice with “Backward Eng-
you stop for even an instant to lish” - provided in some com-
puzzle over a signal you didn’t puter programs - is better because
recognize, you will miss at least the letter groups are of variable
some of what follows. We must length and have normal letter dis-
condition ourselves to do this. tribution.)
After all, we’re learning. If You Want To Become More
The holes in your copy will Proficient
gradually fill up and you will be
keeping relaxed while you go, just Who Doesn’t ? If you are able to
leaving blanks for each missed copy every letter, you are not
letter or word. (However, charac- learning - but if you are only get-
ters we habitually miss do point ting two letters out of every three,
out what needs more practice.) or four out of every five, your
Remember also that we may mind will be motivated to get that
sometimes mis-hear, or mis- extra letter. There is always some
identify a character or a word - speed at which for the time being
and also it is always possible that each of us falls apart - so what? It
the sender may have made a mis- need not become a barrier. If
take. -- Count these things as of you want to become more profi-
no importance, and keep at it until cient, don’t practice at such a slow
you can do it easily. Don ‘t work speed that it becomes a fixed
so long at a time during these habit.
learning stages that you get tired Keep trying in short bursts of not
or bored. Use a wide variety of over a minute or two at a time at
higher speeds 2 - 5 (or more)
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 57
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
wpm faster in order to force the The beginner is afraid of losing
mind to respond faster - it will. something, because he can’t get it
This is especially important when all down fast enough. He is fran-
we are at a speed where we getting tically struggling to keep up,
about 95% of it, so that we don’t “tail-gating” the incoming sig-
become satisfied to stay there. It nals, so as not to lose any of them.
is often best to begin a practice This is because he is still not rec-
period, when the mind is fresh, at ognizing some characters quickly
a speed too fast to get more than enough. The problem is made
about half of it, and then slow worse because the characters are
down. - Keep moving up faster to received at very unequal rates of
improve, because then copying at speed as compared to writing
a little slower speed than your them down. The letters “E,” “ I ”
maximum will become easy and and “T”, for example, are the
enjoyable. Alternating with some shortest letters, while C, J, Q and Y
practice at 2, 5 or more wpm are the longest ones. A beginner
above your limit for brief periods copying letter-by-letter can get
will challenge the mind, then panicky trying to write down an
dropping back a little will show “E” or other short letter before
you are really improving. Every the next one arrives. It is worse
operator soon develops enough when two E’s, or EI, IE, TT or
awareness of what he is writing other short letters occur together,
down, that he doesn’t need to and we frantically try to write
wonder whether it is copied cor- them down before the next one
rectly. comes along. As we advance most
people can copy letter-by-letter
In The Beginning up to about 25 wpm or even
If you begin copying early, you faster, but above that we simply
will be copying letter-by-letter, have to find a better way.
sticking close behind the sender: A Better Way
you hear the character and write it
down, then forget it and listen to Copying Behind
the next and write it down, and so
on. But to copy this way for very The first step to making copying
long, in step with each letter being easy is to learn to copy behind.
sent, tends to tense us up. It be- That means training the mind to
comes tedious and tiring because act as a buffer, or short-term
it is meaningless and so much memory, between hearing the in-
conscious effort is involved. Then coming signals and what we are
you usually have to read what you writing down. Several characters
have written in order to under- or words are automatically held in
stand it. (If we look back while mind after hearing them and be-
copying we may lose out.) In fore writing them down, mean-
practicing to speed up copying, while continuing to listen to the
try not to stop if you fall behind, next ones coming along. This
just keep going. helps smooth out the uneven rate
at which characters are received as

58 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
compared to writing them down, it, keeping the spacing between
and also it relieves the mental groups wider than normal. Listen
strain of copying. It serves as a until both characters have been
cushion. In this way we can also heard before starting to write
make much better looking copy them down. As this becomes eas-
and can even capitalize proper ier, try groups of three, then of
names as we hear them. four and if you wish up to five or
Copying behind is another good more. Practice also with decreas-
way to beat anticipation. It puts a ing spacing between groups until
premium on listening before you it is normal. Another approach
write A good operator seldom with any kind of text, is this way:
starts writing a word down until it listen to the first character, but
is completed. By starting out us- wait until the next one has been
ing things which we have read, or completed before writing the first
recorded material we are already one down; write down the second
familiar with, we feel more com- one after hearing the third one,
fortable. When we know what it’s etc. Then increase the number of
about or what it says, we know intermediate characters between
what to expect and not worry hearing and writing to two, then
about losing out. three, etc., as far as you wish.
Above about 25 wpm, we need to This kind of practice should be
build up vocabulary of at least the extended to include short sylla-
most common words and sylla- bles and short words (such as the
bles. Practice waiting until a sylla- 1ØØ most common words), in
ble or short word is finished be- each case waiting until the whole
fore starting to write it down, then syllable or word is completed be-
try it for two syllables. Writing fore starting to write it down, and
down more than that behind what while listening to what follows. To
has been sent may be risky - the extend this to more than a couple
word may turnout to be longer - of syllables or short words can be
unexpected letters may still be risky, because, as noted before,
coming and surprise you, making something unexpected may come
you miss them or even more (If along and throw you off balance,
you’re still going at 4Ø wpm you and cause you to miss some of
will have to copy word by word.) what follows.
Some people seem to develop this An interesting example is this
ability without any special effort comment (from the time when a
as they progress. But for most of government inspector had to test
us it just doesn’t seem to come at each individual applicant for an
all without some help. operator’s license):- “I can re-
How can we learn to copy be- member the benefits of copying
hind? Is there something we can behind. The inspector giving the
do specifically? There certainly is. test started and sent ‘of’ and then
Here is one way to begin: start out added an ‘f.’ I immediately
with random two-character groups thought of ‘off’ and got set for
at first, until you get the hang of the next word, but to my dismay,
without a pause he sent an ‘i’ and
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 59
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
so immediately I tried to outfox
him by prewriting the word ‘of- What Makes Sense Is Easier
fice’ To my consternation he kept We can hold in mind only a few
on going with ‘cia’ and I quickly individual numbers or random
revised my thinking to ‘official.’ characters at a time because they
But I was wrong, because he fi- usually have no coherence, no
nally ended up with the word ‘of- meaning - they don’t make sense
ficially.’ Listening first and as syllables and words do. Words
copying behind are beneficial.” and phrases are much easier to
So, copying a word or two behind remember than a string of letters
is a leisurely pace, but too much or numbers (or a call sign) be-
more may produce some mental cause they form meaningful
strain, especially if an unusual groups, not a lot of little unrelated
word comes along. pieces. This is why Walter Can-
Copying behind has many ad- dler, who in earlier days taught
vantages besides making it easy. many operators to become ex-
It allows us to make a neat, fin- perts, was convinced that learning
ished-looking copy with a proper to hear words as words was essen-
appearance, capitalization and tial for efficient copying behind.
punctuation. When it is at speeds (He was a strong proponent of
well below our limit, it gives us listening practice.) We can learn
time to fill in gaps and flaws due to copy by words as readily as by
to static, etc., and to correct errors letters. For example, the word
in sending. Context can help. “the” takes no longer time than
(Numbers, however, have no con- the number “9.”
text and generally must be copied Copying behind by syllables,
without delay.) The purpose of words and even by longer expres-
copying behind is to relieve the sions is merely an extension of
mind of the compulsive pressure, this. If we build up our working
the strain, of keeping up letter by vocabulary (word-familiarity) as
letter. already discussed in Chapter 7,
Most high speed operators who “Listening”, this will help us a
have discussed this subject tell us great deal. As speeds go up you
that we need not copy more than will find that, by around 4Ø wpm
one or two syllables or words be- you’re copying word by word
hind, and in fact as speeds go up and by 6Ø wpm (if you go that
this is about the safe limit. (Some far) it will be more like copying
experts, such as Ted McElroy phrase by phrase.
seem to have been able to copy 6 Old time telegraphers used to say
or more words - even whole sen- that their “alphabet“was words.
tences - behind with no trouble at That is, they had a wide working
all, but most of us probably can- vocabulary of words that they in-
not.) Copying letter-by-letter stantly recognized when they
forces one to write with conscious heard them. When they heard a
effort, and this in turn blocks our word coming in on the line in
attempts to copy behind. code, they heard the word, not the

60 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
individual letters, unless it was Overcome this fear by just con-
some proper name or something tinuing to go ahead - including
unusual that they had to spell out. more practice on the sticky char-
They had a familiarity with words. acters - and you will surprise
That is why one of them, who also yourself to find you will recall
was a well-known teacher of them. Because our fear of losing
Morse code, said that by listening out is the greatest barrier to
and re-listening over and over copying behind, Candler devised
again to the same recorded code some special exercises to help us
tapes of regular English text, this get started with a minimum of
will help us to become intimately strain. It goes like this:-- take a list
familiar with the words - that is, of short words in two parallel col-
over-learning. We need to get fa- umns, preferably words with
miliar with words as they sound in about the same number of letters
code. each, and:-
Conquering Our Fears Of Los- a. With pencil or typewriter
ing Out write down the first word in
the first column while si-
Law 3 if you miss something: multaneously spelling out
condition yourself to skip it. loud the parallel word in
Keep copying everything you the second column, and so
recognize instantly and easily and on down the columns. (We
shrug off the holes left over. may do it again, reversing
You’ll soon be surprised to find the column order.) Try it
the holes gradually filling up. If with 2-letter words first,
you are frightened you lose much then longer words till you
of your ability to copy code well get the knack of it. - As a
and - surprisingly - your sending useful variation, try sending
speed also tends to go up (as the one word with your key
much as 25%). The parts of brain while spelling the other out
that copy normally are pretty loud.
much shut down. b. Have someone “read” easy
At first it may not be easy to let printed matter to you by
go, and allow some characters or spelling out each word at a
words, which we can’t quite con- regular, even rate of speed
sciously identify, pass by. That and a level tone of voice.
doesn’t mean we stop listening or Don’t begin writing the
paying attention: it means we are first word until the third
learning to trust the mind to store starts, and keep on two
them safely in its immediate, re- words behind, and then if
trievable memory and not get you wish, with three words
panicky or confused because we behind, etc.
are not conscious that they are Finally you may repeat it using
there. So, especially in practice, if code instead of voice spelling.
you miss a few letters or a word Do these exercises slowly enough
here or there, don’t worry. that you don’t feel rushed or have
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 61
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
any fear of losing out. Don’t do it beautiful longhand up to 3Ø - 35
too long at a time: a couple min- wpm - solid deliverable copy,
utes at a time are enough to get while a real good operator using a
the hang of it. mill later could take 5Ø -6Ø wpm
without overextending himself.
Other Suggestions Most copied 5 - 6 words behind
to do this. (OT bulletin Jn 92 p
Finger Writing 13)
Try some “copying” this way:--
sit as though were going to write, How Long Shall I Practice
using your index finger instead of Until you have gained consider-
a pencil (or your hand as though able skill in copying, avoid
you held a pencil), letting it rest working too long at a time. but
lightly on paper while listening to after this point it is good to prac-
the code. You may try it as mo- tice copying for longer periods
tionless copying, not moving your without fatigue. When you have
finger, “copying i n your reached a fair speed, long copy-
head“only, or you may prefer to ing practice can be helpful be-
“write” with your finger. Either cause by the time we are getting
way, it can help wean us away somewhat tired, our subconscious
from that baby step of letter-by- mind is translating the dits and
letter copying, and graduate us dahs so that we do not feel that
into seeing several letters or words terrific mental strain that is the
as a unit in the mind’s eye. cause of guessing at certain let-
Once we’ve gotten the knack of it, ters. Under these conditions one
we will discover that visualizing can copy page after page and not
and holding the letters, even for be aware of a single sentence in it.
just an instant, will help us to copy
better and faster than the old on- Fading, Static, Interference and
the-edge way - almost a reflex or Poor Fists
action. All this is training the
mind to dig up the images of In the old days when all ships
words that have already been sent. used spark only it took a lot of
It will develop a sort of automatic concentration and skill to copy a
response: ears, mind, hand all co- station a thousand miles away
ordinating together. Remember: when another ship 15Ø miles
to ignore any errors, not to work away was transmitting. When there
too long at a time, and - don’t were static crashes it was hard
forget: you’re just practicing. So (and they also often sounded like
give yourself a chance. In learn- parts of code letters). Learning to
ing to copy on typewriter, go copy a weak station thru static and
slowly at first. You may find it interference and fading is an art
easier to use either caps or lower in itself, and to master it takes
case altogether at first. Until the quite a bit of practice. It taxes the
typewriter became practical old skill of the operator to the utmost,
time Morse telegraphers copied as it is often necessary to retune
all messages with pen and ink in the receiver and go back and fill

62 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
in missing letters in the copy ity sending might be able to copy
without actually losing a word of only at 1Ø wpm with poor spac-
a signal that can hardly be read. ing, poor rhythm or poor
Signal fading is something to weighting.
contend with, but during practice
even that may prove to be a bene- Correcting Imperfect Copy
fit to us. Copy what you do hear
and leave a space for what you Holes and errors in one-time copy
can’t. It can help us learn to ig- can often be corrected, whether
nore lost sounds. they originated in the sending or
receiving (including interference,
Quality of sending and on-the-air etc.), by rereading and analyzing
receiving conditions have a the entire message. Look for key
marked effect on copyability. An words, clause and sentence
operator who can copy solid code boundaries, linking words, etc.,
at 25 wpm may drop to about 15 for clues. The context can help
wpm when static or interference is greatly in filling in and correcting
present. Bursts of static can take things. Where a word is strange,
out gobs of information. Old time look for the letter which might
commercial operators copied have been warped, mis-sent or
solid right through static, interfer- mis-heard. Examining our prac-
ence and fading so bad that others tice copy in this way can also be a
had to ask for repeats, and they valuable tool, and encouragement
kept right on copying when most as we are learning.
us wouldn’t even have heard the
signal at all. Their jobs depended Other Observations
on it. That is skill, and CW does
get through. Some hams have At the expert stage where copying
learned to do this just as skillfully is automatic, the most common
-- they have learned to copy sig- copying error is said to be getting
nals against intolerable back- so personally interested in what is
ground noise, noise to signal ra- being received that we begin to
tios of 1Ø dB or more. anticipate what is coming next,
and then if it turns out to be
It takes practice and patience to something unexpected, we may
learn to hear the weak stations lose out something. Learning to
under the loud ones, but we can copy on the “mill” (typewriter)
learn to copy a weak station bur- without knowing what is being
ied under several strong ones. copied was actually used during
This is a truly remarkable ability WW2 in Africa, when operators
of the human operator: to read were in short supply. Native Afri-
incredibly weak signals in the face cans who knew no English at all,
of strong distractions. It does take were taught to associate each code
concentration, and the advancing signal with its corresponding
operator should be developing typewriter key. They quickly
some of it. Bum “fists”, bad learned to hear the character and
sending, is something else again. punch the proper keys, and be-
A skilled operator who can copy came quite proficient.
solid at 5Ø wpm with good qual-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 63
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
When making notes just for our well more to in but now made
own use, we don’t need to copy will of do was had work must
every single letter or word - we up is can two when they as be
can use any kind of shorthand or one the over said so at who for
abbreviations we know, such as have come she our such them i t
“RCVR” for receiver, “ A N T ” my has men only that all h i s
for antenna, etc., just enough to time this no we say her your
remind us later. The extra time from were upon
lets us take it easy.
Chapter 9
During WW-II many operators
found it was no more difficult to Sending and the Straight
copy code by pencil in block let- Key – Part I
ters at 25 wpm than copying
English text at the same speed. Quality Of Sending
Some of those messages lasted
over an hour! But proficiency in Rule One:
copying coded groups can be a Never send faster than you
detriment to copying plain lan- can send accurately.
guage. Coded groups are usually
exactly so-many (usually 5) let- Quality must always come first,
ters long, but plain language and speed second. Stated another
words are expected by the opera- way - It is more blessed to send
tor to vary in length. When such good code than to receive it. Aim
an operator moved from coded to make your sending as nearly
groups to plain language opera- perfect as possible. Smooth, uni-
tion, he often tended to split the form characters and spacing
words into 5 character groups. penetrate static and interference
Background music or other soft far better than individual sending
rhythmic sounds which do not styles. We should learn to send so
distract, have sometimes been clearly and accurately that the
found useful to relieve the tedium receiving operator gets perfect
for high-speed operators making copy every time. (Most of the dif-
lots of copy. ficulty in reading and copying
code is due to irregularities in
98 Of The 1ØØ Most Common spacing between letters and words.
Words See Chapter 15 Timing.)
Arranged For Candler’s Prac- “Over 5Ø years ago as a trainee”
tice: said one commercial operator, “ I
was told that it is better to send at
go he and how been into great 2Ø wpm, and be received 1ØØ%
about first their before should the first time, than to send at 28
am if man any some very other wpm and waste time with re-
shall could which little people peats.”
me an him its then what every
these would there on us o u t
may like than by or not are

64 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

Rule Two: high and low values by electronic

means. For code transmission we
Never send faster than you generally call such switches
can receive properly “keys”, “keyers”, or “keying
devices”. In this chapter we are
Break either rule, and you may primarily concerned with hand
end up sending poorly formed keying, that is, using the simple
characters or a choppy, jerky style up-and-down hand key “straight
that is hard to copy, and establish key”. (See Chapter 1Ø for other
a habit that will be very difficult types and their use.)
to overcome later. Bad sending is
not cured by changing keys, but The First Morse Key
by correcting wrong mental im-
pressions. Alfred Vail designed the first
“straight” key and called it a
Keying And What It Means “correspondent”. It consisted of
a board on which was mounted a
The genius of the Morse code lies simple flat metal strap spring at-
in its simple modulation require- tached to the board at one end
ments - only two “states” are and on the other end having a
needed: Ø and 1 (binary code). small knob on its top side and an
These two states may be any sort electrical contact on its bottom
of distinct differences in condi- side. This contact was arranged so
tion or quality of the modulation: that when the knob was depressed
ON\OFF, and for electrical and it would make connection with a
audio signals may include pitch second contact mounted directly
and quality, as well. This greatly below it on the board, thus per-
simplifies the equipment required mitting the closing and opening
for transmission and reception. of a circuit. When the pressure
Any form of two-position switch was released the spring caused the
which can be operated at a satis- circuit to open again. It had no
factory rate of speed by a human stops or adjustments of any kind.
operator or mechanical or electri-
cal device will serve the purpose. This “classic” pattern of up-and-
For electrical and radio tele- down movement has governed the
graphic communication the switch design of all “standard” keys
may simply control the “on” and ever since.. Later models have
“off” conditions (single-pole- simply been “improvements”,
single-throw switch). variations and elaborations of this
basic concept.
This opens a wide range of possi-
bilities for mechanical designs, the Recommendations To The Be-
simplest being just touching two ginner
wires together and separating
them (which has served in emer- Sending with any kind of hand-
gencies), to electronic “switches” operated key is an art that takes
which have no mechanically some time and practice to develop
moving parts, but rather control properly. For this reason some
their conductivity between very teachers today recommend that, if
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 65
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
possible, the beginner start out der learning (as noted in
sending preferably with a key- Chapter 3).
board (or code-programmed So the best way is not to touch a
computer). With a keyboard it is key until you have developed a
impossible to send poorly-formed good feel for the proper rhythm
characters. A keyboard is a type- of the letters. This usually means
writer-like device which produces by the time you can receive at
the code character corresponding about 1Ø -12 wpm or more.
to the key pressed. There is no When you begin with a straight
way you can misform a character key you must have a good feel
with a keyboard - you can only for timing - that is, the three
push the wrong button. (See building blocks of code: the dit,
Chapter 1Ø.) the dah and the several lengths of
A keyer (see Chapter 1Ø) always spaces. (Those who have poor
produces perfectly timed signal hand control should avoid the use
elements and inter-element spac- of any hand keys, at least while
ings. However, the operator must they are gaining in receiving
control the sequence of the spac- skill.)
ing of letters and words. This re- After you have learned the proper
quires considerable skill and may rhythms, sending with a straight-
discourage the beginner. It is easy key, whether for practice or in
to send well-formed characters, actual use, sending with it is quite
but unintended or even non- beneficial for building up your
existent ones may also be created. receiving ability in all its aspects.
Therefore it seems wisest to begin In addition it develops muscular
learning to send with either a memories which further
straight key or a keyboard. (A strengthen our perception and
straight key does help to reinforce recognition of characters and
the rhythm patterns of the char- words. Constant practice in send-
acters more effectively.) In any ing this way does help build our
event, it is well for the beginner to copying ability. Sending practice
heed the advice of a wise teacher also prepares the hand and arm
who said:- “Do not touch a hand- for transmitting over long periods
key at any time until I tell you of time without fatigue. Finger
that you may.” and arm exercises may also be
This advice has a two-fold pur- devised to help gain needed flexi-
pose: bility and strength.
1. To make sure that the stu- The Straight Key
dent has an accurate mental
impression of the correct A standard “straight” key is one
sound and rhythm of the having a simple up-and-down
code characters before try- movement. In American usage the
ing to send them, and key should be aligned so that key
2. listening to one’s own poor lever is in a straight line with the
sending may actually hin- forearm. To control it, the opera-
tor moves the knob by a pivoting
66 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
up-and-down wrist motion. (The the knob, or not touch it at all.
hand and arm muscles do not fa- (The student should find his own
vor the very small movements most comfortable way.) Down-
needed to control key motion.) ward movement of the knob to
The design of a key, its location close the key and upward move-
on the operating table and ma- ment to open it are by rocking the
nipulation tend to vary from hand, pivoting it from the wrist:
country to country, and its ad- the finger end moving down while
justments in the final analysis de- the wrist moves slightly upward,
pend almost entirely on the refer- and vice-versa, without any ac-
ences of the individual operator. companying independent finger
Here we can only give the gener- motion. The upward key knob
alities and some instructions by movement is produced by the
experienced users. built-in spring in the key, but may
be helped by the thumb.
The American Straight Key And
Its Use Walter Candler’s advice to profes-
sional telegraphers in training (to
The key lever is generally rela- avoid developing a painful “glass
tively thin and typically pivoted arm“) was:-
so that its front section is longer _ Hold the knob between the
than the back section, and often thumb and first two fingers
droops downward toward the much as you would hold a
knob end. Its control knob is flat pencil. Hold it firmly, but
on top and may have an under- do not squeeze it or let go
skirt (originally designed to pro- of it while sending.
tect the operator from high volt-
ages on the key lever). The top of _ The wrist - not the fingers
the knob should be about 1-1/2 to or the whole arm - does the
2 inches above the table, and have work as the key goes down
firm adjustments for up-and- and up. Keep the wrist off
down movement (nominally the table.
about 1/16 inch movement at the _ Take care of the sending
knob, but adjusted to whatever arm - the forearm muscle
suits the operator best). carries the weight of the
The key should be located far arm. Otherwise, keep the
enough back from the edge of the arm itself relaxed and at
operating table (about 18 inches) ease as you move the key
that the elbow is just off the edge down and up. - Immedi-
of the table. The operator’s arm ately below the elbow on
rests lightly on the table with his the lower side of the arm
wrist off the table and more or there is a nerve which
less “flat”. His first finger rests comes close to the surface.
on the top of the key knob and If that nerve presses against
his second finger generally on top the table it may begin to
near the edge. His thumb may rest make the arm cramp and
lightly against the other edge of produce telegrapher’s pa-
ralysis (“glass arm“or
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 67
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
writer’s cramp). If this one finds he working against him-
happens, put a soft pad un- self, and (with a straight key) if he
der it there to relieve this sends for long periods of time this
condition. may develop into “glass arm“.
_ There is no need to waste (See Walter Candler’s advice) The
energy on springs. The key master operator does not send a
return spring does not need single needless dit or dah.
to be stiff - just enough to What About Mistakes Made Dur-
keep the contacts apart. ing Sending? If you make a mis-
_ Contacts should be spaced take while sending, just correct it,
only wide enough apart to if necessary, then forget it and
be easily opened and calmly continue on. Don’t let
closed. A key is obviously a yourself get all tensed up and start
highly personal object. to worry about making more
Every one who has gotten mistakes (such as: “Now I
his own key adjusted till it mustn’t do that again!”). If this
feels just right will be un- keeps bothering you, focus your
comfortable and fail to attention for a just few moments
send as well if he uses a dif- on sending each word (or maybe
ferent key, even though it even each letter) as it comes
looks exactly like his own. along, sending evenly and with
If you set up two different proper spacing, and then go on
keys of identical design, normally as if nothing happened.
with the same tension, and This will help create a positive,
gaps, they will nevertheless constructive attitude rather than a
“feel” different. They are negative one. As for correcting
as individual as violins. mistakes, general practice varies:
eight dits (like HH sent without
Gaining Skill, Errors, and space between the letters) is the
Automaticity official standard, but it is more
common to use the question mark
For the skilled telegrapher the and then send the word (or with
characters and words flow without the preceding word also) again
conscious thought as to their de- correctly. If you are chewing the
tails. Proper and adequate practice rag, you may just a pause a mo-
has made the action habitual, ment and then repeat what was
automatic and virtually effortless - sent wrongly and go on. On the
almost like just talking. However, other hand, since it is usually the
if something interferes, the con- beginnings of words that are most
scious mind jumps in and tries to important, if enough of the word
make the correction and take over has been correctly sent to be rec-
control. If this conscious interfer- ognizable it may be best just to
ence continues, it may displace pause a moment and then proceed
the habitual coordination, result- without comment. We wouldn’t
ing in expending more effort than do this, of course, in the midst of
needed to send accurately. This in a formal message.
turn produces strain, and soon
68 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

Personal Characteristics, Fists Chapter 9

All sending with any kind of a Sending and the Straight
hand key will show little personal Key – Part II
quirks, or characteristics collec-
tively called one’s “fist”, which KEYS
unconsciously develop as one’s
skill and experience grows, no The design of the key and where
matter how precise an operator it is placed on the operating table
may try to be. This is why a re- are important for comfort and
ceiving operator may immediately ease of operation. The height of
recognize a sender and say: “ I the knob or paddle or its feel may
know that fist,” even before he not feel quite right, or the key
identifies himself.. Our fist may movement may be too much or
also betray our mood or state of too little, or be too stiff or too
mind - excitement, fatigue, bore- soft. (One British examiner said
dom or laziness - much as our of candidates coming for their
tone of voice often does. sending test: “It never ceases to
amaze examiners that some can-
Someone said of one operator: didates come for a Morse test
“his code almost seems to without one [their own].
yawn”. But there is more to it
than that. The type of hand-key Attempting to send perfect Morse
being used which may also affect on a strange key is an obstacle
the sending. This does not mean that candidates should never bur-
that high quality code cannot be den themselves with on the day of
made on any of these types of the test.”) -- How does this key
keys, but rather that their particu- “feel”? Could I enjoy using it?
lar construction and use tend to One skilled operator said: “When
produce certain characteristics. using a new key, for a few weeks
all is well, and I love it. Then,
With a straight key, side-swiper or suddenly, I hate it. Then I try an-
bug it is easy to send a jerky or other, yes, the cycle repeats itself!
“choppy” sort of code, as well as Why do I feel this way?” -- It is
to make inconsistently longer or not hard to see why some com-
shorter dits or dahs overall or in mercial operators always took
certain characters. A common their keys home with them or
fault with using a bug is to make locked them up! Nor is it surpris-
the dits too fast as compared with ing that the absolutely inviolable
the dahs. Side-swipers tend to en- rule of the old time telegraph of-
courage to some very oddly timed fice was: Never, never, never, un-
characters, inconsistent forma- der any circumstances whatever,
tions. The type of key in use may touch the adjustments of another
greatly influence one’s fist as it man’s key.
sounds to the receiving operator
Not only the key itself, but the
height of the table on which it
rests can also be an important
factor. Some have, often out of
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 69
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
sheer necessity, used a key type of key, different spring ar-
mounted on their leg, on a handle, rangements, different dimension
etc. Cramped and awkward oper- ratios, different knob contours,
ating positions have often been bearing supports, etc., but the
necessary. And then there is the heavy style lever and high knob
matter of what we are used to. have remained as more or less
permanent characteristics.
The Traditional British Key And
Its Usage The traditional way of using this
type of key is:
The first impression of this type _ to hold the key knob with
of key to an American is the mas- the first finger on top, the
sive ruggedness of its key lever thumb underneath its
and the height of its control knob. maximum diameter on the
These notable features derive one side, and the third fin-
from a late 19th century Govern- ger on the opposite side
ment Post Office design (they op- from the thumb;
erated the telegraphs). Its key
lever is a straight and heavy- _ the operator’s lower arm
looking brass bar pivoted some- extends outward approxi-
what toward the rear of the mid- mately in line with the key
point. The major part of the lever (horizontally and ver-
weight of the lever works against tically), unsupported by the
the return spring. Its control knob table, several inches from
is smoothly contoured and gener- the side of the body, and
ally resembles a wooden drawer- forming an angle of ap-
pull, somewhat pear-shaped, or proximately 9Ø degrees
crank-handle shaped, usually with relative to the upper arm;
a distinctly rounded top surface. _ the main keying movement
Its diameter swells from its base to is at the wrist, not at the fin-
a maximum somewhat below the gertips, with the wrist acting
top. Its maximum diameter is as a hinge between the arm
similar to or may be somewhat and the hand.
greater than the typical American
key knob. All versions are taller The hand, wrist and arm are not
than the typical American knob. strained or rigid, in spite of the
seemingly awkward appearance of
The net effect of its straight lever such an operator’s arm position
and taller knob means that in to us in America. Beginners usu-
controlling this key it is not suit- ally adjust the key for a large gap
able for any part of the arm to so as to hear the sound of the key
rest on the operating table. There- closing and opening. They gener-
fore it is typically mounted so that ally reduce this gap as their speed
its knob is close to the edge of the increases (some reduce it to the
table, with the arm extending out barest minimum). Some operators
fairly high in front of the table. control the knob delicately with
As the years have gone by there their fingertips, while others grip
have been many variations of this it with the whole hand. Again,

70 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
some operators prefer very light throughout the alphabet and
spring force and use the thumb to numbers during the early send-
help open the key by their wrist ing-practice periods.
movement; others rely entirely on Another way, which can be used
the spring return action. without a teacher, is to use split
As the beginners progress, they headphones: one phone carries
adapt their keying style to what- the recorded code signals, while
ever is comfortable to them indi- the other phone lets the student
vidually. There are many varia- hear his own sending using an
tions in adjustment, depending on oscillator as he reads from a
the particular key design details printed copy of the recorded text.
and the operator’s preferences. He endeavors to send in unison,
The Australians and New Zea- and can compare his own sending
landers appear to have followed with that of the recording.
the British practice, but other There is at least one computer
European countries have not nec- teaching program (see below)
essarily done so. Australians have which has an option which will
said they found it very hard to evaluate the learner’s sending.
send properly with the American
keys - with their flat topped key- Most teachers recommend begin-
knobs, located far back from the ning with relatively slow hand
edge of the table - as installed in movements. About 12 con-
air-ground-air stations during sciously controlled hand move-
WW-II. They called these keying ments per second is average, but
arrangements “a flaming nui- some people cannot exceed 1Ø. It
sance!” In summary, with all is the often-repeated reversals
these variations in basic and detail which limit performance. Total
design, it seems obvious that there reaction time from external in-
must be more than one way to struction until the hand reacts is
design a good key and use it. about 15Ø-2ØØ milliseconds
(ear- or eye-brain-muscle). Re-
Using A Straight Key sponses must be much faster than
this for sending code, playing the
It is, of course, impossible to send piano, etc. This is where the
absolutely perfect code with any automatic mental functions take
purely manual device, but we over.
should learn to imitate perfect
sending as best we can. If you A good beginning practice with a
have an instructor, he should straight key is to make a string of
demonstrate quality sending for dits at a slow, even rate for a min-
you to imitate something like this, ute or two, and then gradually to
for example: “Listen as I send the speed up to a comfortable rate.
character..., and then you say its Then send a series of 2Ø - 3Ø S’s
name as you send it back to me evenly and smoothly , with proper
just like you hear it.” This is re- spaces between them. After that,
peated several times until the send a corresponding string of
teacher is satisfied, and so on dahs, followed by 2Ø or more O’s
the same way. This will develop a
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 71
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
proper feel and a sense of control tomary speeds due to partial
of the key. After that, try a short loss of control.
sentence in a slow and uniform
way, with wide spaces between Fatigue sets in early and sending
letters and words, something like:becomes “rotten”, leading to dis-
couragement or distressing irrita-
I Always Send Evenly And tion. It may or may not begin
Smoothly with a sensitiveness, which soon
Try this several times, gradually subsides, but true glass arm has
shortening the spaces until they neither inflammation nor sore-
are about normal. Listen as you ness. This condition is caused by
send it for accuracy of timing. needless strain or tension or poor
Try recording it so you can listenkey handling, and is avoidable.
Factors which may lead to it are:
later to it without distraction and
evaluate how it sounds to others. _ Poor posture,
With a clear, easy and correct style
_ Holding the arm in an un-
of sending it will take about ten natural or uncomfortable
minutes to get warmed up, and position, so that blood cir-
from then on you should be able culation and nerve func-
to send for a long time without tioning are interfered with,
the slightest discomfort. A rea- making the hand uncom-
sonably good operator can learn fortable, cold or clammy,
to send good quality International
Morse on a straight key up to 2Ø _ Undue pressure of the un-
- 25 wpm. Some can make 3Ø derarm on the table,
wpm, but 35 wpm seems to be _ Unduly long periods of
about the absolute limit (equiva- sending, confinement or
lent to about 45 wpm for Ameri- lowered body tone which
can Morse). On the other hand, induce muscle strain and
don’t assume that just because tension,
you can receive at say 25 wpm
you can send well at that speed. _ Conscious interference with
What isn’t intelligible isn’t worth normal automatic habitual
sending. control, or
_ Even the suggestion that by
Glass Arm prolonged use the arm will
ultimately fail.
Candler’s description of Telegra-
pher’s “Glass arm,” or “telegra- All these may be prevented or
pher’s paralysis,” is: relieved by proper mental and
physical corrections. Some have
A progressive and painful found relief by rotating the key to
forearm condition where the use a sideways movement. Others
arm gradually loses its former cured it by going to a side-swiper,
snap and responsiveness, and or more often by going to a
the dits become difficult to “bug”. Candler said that a false
send correctly at one’s cus- glass arm may occur when some
infection is present which pro-
72 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
duces pain in the wrist, forearm, whole episode was quite enlight-
back and neck and/or headaches. ening, as I found that after a
Its cure is obvious. number of attempts I had im-
proved to the extent that I and the
Tests for Proper Operation of a computer parted company on
Hand-Key speaking terms at least”. If you
are sure there’s something wrong,
For the beginner everything will but can’t quite put your finger on
be easier if any serious faults are it, let such a program find it for
caught early, before they become you. Your sending will really
habits. There are two general sound better if you concentrate
kinds of tests for an operator’s on making the improvements in-
sending ability. One concerns the dicated.
quality of his sending, its read-
ability, and the other concerns his An excellent test for endurance
endurance and comfort. Quality and comfort is to sit down and
of sending may be evaluated in send straight reading matter at a
several ways. It is a good idea to comfortable speed of from say 15
record some of your own sending - 25 wpm for about an hour. It
occasionally and let it sit a day or will take about ten minutes to get
so and then to listen and see what the fist limbered up, and if one
it sounds like - is it easily read- has cultivated that clear, easy and
able? A rougher way is to gage by correct style of sending that is so
the comments of receiving op- desirable, from then on one can
erators (or by the number of send for a long period of time
times a repeat is requested). This without experiencing the slightest
is strongly suggested also for bug discomfort. On the other hand, if
operators. the fundamental principles of cor-
rect key manipulation have not
There are several computer pro- been learned, one may just ‘blow
grams to evaluate one’s sending up’ after the first 15 minutes with
against the ideal. One of the ex- a hand too jerky, and a wrist too
cellent ones is Gary Bold’s diag- sore to want to go on. That says,
nostic program, DK.BAS, de- take a look for what you’re doing
signed for this purpose, which wrong.
runs under QBASIC, a part of his
Morse teaching software. (See What Is It That Makes a Good
Chapter 18) Looking at your own Hand-Key
sending may be very humbling,
but this program will show exactly Ease of operation and positive
what’s wrong, and tell what you control are prime considerations
exactly what you need to do to for any hand operated key. The
improve it. first Morse key (called “corre-
A typical comment of those using spondent”) was designed just to
it is: -- “My sending can’t really the minimum needed to do the
be that badly, can it?” But after job. Later designs took into ac-
taking DK.BAS’s advice, the same count other factors as well, in-
operator said: “Actually the cluding ease of use and appear-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 73
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
ance. In the early days of high Is this telling us that it isn’t the
powered wireless (spark) stations design of a key per se that makes
function again took over and it “feel right”, but rather that it is
these keys were awkward, massive what we are familiar with and are
things in order to handle the huge used to? It feels comfortable
currents involved. partly due to national- historical
A good key lever should pivot and partly personal preferences.
freely without detectable friction, For some unknown reason, short
and at the knob or paddle there or small keys have not been
should be no perceptible move- popular, although sometimes nec-
ment in any direction except that essary. What a key is mounted
for normal keying. The return upon - a wooden table, one’s leg,
spring should be adjustable for a concrete block, etc. - and how it
best control (some recommend is mounted can make a great deal
25Ø - 4ØØ grams pressure range of difference in how it feels. It
for a straight key). This spring may feel “great” or “respon-
should not be so stiff that sending sive” or “dead” or have dis-
is choppy, or so weak that signals turbing vibrations. These are all
tend to run together, but always factors that are partly hardware,
adequate to open the circuit by partly psychological and quite
itself without assistance from the personal.
Chapter 1Ø
For a given rate of keying, the
force required is a function of the Other Keying Devices And
spring, gap setting and the inertia Their Use
of the moving parts. The key
lever should be stiff enough to In Chapter 9 the regular
give a firm contact without no- “straight” keys were discussed
ticeable vibration or bounce (no at length. Here we look at all
double contact). Bearings should keying devices.
be solid at all times. (Firm electri- These may be classified as:
cal contact is best made with a
flexible wire rather than depend- _ Keys (including “straight”
ing on the bearing points.) The keys, “side-swipers”, and
return spring should have ade- semi- automatic keys or
quate adjustment range to satisfy “bugs”),
operator preferences. Gap setting _ Keyers (keys and keyers
should give a firm feel and have a may be called “hand-
wide enough adjustment range for keys”). and
personal comfort. Is there a key
design that is universally _ Keyboards (including com-
“ideal”? -- My impression is that puters programmed to send
well-accepted keys show a wide like a keyboard).
variety of design details to meet

74 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
vented or reduced the risk of glass
All Kinds of Keys arm. However, it was rather ex-
Innumerable variations of simple pensive. This idea of easier and
mechanical switches may be de- possibly faster sidewise movement
vised. Almost any conceivable later led to the simpler, so-called
kind of motion may be used to “double-speed” key (also called
operate the switch: up and down, “side-swiper”, or “cootie key”).
sidewise, sliding, squeezing, twist- The paddle of its key-lever closed
ing, etc. They may be actuated the circuit whether moved to the
by: human action (finger, hand, right or to the left. It sidewise
arm, foot, lips, neck, breath pres- movement offered relief to op-
sure, etc.), mechanical or electro- erators who had suffered from
magnetic action (e.g., in a relay, “glass arm”. (A few operators,
to duplicate the keying patterns in following this idea, simply turned
a second circuit), etc. their straight key around 9Ø de-
grees so it could be used with a
For the handicapped several kinds one-way sidewise motion.)
of keys have been devised to be
operated by breath pressure on a In use the operator formed the
diaphragm or piston, etc. Some of code characters by using his
the interesting recent designs take thumb and forefinger to press the
advantage of solid-state circuitry paddle alternately from one side
using such things as a) the inter- to the other as he formed the suc-
ruption of a light beam by a fin- cessive dits and dahs for each
ger tapping in front of a photo- character. For example, if he typi-
sensitive cell, b) the change of cally made the first element of a
capacitance or resistance pro- character to the left (L), whether it
duced by moving a finger to ap- was a dit or a dah, its next element
proach or lightly touch a fixed was made to the right ®, and so
metal pad, c) the tone of a human on, so that his pattern of move-
voice humming in Morse code ment was L-R-L-R-L-R . . . or R-
within the range of a tiny micro- L-R-L-R-L . . . This back and
phone, and other possible means forth motion often tends to lead
to control the keying. How does to a sort of peculiar rhythm of its
one classify such devices? own, betraying that a “side-
swiper” is being used.
Other Kinds Of Manual Keys Commercially made double-speed
The Double Speed Key or Side- keys were relatively cheap com-
Swiper pared to the Vibroplex, and it was
quite easy to make a good home-
After the “original” Vibroplex made one. No wonder that it be-
speed key was introduced in came popular in wireless opera-
19Ø4 it soon began to be widely tions, especially among hams, for
used by commercial telegraphers some years. (It does not seem to
(see “Bug” below). Those who have been used by landline tele-
used it found its sidewise move- graphers.) Perhaps its novelty was
ments much more comfortable as much an attraction as its claim
and natural, and also that it pre-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 75
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
for higher speeds and lowered facturers provided automatic dahs
fatigue. with by a second vibrating arm.
Of passing interest in 1926 was a On the Australian land-lines bug-
similarly connected key having keys were known as “jiggers”.
two pushbuttons, like typewriter Those issued by the Sydney GPO
keys or pushbuttons, to be used Telegraph Office in 1946 had 3
with two fingers, called the knobs, two of them controlled
“Cricket” by its manufacturer. separate swinging arms, one for
The keys were to be used alter- automatically forming dits and
nately to form the characters, as one for automatic dahs and the
with the “side-swiper”. It never third for manually controlled
became popular. dahs. The knobs could be posi-
tioned at either end of the base-
The Bug plate for easy use by right or left
handed people. I have no infor-
Historically the Martin semiauto- mation as to how these were used.
matic key, introduced in 19Ø6 as
the “Auto” and later as the “ V i - Using A Bug
broplex” - commonly called a
“bug” - is listed here second be- A “bug” should not slip on the
cause of its greater mechanical table, and its paddles should be
complexity and difference in use.. about 2-1/2 inches above the ta-
The patented Vibroplex, by bletop. Most teachers recommend
making dots automatically (by the a light touch, pivoting the hand
sidewise vibration of its elastically on the knuckle of little finger and
mounted arm), relieved much of using as combination of finger
the operator’s effort (although he action and rolling wrist-motion.
still had to form the dashes manu- (Long-time speed champion Ted
ally), and increased his speed po- McElroy, however, said the wrist
tential, while reducing the risk of and elbow should be off the table,
“glass arm“(by sidewise move- and a full, free swing of the arm
ment and division of labor be- used.) We may suspect several
tween thumb and fingers). different styles are equally satis-
In its various models it became factory. (It has been suggested
very popular and has been widely that by holding a pencil in the
used up to the present time. same hand while sending will help
There have been many imitations, one learn to relax.)
a few of which also produced Bug sending should duplicate
automatic dashes. Normal (right good hand-key sending. Handle it
handed) models formed the dits easily. Do not grip its paddles, but
automatically with a right-wise only allow the fingers or thumb to
movement of the thumb and the touch the side you are pressing on
dahs manually with a left-wise - not touching the other side.
motion by one or two fingers When a bug is used for radio
against a paddle assembly. A few work there is a tendency to make
designs produced by a few manu- the dits relatively too light. As
compared to telegraph landline
76 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
sending, radio requires a heavier He cites a common technique for
style to put the signal through setting correct dit duration (a dit
static and interference, and a equals unit space) is to clip an
heavier key will help do this. So ohmmeter across the bug termi-
be sure to set heavy enough dits nals. First, set it for full scale while
that they are not likely to be holding the paddle against the
swallowed up by moderate static dah contact. Then adjust the sta-
or interference. tionary dit post contact until it
gives a mid-scale reading for a
Setting the Adjustments of a Bug series of dits, and finally settles on
Like all keys, bug adjustments are a full scale reading - a closed cir-
a highly personal matter, varying cuit. His personal preference is
from one operator to another. for the dits to taper off to a closed
They are also sensitive to the circuit after about ten dits. More
range of speed. For example, a dits will give a lighter weighting,
bug set for 35 wpm operation will and if the series leaves the circuit
do poorly at 18, and vice-versa. -- open, it is too light. Fewer dits will
Remember the rule: NEVER re- produce a heavier weighting, and
adjust another operator’s bug! if it is fewer than eight, the nomi-
nal (8 dit) error signal cannot be
Hugh S. Pettis, K3EC, recom- made.
mends the following as optimum
bug settings: Robert. R Hall W9CRO recom-
mends: (Some adjustments are
_ It is to be understood that interactive.)
operator’s personal com-
fort and ease of operation _ Adjust top and bottom
govern the details of setting pivot bearings so contacts
the adjustments. are all on same level, just
tight enough so that side
_ First, set the adjustments for play is barely perceptible.
paddle displacement so that
it moves a comfortable and _ Set the armature (the mov-
equal amount for dits and able part controlled by the
dahs. key tabs) stops:--
_ Set the spring tensions for _ Adjust the dah stop
comfort of paddle opera- screw so the armature
tion. just touches the
damper when held
_ Set the movable weight on against this stop.
vibrating arm for the speed (Damper contact
desired. should not be more
_ Dit weighting is determined than just enough to
by the distance of the sta- stop the swing.)
tionary dit post from the _ Adjust the dit stop
contact on the vibrating screws so that end of
arm. the armature will os-
cillate when it is moved
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 77
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
against this stop with a
brisk paddle move- Sending With A Bug
ment of about 1/8 Key smoothly and easily with a
inch. minimum of effort. Let the bug
_ The tension of the armature do the work - you just control it,
return spring should not be with the arm resting on the table,
heavy, but just enough to touching the paddles loosely
return the armature to the (lightly) between thumb and fore-
right hand stop screw with- finger. Control it without much
out any bounce, and with- motion of the hand or fingers. A
out any tendency to bounce slight twist or roll of the wrist will
off the damper. change from the dit to the dah
side. Relax and enjoy it. Don’t
_ Set the “dit” action very bat out the dits and dahs out with
carefully:-- thumb and forefinger so widely
_ Set armature weight(s) separated and so hard that it tends
about _ of the way to to push bug around.
the slowest speed. There is a marked tendency
Then, among some bug users to set the
_ Push the armature dits too fast relative to the hand-
paddle to the dit posi- formed dahs and spaces. Hand-
tion and hold it there formed spaces tend to become too
until motion stops, and long in proportion. The result is
continue holding it often a choppy sounding code or
there while adjusting to signals which are certainly
the contact screw so readable, but tiring to listen to and
that it just makes firm read. Katashi Nose KH6IJ points
contact (but not so out that “at high speed one can-
light that it arcs or not put much force on the pad-
misses). Some previous dles.” He also said that “ If you
adjustments may need move your whole arm, the law of
correction now. inertia prevents you from attain-
ing high speeds.”
_ Set the dah action:
_ Set the contact adjust- Keyers
ing screw (which is
also the stop) so the Keyers are electronic devices
paddle moves about controlled by paddles similar to
1/8 inch. those on a “bug” for automati-
cally making dits and dahs, and
_ Its spring should be set often incorporate other useful
to give about the same operating features, including
paddle pressure as for buffers and memories. Many in-
dits. clude “iambic” type of operation
by a “squeezing” motion which
provides for alternate dits and
dahs, which further automates

78 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
sending and in this way reduces Psychological testing shows the
total effort. An iambic keyer will average rates at which people can
always produce perfect characters, tap a fingers:-
even though they may not be
used in our code. On the High side: 9.7 per second,
or 576/minute, (3ØØ in 31 sec)
Katashi Nose here says “If you
have already mastered a bug, it Average: 8.6 per second, or
will take about three weeks to 516/min. (3ØØ in 35 sec.)
convert to electronic-key sending. On the Low side: 6.7 per second,
Once you are converted, you are or 4Ø2/min. (3ØØ in 45 sec.)
hooked because now your bug
fist is ruined [ed. for most peo- If we assume that a dit is one
ple]; an entirely different tech- “tap” and a dah is equal to two
nique is required.” If your keyer “taps” (two nerve pulses: one
has “forced character spacing” down and one up), then we may
(FCS), use it! This may take sev- say:
eral weeks practice, but your
sending will be real armchair
copy. It is worth the effort. Taps Letters Group Taps x
Freq Freq
1 E Ø.13Ø Ø.13Ø
Finally, the keyboard (including 2 TI Ø.166 Ø.332
the use of electronic computers
with programs for using their 3 ANS Ø.214 Ø.642
keyboards) automatically makes
all characters from a typewriter 4 D H M Ø.192 Ø.768
type of keyboard. Both keyers RU
and keyboards often include 5 BFG Ø.124 Ø.62Ø
teaching programs for learning KLV
the code and/or improving code W
abilities, as well as having memo-
ries for various purposes. This is 6 COP Ø.139 Ø.834
about the ultimate in code pro- XZ
duction. (Machine sent CW is
considered almost a “must” for 7 JQY Ø.Ø24 Ø.168
good copy when signals are very Average 1.ØØØ 3.494
faint, including QRP - and for per let-
very high speed work (hand ter
sending just won’t hack that.)
Keyboards also have much to of-
fer the beginner in learning the Average for five-letter word =
code initially and for improving 17.47 taps.
one’s skills. What may be possible At this rate, assuming the above
hand-key speeds? rates can be maintained for peri-
ods of time needed to send mes-
sages, news, etc., the slowest key-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 79
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
ing rate would be 23 wpm, the and feels no strain or pressure. He
average 3Ø and the highest 33 is competent. (Anybody can talk
wpm. into a mike.) By omitting needless
words and with the help of com-
An Interesting Bug mon abbreviations, Q signals, etc.,
his rate of communication is high
The Sydney Australia GPO Tele- enough to be comfortable, and he
graph Office in 1946 produced a feels no particular drawbacks
bug that had two separate swing- when he talks in Morse code.
ing arms for dots and dashes. Sure, he may spell or sound out
There were 3 knobs: one for dits, unusual or strange words or
one for automatic dahs proper names, just as he would
when he meets them in reading or
and one for manually controlled writing, but mostly he hears words
dashes. The knobs could be posi- as words because he has become
tioned at either end of the base- more proficient. Words are the
plate for easy use by right or left “alphabet“of the skilled opera-
handed people tor.
Higher Skills
Chapter 11
As we talk about these highly pro-
Further Development of ficient men and women, we must
Skills draw a distinction between read-
Recognition of CW is a proc- ing code at these speeds and
ess of learning to perceive in- copying it. All through the his-
termittent sounds as intelligi- tory of telegraphy skilled opera-
ble “speech.” tors have said they could “read a
whole lot faster than they can
Real skill begins when we no copy the stuff down.” Obviously
longer think of the code as code, no one can copy faster than he
but only of the content. A good can write - whether by hand or on
operator is one who feels quite at a typewriter.
home with code, fluent in it. He is
able to copy accurately up from a We have already discussed copy-
low of about 15 up to about 25 ing. In this chapter we address
wpm and can think and talk in reading skills again. We’re talking
telegraphic words, almost as if it here primarily about amateurs
were ordinary language at speeds who have achieved a still higher
sometimes up to 3Ø-35 wpm degree of skill, not for commer-
(“conversational CW” as one cial or professional reasons, but
teacher happily called “ r a g simply because they want to. It
chewing”). may be for sheer enjoyment or to
satisfy an inner drive, but what-
This ought to be the minimum ever may be the reason, such an
ambition of every operator, be- ability is as worthy an objective as
cause it makes the game all the any other skill, and even more so,
more enjoyable, a very comfort- for it is useful as well as enjoy-
able working range. He enjoys it
80 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
able. We need incentive - motiva- microprocessor controlled key-
tion - to achieve, and that ought to boards became available. This
be enough. made available at reasonable cost
Doesn’t our satisfaction over the two parameters which are
managing to get even one recog- paramount to enjoyable high-
nizable word out of a high speed speed CW operation: -- accuracy,
code transmission trigger a desire which is always the most impor-
to be able to read it all at that tant and never to be sacrificed for
speed? “The joys of high speed speed, and speed.
CW are known only to those will- An operator cannot send accu-
ing to put forth the time to learn rately enough with a mechanical
what a unique world exists on our device at speeds much over 4Ø
bands.” This semi- pro is com- wpm for any length of time, but a
pletely relaxed as he effortlessly keyboard makes that easy. In ad-
reads or copies: he has no reason dition, its features of memory, etc.
to doubt - he knows he can read it give further help, making CW
even while doing something else. communication better, with the
Regardless of what he may be result that operators can now con-
doing, a skilled telegrapher hears verse instead of carrying on
what is being said in code within monologues. The human mind
his hearing. He reads it like he manifestly is better equipped than
hears the spoken word and may any computer to copy the Morse
even be able to remember it later code, and the joy of operating
well enough to copy it down if he comes from listening to accurate
needs to. CW send by a skilled operator. No
The following is an interesting matter what sending device is
example: On a local SSB net of used. The point is to send Accu-
high speed operators the control- rately. It is the mind that copies
ler asked: “Gary, can you operate CW, and it is in the head that
SSB as well?” After a short pause, pleasure is found.
somebody said: “Gary, He’s Looking Backward And For-
talking to you on SSB!” “ A h ” ward
said Kirby, “So he is!” --!Morse
is so much a second nature for There are said to be four phases
those with real skill that they have
of skill:
to stop and think what mode
they’re actually using. It will sur- Hustling for the letters,
prise you when you first experi- _ Learning to hear words,
ence it. _ Taking in several words, a
Truly High-Speed CW Awaited phrase or short sentence at
Electronics an “ear-full”, and finally
_ The real expert who has the
High speed CW demands preci- details of Morse code so
sion: it did not become a reality well in mind that he gives
for most operators until digital them practically no atten-
communication in the form of
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 81
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
tion at all, and only is con- rank beginner, his probable reac-
scious of the content. tion will be: “I will never be able
Remember that in the earliest to read or copy that!” However,
stage we learn to hear the letters as after as few weeks of training he
units of sound, rather than hear- will be doing it. High speed code
ing the dits and dahs as such. may seem far too fast ever to read,
Next, we advance to hearing many but it is not nearly as fast as it
common words and parts of sounds to the uneducated ear. A
words as units, instead of strings good share of the problem is
of letters spelled out. At this point overcoming the impression that it
we are quite conscious that the might not be possible to compre-
dits and dahs are there, and this hend at such a speed. One stub-
gives us a sort of inner confidence born fact faces us: others can do
that the foundation is in place it, and surely I can, too. There-
(our security blanket). Up to this fore, take heart. We recognize that
point we feel comfortable. it is hard to understand recorded
speech when it is played back at
The third step comes as we pass twice or at half speed because not
the point of being able to hear the only the pitches but the sounds
dit and dah components any become so distorted.
longer - they seem to have van-
ished into a blur. (We should still This is not true of code, where the
be conscious that the letters are important proportions are strictly
present, however.) At first one maintained the patterns are still
may feel somewhat helpless, as there. Skilled operators need to
though the supports had somehow learn to read and copy over a
gotten lost. However, the auto- fairly wide range of speeds. Ted
matic mind, which has been McElroy once said: “If you can
trained by enough of the right pick out even one single character
kind of practice (and has been at a higher speed you are on your
active all the time, though we may way.” So if you have ambition,
have been unaware of how far its take heart! When the mind is near
activity extends), seems to be able its limit, struggling, concentrating
to hear those components and on each individual letter as it is
identify the letters with no strain. heard, there is no time to identify
What we must now learn to do is letters poorly sent, jammed to-
to Trust this mental ability al- gether or missed, or words mis-
though we are unaware of how it spelled, etc. But if we have a com-
works. fortable margin of speed, this
makes everything easier and
“Conscious effort is fatal to much more enjoyable.
speed“is a common observation
with respect to any skill we have At slower speeds we can then rea-
acquired. “The moment you let son out the words because we
yourself think and cease to rely have time to think over each word
on ‘instinct’ you will fail in these as it comes in (we can’t change
special skills.” If a code transmis- the sending operator!). Early in
sion is played at 2Ø wpm for the the day we are likely to try too
hard. Especially when we are
82 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
fresh and alert the conscious, rea- 4Ø wpm or more, so fast that most
soning part of our mind wants to of us can’t make out much more
control our receiving ability, while than!a letter or a word or two - or
the automatic part of our mind maybe nothing at all. In the past
says “I can do it myself without these experts were mostly profes-
your interference“. We must stop sionals, but now many are hams
this internal warfare, this con- One old timer, now a silent key,
scious attempt to control recep- who had begun as an amateur,
tion. Make it let go let go, so the then for an interim period of time
unconscious inner mind may was a commercial operator and
function. Give yourself permis- could copy 4Ø-45 wpm with no
sion to let go of your conscious trouble, and could easily read up
demand to recognize each letter. into the 5Ø wpm region, said that
The better you succeed and the as a ham he always listened for
less you try, the better and faster ideas, for meaning, for sense, and
you’ll become at it. was hardly conscious of the actual
As one student said: “When I’m words sent. (This came out
fresh and 1ØØ% alert, my code strongly when I asked him one
speed is really bad, but when I’m day after a QSO: “What word was
really tired I can keep up with it that W8xxx used to express . .
best of them.” Does that give us a .? -- He didn’t know. There was
hint as to how to go about it? an expert.)
(This is not speaking of the be- Above that speed is the super ex-
ginning student, who needs to put pert who lives in that upper at-
his whole conscious attention on mosphere where 6Ø wpm is loaf-
learning the sound-letters, but to ing, and some have been able to
the person aiming for very high comprehend at 1ØØ wpm to as
speed reception.) high as 125 wpm (one of these
The Skilled Operator was the well-known Bill Eitel of
the Eitel-McCullough Co., tube
A long-time telegrapher was once designers and manufacturers).
given the code test at 13 wpm for Some of these whizz-bangs tell us
a General Class ham examination, that they don’t think there is any
but laid down his pencil and said: real upper limit in speed at all.
“I can’t copy that stuff.” When Like most of us at such speeds,
asked why, he said: “Well, it’s just probably none of them con-
too slow.” Everybody laughed, sciously hears more than a buzz.
then they speeded it up consid- (He wouldn’t even think of trying
erably and he made perfect copy. to listen for the dits and dahs.)
The dragged-out characters are But all the while the automatic
harder to recognize - patterning is section of his mind is active and
lost much below about 12 wpm well, reading it easily and telling
him what is being said.
Faster – Faster - Faster
What are these race-track opera-
The expert, who is a step up, races tors doing so differently from
along effortlessly up to around most of us? -- They are hearing in
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 83
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
longer spans than we are. Their copying - but not reading -
“groups” or units of comprehen- quickly becomes very exhausting,
sion are longer than ours, and and can be continued only for
they are not consciously thinking very short periods of time. For
of code characters, letters or them as speeds go up, getting it
probably even in words as such. from the ear to paper demands
(See below and Chapter 26 Speed the utmost of concentration, shut-
contests) ting everything else out of mind.
Somewhere above about 45 wpm Some have described it as almost
speeds become too fast for us to being hypnotized. (In great con-
be conscious of the difference trast to “comfortable“speeds of
between dits and dahs. The facts 2Ø to around 4Ø wpm, depending
are that at these higher speeds - on one’s degree of skill.) Tiny
unless we have actual hearing de- lapses of attention for them can
fects - the interior workings of be devastating. Since we have al-
our brain are quite aware of these ready discussed copying (Chapter
differences and can discern the 8), our attention here will be con-
patterns accurately, and so can fined to reading the code
convey to us the bigger picture of The Sound Barrier
words and meaning, but for some
reason will not allow us to be con- Sound Consciousness - From
sciously aware of the details. The Details To Meaning
experiences of the operators de-
scribed here are evidence of this. After an official amateur speed
contest about sixty years ago, one
Reading Versus Copying Skill of the judges, himself a former
telegrapher, asked the young man
Many highly-skilled longtime who won at 56 wpm: “Listen, Kid,
landline and radio telegraph op- did you get it?” - ”Sure, why?” -
erators are said to have copied at ”Well, all I could hear was just
steady rates between 5Ø and 6Ø one endless string of dits without
wpm all day long for a 1Ø - 12 even so much as a space any-
hour day. This was common on where.” That judge had passed
press circuits, as well as some oth- his limit.
ers. (However, there are some
questions - we may suspect that “Sound consciousness” has been
they were typing 5Ø - 6Ø wpm in used to denote the limit beyond
actual word counts, while receiv- which a given person can no
ing in Phillips code, an abbrevia- longer consciously distinguish the
tion system which typically short- components of the code. At
ens the number of letters by about speeds somewhere around 5Ø
4Ø% [See Chapter 27.] If so, this wpm it becomes impossible to
would be slower actual code make out the separate dits and
speeds than in full normal English dahs any more - they become a
at the given speed.) blur. Conscious recognition of
details ceases, and if one is to
At high speeds, over about 45 - continue reading the code signals,
5Ø wpm, many experts agree that there must be a distinct change in
84 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
the consciousness of reception. already moving forward.” --
Sound consciousness must shift !Listen, listen, listen and want to
gears from letters to words and understand what you hear. Re-
phrases. member the rules for practicing -
This ability is developed by al- work in short enough bursts of
lowing the automatic mental speed so as not to get tired, then
functions to completely take over drop back to a slower speed again
the recognition of all details be- and it will seem much easier. One
low word level, without any con- of these experts says that he feels
scious interference whatever, so comfortable and does not sense
that from then on one is con- any degree of tension or strain at
scious only of words, phrases and all while reading or copying at
meaning. One has to let go of any these very high speeds. Nor does
demand to be conscious of the he sense any changes in mental
details. action or approach as he listens at
any speed. He says that at these
How Can Such Skill Be Devel- high speeds he is not conscious of
oped dits and dahs, and only sometimes
is conscious of the letters, spelling,
One man did it this way:-- when etc. (“You don’t even need cor-
he got so he could copy 14 wpm rect spelling at these levels.”)
almost solid, he tried a 21 wpm Unusual words, a proper name,
tape speed and was surprised to be call sign, abbreviation, etc., do not
able to get about 6Ø% right off. “throw” him and so he doesn’t
After three 15 minute sessions, miss anything following it. He
one a day, he was getting 4 - 5 adds: “The faster the code speed,
words or groups in a row without the better.” (As for copying at
misses. He alternated back and very high speeds he says: “I usu-
forth between the two tapes, and ally listen for the first sentence
found it helped both. Continuing and then start to copy.”) In these
with still higher speed tapes, he comments he is joined by another
was able in about 5 months to expert. Both of them were initi-
copy at 35 wpm. (Many have ated into the code before the age
gotten to that speed much of six by expert close-relatives or
sooner.) So, try listening at speeds friends. They feel entirely com-
1Ø or more wpm above your pre- fortable with code at any speed,
sent limit, and as you listen see if and feel that there is no upper
you can hear anything recogniz- limit in speed. “The one thing
able. W a n t to understand what that myself and others [find lim-
you hear. iting] at high speed is the matter
A number of the very high speed of putting QSO’s on paper.
operators have said that if you can Copying is the only limit.” (Is
catch just one word in a high beginning at such an early age
speed transmission, you are on part of the reason they feel so
your way to reading it. “If you “comfortable?” We need some
start hearing short words, then more information on this point.)
you’re on the right track, and are
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 85
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Another of these experts describes and what was jibberish now sud-
this skill as something like this: - denly becomes intelligible. Snap-
“You mention [hearing only] a ping into high speed code may be
‘blur of sound’ at higher speeds. something like that.
This happens to me too, where the Ted McElroy and Levon R.
code [at first] sounds like pop- McDonald were men who before
corn popping or chicken grease WW2 demonstrated copying in
on a hot griddle, and I have to the 75 wpm range. A few years
concentrate to ‘break the sound later Frank J. Elliott and James
barrier’ before it starts making Ralph Graham demonstrated the
sense and I can read it. ... I have same degree of expertise. There
to make my mind break into this were others who were runners up.
and begin concentrating on words McElroy said there were many
and phrases.... [then suddenly] others who were as good as he
one word or phrase snaps me into was, or even better, who never en-
gear and I go on from there. tered the speed contests. George
Then so long as I consciously Hart said:” If you were born with
maintain my concentration, I can a whistle and no voice box, you’d
continue to read it in my head ... be able to send and receive 1ØØ
without much sense of strain... wpm or more. I guarantee it! It’s
[Then] so long as concentration is all a matter of incentive.” “Sit
strictly maintained, ‘drop-outs’ and listen, and keep listening and
[from this receptive state of mind] want to understand it.” “Anyone
do not occur.” who can type over 75 wpm can
He admits that he misses occa- copy code over 75 wpm if he
sionally - a hard or unusual word really wants to.”
or a misspelling, etc., but he just
continues on - there is no time to Factors Needed To Get There
ponder about it. This indicates In Addition to Practice
that he senses the need for some
kind of mental “shifting gears” One vitally important point to re-
in the way he is conscious of what member while receiving is to Keep
is being received, and that once Cool. Don’t let yourself get flus-
“in gear” he needs to keep de- tered or distracted. If you miss
liberately concentrating on it, but something, keep going. At high
without evident strain. He suggests speeds you can’t copy characters,
the following thought:- If you you must copy words and
are listening to a news broadcast phrases. You will be surprised
on the radio while reading the how much you can get and how
daily paper, you have to give pri- much fun it will be to listen to
ority of attention to one or the high quality code at 4Ø-45 wpm
other. If your attention is on the (as to the press in former ears).
newspaper, you are usually be McElroy wrote: “I remember a
aware of the radio only as more contest where the word ‘hospitali-
or less jibberish, a noise. Then, if zation’ shot through around 57
you want to listen to the radio you wpm. How is a fellow gonna grasp
have to turn your attention to it,
86 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
at that speed? But half a minute or In 1845 telegraphers’ speeds were
so later it came to me and I about 5 wpm. By 1855-6Ø they
flipped back and filled it in. Try it averaged 2Ø-25 wpm with 46 a
for fun.” Keep cool, don’t let maximum; by 1875 - they
yourself get flustered or dis- reached 52 wpm; by 1897 63.5
tracted. Keep the mind on the in- wpm. McElroy went from 51
coming stream of words. There is wpm in 192Ø to 56 in 1922, then
a limit to how fast we can con- to 69 in 1935 and to 75 in 1939.
sciously spell out words, but with Other records were: 1937 - 4
the sub-mind doing the work we hams at 55; 1938 2 hams at 65;
don’t know where that limit is. 1945 - 79 wpm.
Strong emotions seem to make
the expert more fluent, but the In the mid 197Ø’s a group of
less experienced tend to get rat- hams found that “their code
tled or upset. reading ability had so far out-
stripped their sending skill that
Who Can Do It slow, frustration-filled 35 wpm
QSO’s grew increasingly unsatis-
In England a blind and almost fying.” They then bought com-
totally deaf young man of 23 mercial keyboards simply to have
could handle the code at 5Ø more enjoyable chats with each
wpm.: it was his only way of other. Their standard conversa-
communicating at all. In 1959 tional speed was about 65 wpm
Katashi Nose KH6IJ wrote “ A n y (reading, of course, in their
DXer worth his salt is good for at heads), but on good nights some
least 6Ø wpm. He gears his speed would go up to 8Ø.” One of their
to what comes back.” As noted later participants said that he
before, Bill Eitel was one of those bought a keyboard and within
able to communicate easily at three months his speed went from
1ØØ wpm. That means there must 35 wpm to 65 wpm. “They did
also have been some other hams not think they were doing any-
with whom he communicated at thing particularly clever.”
that speed!
The observer felt that they were
In looking over the years of con- an exceptionally “Morse-
tests and speed records made talented” group who find code
elsewhere it seems as though the reading comes easily and have
capability to achieve ever higher difficulty understanding why oth-
speeds is something that has ers can’t do it. Why “can’t”
grown, either due to improved they? There are good reasons to
equipment or to better learning suspect that these men, about
methods, or both. Higher speeds whom we have no present details,
require more accurately formed while they may have had some
code signals. Perhaps many su- special aptitude, either benefited
per-experts were there all the time, from a wise teacher, or were so
but so busy they weren’t offi- strongly motivated that somehow
cially recognized. they all just stumbled onto ways
to advance that did not penalize

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 87

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
them. Somehow it doesn’t sound requires a minimum of 6Ø wpm,
like all of them just happened to has about 75 members.
have some special ability, does it?. Similar high speed clubs exist in
The fact that they didn’t seem to America. CFO (Chicken Fat Op-
consider they had done anything erators) started out in the U.S.
especially remarkable strongly around 198Ø as a loosely-knit
suggests that they simply went up bunch of hams with a deep love
the speed ladder without any star- of CW, who enjoyed long rag-
tling “jumps” in skill. This is chews with each other, sending
something to think about. lots and lots of beautiful CW on
Fellows, with this many engaged their keyboards from 4Ø-45 wpm
in using it, high speed code must up to about 1ØØ. Almost imme-
be really easy! Ted McElroy often diately there were about 7ØØ
demonstrated his skills in copying members world-wide, and ten
behind along with speed. He was years later they numbered about
noted for being able to listen 9ØØ. (Look for them on the air
rather casually for a number of around 7Ø33 kHz during the
seconds, then dash into the key- hours of US darkness, and on
board at high speed until he was weekends.) Their identification is
up closer to the incoming signals. given at the end of a QSO by an
Not many others seem to have chicken cluck in Morse, produced
demonstrated this particular abil- by an acoustical-mechanical de-
ity, but rather tend to copy close vice invented by Kirby, WS9D.
behind the incoming signals: of- They meet together for “Cluck-
ten only a couple of syllables or ins” at hamfests and conventions.
words behind. (We see this in Membership requires one to be
McDonald’s statement regarding able to operate at their speeds on
the 1939 contests (see Chapter a keyboard and to be nominated
26). by a couple of members who
deem the person worthy. There is
Amateur High Speed Clubs also a “Five-Star Club”, a group
who are said to communicate
The European CW Association regularly at about 8Ø wpm.
was founded in May 1961 to
promote the use of CW. Member The truly skilled CW operator can
clubs have developed within it. accurately read and transcribe
Those of interest here are:- The code that by amateur standards
High Speed Club, founded 1951, may sound very strange indeed.
requiring a minimum speed of 25 The operators on foreign ships,
wpm; the Very High Speed Club, where CW is used because it is
founded l96Ø requiring a mini- cheap and reliable, are often
mum of 4Ø wpm, with about 28Ø poorly trained and grossly under-
members; the Super High Speed paid. Their Morse, sent by hand
Club, founded 1983, requiring key and rarely faster than 18
minimum of 5Ø wpm, with about wpm, can be very perplexing to
2ØØ members; the Extremely read. A good commercial opera-
High Speed Club founded 1983 tor can learn nevertheless to copy

88 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
them faultlessly, even while doing ing the fundamentals of Amateur
something else at the same time. radio over his Amateur radio sta-
There is always some speed at tion W9BSP on 16Ø meter phone
which we all fall apart, so what? -- by voice and oscillator. This was
You will enjoy doing a bit faster. a basic course of 6Ø lessons given
Listen to very fast code as if it once a year each weekday over a
were music and soon you can two month period for over ten
recognize character here and years. He used the basic methods
there you will hear some words taught here.
pop out. High speed code has a Thousands of amateurs were
musicality and beauty which trained with almost 1ØØ% suc-
musters respect and admiration cess. His students never thought
for those who work it. Back- of!the code as being hard to
ground music or other rhythmic learn.. He continually stimulated
sounds can be used to aid high- the student’s interest and attention
speed operators - it does not dis- by a variety of lesson content and
tract, but rather relieves any te- by his manner of speaking. He
dium. encouraged students to write or
visit him and let him know how
Chapter 12 they were doing. Every student
was encouraged and he especially
How Long Will It Take To complimented those who persisted
Learn in their ongoing study, even
Examples Of Effective Code though they might miss out now
Learning - Your Approach Is and then.
Vital Each lesson was an hour long and
Here is a rather leisurely, easy generally centered upon one
going approach that worked: theme, presented partly by voice
and partly in code. Each lesson
Thirty Hours, One-half Hour a was about half devoted to teach-
Day For Sixty Days To a Solid ing the Morse code and the other
Foundation In Morse Code. That half to theory, fundamentals of
is what Marshall Ensor’s famous radio, themes of interest and gov-
course given over 16Ø meter ernment regulations. There was
amateur radio-phone offered for enough variety to keep the stu-
over ten years to any and all in dent’s interest peaked to know
the 193Ø’s period. How did he and use the code and go ahead to
teach? get a license. To avoid any tedi-
ousness or boredom, no adjacent
Marshall H. Ensor’s Code lessons were identical in format or
Course content, although many code
Ensor was a High School Indus- “texts” were repeated over and
trial Arts teacher who volunteered over throughout the series of les-
with ARRL to teach amateur radio sons. In addition, the student was
classes. He designed and taught urged from the very first to obtain
“The School of the Air”, cover- a good key and make an oscilla-
tor so that he could practice
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 89
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
sending accurate code between somewhat advanced were ex-
lessons. pected to be able to get it all.
The code portion of Lesson One He apparently never sent a char-
began with a short explanation of acter at less than about 12 wpm.
how to “vocalize” the code, that In the earlier lessons the upper
is, using “dits” and “dahs” to actual limit of word speed ranged
get and keep the student thinking from about 5 to 1Ø or more wpm.
of the code letters as patterns of Later from time to time the upper
sound rather than as visual dots limits were sometimes in the teens
and dashes. It was illustrated by up to 25 wpm. The beginning
comments such as:- speed was not a progressive ad-
It is this sound-pattern of each vance, but rather was random -
letter that must be memorized sometimes starting at 6 wpm, at
other times 1Ø or more - to give
These very important comments exposure to how the code sounds
were restated in various ways in at various speeds. 12 to 14 wpm
every lesson up to the tenth, and were the commonest speeds. In
after that they were reinforced in the later lessons a wide variety of
almost every lesson in one way or sentences was sent in this part of
another. This constant hammering the lesson. In the earlier lessons
of the importance of sound-only they were familiar sayings,!helpful
drove this key point home. They remarks and encouragement, and
apparently all got it. Then in that later were usually taken from the
very first lesson he sent the alpha- text of the lesson theme. (After
bet, numbers and punctuation lesson 3Ø portions from the Ra-
marks for the student just to listen dio Amateurs Handbook, and the
to, in order to give him an overall Radio Amateurs License Manual,
feel for the wholeness of the code and finally all class B examination
as a system of sounds. questions were included.)
In the following lessons up to the Beginning in lesson 3 he encour-
tenth when the alphabet only aged the student to try to write
(each letter repeated three times) them down as words separated by
was sent in ABC order just to be spaces. If they couldn’t do that
listened to without copying. But yet, to write the letters in a con-
sometimes it was sent in character tinuous string, without spaces. All
groups to be copied, writing down copying to be done in ordinary
immediately each letter the stu- handwriting, not printed. Up to
dent recognized. Even in Lesson lesson 7 the average student was
One the alphabet was followed by assumed to be able to copy the
three short sayings of 5 to 9 letters of the alphabet at word
words each. Each saying was first speeds of about 5 wpm. Begin-
read aloud - once or twice - then ning with lesson 8 the numbers
sent slowly, and finally read and most common punctuation
again. A few lessons later every- marks were added to the alphabet
one was to try to copy them, al- review and frequently also were
though only those who were vocalized up to lesson 27. This
was done less often in later les-
90 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
sons. The first 26 lessons were Which covered the elements of
dedicated primarily to establish- electricity and radio, the U.S.
ing a firm foundation in recog- rules and regulations concerning
nizing and using the code char- amateur transmitting, and amateur
acters. He used an automatic tape operating practices. His students
sender from about lesson 15 to easily passed the 1Ø and 13 wpm
send texts at various speeds for tests with flying colors.
more practice. Bruce Vaughan, now NR4Y, was
The obvious goal was to make the one of his students. He started
student thoroughly familiar learning the code in the fall of
with!the sound of each code letter, 1938. Years later he wrote like
number and punctuation mark by this: “I never understood why
repeatedly hearing them over and some find learning code difficult.
over and copying them down. I remember only vaguely, when I
Each lesson from about the learned to read CW, [so] I sup-
twelfth also contained higher pose my Maker installed a code
speed portions for those advanc- reader in my otherwise hollow
ing more rapidly, and to tweak the skull at the time of my concep-
interest of those not quite to tion.” He learned the code during
skilled yet to try to copy. As the that two-month radio class and
lessons progressed he used differ- then easily passed the government
ent speeds up to about 25 wpm. exam.
To avoid “ear” fatigue the code
practice segments of each lesson Another Example - Com-
were separated by a few minutes pounded By Handicaps
of spoken comments, reading of
prepared text on the lesson theme Steve Katz, WB2WIK,!has taught
or other items of general interest. hundreds of students in classes of
5 to 15 students over the years,
Code sections of a lesson rarely and says “CW surely isn’t diffi-
exceeded 5!to 1Ø minutes at a cult.” Most of his students in a
time. In later lessons these were typical class,!he says, didn’t know
sometimes an active part of the a dit from a dah, but after eight
teaching of!radio theory and class sessions they all (except one
practice. In some lessons he also or two) passed the 2Ø wpm CW
gave general comments on how to element for Extra.
go about studying and learning.
Beginning in lesson 13 he en- How did he do this? -- He tells
couraged the student to try to them:” The code is the world’s
copy at least a letter or two be- easiest ‘language’. It has only 26
hind. After lesson 3Ø most of the words. Who here can’t learn 26
themes were taken directly from new words in one night? When a
the ARRL Radio Amateurs Hand- person learns a new language, he
book and the ARRL Licensing doesn’t think about how each
Manual which each student was word is spelled, or how many let-
urged to obtain. These were to ters are in each word. He thinks
prepare the student for passing about how the word sounds, and
the radio amateur operator’s test. what it means, The same goes for
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 91
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
learning Morse code. Each letter ened to find he couldn’t write as
has a sound and a meaning. fast as they were sending. So
That’s all one needs to know.” Steve helped him out, and said:
Then he begins with the simplest “Don’t write anything down. Just
letters (E T I M A N S O) and listen to the code, and if you get a
progresses to the intermediate little bit of it, that’s fine.”
letters (U D V B W G) and then So Rob just listened and soon was
finally the last twelve. He teaches “copying” maybe!2%, and after
by rhythm and sound, not by a few more days of listening to
“dits” and “dahs” or dots and high-speed operators, he could
dashes. He teaches by vocalization copy maybe 2Ø%, which Steve
and demonstration - no assigned said “is more than enough to
homework or study of any kind. make a contact”. Steve encour-
He uses his ham radio station aged him to do just that - make
along with an electronic keyer contacts with operators going
and key paddle to demonstrate much too fast to “copy”. He did
and also uses on-the-air contacts. that, even if he could only copy a
His “proven CW teaching tech- call sign and name (Steve told
nique” after the ABC’s, he de- him: “that’s a complete con-
scribes as:-- t a c t ”). It didn’t take long for
Rob to copy in his head very sol-
To make the student put away his idly without pencil and paper
pencil and paper and just listen to (Steve said: “ I never use any ei-
the code at very high speeds, ther”). When Rob had upgraded
while he, Steve, sends familiar text, to General Class, Steve encour-
including words like the names of aged him to hang out near the
sports teams, cities and so forth. Extra Class subbands and find the
He said: “Don’t write anything really great operators to contact.
down. Just listen to the code, and He did that, too, and within three
if you get a little bit of it, that’s weeks, he had increased his code
fine.” speed from 5 to about 35 wpm
He taught his nine-year-old without using tapes, computer
nephew Rob (who has cerebral programs or any other “artifi-
palsy) when Rob got interested in cial” means. He just did it by
ham radio from watching Steve getting on the air and making
communicating with distant sta- contacts, which is how Steve says
tions. So Steve started teaching he did it, too.
him the code and in about 3 When Rob was 12 he passed the
weeks he passed the novice exam Advanced exam, and also took the
with flying colors at age 1Ø. Rob Extra Class exam where he passed
hacked around in the Novice CW the code element easily (1ØØ%
bands at 5 wpm for a while, when solid), all answers correct, without
one day he tuned where high writing anything down on paper,
speed operators were working but he failed the theory parts of
each other and was intrigued that the exam because he hadn’t had
they were going so fast. He tried enough math yet in school. Just
to copy them but was disheart-
92 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

before his 13 birthday he did Spenceley KV4AA known as

pass the full Extra Class exam. He “one of the world’s best opera-
now works CW contests where tors” taught Danny Weil so well
most QSO’s are at 45-5Ø wpm that within one month Danny had
and never writes anything down earned his license and was work-
except the other station’s call in ing DX at 2Ø wpm. his was the
his log. result of a good teacher and an
eager student.
This handicapped teen can
“copy” at almost any speed with Some Outstanding Examples Of
1ØØ% accuracy, but he doesn’t Effectiveness
really know a dit from a dah. He
didn’t learn the code this way. Conditioning Is Important
Code was always the easy part for
him. Rob is certain that anyone Katashi Nose KH6IJ (Physics De-
who can’t pass the code exam partment, University of Hawaii),
must be an idiot, since it wasn’t who became a high speed expert,
very hard for him and he has a taught teenagers the code for 25
learning disability, cerebral palsy years. His students never heard
which restricts his coordination. that “this will be hard, you’ll or
He had Steve’s excellent example you’ll have to fight a plateau.”
and was never told it might be They learned rapidly to good
“hard”, so it was always easy for working speeds of 2Ø - 3Ø wpm
him. He had a good attitude and in two to three weeks.
didn’t know there was any prob- The fastest code learner we have
lem. There seems to be no limit to ever heard of so far started code
his ability. He was learning it the practice for the examination just
right way from the very first ex- one week before he took the test
posure. and passed it! You say: “Wait a
minute. What goes on here?”
More Examples You’re right, there is a history
The U.S. Navy during WW-2 code behind this achievement. What
courses for the average person was it, and what can we learn from
required about 3 weeks to achieve it?
12-14 wpm to meet the rigid It was his conditioning, his back-
Navy requirement of perfect ac- ground. That played a crucial
curacy (military operations and part. His father was a skilled tele-
security at sea demanded letter- grapher at a country railroad sta-
perfect accuracy). This time, they tion. His earliest childhood
thought, could be shortened with memories were of sitting, fasci-
better teaching methods. nated, on the floor in his father’s
Waldo T. Boyd K6DZY was a telegraph office listening to the
graduate of the Navy Radio sounder clicking. Unconsciously
Communications School. In 3 he learned to recognize when his
months time he was copying 35 Dad’s station was being called,
wpm, and not long after that was and when he did, he would go to
copying 5Ø wpm easily. Dick get his Dad. It was only after he

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 93

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
was quite a bit older that he real-
ized that not all adult men could Determination and Persistence
automatically read Morse code in How long it should take depends
the same way that they could read on various factors. The first es-
and write English! sential is how we approach - this is
His mind had become so sensi- vital. Am I prepared? Do I really
tized to the sound of Morse code want to learn? Will I stick to it?
from birth and so saturated with it Am I determined to do it? All
that, when the time came to learn these are essential to rapid suc-
it properly, he had absolutely no cess.
hang-ups at all about “not being
able to do it”. He was totally By Contrast
conditioned and prepared. And in Old American Morse operators,
addition he may have felt, as al- using the old visual, then widely
most every teenager does, that practiced methods of teaching
“whatever Dad can do, I can do and experience, took about six
better”. Not many of us are so months to reach about 15 wpm
fortunate as to have this kind of and about two years to reach an
background, but does his history expert phase. Their code with its
suggest anything we could do? Is internal spaces does require more
there some way I can condition timing sense than International
my mind to make it easier? Isn’t Morse.
it the old story: what is familiar to
us doesn’t seem hard - it is easy. During WW-I in America, the ur-
gent need for wireless operators
Gary Bold, ZL1AN, well-known shoved most of them out the door
teacher in New Zealand, related into military service with only a
this story of a friend of his, and bare code proficiency, no experi-
suggests one way to approach it ence in operating either the
that works, even though it may equipment or the procedures.
sound silly. This is by playing
high quality code tapes in the WW-II American military radio
background (like music) while training schools provided more
you’re driving to work, washing rigorous code training, and some
the dishes, cleaning the car, etc. of them included, in their later
You don’t even have to listen to it phases, operational experience
consciously, he says. - Will it with wired QSO’s and even in-
work? It’s certainly worth a try. cluded interference. These practi-
cal exercises sometimes intro-
At the lowest skill levels: four- duced progressively worse QRM.
years-olds, barely able to write Some courses introduced typing
even block letters have been able from the very first, but for ad-
to pass the code test. How many vanced students typing was the
of us are willing to admit a four- rule. Those receiving high speed
year-old can outperform us? training also learned to copy high
Then consider these higher skill speed press. It is easy, and need
levels: not!take long to learn the Morse
code if one goes at it prepared
94 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
with the right attitudes and meth- vivid visual memory: they were
ods two different kinds of sensations
(sound and sight) -- they didn’t
Chapter 13 relate. In order to cross that gap
and relate them we had to give
The Role of Memory in Tele- conscious thought to build a
graphy bridge between them: to convert
Why Learning Initially by the sound pattern into a pattern of
Sight Doesn’t Work Well visual dots and dashes so that our
visual memory, where the “mem-
If you “memorized the code” (as ory” was, could interpret them.
I did) from a printed chart of dots That is why we stumbled and, un-
and dashes, or from a clever der the pressure of time, often
printed diagram or picture which missed out or even failed com-
vividly impressed the mind, you pletely. If we keep on this way we
felt you knew it. Maybe it only will have to form additional asso-
took you twenty minutes to ciation links for each individual
“memorize” it, as some advertis- code character in order to connect
ers claimed - or perhaps it took a them. This can be done, and has
day or two. Then if you!tried to been done, but it takes a lot of
send something in code with your time and also raises a new risk -
key, it was easy: you had a vivid the danger of interference be-
mental picture as to just how long tween them (two possible path-
to hold each element of a charac- ways, one conscious, the other the
ter, and this seemed to prove you new association formed) and pos-
knew the code. sible hesitation as a result.
But it was when you started to re- Our memories are complex
ceive, to listen to the code, that the mechanisms. To fill in the picture,
trouble began. The sounds you experimental studies on memory
heard just didn’t seem to match have for many years shown that
up with the dots and dashes you we have not only several kinds,
“knew” at all. Why should it be but also several levels of memo-
so hard to translate the code ries. First are what may be called
sounds into the dots and dashes the “sensory registers”, the very
and letters that you thought you short times during which, after we
knew so well? Those who have see or hear something, its sight or
made a study of memory tell us sound persists in our conscious-
that we have several separate ness as if we were still seeing or
memory banks: one for sight, one hearing it (persistence of vision or
for sound, others for touch, taste hearing) for a moment, then
and smell. (See, e.g., “Memory: quickly vanishes. However, if we
Surprising New Insights Into How are paying attention and are con-
We Remember and Why We For- scious of a sight or sound, it will
get” - Elizabeth Loftus, 198Ø) enter the appropriate “short-term
Now we see why: the code sounds memory” and stay there for
we heard couldn’t make any di- maybe 15-2Ø seconds before it,
rect connection at all with our too, fades out unless we deliber-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 95
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
ately try to remember it a bit the process of copying, the con-
longer,!or make a real effort to sciousness of content may be
put it into our “long-term mem- zero: you just mechanically copy
ory” bank by intending to re- (dictation) what is received, while
member it (by reinforcing it). you may be conscious only of
Long term memory is what we thinking of something quite ir-
usually think of as our “ m e m - relevant. However, in reading the
ory.” Because for most of us it code we are first conscious of the
seems easier to remember things words, and later conscious more
we have seen than things we have of the thoughts conveyed than
heard, the visual approach to being precisely aware of the
learning seems more attractive. words. In both these higher skill
But obviously, since receiving the levels, the words and thoughts are
code is a matter of hearing, we generally collected together into
should begin the right way, by at least the “short-term” memo-
training our auditory memory ries, and often carried over into
banks. Now we can see why the “long-term memories,” so
learning the code initially by eye that we “make sense” out of it all
is really the hard way, and actu- and follow what is being said as
ally creates a serious roadblock to we do in conversation.
advancement. Perhaps the only thing we are
conscious of, if we stop to think
Some Further Questions and about it at all, is that we want to
Thoughts understand and recall some of the
things said to us. Perhaps there is
The intricate inter-working of the an analogy with driving a car.
various parts of our minds and Here our eyes are receiving im-
brains raises questions as to what pressions from traffic, traffic sig-
is going on as we consider re- nals, certain sounds, and our
ceiving in the telegraphic codes. physical responses on steering
Memory studies are usually con- wheel, accelerator, brakes are so
cerned with things we are fully automatic that if we are asked
conscious of and desire either to later about some particular detail,
remember or to forget. With the we just can’t reply. These habitual
higher skills in code, however, it is physical responses to stimuli from
the operation of the unconscious specific events are especially
parts of the mind and its relations strongly retained over long peri-
with the consciousness that is of ods of time. The complete re-
primary interest, and how these tie sponse once started carries itself
together with the memory. out automatically and fully.
As our telegraphic skill level in- Another, less frequent occurrence
creases, the ABC’s of the me- is this: over the years it has been
chanics of language become more found that people sometimes have
and more the actions of the sub- retained mental “pictures” or
conscious mind, which in turn “sound recordings” of things in
may or may not bring them to the earlier life to which they had paid
attention of our consciousness. In no attention or had any interest
96 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
in. Under certain conditions they ing print with each character in
were able to recall them - even full context, not in sequential
things that!made no sense at the time. One operator accustomed to
time or later. One aged lady was operating in the 35-4Ø wpm
able to recall verbatim long range was out of it for five years.
speeches (in a language foreign to When he sat down to listen he
her) she had heard many years could copy only about 15 wpm:
previously. Another sang a song “I couldn’t believe it!” By noon
in the native language of her he was up to about 24 wpm and
mother, a language the singer later in the afternoon was up to
never understood at all. The ex- his old speeds again. Just a few
perts tell us that “long term hours of practice were needed.
memory” does not mean either “One can indeed get awfully
permanent memory or accurate rusty,” he said
memory. All memories tend to
weaken or fade out with time, and Chapter 14
further, that they can and usually
are altered in various ways so that The Ear
the recall is distorted, or some- By “ear” we mean our total
times even reversed from the hearing and interpretive sys-
original. tem, an intricate and ingen-
One exception is those memories ious complete system of per-
associated with physically-related ception and interpretation of
skills, such as playing a musical what is heard: ears, nerves,
instrument, driving a vehicle, ste- and mind.
nography, telegraphy, etc. People The ears themselves are sensitive
who have not practiced such skills over a very wide range of intensi-
for many years will generally ties, but have their maximum sen-
show surprising agility after dec- sitivity and selectivity at low vol-
ades of non-use. A little practice ume levels. Setting the sound
will usually put them back to volume level just high enough to
nearly their best performance, be clearly readable, both protects
barring physical disability. This the hearing and improves per-
has been demonstrated over and formance. The ear responds to
over. There is certainly room here what it hears first.
for further research into this fas-
cinating subject as we look for Pitch Of CW Signal
specifically better ways to im-
prove our telegraphic skills. The ear is sensitive to pitch. Few
Those operators in commercial people can accurately remember
work who read the tapes by eye pitch (“absolute pitch”), but
seldom if ever learned CW as we most have no trouble detecting
know it, but rather learned the changes and differences in pitch.
visual appearance of words and Not many seem actually to be
letters on the tapes in groups. “tone deaf.” The usual pitch
There is also another aspect to range used for CW is between
tape reading: it is more like read- 5ØØ and 1ØØØ Hz. Some find
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 97
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
the best pitch for copying in in- selves.” Some students may have
terference is about 5ØØ Hz. difficulty distinguishing dits from
Those with serious hearing losses dahs. (The normal ratio is 1:3.)
- who cannot hear certain pitches, For them it may help to overem-
or who cannot distinguish code phasize the length of the dahs at
signals in the usual pitch range first by lengthening them from 3
because their ears “ring” where units to 4. (It is interesting that in
the spaces should be - may find a American Morse the dahs tended
lower pitch (e.g. 3ØØ - 4ØØ Hz) to become shorter than three
helps. Sometimes using a buzzer units, to contrast with the longer
tone, or adding white noise to the dahs of L and zero. Again, it may
tone may enable them to hear be the nature of the sounder that
properly. (Note: Avoid the use of led to this.)
an actual buzzer in teaching as it There are good reasons for be-
has a delay in starting to sound. lieving that we must distinguish
This distorts the timing.) between conscious perception of
The usual narrow bandwidth of duration and what the brain actu-
tone for CW is uncomfortable to ally is capable of perceiving at
some people and may become subconscious levels. Support for
monotonous, uncomfortable or this belief comes from the experi-
unpleasant. The narrower the ences of those operators who can
pitch range the more frequent the receive code signals accurately at
complaint. They find a more speeds which far exceed the point
complex tonal pattern far less tir- where dits and dahs all sound
ing and even pleasant. However, alike. See Chapter 1Ø.
when interference is present more The Ear Can Often Make Sense
complex tones become a hin- Out Of Poor Sending
The ear is remarkable in being
Sensitivity To Duration Of Sound able to make sense out of some
In the perception of rhythm the pretty badly mangled code, such
human ear will adapt itself within as is often heard on the air. It is a
rather wide limits in the actual forgiving organ: by mental ad-
duration of sounds. Our judgment justment one can quickly learn to
of the duration of a brief sound is recognize and read quite poorly
poor, perhaps because of a per- timed code - code whose glaring
sistence of sound (like persistence defects would stand out promi-
of vision), yet we can judge the nently if traced out on paper.
relative length of brief silent in- Within fairly wide limits the actual
tervals rather well. (This is proba- duration of the sound in a rhyth-
bly why the telegraph sounder has mic pattern may vary and still be
worked so well for receiving recognized. However, the spacing
American Morse, where rhythm within and between characters and
patterns are complex.) Thus, “ I f words is a highly significant fac-
we take care for the spaces, the tor.
‘marks’ will take care of them-
98 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Some distortions of proportion weak sound energy in. The sig-
are less unintelligible than others. nal-to-noise ratio can be increased
Better discrimination exists when by reversing the phasing of the
the dits are too fast as compared phones: that is, the noise at one
to the dahs than!when!the dits and phone is 18Ø degrees out of
dahs begin to approach the same phase with the other and the brain
length (easily confused). The ear tends to cancel the noise. Noise
can often read this kind of stuff type ear plugs can also help with
when “machinery” fails. phones and/or filters to reduce
spurious noises
The Trained Ear Can Discrimi-
nate Between Signals Chapter 15
The normal ear can learn to sepa- Timing
rate between signals nearly, but
not quite, identical in pitch. For Timing Is The Heart Of The
many people the ear-brain filter Code
can focus on a bandwidth as nar- Timing is the heart of the code:
row as!5Ø - 1ØØ Hz. If one can there is no code without it. Clear
focus on a 5Ø Hz. bandwidth with intelligibility depends upon right
a receiver having a 3 KHz. noise proportions. However, it is true
bandwidth, a CW signal nearly 18 that some distortions are less un-
dB below the noise level can be intelligible than others, and peo-
heard. However, a bandwidth of ple can learn to read that sort of
about 5ØØ Hz., rather than a very stuff - but is it justifiable? Control
narrow one, makes the mechanics of timing rests entirely with the
of tuning easier and gives freer sending operator.
rein to the ear-brain filter.
For this reason, attention to care-
It is usually only when the going ful timing is first needed when the
gets quite rough that we need an student starts to practice with a
extremely narrow receiving filter - manual key, especially a straight
and then there is the!risk of losing key, though also with most other
the signal entirely if anything types. This is one reason why
shifts just a little. It has been said some good teachers discourage
that “The amateur ear, trained to the use of anything but a key-
dig out signals buried six layers board by a beginner. Most mod-
deep in murderous QRM is the ern teachers agree that it is im-
most prized ear in intercept work portant not to specifically men-
in all the world.” tion the subject of timing until the
Headphones Are Superior To A student has learned the alphabet
Speaker and numbers so well by hearing
them that he recognizes their pat-
Headphones effectively double terns without hesitation.
the power of received signals Some teachers recommend that
compared to a loudspeaker. The other than using “dits” and
muffs on the phones keep out “dahs” to verbalize characters,
extraneous noises and keep the
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 99
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
they should not be time-analyzed We must learn to hear these pat-
at all in teaching, but that it all be terns, sense them, feel them, and
done intuitively by sound. On the this is best done by hearing well-
other hand, some excellent teach- sent code. In actual practice, indi-
ers of the past (before keyers and vidual operators may and do de-
keyboards) have insisted on viate somewhat from the standards
teaching precise timing, in terms given above. This may be for em-
of its elements, from the very first. phasis or because of communica-
Accurate timing is vital, but it tion conditions, as well as uncon-
must never distract the student scious individual variations.
from the basic recognition of
characters by their essential unity Relative Duration And Spacing
of patterning: it must not lead to Are Very Important
his breaking down the character-
istic rhythm of the characters by In the perception of rhythm by
analyzing them into components. the human ear the precise dura-
tion of sounds is, within fairly
The Basic Units wide limits, unimportant. If the
longer signals (i.e., dahs) are sub-
The basic unit of code timing is stantially longer than the shorter
the Baud, which is the duration of ones (i.e., dits), the ear will be sat-
one dit (or “dot”), denoted here isfied. While our judgment of the
by 1 for the “on” signal, and by duration of brief sounds is poor,
(the equal unit) Ø (zero) for si- we can judge the relative length of
lence, the “off” signal. The basic brief silence intervals much more
contrasting signal to the “dit” is accurately.
the dah which has a duration of 3 It has been said: “If you take care
units (111). It is obvious that each of the spaces, the ‘marks’ will
dit and each dah must be sepa- take care of themselves.” Spac-
rated both before and after by at ing, the periods of silence between
least one unit silence (Ø) in order parts of a character, between char-
to be distinguishable: this (one acters in a word or group, and
unit) is the normal spacing be- between words, is critical to good
tween parts of a character. Normal receiving. Sloppy or hastily sent
spacing between characters within code can be a terror to receive
a word (or group) is three units and understand. (Beyond some
(ØØØ), and between words (or speed the persistence-of-hearing
groups) is seven units effect tends to fill in the small
(ØØØØØØØ). spaces and make us unable to
Punctuation marks normally fol- consciously recognize characters.)
low the last word with only one [In American Morse with its three
character space (ØØØ) between. It different lengths of dashes, each
is these components of time, sig- successively longer one was
nal “on”, short or long, and taught as being twice as long as
“off”, which produce the pat- the next shorter one!-- an amount
terns or rhythms which distin- which is clearly “hearable” under
guish one character from another. almost any conditions. In practice,

100 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
however, because they used a For many operators there was a
telegraph sounder which marks certain pride in this. However,
the start of a signal by one kind there is a danger here also, be-
of click, and its end by a differ- cause some operators deliberately
ent-sounding click, with silence in created peculiar styles of sending
between, these durations were of- as a sort of trademark. When such
ten shortened without confusion distortion reaches a certain point
for reasons stated above. The and becomes habitual, intelligibil-
same thing was true for its inter- ity suffers. We hear some of these
nally spaced characters.] operators today on the air. They
Code “translators”, micro- do not seem to realize, or perhaps
circuitry for converting code into even care about the difficulty they
print, break down when sending is cause. With the advent of the
poor or interference is severe. The “double speed key”, also called
human ear and mind, however, the “side-swiper” or the “cootie
can copy rotten code far better key”, a key which is operated by
than any machine. The “ear” is a sidewise movement, with one
forgiving organ: by mental com- contact on each side, a new set of
pensation we can quickly recog- peculiar styles of sending arose.
nize and read stuff as passable Sidewise instead of up and down
code, which if it were recorded on motion helped relieve some forms
paper tape would show its glaring of fatigue, but also the peculiar
defects. In the presence of inter- motion patterns developed a dif-
fering signals and static, and to a ferent timing pattern, one that is
large extent during fading, the sometimes hard to copy.
“ear” can be trained to pick out The use of “bugs”, semi-
a very weak signal and read it automatic keys (the best known
well. (Chapter 11) being the “Vibroplex”) which
soon became very popular, also
Irregularities In Timing gave rise to various personal
From the very beginning of tele- sending peculiarities unless the
graphy, as soon as the art began operator was careful.
to!spread, the individuality of op- Swings
erators became apparent. Little
peculiarities in sending stood out One of the most interesting devel-
to identify each one, just as voice opments in disturbed timing of
quality and style do in speaking. hand sending was the rise of so-
Mostly these were subtle little called “swings.” Swing has to do
things which did not distract from with a change in the normal
easy intelligibility. But they did rhythm of sending, sometimes
involve aspects of timing and described as a change in symme-
rhythm. We hear them today on try or lack of it: a peculiar way of
the CW bands among amateurs forming the characters. Swings
using hand keys just as they did most commonly developed
among all operators in the past. among marine operators within a
close-knit group having a large
volume of specialized communi-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 101
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
cations. Thus we have the names the rolling motion of boats con-
“Banana boat swing”, “Lake tributed to forming it. The name
Erie swing”, “Cuban swing”, etc. “Cuban swing” or “Latin
The operators of the large United swing” came from the way most
Fruit Co. were especially noted Cuban and Mexican operators ran
for this. Some have claimed that their words together. Sometimes it
swings developed as a most effec- must have been quite deliberate -
tive way of copying the early day just to try to be individualistic,
spark signals (which sounded so such as!a jerk in forming H P C S
much like static) through heavy 4 5 Y Q; a lengthening of one of
static. The basic principle of the dahs a bit in J, 1, etc.; any
“sea-going swing” was to exag- “funny” little stroke. But these
gerate the spacing between letters things made them hard to copy
when a letter ending with a dah by other operators.
was followed by one beginning Early in 1936 the Eastern Air
with a dah, and similarly for one Lines (EAL) communications su-
ending in a dit when the next be- pervisor decided to develop an
gan with a dit. The spacing before EAL swing for its operators. He
and after an!E!within a word was dreamed up the idea of modify-
often made a bit longer for clar- ing a “bug” by moving the sta-
ity. Exaggerated dah lengths were tionary dot post a half inch for-
common also in the attempt to ward. This produced a swing like
improve readability: e.g., the first none ever heard before. The op-
dah in C was generally dragged erators did not like it and soon
out slightly. repositioned the post, but it un-
Other individual rhythmic distur- consciously influenced the send-
bances were common also, such as ing of many of them ever after.
drawing out the second dah in Recently operators in a foreign
“Q” (which we often hear on the navy were found almost impossi-
air today). In order to avoid con- ble to understand at first because
fusion in the midst of typically of a peculiar rhythm taught by
heavy Gulf of Mexico static, their telegraph instructors.
sending the call signs of two main Over the years, peculiarities of this
shore stations was modified: -- the sort have often been observed in
P of WPA was made with long other parts of the world as well.
dahs, while the space between A These, too, would have to be
and X of WAX was exaggerated called “swings“. Swings. The
and the dahs of X were length- earliest comment found so far
ened. This stopped the confusion. about swing is from Radio News
In later years such swings were Dec. 1921 p.565: “The American
found necessary for intelligibility Radio Operator” (commercial
in low frequency marine work and shipboard): criticizes “t h e
when signals were barely audible. cultivation of a fancy or eccentric
Some said “Banana boat” swing style of sending, believed clever in
developed from call letters KFUC, originality, but causes the receiv-
the general call for all United ing operator to make more effort
Fruit Co. ships. Others suggested to copy than usual. He introduces
102 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
a jerk in his H’s, P’s, C’s, 3’s, 4’s, ing in the presence of a
5’s, Y’s, and Q’s and makes one teacher or!classmates.
of the dashes of J and 1, etc., a _ It can provide both an ex-
trifle longer than the rest... A cellent introduction to the
tricky swing he makes as an effort code and growth in skill to
to acquire the ‘funny’ stroke as he any desired degree.
goes on. - Consider the other op-
erator!” Many Computer Programs Are
Chapter 16
See also Chapter 18. Computer
Other Methods programs have been and some are
Personal Computers And Key- still available for the Commodore
boards For Self-Learning and Apple computers, but most
have been for the IBM-
For self-learning nothing is supe- compatible PC’s. They have been
rior to a Personal Computer (PC) of all sizes and varieties, accord-
or a keyboard where the student ing to the skill, teaching experi-
can push a key and hear each ence and ingenuity of the pro-
character (and see it in print if gramming writers. Many provide
there is a screen), as often as he for connecting the computer with
wishes or needs to get the feel of the transmitter and using the
its rhythm. The PC especially has computer as a keyboard Some
become such a valuable tool that provide an evaluation of the stu-
some teachers (as Gary Bold) dent’s sending skills.
consider it to be superior to pri- One of the important features for
vate or classroom learning. rapid learning is the degree
_ It is consistent, always of!adaptability to the student and
sending perfect code in ex- the amount of interaction with
actly the same way. him that is provided. How flexible
are they? Do they provide checks
_ It is always available and on skill and accuracy? One ex-
ready to be used whenever ample of an interactive computer
the student wants to prac- program (Gary Bold’s) starts the
tice. new student out by having him
_ Most computer teaching hear the character, then keying in
programs provide for easy his identification of it. If his iden-
tailoring to the exact needs tification is correct, the character
of the individual student. is then displayed on the screen.
But if he is wrong, his answer is
_ A PC is impersonal and ignored, and the character is re-
there is never any reason peated until he correctly identifies
for the student to feel em- it. The same character is then pre-
barrassment, something sented several more times for his
which often is an emotional correct response before taking up
deterrent to efficient learn- the next one. If he delays too
long in responding, the character
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 103
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
is repeated (and may be displayed
simultaneously) until he gets it. Learning By Listening To High
Speed Code
After a number (per student’s
request) of new characters have A few hams in years gone by have
been introduced, they are re- said that they initially “learned
peated in random order, and if the code” by listening to fast
one is misidentified, it is repeated commercial press dispatches
until the student correctly identi- (probably 35 - 45 wpm), which
fies it. This program then ingen- were then available day and night.
iously ratios the next series of (Did they mean starting out, or
random characters in proportion advancing? Just how they actually
to the number of times any of began is not clear.) They claim
them have been misidentified, un- that they found they could iden-
til the student reduces this ratio tify a letter here and there, then
significantly. Many PC programs short words, and within a couple
provide a considerable variety of of months were reading it all.
practice material beyond the ini- However, this approach may not
tial learning and recognition have been very efficient - for
stage. Computer programs can be most of us it might prove discour-
versatile tools for rapid advance- aging - and probably depended
ment, tailored to individual needs. greatly upon the mental makeup
Keyboards may provide for some of the learner as well as his enthu-
of these various factors, depend- siasm. We mention it here only to
ing on how they have been de- show what can be done if one is
signed and programmed. There determined enough.
are some smaller pocket sized
“computers” which are limited to Further Comments On Gaining
hearing practice only. Speed

Growing Up With Hearing It With many modern computer

code programs available, pro-
Old timer George Hart W1NJM is grammable keyboards and keyers,
one who learned the code origi- as well as tapes, etc., there are sev-
nally, as he says, by “osmosis” eral attractive alternates available.
from an older brother who was a With these, material can be better
ham - just by listening, with no tailored for our individual needs.
intention of learning it or getting The Farnsworth method suggests
a license. This way he learned itself here in the high speed range,
frequent letters and operating too, to allow the mind time to di-
procedures until one day he dis- gest and identify characters and
covered he could communicate words. Using this, some have
by code. From then on he was found that to set up a character
hooked! He later wrote: “ [I was] speed in the 5Ø - 6Ø wpm range
practically born with a key in my and then widening the inter-letter
hand, so CW [was] as natural to and inter-word spaces initially,
me as talking.” gradually reducing them as de-
sired, can speed up the recogni-
tion process.
104 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
W1AW CW bulletins. They are at
Sleep Learning 18 wpm. Start out the first few
A number of operators in the past days and just listen for no more
who desperately wanted to in- than one minute. Then turn it off.
crease their receiving skills delib- As you listen, pick out the char-
erately tried sleeping beside their acters you recognize. Don’t write
receivers or playback recording anything down at all the first few
equipment (or their line telegraph days like this. After a few days,
sounders in the case of landline increase your listening time to two
operators) with fast code signals minutes and continue to pick out
coming through for several hours as many characters as you can in
or all night. They claimed that your head - and don’t write any-
within a surprisingly short time thing down yet. Then turn it off,
they had great increases in re- as before. After eight to ten days
ceiving speed. This procedure has of this practice, go back to the
been challenged, but apparently one minute period of listening,
works for some people. but this time write down every-
thing you can recognize. Try to
One ham, who says he can copy at leave blank spaces where you miss
7Ø wpm and still wants to increase out. Write down every letter you
above that, has for years been lis- can catch for that one minute pe-
tening this way every night. riod, then turn it off. Repeat this
Maybe it works for some people, practice for several days, then ex-
but I wonder if it is actually ef- tend the time to two minutes,
fective, and also whether they got writing down everything you can
any restful sleep that way. It is recognize. After several days or a
interesting that in the early week or so this way you will find
192Ø’s a group of doctors were your comprehension coming up
being trained to use Morse code. fairly rapidly because your con-
Their teachers tried sleep-learning centration is improving and you
with them, and found that if the will be surprised how much you
word “doctor” was sent while can copy in just this short period
they were sound asleep during the of time. From here on gradually
night, it would nearly always wake increase your listening time to 3,
them immediately - showing that 4, 5, 6 or 7 minutes. When you
there is some kind of unconscious can copy somewhere around 6Ø%
receptivity and response. of the bulletin materials you will
find that you can copy 13 wpm,
Another Suggestion That Has the test speed, with flying colors.
Worked This scheme has worked well for a
When someone comes to me and number of people who had
asks how to make the 13 wpm reached speeds between 5 and 1Ø
requirement for General class, I wpm, but had difficulty in ad-
give them the following plan of vancing. This general pattern
working:- should prove of help to others
aiming for the 2Ø wpm test or
“You need to listen every day to higher.”
good sending, and I suggest the
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 105
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

McElroy’s Course and His Chapter 17

Claims For It
Common Errors and What To
Although this does not fall into Do About Them
the above categories, here is what
was said:- Both in sending and receiving
errors are sometimes made.
In the Nov. 1945 QST, p 115, was
an ad in which Ted McElroy’s Good operators make very few if
Company offered to “send you any while sending, but “errors”
this complete course of instruc- do occur both during sending and
tion (McElroy’s ‘Morse’ Code especially while receiving under
Course) free so you can see for various adverse conditions. These
yourself what it’ll do for you. It make it necessary for us to keep
was said to contain “everything in mind letters that may be mis-
he has learned in 3Ø years of op- takenly formed or because of
erating experience.” “Assuming poor conditions appear to sound
that the average person will prac- alike:-
tice several hours the first day, we _ Dotting errors - too many
can tell you ... that you’ll be or too few dits are made or
copying That Very First Day, thought to be heard:- H/5
words and sentences at the rate of S/H B/6 V/4 Z/7
2Ø wpm. The thing is that ingen-
ious! Ted has taken one-half the _ Initial or final dits or dahs
alphabet which appears on his missed or confused. (On
chart No. 1, prepared a practice the receiving end there is a
tape which runs for at least one tendency to hear signals as
full hour without attention at the being shorter than they
rate of 2Ø wpm. You won’t copy are):- J/1 C/Y P/J Z/Q W/J
2Ø full words in one minute. But W/P
each letter you write will hit your _ Other characters which be-
ears at a full 2Ø wpm and the ginners may confuse, par-
space between letters becomes ticularly:- F/L G/W Y/Q 6/5
progressively shorter as the rolls Errors that the beginner or
go along.” Since Ted’s receiving trainee experiences in his
speed records were tops in almost own work can be turned
every official speed contest, it into advantages.
would be very interesting to see
this document. At present, the Specific errors that are!often re-
above is all that seems to be avail- peated show us where we need to
able. give special practice. If we tend to
confuse two characters, we can
eliminate it by hearing them one
after another until their differ-
ences in rhythm become obvious
to us.
When we look over our copy
and find non-sense or ob-
106 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
vious missed out areas, the mind, the following programs
correction can often be have been found representative,
made simply from exam- both adequate and good. It is
ining the!context. (This quite impossible here to go into
will!generally not work for the many details of each program,
numbers, scrambled letters so only the barest outline is given
or call signs, where there is for information. They all provide
no repetition to help out.) a range of speeds and pitch of the
Normal procedure when tone. Some provide various op-
you catch yourself making tions of screen or printing capa-
an error while you are bilities, etc., and/or allow the user
sending may be handled to remodel it for his preferences,
something like this: - etc. Some provide various ways of
_ stop, indicate error by “?” increasing or decreasing speed
(or by eight dits), then re- while sending. All use the speaker
peat the last correct word in the computer for sound output.
(especially if it is short), Helps are provided on screen in
and then the one sent most of the programs.
wrong and continue on, or (“Freeware” means that there is
no mandatory cost to the user
_ in rag chewing unimportant other than that of providing the
matter, simply stop a mo- diskette. “Commercial” means
ment and restart with the the program is for sale on the
word mis-sent, market.) Unless otherwise noted
_ similarly, if it is a long word all are IBM-compatible.
and the first syllable or so Morse University
has been correctly sent, and
it is a word which the re- ($5Ø)- was an excellent Ad-
ceiving operator surely will vanced Electronic Applica-
immediately understand, tions program for the
just pause a moment and Commodore C-64 com-
then go on with the next puter, plugged into car-
word. tridge slot, with manual.. It
(The pause will indicate to him included
the problem.) _ a learning program,
Chapter 18 _ a proficiency program to
increase speed,
Computer Programs And _ a sending analysis (charac-
Tapes For Learning And Im- ters and spacings),
proving Skill In Code
_ a receiving game to recog-
It is always a bit risky to try to list nize characters under pres-
currently available materials and sure and a Morse keyboard
books. These change with time, to compose ones own code
some for the better, a few for the practice sessions.
worse, and some simply vanish
from the scene. With that in
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 107
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
1. Learning was at 2Ø wpm Enhance phase extended this to as
Farnsworth character speeds fast as one might want, while a
with a 3 second interval Measure phase provided for test-
between characters. There ing of skill with built-in or user-
were 54 basic lessons, plus constructed tests, and finally an
7 which teach the German, Operate phase. Interaction was
Spanish and Swedish char- provided in several aspects.
acters, if desired. It was
suggested that one spend
two 2Ø minute sessions Morseman+ By Robin Gist
each day, and at the end of NE4L/ZF2PM
a month many would have
achieved a solid 2Ø wpm Has a Tutorial module teaching
receiving speed, and have the characters, a Trainer module
enjoyed learning. Several developing skill, another, “Test-
options were available. ing” provided for various evalua-
tions of skill, while an Interactive
2. Proficiency sent a random mode provided for certain user-
sequence of characters with response reactions. Several types
programmable starting and of practice were provided in each
finishing speed. Speed was of these modes or modules.
adjustable(5 - 99 wpm),
length of practice (up to an GGTE Morse Tutor Gold
hour), number of different
characters (up to 45), size
of groups, and length of Version 2.Ø1 for IBM PC, XT,
intervals between charac- AST and equivalents ($29.95 plus
ters. $4.ØØ S & H). 11 lessons for ba-
Late Note: “Morse University”, sic learning. Each lesson reviewed
now called “Ham University” previous characters as well as in-
(because it also covers the writtentroducing new ones, up to lesson
exams) is now sold for Microsoft 12 which provided random QSO
Windows by Michael Crick at practice of infinite variety up to a This new length of 1Ø minutes per QSO.
version also includes a new Morse User specifies Farnsworth and all
code game called “Pentode” that speeds as desired up to over 5Ø
was inspired by “Tetris”. wpm. Character Excellent Non-
Commercial Programs Presently
SuperMorse By Lee Murrah, Available. Morse Tutor Gold has
WD5CID been tested by Creative Labs and
is certified to work with all Sound
A great deal of variety was built Blaster sound cards.
into this program, which is really
a series of integrated programs. A The Mill. by James S. Farrior,
learning phase introduced the W4FOK
student to the code characters, a
Building speed phase provided MILLØØa is the present status of
variety in practice materials, an long MILL developments by
108 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
James S. Farrior, W4FOK. It is and may be readily modified by
unique among the many freeware the user. Like most other pro-
programs in providing for both grams, it has several unique fea-
old American Morse and Interna- tures. Each portion is a self-
tional codes at user’s selection. contained program. “ T e a c h ”
Jim has gone to great lengths in interacts with the beginner, and
designing the character formation regulates the instruction accord-
controls to incorporate the feature ing to correctness and error in
of old Morse environmental vari- responses. “Random” practice
ability (see Chapter 2Ø) to such a programs are provided for code
degree that it sounds “natural” to groups for any subset of charac-
old time Morse operators, unlike ters or words from any source. A
the machine-regular International sending program sends any
code, and has simulated sounders ASCII files for copying or read-
and output for regular telegraph ing practice. A keyboard program
sounders. sends whatever is keyed in the
There is a basic learning section, a keyboard. An interesting module
section for sending any file the is provided for key input to ana-
user wishes to send, and another lyze the quality of the user’s
allows the user to create files he sending.
may wish to use. Another feature There are also other similar pro-
provides for using the computer grams both freeware and com-
as a control of the transmitter, mercial. Some PC programmers
using any of the other program have been able to prepare their
aspects which are appropriate. It is own programs tailored to their
a carefully designed and elegant own particular needs. A number
program, and Jim continues de- of interactive programs are avail-
veloping improvements. It was able which give either immediate
written in QBASIC. and is avail- or delayed helps to the student -
able from James S. Farrior these offer tremendous help in
W4FOK, 1332 Harrison Point learning. Some may also allow
Trail, Fernandina Beach FL, the more advanced student to
32Ø34, and any user, including conduct QSO’s with the computer
Tony Smith G4FAI at: 13 Morley program, just as if he was actually
Road, Sheringham, Norfolk NR26 on the air. The potential here is
8JE England. great indeed. Finally, there are available computer programs and devices which can read received
code transmissions. Because they
The Morse Tutor Program are machines, they can only read
code signals which are reasonably
This program is the result of an- accurate in timing. For the student
other similar development for In- who has access to one of these, it
ternational Morse by Gary E. J. will give him a chance to test his
Bold ZL1AN, professor and long own sending for accuracy. How-
time code teacher in New Zea- ever, they are not recommended
land. It is written for GW-BASIC.
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 109
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
as substitutes for personal receiv- each character and then the nar-
ing by ear rator immediately identified it.
Then did the same thing on the
NuMorse by Tony Lacy G4AUD second side, reviewing all previous
material without the narrator. This is to train ear and brain to work
NuMorse Professional is a brand together first without the compli-
new code trainer that has some- cation of writing. After comforta-
thing for everybody. bly mastering the first tape, go to
the second, etc, through all six
You have a choice of training tapes. The first tape presents the
courses! The First Steps feature characters E T I A M N which
will gently introduce you to the have one or two elements. Each
code and take you through a step- subsequent tape adds characters
by-step structured training course. having one additional element, up
NuMorse Pro can offer a Koch to the fifth tape where numerals
based course as well! and punctuation are introduced.”
A. Lacy, Llanoris, Llanerfyl, To be practiced 3Ø minutes a
Welshpool, Powys. SY21 ØEP day. The Study Guide detailed
United Kingdom the methods and theories used. --
The two other courses take the
Code Tapes For Learning And student up over 13 wpm, and up
For Other Purposes over 2Ø wpm.
The ARRL, several companies and In the past, as noted in Chapter
some individuals which make or 25, the Instructograph Co. and the
have made tapes for cassette re- Teleplex Co. were the best known
corders for learning up to the makers of punched and inked
2Ø+ wpm seed range and higher, paper tape machines for code in-
and some have prepared punched struction and training and used
paper tapes for high speed trans- both by commercial operators
mission and reception. Some of and by amateurs.. Commercially
these tapes are excellent, but some the Boehm inked tape and the
are of poor quality. The ARRL Kleinschmidt perforated paper
tapes are of high quality. tape machines were the most
commonly used. We mention
The Twin Oaks Associates (mental these here because they were
health professionals) offered code sometimes used for teaching or
training programs. Three courses practicing the code, but much
using cassettes and an instruction more often for commercial
book, emphasized learning by ear transmission of code at high
- mentally or verbally recognizing speeds.
what is sent automatically. Course
1, alphabet took to over 5 wpm. Similar systems were manufac-
“Practice listening through the tured during WW-II by Ted
first side, without writing anything McElroy’s company. With these
down or rewinding to pick up machines the operator would pre-
anything. Side one first sounds pare the tape for transmission,
either on a typewriter keyboard or
110 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
with a special three-key device, arms or shutters making block
for transmission. Transmission patterns (at night some used light
speeds of the tapes might go up to configurations) for distance sig-
several hundreds of words per naling within line of sight.
minute when conditions were All these systems (often aided by
good. At the receiving end the the use of telescopes) were subject
equipment would reproduce the to weather and visibility limita-
incoming signals on a corre- tions, and generally required at
sponding paper tape, inked or least two operators at the receiving
otherwise. The receiving operator end - one to look and the other to
was trained to read the tapes much write. Where considerable dis-
as the good reader of ordinary tances (a hundred miles or more)
print does, by words or phrases. were involved relay stations were
He would read the tape as it was established. These signaling sys-
pulled past his eyes in a sort of tems conveyed a symbolic mes-
track while he transcribed it on a sage or spelled out words for vis-
typewriter at comfortable speeds. ual reception. A few electric or
Typing speeds of 6Ø - 7Ø wpm electrochemical systems were de-
seem to have been typical. veloped using some method of
McElroy prepared and promoted spelling out words by transmitted
materials for building up these letter symbols. Morse’s system
skills on his equipment. was not the first to use electricity.
Chapter 19 During the early 18ØØ’s several
electrical and electro-chemical
A Brief History of Morse systems (which overcame the visi-
Telegraphy – Part I bility problem, which was compli-
cated by weather conditions) were
It would be very interesting to invented and used. Some of them
know the thinking behind the de- were quite ingenious, but tended
velopment of the original Morse to be cumbersome, rather slow
code. It had to be tied in inti- and troublesome to maintain.
mately with the limitations of the
electro-magnetic mechanisms Morse’s ingenuity was in com-
being designed to transmit and bining a simple electro-
receive it. Records show that be- mechanical system with some sort
ginning as early as the B.C.’s re- of “linear” coding. Samuel F. B.
flected sunlight (heliography) by Morse ingeniously foresaw the
day, and lamps, lights or fires at newly discovered principle of
night, were used for some kind of electromagnetism in combination
elementary signaling. By the A.D. with some sort of “linear” cod-
17ØØ’s (and well into the ing as the key to developing a
18ØØ’s) several semaphore sys- truly practical telegraphic system.
tems had been devised and were It could provide the relative sim-
in rather extensive use in Europe plicity and ruggedness needed for
and elsewhere. These used an al- the equipment. Like Marconi half
phabetic code formed by the con- a century later, his vision to com-
figurations of two or more signal bine these newly discovered prin-
ciples and the entrepreneurial
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 111
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
drive to bring them into use made critical, but it was a tedious, slow
telegraphy what it became in the and clumsy system (as well as
field of communication for many being rather subject to errors
decades. Two features were which could only be found on
needed: equipment and a suitable deciphering). Not much ingenuity
code. As originally conceived it was required to develop the code
was to be a self-recording system, symbols for the digits: he simply
inscribing the code signals on a used from one to five dots to rep-
strip of paper tape to be read by resented the numbers 1 -5, and
eye. There was no thought given extended this through 9 and zero
to “reading” it by ear alone. by a longer short space following
(here indicated by the symbol @).
The Original Morse Code
Here is his code:- 1 2 3 4 5 6
His coding system begun in 1832 7 8 9 Ø . .. ... .... ..... . @
was a translation system consisting .. @ ... @ .... @ ..... @
of two essential parts: With such a system, the duration
_ a two-way code book or of the dots was not critical, but the
dictionary in which each relative spacings were important.
English word was assigned What a tedious, slow and clumsy
a number (and in order to system it would have been (as well
spell out proper names, un- as being rather highly subject to
usual words, initials, etc., errors which could only be found
when necessary, each letter on deciphering). The overall idea
of the alphabet was also as- was ingenuous, and the actual
signed a number), and code signals used for the digits
were simplicity itself. But his
_ a code symbol for each coding system was the weak link
digit from Ø - 9 to repre- in his whole system, and would
sent that number. hardly find wide acceptance.
So, the sender would convert each (Later, this code-translation-book
word to a number, send that num- method was applied in China
ber and the receiver would then where it made sense to convert the
convert it back again to the Eng- Chinese characters to numbers,
lish word with a reverse diction- using an already available stan-
ary. In devising the symbols for dard Chinese dictionary in which
the digits, Morse seems to have each character had for other rea-
recognized that a receiving op- sons been assigned a number.)
erator could easily read by eye up
to five printed dots, but that a Who Invented What We Call
larger number of dots would be The Morse Code
more difficult to read quickly and
accurately, and would be more Chapter 2 of George P. Oslin’s
subject to error, as well as taking book “The Story of Telecommu-
longer to transmit. nications” opens with these
With such a system, the duration
of the dots and spaces was not “Ask almost any American who
invented the telegraph, and the
112 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
answer will be ‘Morse’, but he pert assistant, wrote on March 11,
did not create the dot-and-dash 1853 that “his agreement with
Morse code, the Morse key, or Morse provided ‘that whatever
the stylus recorder.” Mr. Smith, Dr. Gale, or myself
Who was Mr. Oslin, and where did should invent or discover, going
he get this information? to simplify or improve Morse’s
telegraph would belong to all
He was a journalist who later be- jointly” (24).
came public relations director of
Western Union. To prepare this However, Morse never shared any
book he exhaustively investigated of this, and constantly cut Vail off
newspaper articles, magazines, from any public recognition for
books and more than 1ØØ,ØØØ his work. Because of this, we
letters and diaries of those in- know almost no details about the
volved and condensed it. (He was development history of the alpha-
93 years old when the book was betic versions of the code. We can
published.) Pages 13 to 28 are be sure that if this code had been
devoted to a summary of the ori- the work of Morse himself, he
gins of Morse telegraphy, from would most certainly have care-
which the following quotations fully elaborated every step of its
come. Previous publications had development. (This is one clue
only hinted at what Mr. Oslin has previously published materials
said so clearly. (The numbers in provide us.) A second factor was
parentheses refer to pages in his that they were physically sepa-
book.) rated during most of the first six
or seven years: Morse was in New
In order to understand the confu- York City while Alfred Vail was
sion we need to realize first that working independently in
“Morse’s craving for fame was so Morristown NJ. This is only a
strong that he postured, pontifi- distance of about 3Ø miles by air,
cated, tried to convince everyone but travel was difficult in those
he was great, and was zealous in days.
defending his claims.” (28, note
27) To blow up his importance, see this in the following: “O n
Morse on several occasions made October 18, 1837 Morse wrote to
some quite false statements and Vail: ‘I long to see the machine
exaggerations. It is too bad that you have been making and the
he refused to give credit where one you have been maturing in
credit was due, for he would have the studio of your brain.’ Later
showed himself a greater man by Vail invited Morse to Morristown,
it. From the very first, Morse where the artist realized his cum-
made strict contractual relation- bersome picture-frame equipment
ships whereby he alone was to be [for recording the signals at the
credited with all advancements receiving end] was to be replaced
and improvements: all credits for by the practical and simple Vail
whatever anyone did for him instrument. Morse was so upset,
would [publicly] belong to him Baxter said, that he became ill
alone. Yet in a letter Vail, his ex- and was in bed for some weeks at
the Vail home.” (21) (Morse’s
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 113
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
feelings were badly hurt.) If Al- just given to the President and his
fred Vail had not joined Morse as Cabinet: “... The President pro-
assistant in the latter part of 1837, posed the following sentence,
Morse’s telegraph system would ‘The enemy nears . . . It was then
no doubt have been a failure. put in numbers and written on the
Vail was not only a skilled techni- register.” (27, note 16) On p. 39
cian, but had a wider perspective, the caption under picture 2.5:
and must have quickly seen that “ Alfred Vail who created the
Morse’s complex translation- Morse telegraph key and sounder
coding system and its equipment and telegraph code at Morristown
were not really practical: there N.J. while Morse was in New York
must be a better way. “It is evi- devising a number for each word
dent that Henry showed how to commonly used. Morse’s idea was
telegraph, Morse planned a cum- to transmit numbers instead of
bersome system to do it, Gale words to send messages.” “T h e
made valuable contributions, and Engineering News of April 14,
Vail developed the code and in- 1886, stated that ‘credit for the
struments necessary for successful alphabet, ground circuit and
operation.” (25) On October 18, other important features of the
1888, over 4Ø years later. Alfred Morse system belongs not to
Vail’s widow wrote to H.C. Ad- Morse at all, but to Alfred Vail, a
ams, president of Cornell Univer- name that should ever be held in
sity: 1888: “.. Prof. Morse ... sent remembrance and h o n o r .” (24)
for me, and on his dying bed [he F. O. J. Smith wrote: “It is evident
died 2 April 1872, almost 81 that Henry showed how to tele-
years old], with the forefinger of graph, Morse planned a cumber-
his left hand raised and moving to some system to do it, Gale made
give expression to his words, he valuable contributions, and Vail
said: ‘The one thing I want to do developed the code and instru-
now is justice to Alfred Vail.” (27 ments necessary for successful op-
note 18) As for his coding system, eration.” (24-25) “Vail watched
“Morse’s caveat of October 3, Morse gradually eliminate him
1837, and his letter to Vail on from credit with mounting aston-
October 24, 1837 announcing the ishment and anger, making no
completion of his dictionary of public outcry because Morse, in-
numbers for words did not men- volved in a multiplicity of court
tion a dot-and-dash alphabet.” - battles, required all possible sup-
- However, he kept working on it port to preserve the patents. When
until 1843: “Six years after Vail Morse later referred to Vail and
created the Morse code [1937-8], his father merely as ‘furnishing
Morse wrote to [F.O.J.] Smith the means to give the child a de-
about the numbers-for-words dic- cent dress,’ Vail supporters
tionary he was preparing.” (23- boiled, and telegraph journals
24) contained many strong words.”
Vail, in a letter to his father and
brother February 21, 1838, re-
garding a demonstration he had
114 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
We cannot help wondering how
Vail’s Thinking he determined that the use of
It would be very interesting to longer-than-normal internal
know the thinking behind the de- spaces between elements would
velopment of Vail’s “ M o r s e ” not cause the receiving operator
code. It had to be tied in inti- confusion in distinguishing be-
mately with the limitations of the tween characters.
electro-magnetic mechanisms Vail did some testing to try it out.
being designed to transmit and These interesting aspects seem to
receive it. Factors which no doubt have gone completely unreported
strongly dominated Vail’s think- in contrast to the attempt to asso-
ing were: brevity, simplicity and ciate the briefest code symbols
accuracy. with the most frequently used
Accuracy requires that the re- English letters, which is well re-
ceiving operator be able to distin- ported (however, as if it were
guish immediately between simi- Morse’s own work). “ In Novem-
lar characters without confusion ber and December 1837, when
or hesitation. (We must remind Vail built the instruments, he vis-
ourselves that at this point in time ited Louis Vogt, proprietor of a
Vail was thinking only of reading print shop at Morristown, and,
a record by eye on a strip of run- over a case of type, learned which
ning paper tape, not about re- letters of the alphabet were used
ceiving by ear as was done later.) most frequently. He assigned the
We must also realize that while fewest dots and dashes to those
“speed” was commercially im- letters.” (23)
portant, it was by no means so By January 1838, about three
pressingly demanding in the mid months after Vail had joined
19th century as it is today. Start- Morse, he had produced the first
ing with Morse’ simple off-on practical “Morse” code, a purely
signaling system Vail developed alphabetic code, which included
this original idea into a truly the use of dashes as well as dots
practical alphabetic concept, one and internally spaced characters.
that does not require further [However, at this point not every
translation. We may suspect that letter had a separate code charac-
his key idea was to use more than ter; several (J = G, Y = I, V = L,
one signal-on duration. (Did mu- and S = Z) were combined. This
sical rhythms also suggest the in- would be ambiguous for receiving
ternal character spaces?) by ear, but more easily handled
This was totally different from reading by eye from the context
Morse’ code-dictionary concept. of the inscribed tape record.] This
Note: Although Morse, in writing alphabetic code would have made
out his code dictionary, is said to coding and decoding almost per-
have written a dash in lieu of five fectly straightforward, and let
dots, there seems never to have overall transmission speed jump
been any hint of his using such a up immediately to about ten wpm.
signal element in his code itself. However, he did not tell Morse
about it:-- according to informa-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 115
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
tion now available, for six years quencies of the letters why such
later Morse was still working on extensive changes were made, as
his word-number and number- the same results could have been
word dictionary. (Morse was so achieved by changing very few
easily upset by some of Vail’s letters. (Were there other factors
excellent inventive developments.) involved than mere brevity?)
It is not clear whether any previ- Since Morse knew nothing about
ous inventor had used more than this new code (he had many other
one length of element in a linear concerns as well) and no one else
code system. (The idea of “lin- would yet be using it, no confu-
ear” is that of a simple signal sion would result by whatever
running along a line in time, in changes were made.
contrast to simultaneous com- The average character length of
plexity of signals, such as a two- the 1838 alphabet, calculated by
arm semaphore or a printed al- the same methods used in Chapter
phabet.) Vail chose four kinds of 25 was 8.329. Thus the new 1844
linear elements (besides the neces- code with average character
sary minimal spacing between the length of 7.978 was actually
elements of a character) to form about 4% shorter than in the 1838
characters: alphabet. (If he had interchanged
_ dot, the shortest, just two characters, L and T, in the
original 1838 alphabet it would
_ dash, appreciably longer, have averaged 7.95Ø units per
_ longer dashes, letter or 4.5% shorter than it
originally was, just a bit shorter
_ longer internal space. than the new 1844 code!) Some
This gave four choices for the other variations could have re-
internal elements of a character, sulted in a still shorter system.
and three choices for its initial The 1844 code was thus not the
and final elements (where internal “best“possible, but it proved to
longer spaces are obviously not be very practical. Vail’s final
applicable). These choices now code was used successfully by
allowed for a practical alphabetic many thousands of commercial
code for linear transmission. (ad- operators, and was the standard
ditional spaces were of course for wire telegraphy in the United
needed between characters and States, Canada and a few other
words.) places until nearly the mid-2Ø

By 1843, Vail had made such century. Relative timing is criti-

major changes to this early 1838 cally important to prevent confu-
alphabet that the only letters sion and misunderstanding by the
which were not changed were E H receiving operator. The least bit
K N P Q. These changes included of hesitation in the wrong place
assigning to each letter a single within the character, or holding
code character. It is not at all the key down an instant too long
clear from a comparison of the would send the wrong character.
alphabets and the relative fre- If these very tiny differences in

116 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
timing were disregarded, the fol- confuse the receiving operator, so
lowing letters within a word would he modified the original code to
be confused: I, O and EE; C, R, S, eliminate the internally spaced
IE and EI; Y, Z, II, SE, ES, H and characters and the various lengths
the character &; similarly for of dashes. This left just two
“on” signals, T, L and Zero lengths: a dot and a dash. Even
could be confused with one an- though this would make a trans-
other. mission longer, it meant less skill
Neither the final 1844 code nor was required to achieve the same
its successor, the International level of proficiency and accuracy
Morse code, is perfect. Perhaps of communication. He retained A
no code could be “perfect” for BDEGHIKMNP S T U V
every application, but it proved just as they were, used I for both I
practical, and together with the and J, and then formed new code
promotion of the telegraph in- characters for those deleted, and
struments it came into wide and for the numbers, etc.
successful use. Its efficiency in Other German and Austrian states
other languages will vary, de- soon adopted the Morse system,
pending on the relative frequency but each state modified the Morse
of the letters. code independently, making in-
terstate communication difficult.
Chapter 19 In 1852 the German and Austrian
state telegraphs convened to unify
A Brief History of Morse the codes in use (as well as the
Telegraphy – Part II tariffs).
The Original Morse Code Modi- Their principles were:
fied In Europe _ uniform dot and dash ele-
Morse telegraphy was introduced ments (and spacings),
into Germany in 1847 by a Mr. _ letters to be no more than
William Robinson (without four elements long,
authorization by Morse). There
the Marine Dispatch Service be- _ numbers to be five elements
tween Hamburg and Cuxhaven, a long, and
communication system for ship- _ punctuation six elements
ping, was using an optical system, long.
useless under bad weather condi-
tions. They became greatly inter- They took Gerke’s alphabet as
ested in the potential of this elec- the basis, but changed his O P X Y
tric all-weather system. and Z to the present “Interna-
tional” forms, and developed the
One of their officials who was also present systematic number system,
an engineer, Frederick Clemens etc. They made this code their
Gerke, immediately translated official standard on 1 July 1852. -
Vail’s book on the telegraph into The present form of J and other
German. This systematic German European language symbols were
engineer saw how easy it was to added in 1865 at the Paris Inter-

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 117

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
national Telegraph Convention, with a knob, which in time devel-
and for a long time this form of oped into the improved and stur-
code was called the “Continen- dier designs we now know.
tal” code, until wireless made it Among several examples of re-
“International.” Minor punctua- ceiving by ear only are: -- James
tion changes were made 1 Sep- F. Leonard in 1847. He had en-
tember 1939. tered the service as a messenger
boy at age 14. Within a year he
Equipment became an operator at Frankfort
KY, and was reading by sound.
Morse’s original receiving system Not only so, but he had also
was a clumsy recorder which taught himself to send and listen
made marks on a paper strip at the same time, writing down an
pulled along by a clockwork un- incoming message while sending
der a magnetically operated pen- another.
cil, pen, or stylus. It presented an
“on-off” record which was then Some other operators by that
read by eye. Vail created a much year were listening to a mes-
superior recorder. There is plenty sage or two, then writing them
of evidence that even Morse and down later.
Vail had learned to distinguish
most letters by ear during the first On the first of May 1847 the Al-
few months of their primitive bany Evening Journal reported
sending. that a business man named W. C.
Buell was sitting in the telegraph
As early as 1845 some other op- office listening to the incoming
erators could identify most of the messages when the operator’s
code letters by ear as they listened tape printer fouled up. Buell was
to the clicking of the recorder. By found to have correctly “read”
1846 many regular operators and remembered what had been
were doing so, or could. However, sent.
there was great reluctance on the
part of local office managers to That same year a Louisville bro-
accept this method of copying, ker, who had been sitting in a
and some strictly forbad it. The telegraph office, was fined and
operators who read by ear had to jailed for listening to market re-
keep the paper tapes as proof of ports coming in and not paying
their accuracy, and offered a for them (because he had no op-
means of correction. (In copying, erator’s license)! That same year,
operators often used abbreviations a Mr. Books, operator at Pitts-
which would be intelligible to the burgh, wrote out a long message
readers). by sound alone. Receiving by ear
alone was proving to be not only
Morse’s original sending device possible, but practical (and time
was a sort of type-setter’s ruler saving). Nevertheless, some of-
with dots and spaces. Vail’s first fices were slow to accept receiving
simple key, predecessor of later by ear alone, and required all
hand-keys, was designed about messages to be recorded even
184Ø. It was a simple flat spring though the operator read by ear.
118 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
In 1852-3 an Erie RR conductor They refused to divulge the con-
refused to accept train orders re- tents of messages to other than the
ceived by ear, and complained to addressees. Many of these young
his superintendent about the op- chaps who had served in railway
erator, Charles Douglas. When and public telegraph offices be-
Douglas was reproved, he insisted came operators for the armies of
on being tested, and demonstrated both sides during the Civil War,
that not only did he copy accu- frequently doing service far be-
rately for short messages, but also yond the call of duty, and at great
for very long ones. Thereafter the personal risk. (Although they
Erie RR officially permitted were usually stationed right on the
copying by ear. The sounder was front lines, yet they never received
invented in 1856 and was used military honors or pay.)
extensively and almost exclusively In the early days pencils were
during and after the Civil War, used to copy, and an adequate
though a few diehards persisted in supply of sharpened ones was
requiring the old recorders to be kept at hand for each operator.
used. Later, many telegraphers copied
with pen and ink (in beautiful
Early Day Operators Up Spenserian script - think of the
Through The Civil War risk of blots with the old steel
Telegraphy grew up with the rail- pens!), at speeds that ranged up to
roads, making train dispatching, 3Ø-35 wpm: neat deliverable
etc., easier and safer. At first, most copy.
telegraph offices were in the RR
stations. Each station, as well as Operators After The Civil War
many other important locations This was a period of growth, both
(such as switching points) was in the number of RR offices, and
manned by an operator. There especially the size of big-city of-
were many more “country” and fices. Women in large numbers
small-town stations than “ c i t y ” began to become operators in the
offices. Most operators came city offices because it was cleaner
from the country and small towns and more respectable work than
where they remained, but some domestic or factory labor. There
were attracted to the advantages of were several categories of opera-
city offices. tors in the city offices: those han-
Telegraphy was mostly a young dling slow traffic from country
man’s occupation. The majority places, those handling higher
were boys whose ages ranged speed material, financial report
from nine upwards. Most of them operators, and at the top, press
ranged from 14 to 18. Some were (news).
in their 2Ø’s, but few above that. The goal of most male operators
Many of them became superb was to advance and be able to
operators, very accurate, fast and handle high speeds accurately.
reliable. Almost all were com- These were honored men with the
pletely trustworthy and loyal. highest pay. In a city telegraph

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 119

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
office it was common to “ h a z e ” For a period of time up to about
a new operator. The others would WWI this became a requirement.
arrange to have an unusual or However, using the somewhat
garbled message sent to him, or faster and very “ditty” American
more often a message sent at Morse with the early spark trans-
speeds too fast for him and watch mitters made copying difficult
him sweat and worry it out. If, whenever static was present. The
when he looked around at their static and the signals tended to
amusement and realized it was put sound too much alike, and at the
on, he took it pleasantly, he was low radio frequencies then in use,
considered “initiated” and ac- static was heavy during at least
cepted into the telegraphic frater- half the year. During this period
nity. But if he was infuriated or the U.S. Navy developed an en-
upset, he was considered still a tirely different set of code sym-
freshman. bols, probably for this reason, but
When typewriters became practi- they were abandoned in favor of
cal in the 188Ø’s they began to the “Continental” code just be-
be used in American telegraph fore the U.S. entered World War I.
offices. A superb operator was It was about the same time that the
said to be able to copy 5Ø -6Ø “Continental” form of Morse
wpm without trouble, and many code also became standard in the
of these were said to have copied U.S. for commercial and among
regularly 5 - 6 words behind to almost all radio amateurs.
do this.
When Were The Terms Dit And
The Introduction Of Wireless Dah Introduced

When Marconi entered the scene The March 1926 Wireless Maga-
with his wireless, the “Continen- zine refers to the 1923 Transat-
tal” or “International” Morse lantic signals of (F)8AB as flut-
code was in wide use everywhere tery 25 cycle with
except in America. Wireless was “dahdahdahditdit didah dahdit-
then primarily - in fact, almost ditdit”. Were there earlier exam-
solely - used where wire lines ples? With a sounder, instead of
could not be strung. That meant “dits” there are “iddies” and for
that it was almost entirely ship to “dahs” “umpties” to distinguish
shore or ship to ship. American the two types of clicks. Another
operators were American-Morse description was “klick, kalunk”.
trained, and soon had to add In addition to this, of course, was
“Continental” code to their rep- the spacing between words. Good
ertoire, using both codes: Ameri- sending had to be relatively pre-
can Morse among themselves and cise.
“Continental” with other opera- Accuracy was demanded of
tors. Many became highly profi- commercial operators: they were
cient in both codes, using them rated on the quality of their
interchangeably as needed, on a sending. A sender or receiver who
moment by moment basis. had to repeat or to ask for repeats

120 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
could be disqualified. It was not First, the old Morse differs from
merely a matter of courtesy, but International in four aspects:
of economics: errors meant delays
for customers and cost time and 1. The following characters
money to the telegraph compa- are the same in both codes:
nies. The good telegrapher ad- ABDEG H I K M N ST
justed his relative lengths accord- U V W 4 (2/3 of alphabet
ing to the perceptive skill of the letters)
receiving operator, by making 2. A number of International
larger or smaller differences in characters represent differ-
the relative lengths. ent letters or numbers or
One operator reports from his signs in old Morse:
experience that careless Morse MORSE: F J Q P X 1 5
sounded worse on a sounder than 7 8 9 . ?
on CW. Words with lots of Old
Morse letters: joy!jack jail Japan INTN’L: R C F 5 L P o
jelly jewel jiffy join jolly jungle Z 6 X ? /
jury quick quality queer equip 3 . Certain old Morse letters
quote ill long loss late labor loyal contain internal spaces
legal limit lip which make them subject
The signal AR Comes from the to possible misinterpreta-
American Morse fn = finished tion as two letters:
Chapter 2Ø might appear to be
Learning the American Morse IE EE EI II SE
4. Certain letters in old Morse
Comparisons are different from any In-
ternational character for
Here we consider how to go about English:
learning the other code. Since
most of us know the International L = a longer dah ,
(formerly called “Continental”) Ø (zero) = a still longer dah (see
code, how do we go about learn- below).
ing the old (“American”) Morse
landline code? Do not use the The following numbers are dif-
following comparative lists in any ferent in old Morse from any
way to learn the American Morse International English character
code. Their purpose is solely to sound: 2 3 6.
show the differences between the This does not include other
two codes, and particularly the punctuation, which differs and in
effects on the structure of certain old Morse landline circuits was
characters due to the Morse inter- used extensively. It must be heard
nal spaces and the special length- to learn it.
ened dahs. They affect rhythms.

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 121

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
be shortened just enough to be
Timing clear, so the receiving operator
There seem to have been no rigid would not be confused. The
“standard” timing relationships spacing between letters in a word
in American Morse as compared nominally appears to have been
with International Morse. That is, the duration of 3 - 4 dits, and
the duration of a normal dah is between words about the length of
stated variously as being two times 4 - 6 dits. Before and/or after the
or three times the duration of a internally spaced characters a
dit. (My own impression is that it slightly longer than normal letter
tended to be somewhat shorter space was often felt necessary,
than the corresponding dah in depending on the code environ-
International code. This might ment.. Again, these values would
have been done to save time and tend to vary according to the skill
yet to keep the careful distinctions of both operators. The object was,
between a dit and the definitely as always, perfect copy with
longer dah for “L”, which nomi- minimum time to transmit, leaving
nally was considered to be twice considerable flexibility to the in-
as long as the normal dah.) The dividual operators. Yet the de-
important thing was to clearly mands of this code for accurate
distinguish between “E” and proportioning -- intolerance of
“L” and “T”. Zero (Ø) would the least bit of hesitation, key up
be intentionally longer than “ L ” or key down (e.g., the person who
when there would be a risk of its sent the word “telegraph” in
being misread, but otherwise such a way that it was copied as
would be about the same. (Some “jgraph”) -- show how much
have described “L” as being as more acute timing is in American
short as 4 or as long as 7 units, Morse in contrast to International
and zero as short as 5 or as long Morse.
as 1Ø units. There seems to have
been better agreement on the No Need For Confusion
spaces.) Three general features distinguish
The important thing was “This is old Morse from International
communication. Things should Morse code:
have to be sent only once. Having _ Most obvious is the differ-
to repeat wastes time and ence in basic rhythm: In-
money.” Are the words and ternational has a distinctly
numbers being clearly understood “regular” sort of rhythm,
by the receiving operator?” while old Morse has a
Commercial telegraphers were catchy sort of apocopated
rated by their accuracy first and rhythm - it marches in a
speed second. striking sort of “go and
In the same way, the space in the halt” way, which, when sent
internally spaced characters (3 by a skilled operator, is
above) is usually stated to be the unmistakable.
duration of two dits, but tended to

122 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
_ Along with this is a rather Mr. Miller defined “expert” is
obvious “ditty” character- not pinned down, but we can as-
istic of old Morse by con- sume that such an “expert” was
trast with International. better than the minimum re-
quirement for a commercial radio
_ Not quite so obvious is that operator of those early days. It is
old Morse is about 1Ø% probably safe to say that a person
faster than!International who can easily handle the code
when the same lengths of somewhere in the 25 - 35 wpm
dashes and spaces are used range will find Mr. Miller’s words
in both codes (that is, it will to be true, if he puts himself to it.
take about 1Ø% less time to
send the same text). Inter- From this we may assume that
estingly, old Morse also re- those of us who are less skilled
quires about 15% less effort and want to learn old Morse may
to send. It tends to be more expect to take somewhat longer to
of an art form, with consid- get there. (Is it possible that in
erably more variation in learning the second code in the
“fists,” or sending styles. proper way we may actually im-
prove our skill in the code we al-
At first sight, with some characters ready know, since immediate
the same and others different, character recognition is the key
confusion between the codes point?)
might seem considerable in
learning the other. - Take heart! Learning It
In a personal letter in 1942 Mr. R.
J. Miller, a skilled teacher with the How should we go about learning
old Teleplex Co., wrote: “O n e old Morse? -- First of all, we have
who is expert in only one code, to hear it properly sent, because
e.g. American Morse, can master its rhythms are different. We
Continental Morse in ten days to should have little trouble with
two weeks and be as expert at the recognizing it on the air: its pecu-
new code as he was in the old liar rhythms and “dittiness” will
code. This is because his mind is quickly identify it. But also we
trained to recognize the quick will find we can easily read many
sounds. This theory has been common words because they
proved many a time.” sound the same in both codes (
e.g. “and, the, it, but, these,
Notice his words carefully: “ e x - thing,” and many others) -- that’s
pert” and “his mind is trained to an encouragement: we don’t have
recognize the quick sounds.” to relearn their sounds. Listen to
These are not trivial words. It is get the swing of it, then practice
the operator who already can with your key, imitating the ex-
handle the one code like an ex- perts. This will help reinforce the
pert, because his mind has been sounds.
well trained to recognize the letter
sounds instantly when they are Consider the following sugges-
sent at a good speed, who is going tions:
to learn so fast and well. Just how
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 123
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
1. Just ignore the idea of pos- 4. Remember that learning old
sible confusion: over the Morse is going to be much
years many operators with easier and faster than
various degrees of skill, learning International code
from quite modest to ex- because we already know
pert, have managed to use how to go about it and that
either of both codes with no many, many others have
difficulty. In early “wire- succeeded well. This ought
less“days a commercial to give us great encour-
operator was generally re- agement and confidence.
quired to do this, and many Some excellent suggestions come
of them were not very fast from those who have long known
operators. and used both codes. One of these
2. You already know two- is to use a Morse sounder instead
thirds of the alphabet and of audio tones to provide a com-
one of ten digits: so you pletely different sound environ-
don’t have to give these ment to help distinguish Morse
any special thought at all. from International. (If this is
3. Think of all the characters done, one needs to get familiar
that are different - different with receiving by sounder. See
in the one code from those below.) If one does not intend to
in the other separately. use a sounder, there is no point in
Learn and think of each practicing with it. Some experi-
one of them as part of the enced operators see no benefit
code system to which it from it.
belongs. Don’t mix or So there need be no confusion at
compare them - keep each all. We can simply go ahead and
one separate and distinct confidently learn the old, but
from the other: (For exam- new-to-us Morse code and enjoy
ple, don’t under any con- it, using the principles already set
dition let yourself start to forth here. Perhaps some of the
think: that’s “C” in Inter- old timers who have learned them
national so it is “J”. In Old both long ago may be pleased to
Morse) There must be give us some additional advice
nothing standing in be- from their experience also.
tween the signal you hear [Expertly-sent Old Morse tapes
and its immediate recogni- may still be available from Cecil
tion as being the letter. (A Langdoc, 2Ø1 Homan Ave.
person who knows German Elkhart IN 46516. They make for
as well as English knows great listening.]
that the letters ch are pro-
nounced differently in A Railroad telegrapher’s story:--
German than in English - a beginning operator was sending
there is no confusion at all. as fast as he could with a bug
We need to think the same when the other operator cut in
way here.) with what he copied as “REND

124 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
STOW IMA GIRT”. He asked for only 5 years later, in America the
a repeat and got the same copy. earlier code was first used for
He turned to his supervisor and wireless. Two factors probably
asked: “What’s wrong with that acted to effect the change-over:
operator?” The reply: “Nothing, the predominantly “ditty” char-
she’s just saying ‘Send slow I’m acter of American Morse sounded
a girl.’ You’ve gotta learn the more like static than the Interna-
difference between R and S and T tional form, and the world-wide
and L. Didn’t they teach you nature of shipboard wireless op-
anything in that school?” eration urged a common code.
Here is an example of all-dot” This would have become more
sentence”: Her Irish eyes cry cos demanding as international com-
she is so sorry. mercial and amateur operation
became commonplace.
Learning To Read By Sounder
American Morse - An Art
Learning to read by sounder is no
more difficult than by tone or American Morse telegraphy is
buzz. It is just different. The considered by many of its practi-
sounder makes two different tioners as a thing of beauty, a
kinds of “clicks” which corre- work of art. The “tune sung o u t ”
spond to movements of the key. by a local sounder “outranks the
The down-stroke produces a most precisely tuned aircraft en-
sharp (high pitched) click to de- gine in terms of sheer beauty”,
note the beginning of the “ o n ” according to one old timer.
signal. The up-stroke is a duller Some Further Comparisons
sound, indicating the end of sig-
nal (“off”). The length of the If the identical duration of the
intervening silence between them basic unit of time (the dit and unit
corresponds to the duration of the space) is used for both codes
code element, distinguishing a dit while sending the same message,
from a dah. Practice first with a the skilled American Morse op-
string of dits and then of dahs till erators will have completed the
you get the hang of it, and then message while the International
with some common words until operators are still sending and
you get familiar with this method receiving. The message will in fact
of hearing the code signals. (Use actually have been handled at a
letters which are common to both rate about 45% faster* on the
codes - see l above.) You will Morse line than on the Interna-
probably find it interesting and a tional channel.
challenge at first.
*) Here the skilled old Morse op-
American Morse was designed for erators will normally be using
operation over wires, where static shorter dashes and spaces (as
and other interference are absent noted above) than their Inter-
or minimal. Although the Inter- national peers. This, combined
national form of the code was de- with the 73% shorter average let-
veloped and adopted in Europe ter and 65% shorter number in
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 125
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
old Morse accounts for the appar- International, making the latter
ent discrepancy between the pre- easier to interpret under adverse
viously cited 1Ø% faster. conditions. I suspect that Old
Therefore, when we read of the Morse operators under radio con-
speeds achieved under American ditions tend to lengthen (or exag-
Morse operations we need to rec- gerate) their time intervals (signal
ognize that the sending operator “on” and spaces) to aid in
is having an easier time than the copying. If they!do so, then the
corresponding International op- time gain is less.
erator, but the receiving operator Some Practice Materials For
is under the same burden, but Learning
needs a more acute ability to dis-
criminate small differences than Words which contain only letters
his corresponding International common to both codes:
(a e i u b d g h k m n s t v w)
In addition, when both have com-
pleted sending the message, the the and end man men view stew must
Morse operator will have used mist missed kid king thing dig dumb
only about 91% as many key- sing sting stub hide side vast waste
strokes and about 85% of the total waist medium wide stab tug aim bug
work or energy expended by the tame name magnet tube gust huge In-
International operator. dia ink sink had mad made human
magnitude dean heat hum ham him sad
These gains are achievable at a dash dish shade gush bush hush mash
cost. First, the American Morse smash biggest mug hug bag sag wag
operator must learn to make some stage wages vague stag that tug heed
finer distinctions in sound than head hasten skate hate date night might
the International operator. He kite fight invite begin began behave
must readily recognize the inter- behead aghast mane tame inane game
nally spaced letters (C O R Y Z) wane hank bank stink wink
and the lengthened dah characters
(L and zero) as distinguished Words containing only the Let-
from what might be their equiva- ters Unique to American Morse
lents, and he must generally live Dits Only
with closer spacing between char-
acters and words. There is also the cheese choose coop cop cope copper
problem of the difference be- copy core creep creepy crop cross cry
tween reading by sounder in the echo eyes hoe hope horse hose ice ooze
telegraph office and reading sig- peer pie pieces pose precise press price
nals over the air where static and prize prose recess repose rice ripe rope
interference can cause loss of sig- Roy seer seize series she sheer shoe
nal components. shy size sore spice spree spy yippy
zero zoo
Ambiguities introduced by the
spaced letters and the shorter dahs
in American Morse under radio
operation stand in sharp contrast
to the standardized durations in
126 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

Only Letters Unique to Ameri- special Morse space = 2 units,

can Morse dash = 3 units,
clop color crop off for joy fly lop offer Morse L = 6 units,
plop roll jolly
Morse Ø = 9 units,
Using Only the Letters Unique
To American Morse Plus The character space = 3 units,
Rest Of Its Vowels word space = 6 units.
all aloe career clap clay clear cliff clip Although I haven’t spent much
clique collar cruel equip expire explore practice time with learning
fall fall fill fizzle flail flare fly for full American Morse, it isn’t easy for
fail jail jeer jello joy jury leap lily lop me to distinguish the different
oil opera pear peel place play quail lengths of dahs and to perceive
queer quip quiz rap reaper repair rill roll the spaced characters as units,
xray year zeal rather than e’s and i’s, without
paying close conscious attention
From the MILL ØØa Opera- to them.
tional Notes
My suspicion is that I have for so
by Jim Farrior W4FOK many years been trying to read
who originally learned Ameri- poorly sent International Morse
can Morse that my perception of these small
A considerable variation exists in differences in length and spacing
the way American Morse is sent has become badly desensitized. -
by different operators, and there American Morse operators could
is no rigid standard. Although it is never have lived with that kind of
not typically sent exactly that way, carelessness. They would have
it is convenient for some purposes shuddered at such sending. -
to assume that the Morse standard Poorly formed International
is the same as the CW standard, Morse, where the dits and dahs are
except that certain Morse charac- often grossly distorted: on the one
ters contain a wider space between hand it is sometimes hard to tell
two of the dots, and the Morse the difference between dragging
word space is 1 unit shorter than long dits and clipped dahs, and on
the corresponding CW space. the other where the dahs are far,
Also, Morse L is a dash approxi- far too long for the sending
mately twice the length of the speed, with many simply irregu-
standard dash, and the Morse zero larly sent. Add to that the careless
is a dash approximately three spacings internally between letters
times the length of the standard within a word, and one has to do a
dash. lot of mental adjusting to under-
stand such poor sending.
This results in the following
Morse “standard”:
dot = 1 unit,
normal space = 1,

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 127

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

Chapter 21 The old way of learning by a vis-

ual memory or by counting dits
Methods Not Recommended and dahs analytically is almost
guaranteed to!produce that old
In almost every subject we and famous “plateau“at the fast-
may study there are efficient est speed the mind can handle
and inefficient ways to go such a burden at a conscious level
about learning it. It seems - usually around 7 - 1Ø wpm.
foolish to go about learning in Those who take each code char-
a hard way, if we know of an acter and put it through such a
easier, better one. mental routine to get the letter for
which it stands are on their way
Doing It the Hard Old Way for trouble - they soon get stuck
on a plateau.. Why should anyone
Beginning somewhere back in the bother to make the conscious
later 18ØØ’s, even the best mind go through that sort of
schools for telegraphers started thing at all, since it is so futile and
teaching the new student the is really working against us? The
Morse code by giving him a only obvious reason is that they
printed chart code to “memo- don’t know any better.
rize” visually. The implications
were that learning the code is go- An analysis of that old way of
ing to be hard and will take a long learning is like this:
time to master. So the student ex-
pected it: that’s why, if he could The student
afford it, he went to a telegraph _ First creates a mental table
school. Without realizing it, he of the printed characters
was thoroughly prepared to begin and the dot and dash pat-
in the worst possible frame of terns (how many and in
mind and way. what order) belonging to
This attitude carried over natu- each one. Then he begins
rally into the early days of ama- listening and copying prac-
teur radio and continued for a tice and
long time afterwards. The whole _ He then hears the sound of
atmosphere was “it’s hard”. Isn’t character as it is sent,
that still the attitude of most peo-
ple today? We need to get rid of _ Mentally breaks it into so
the idea that it is hard - it isn’t. many dots and dashes, and
Experience has shown that the _ May then say the dots and
best teachers have avoided that dashes to himself,
idea completely. Learning the
code, as well as using it, ought to _ Which pattern he now looks
be an enjoyable experience, easy up in mental table, finds it,
and even “fun”. Such teachers and
also ignore a student’s errors in _ Identifies it with the corre-
order to avoid negative rein- sponding printed character,
forcement. and finally
128 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
_ Writes it down. Through the years all sorts of
schemes have been devised for
How clumsy and awkward “memorizing” the code, and
As late as 1975 George Hart in some of them quite ingenious.
the August QST (p. 1ØØ) wrote Most of them involve some kind
“Most code learners start out by of visualization: a pictorial or a
memorizing the alphabet in terms systematic arrangement of printed
of “dots” and “dashes” or coded characters, based on their
“dits” and “dahs”. Even those structure,!a “chain” of relation-
who are cautioned by an enlight- ships of some sort, adding to or
ened instructor that A, for exam- exchanging components of one
ple, is not a dot followed by a character to obtain another. A few
dash. but a sound whose closest have devised words or phrases
voice emulation is “didah” - presumed to have a sort of
even those usually “memorize” “sound-alikeness” to the code
that it is a short sound followed character. Such methods probably
by a long sound. . . . Thus, the would help a person who might
initial stage of code learning with sometime need to signal for help
most people is a counting proce- in a dire emergency, but they are
dure, and no amount of emphasis worse than useless, of no value at
on sound is going to change all for regular telegraphic com-
this.” How discouraging and un- munication.
necessary! He pointed out that There is never any reason to see
the way to learn the code is by the code in written form. Never
first hearing the characters it at a translate “dit plus dah means A”
speed too fast to count and and then write it, or as another has
learning them as rhythmic units said: “If you find yourself hear-
of sound - sound patterns. This is ing ‘dahdidahdit’ and saying to
the way the ARRL code teaching yourself ‘Aha, that’s a ‘C’, and
programs now do it. then writing it down, you’re in
trouble - that’s translating.”
Other Discouraging Processes
Most of these well-intentioned
Many, many people have man- aids to learning have overlooked
aged to master the code by meth- the fact that the code letters are an
ods which we cannot recommend alphabet of SOUND. Their
today, but they have done so at a “aids” have interposed some-
heavy cost in time and effort, and thing else between the letter-
often have experienced great dis- sound and the letter. Most of
couragement along the way. They these methods present their
have managed by persistence to schemes to the eye, not the ear.
overcome the stumbling blocks Even those which purport to use
and achieve success in spite of sound (such as “sound-alikes”)
them. But countless others have fail to provide the necessary unity
gotten stuck and given up at some of sound pattern (partly because
slow speed, generally less than 1Ø they are too slow, but also because
- 12 wpm. the “sound-alikes” are extrane-

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 129

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
ous and distracting). Both kinds formed, each one adding one
require one or more extra steps - element to the previous one. This
translation steps - to get there. was illustrated by large printed
Those which require some sort of dots and dashes. There must have
analysis (such as how many dits been a good many who started
and dahs) of each character in out this way, and in spite of it, at
order to identify it, or which run least some of them finally man-
through a series of some sort, also aged to become proficient. I knew
have introduced needless steps of one such amateur who got to
which inevitably slow the learner around 2Ø wpm that way.
down, and usually severely limit The expert teachers tell us that
his achieving speeds over about any kind of printed dots and
five to ten wpm. Avoid them. dashes or any other such pictorial
Very many of those who origi- impressions will only impede the
nally learned the code from a student’s progress when he is be-
printed chart of dots and dashes ginning to learn the code. Chapter
began the bad habit of counting 13 explains why.
the number of dots and of dashes All such methods violate good
from a mental chart. Then they pedagogy, because they do not
must decipher the longer charac- teach the code the way it will be
ters by counting: for example, to used, as actual sound patterns.
separate B from 6 and 1 from J. They also require the student to
Some of these hams were able by learn something (which he must
much practice, and perhaps real- later forget in order to advance)
izing the nature of the problem, to in addition to the sound of the
overcome their speed plateau. (I code itself. While these methods
knew one experienced ham-ex- may seem to make it easier at first,
navy-commercial operator who they actually make it much
could go right along at 2Ø wpm harder, or even impossible, to ad-
this way, but that was his ultimate vance. The wise teacher and stu-
limit. He loved the code, but dent will avoid these approaches.
could never advance a step fur-
ther. That was as fast as he could So:
analyze - pretty fast at that!).
Those who have learned by the _ Never even Look at a writ-
“sound-alike” methods, (e.g, ten table of the Morse code
they hear “didah”, and it sounds before starting to learn, and
like “alike”, which they have certainly Never attempt to
been taught means “A”)!rarely memorize one visually, or
reach even a ten wpm plateau. have anything to do with
software that “shows you
One method extensively adver- the Morse characters on the
tised for many years “ t a u g h t ” screen”.
the beginner by the scheme “ E a t
Another Raw Lemon,” which was _ Don’t have anything to do
supposed to remind him how each with methods that ask you
of the four letters E A R L was to listen initially to succes-
sions of dots and dashes, or
130 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
parts of characters. Doing He practiced so much that there
this will Retard your pro- was no extended period of free
gress. Listen Only to com- time when he wasn’t thinking
plete, correctly sent, char- code. He wore out a cassette
acters. player listening to tapes while
_ Never listen to Morse at a driving, cutting the grass, sweep-
character speed of Less ing, planting flowers, walking
than 12 wpm. Use 14 wpm during lunch, using the tread mill
or faster, if possible. at night and while washing the
dinner dishes, while watching soft
_ Don’t learn by memorizing ball games he had the earphones
opposites, such as ‘K’ and on and copied in his head. He
‘R’. This actually causes copied code while waiting in the
some people to confuse doctor’s office, while parked as
them ever after! his wife went shopping in the eve-
_ Don’t spend lots of time ning he copied CW on the rig, a
copying random code gray haired man wearing ear-
groups. Reading plain lan- phones and writing on a clip-
guage is very different, and board!
that’s what the test requires. “The results were frustrating. The
Random code groups are speeds ranged from 2Ø to 24 wpm
popular because computer and always there was that sense of
programs can be easily de- panic, that I can’t keep u p ” -
signed to send them. They “tailgating” - that was exactly
do have a place - that is, for what he was experiencing. The
first identifying characters problem was he didn’t know what
and then later practicing he was doing wrong. Asking those
any “hang-up” characters, who passed the test resulted in the
but that’s all. casual answer: practice. “Well, my
When a old timer, who had practice just wasn’t doing it” .
“learned” the code as it used to Magazine articles on copying be-
be taught from a printed chart, hind did not relate how to learn
suddenly recognized that the the technique. The stock phrase
sound pattern is the letter, it was seemed to be that the ability to
like a light bulb flashing on. After copy behind will magically ap-
that he began to progress rapidly. pear after enough practice.
He wrote like this after reading
The Futility of Wrong Practice the principles presented here:
Arnold Klein N6GAP said “Mastering the code has taken
on a life of its own and I am de-
“For more years that I care to termined to do it. I have now tried
admit to myself, I have been these during the week since get-
trying to master a simple task: ting them and they do work! I am
copy code at 2Ø wpm for the losing the pressure to keep up.
Extra class ticket.” Keep calm is my newest admoni-
tion. They have given me the an-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 131
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
swer to the problem I’ve carried
_ Have you been out?
for years.”
_ Was he with her?
The methods presented in this
book are time-tested practical, I can go now.
working methods. _ We must say that.
Chapter 22 _ Would the people come?
_ She has a great work.
Word Lists For Practice
_ There are more over there.
The 1ØØ Words Grouped By _ Such men may go in.
_ These men may come first.
(And adding the words “I” and
“a”) _ All but you have been
(This will make it easier to con-
struct sentences to use for prac- _ It was as little as that.
tice.) _ You should not have said it.
a an the this these that some all _ How has he made up your
any every who which what such work?
_ He has been very well.
I me my we us our you your he
him his she her it its they them _ No man said more than
their; that.
man men people time work well _ He may not do any more.
May will can one two great little _ We must like this.
first; _ Are they like them?
at by on upon over before to
from with in into out for of about The Rest Of The 5ØØ Most
up; Common Words
when then now how so like as well did low see yet act die sea run age end
very only no not more there than; new set ago sun eye nor son air way far
and or if but; off ten big arm few old too ask get
own try add God pay use boy got put
be am is are was were been has war car law red sir yes why cry let sat
have had may can could will cut lie saw Mrs ill also case even five
would shall should must say said head less just mile once seem talk wall
like go come do made work. bank fill want tell seen open mind life
keep hear four ever city army back cost
Some sentences composed of face full held kept line miss part ship
these words alone are: thus week lady many went told show
_ It is only there.
most live kind help gave fact dear best
_ You will like your work. bill does fall girl here king long move
poor side took were whom town soon
132 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
read much look knew high give feet important themselves Washington
done body book don’t felt gone hold government something condition presi-
know lost name real sort tree wide dent
wind true step rest near love land home
good till door both call down find half Some Common Prefixes And
hope last make need road stop turn Suffixes
wish came drop fine hand hour late
mark next room sure wait word year Prefixes Which Are Not Fre-
walk take same note mean left idea hard quent Words
fire each care Un ex re de dis mis con com for per
young watch thing speak right paper sub pur pro post anti para fore coun
least heard dress bring above often wa- susp extr trans
ter think stand river party leave heart Suffixes Which Are Not Frequent
early built after carry again fight horse Words:
light place round start those where
alone cause force house marry plant Ly ing ify ally tial ful ure sume sult
serve state three white still today whole jure logy gram hood graph ment pose
short point might human found child pute tain ture cient spect quire ulate
along began color given large month ject ther
price small story under world whose
tried stood since power money labor Some Common Phrases For
front close among begin court green Practice
laugh night quite smile table until We are in the he is and the will be we
write being cover happy learn order will that the it is do not I am to the for
reach sound taken voice wrong the of this to them it was and he of a
chance across letter enough public from me that was on the they were she
twenty always change family matter is I will in a there is he was I will that
rather wonder answer coming father was
moment reason result appear demand
figure mother remain supply around Some Long Words For Practic-
doctor follow myself return system ing
became dollar friend number school Somewhere newspaper wonderful ex-
second office garden during become change household grandfather over-
better either happen person toward looked depending movement handsome
hundred against brought produce com- contained amounting homestead work-
pany already husband receive country manship production discovered prevent-
America morning several another eve- ing misplaced requested breakfast de-
ning nothing suppose because herself partment investment throughout fur-
perhaps through believe himself picture
nishing regulation forwarded friendship
whether between however present herewith foundation deportment geog-
without raphy important lemonade graduation
national continue question consider federated educational handkerchief con-
increase American interest possible versation arrangement nightgown
anything children remember business commercial exceptional prosperity sub-
scription visionary federation heretofore
ingredients certificate pneumonia inter-

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 133

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
view knowledge stockholders property focus on the originator’s use of
chaperone permanently demonstrated the words themselves (by
immediately responsible Chautauqua “words” we include the use of
candidacy supervisor independent abbreviations and Q-signals).
strawberry epidemics specification agri-
cultural catalogues phosphorus sched- Feedback And Redundancy
ules rheumatism temperature circum- We rarely think much about how
stances convenience Pullman trigono- we speak when we are conversing.
metry bourgeoisie slenderize camou- When we speak face to face we
flage broadcast defamatory ramshackle can generally tell whether we are
bimonthly predetermined clemency being understood or not by feed-
beleaguered voluptuous intoxicating back through the reactions and
depository pseudonym indescribable responses of the listener. But
hieroglyphics morphologist Yugosla- when our communication is re-
via cynosure parallelogram pleasurable mote, by voice over a wire or the
toxicology bassoonist influenza radio, the visual clues to the
Practicing words such as these hearer’s understanding are miss-
may help you get used to reading ing. When the telegraph code is
long words without missing parts the link, auditory clues (tone of
of them. voice of a comment or reply,
“uh-huh”, “yeah”, etc.) are also
Chapter 23 missing. Relatively awkward
break-in is the only possible di-
Making Sure You’re Under- rect feedback while transmitting
stood in code, and it is an ambiguous
From The Originator’s Stand- interruption, until the receiving
point operator explains his problem.
It is when we speak, whether face
Communication fails unless our to face or by remote means, that
message gets across and is under- most of us tend to use more words
stood. Weak signals and poor than the bare minimum necessary
conditions during transmission to be understood: this is called
(static, interference, fading) all redundancy. The degree of re-
contribute to partial failure to get dundancy varies from person to
through. In all of these condi- person and from situation to
tions, telegraphic communication situation. Redundancy increases
is vastly superior to voice because the context from which the hearer
almost all its energy is effectively to may understand.
concentrated within a very narrow
band. Yet it pays a cost for this by When we write we generally are
taking more time to communicate much more careful of how we say
the!same words. In addition, it too things that are important than
can suffer partial loss due to when we speak. We give more
transmission conditions as well as thought to the choice of words
from just plain accidental misun- and the way we write them: we
derstanding. How can we reduce becomes more circumspect and
these losses to a minimum? Let’s precise in order to minimize the
134 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
reader’s possible misunderstand- complete failure of our commu-
ing of what we mean. Since we nications? One of the commonest
have no feedback at all, we gener- things is simply to repeat each
ally tend to use more words than word or words, or the whole mes-
the minimum necessary in order sage. We may repeat only the
to make up for that lack. most critical words or numbers
In telegraphic communication the two or three times. (Numbers are
tendency, largely because of the almost impossible to correct be-
time required to transmit, is to cause there is no significant con-
eliminate every word which does text to help out.)
not seem to be absolutely neces- Another form of repetition is to
sary. We abbreviate in various ask the receiving station to repeat
ways - generally down to bare the message back to the sender
bones: the minimum required to word by word. This nearly assures
express the thought. First we leave perfection. But this, like repeating
out words, and then we tend to each word as it is sent, requires at
abbreviate what is left as much as least twice the original time on the
we think we dare to omit and still air.
have it understandable. (This is Counting the words in a transmis-
especially true when paying on a sion has long been a common
per-word basis for transmission.) commercial practice, but is not
What we have been saying is this: generally used except for message
redundancy helps to insure ade- type traffic. It does not assure
quate and more accurate commu- complete accuracy (exact words
nication. That is, we normally use and spelling).
more words and expressions than
the bare minimum required to get Using Redundancy Intelligently
our meaning across. Time, how-
We can often prevent misunder-
ever, is a factor working against
standing by adding a word or two
telegraphic communication. It is
to a short communication. For
not as rapid as speech in terms of
example, to confirm a scheduled
words per unit time. In order to
QSO later in the day, to say
balance the time factor against the
“CUL this afternoon,” or “CUL
intelligibility factor, the originator
in pm” instead of just “ C U L ”
of a telegraphic message gener-
helps insure that the other opera-
ally weighs more carefully exactly
tor knows that you mean today,
what words to use and how to put
and that you are not canceling it
them together. If he is wise he will
(as he might assume otherwise
also consider the effect of possi-
due to some interference, etc.).
ble mistakes or distortion during
sending and receiving which When conditions are rapidly dete-
might produce ambiguity. riorating this may be our only
hope to get across before further
Repeating And Counting Words communication becomes impos-
What can we amateurs do to A little forethought along these
minimize misunderstanding or lines on the originator’s part may
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 135
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
help avoid unfortunate misunder- cially the use of filters. Here we
standings. Especially when we look at the filter requirements for
simply must get through, and an audio filter. We want a filter
conditions are very poor, we which will separate the desired
should choose our words and ex- signal and still keep it intelligible.
pressions carefully. At this point we are not concerned
with any of the radio frequencies
At The Receiving End of the signal as it passes through
the receiver, but only with the
Here we ask “Will I be able to audio beat signal which is output.
copy (or read) it?” and if I can’t,
“What is the problem?” - ”What That audio signal consists of
can be done to improve the qual- _ An audio frequency (the
ity of this material I am receiv- beat frequency, analogous
ing,”!or “What can be done to to the carrier frequency of
make sense out of this somewhat an AM signal), and
garbled transmission which is all I
have?” -- “What is the nature of _ The off-and-on modulation
the problem?” of its envelope (corre-
sponding to the audio
During the communication, speed modulation of an AM sig-
of transmission is an important nal) produced by the key-
factor, one directly controlled by ing device at the transmit-
the sender. Both too fast and too ter.
slow sending can cause trouble in
receiving - here the receiving op- The audio frequency is expressed
erator must tell the sender to slow in Hertz or cycles per second,
down or speed up to meet the re- while the corresponding tele-
ceiver’s needs. Quite naturally, graphic signaling “frequency” is
speed of transmission must set be usually expressed in bauds. One
within the receiving operator’s baud equals one telegraphic ele-
capability. ment (called “unit” in Chapter
28) per second. Since the baud
It may be that the weighting of may be unfamiliar, let us examine
the dits is too light and I’m miss- it.
ing some of them. If so, can the
sender make them a bit longer The minimum basic telegraphic
(heavier)? Maybe the sharpness of element is the “dit, an “on” sig-
the pulses has been rounded off nal lasting a given length of time
too much to remove “clicks” and in seconds. For example, a 1Ø
the signals sound mushy. At baud rate of signaling means that
higher speeds, perhaps the dits are there are ten basic telegraphic
too heavy and confusing the ear. elements per second (or 5 cps or
These are things which the sender Hertz), and each element lasts
may be able to modify on the 1/1Ø of a second, the reciprocal
spot, but he must be told. of the baud rate. Obviously, to
perceive a dit or a dah requires
In Chapter 14 “The Ear” we silence both before and after it.
have discussed some of the things The minimum element of silence
which can be done to help, espe-
136 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
(space) is also equal to one dit. A square wave frequency related
One dit followed by one element to words-per-minute, and the du-
of space constitutes a square wave ration of one telegraphic unit can
two telegraphic elements long and be worked out for English using
may be called one “cycle,” by the data in Chapter 28 as follows:-
analogy with a cycle of sinusoidal
wave. (This is expressed symboli- For standard English text, there
cally in Chapter 28 by “1Ø”.) A are 49.38 elements per word. This
continuous series of dits would is only 1% less than the standard
then for a given length of time 5Ø elements used as today’s stan-
have twice as many bauds as cy- dard word, so we shall use the 5Ø
cles per second. A sequence of 25 element standard here.
such dits and spaces If this 5Ø element word is, for
(1Ø1Ø1Ø1Ø..., 5Ø elements) in example, assumed to be sent in
one second would thus corre- one second, it will be at the rate of
spond to a frequency of 25 Hertz, 5Ø bauds, o r 25 Hertz,
5Ø bauds. It is in this sense that (cps!square wave equivalent). For
we compare these two frequencies this example there will then be 6Ø
(audio frequency and telegraphic words in one minute -- 6Ø wpm, a
keying frequency). high speed. Using this to convert
For a filter the two predominant wpm to bauds we multiply (wpm)
factors for intelligibility are pass by 6Ø/5Ø, that is by 1.2. Since the
band width and center frequency duration of one basic telegraphic
of the beat note. (The actual element is the reciprocal of the
shape of the filter’s frequency- baud rate, in this case it will be
amplitude response curve is also 1/5Ø second.
of importance but for other rea- Now to determine the minimum
sons: see Chapter 24 and engi- audio frequency needed to fill in
neering manuals.) the telegraphic square wave shape
There must be enough audio cy- well and give really high quality
cles to fill in the keying pulse audio code signals, the following
shape of the smallest code ele- factors must be taken into ac-
ment, the dit, in such a way that all count:
code elements begin and end _ At least two samples per cy-
clearly and are therefore properly cle of audio frequency are
timed. That means that the audio needed to identify a fre-
center frequency (pitch of the quency, (this factor of 2 for
beat note) must be high enough samples per cycle is can-
to preserve the square wave shape celled out by the cps = _
closely. A mathematical (Fourier) baud rate). and
analysis shows that the center
audio frequency needs to be _ Up to the 7th harmonic is
about 7 times the telegraphic cy- needed for high quality.
cle rate to give the best shape of So, we merely multiply the baud
telegraphic pulses. rate by 7, the highest harmonic

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 137

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
For our 6Ø wpm example above, count for differences between op-
this means an audio frequency of erators.
5Ø x 7 = 35Ø Hertz for best Thus:
quality of code pulses. Thus it can
be seen that, except for extremely CW - needs at Ø dB
high speed transmissions, there compare with SSB - needs at +14
will be no problem, since the typi- dB (room for improvement)
cal values of beat frequency are in
the 4ØØ - 1ØØØ Hz. range. DSB - needs at +17 dB (5 dB Dif-
ference in operators!)
The minimum bandwidth will be
concerned with signal stability Reference: Power relationships
and intelligibility limits. If the and operator factor: (QST Fe
bandwidth is too narrow the signal 1967 p 46, US Army Rept
may drift out and be hard to find
again. If it is too wide the risk of Chapter 24
random noise and interfering sig- Bandwidths and Key Clicks
nals increases. The rise-fall time
of a filter to square wave input As discussed in Chapter 23, key-
should not exceed about half a dit ing is usually expressed in bauds
length. Working through the rather than in Hertz, or cycles per
arithmetic for 6 dB down shows second. One Baud is one keying
that the minimum bandwidth for element per second, so one square
Standard English should not be wave keying cycle per second
less than about 1.33 x (wpm). equals two Bauds. Using the stan-
This is well below the bandwidth dard word as 5Ø units, then
needed for signal stability, so (wpm) / 1.2 = Bauds. (Since 6Ø
there is no problem here for nor- seconds divided by 5Ø units =
mal CW use. 1.2)
Finally, if your copy doesn’t Harmonic analysis of the on-off
seem to make good sense, and keying wave shows that strong
there is no way to verify it, see the odd-numbered harmonics and
end of Chapter 8 “Copying” for weak even-numbered harmonics
suggestions. are present. It has been found that
under good conditions, adequate
Signal required for CW with 5% rd

character errors is 2Ø dB below readability results when the 3

that of double-sideband a.m. A harmonic is present, but under
good operator with CW at 15 wpm poor conditions we need up

in presence of thermal noise, a through the 5 harmonic. (Really

signal to noise ratio (in one kHz good quality, however, will in-
bandwidth) of -1 dB is required clude up through the 7 har-
for 1Ø% character errors and +1 monic.) International regulations
dB for 1% character errors. This have specified accordingly that
latter is 22 dB below double side- minimum acceptable bandwidths
band order-wire quality. However, should be at least three times the
17 dB below double-sideband keying speed in bauds for good
AM for CW was chosen to ac-
138 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
conditions and five times for poor
conditions. Chapter 25
Thus, working from standard Code Courses and Devices
wpm, convert to Bauds by divid- Advertised in the Older
ing by 1.2, then multiply by the Days
highest harmonic (3, 5, or 7) de-
sired. (Since this modulates the Dates show what I have been
carrier frequency, the transmitted able to find
bandwidth will be twice this value These items are in partial supple-
because of sum and difference ment to chapter 25.
frequencies.) Accordingly, e.g.,
for 2Ø wpm, covering the 3rd Morse’s first “sender” used
harmonic requires a 5Ø Hz. tooth-like raised characters on a
bandwidth filter; for the 5th har- straight edge “ruler,” over which
monic coverage a 83.3 Hz. band- a follower-contactor was pulled
width filter. along in order to send. No doubt
derived from this idea Morse (in
A perfect square wave will gener- 1844) is thought to have built a
ate strong transient over travel, “transmitting plate,” a board of
both!initially and at the end of insulating material having the
each pulse. These spikes are espe- code characters composed of
cially objectionable, as they gen- metal bits imbedded in it. They
erate a host of harmonics which were arranged so as to produce
will interfere with other transmis- the code character (whose name
sions. For the receiving operator was marked beside it) when a
they produce an unpleasantly metal stylus was dragged!across
harsh quality. Shaping to round the surface at an constant speed.
off these sharp corners of the (Such a plate was independently
wave by making a 5 - 7 millisec- designed in Germany about
ond delay gives satisfactory re- 185Ø.)
ception, but if it is lengthened too
much it tends to blur the signals Telegraph teachers realized early
and make them hard to read. This in the game that the student needs
situation can be taken care of a lot of practice hearing good
only at the transmitter, of course. quality sending. The transmitting
It can be seen that there is a deli- plate may have become the
cate balance between “ g o o d earliest self-teaching device.
quality” and troublesome har- (Such boards were advertised as
monics. Refer to the handbooks late as 196Ø)
for corrective measures. The Omnigraph
The Omnigraph, which first came
out in 19Ø1, was an obvious de-
rivative of original Morse
“sender” with its raised “teeth.”
It was a mechanical device con-
sisting of a hand crank, clockwork

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 139

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
or electric motor to drive an as- erators, including amateurs. (Ad-
sembly of thin interchangeable vertising often claimed that a
metal disks bearing the code month of serious study could
characters past a follower-keying qualify an operator.) The gov-
device. Several disks were stacked ernment licensing authorities also
up together on a spindle-carrier used Omnigraphs to administer
which was driven by the “ m o - the code tests for operator’s li-
tor.” The whole assembly of censes for many years, at least
disks looked like a cylinder with until 193Ø, when I was tested.
little “bumps” on it. A wide The Omnigraph Manufacturing
range of speeds from about 5 to Co., New York City. A 1922 ad
over 6Ø wpm was provided for by read : “Learn Telegraphy (Wire-
adjustment of the brake on a fly less or Morse) at Home in Half
ball governor which held the the Usual Time... Just Listen - the
speed constant after it was set. Omnigraph will do the teaching.”
Each disk had five groups of code You will be surprised how quickly
characters cut like gear teeth you will attain speed. Even if you
around its periphery, and each are already an operator the Om-
group was composed of five char- nigraph will help you. It will
acters plus a separating space. A make you more proficient, more
spring-loaded “follower” rode accurate and more confident...”
along the edges of the disks, In 1918 the Electro Importing
opening and closing the keying Co., NY, advertised them starting
contacts. A clever adjustable se- at $16.ØØ for a five disk machine,
quencing mechanism actuated by and $23.ØØ for a 15 disk model.
the rotating disk carrier caused Additional disks were available at
the follower to move up or down five for $1.ØØ. Ini19Ø2 Thomas
at user-selected points during A. Edison’s book “Telegraphy
each revolution. Various models Self-Taught” was published by
provided for from five to ten or Frederick J. Drake & Co. in Chi-
more disks. By changing the cago. It was written with the phi-
stacking of the disks and by ad- losophy that “it is not the speed
justing the sequencing mechanism at which the letter is sounded that
the five character groups could be perplexes the learner, but the
sent in many different sequences. rapid succession in which they
There was, however, no way to follow each other.” (This is iden-
alter the order of characters within tical with the so-called Farnsworth
a group, and all keyer-follower method today.) The book was
movements occurred between accompanied with a small hand-
groups. crank-driven tape puller and a set
These machines were to be used of paper tapes with the code char-
with a sounder for American acters punched in them. The tapes
Morse or a buzzer or oscillator were designed to start out with
for International Morse. They very wide spacing between char-
seem to have had a very wide us- acters, and as t h e stu-
age for basic learning and devel- dent!progressed these spaces were
oping speed among would-be op- reduced to normal. The goal was
140 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
a practical working speed of 25 ture in the student’s mind, but
wpm. The actual speeds, of instead a sound is memorized like
course, would depend on how fast a bar of music. An hour a day
the student turned the crank on devoted to memorizing the dis-
the machine. tinctive rhythm of each letter will
In 1917 the Marconi-Victor set of enable the student to send or re-
six double-sided phonograph re- ceive a message in a few weeks.
cords, described in. the first The beginner is strongly advised
sound-only course for Interna- not to practice with charts or
tional Morse for a phonograph books which show the actual dots
seems to have come out. It con- and dashes. Once a picture of
sisted of 12 lessons recorded on each letter is formed in memory it
six 78 rpm records produced by a will be found difficult to send or
“code expert,” approved by the receive by sound. Don’t try to
Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. teach the ears though the eyes.”
and put out by the Victor Phono- [It would be very interesting to
graph Co. Lessons 1 and 2 gave see a copy of their course
the code and conventional signs. method.]
Lessons 3 and 4 contained easy National Radio Institute. Wash-
sentences, etc. Lessons 5 & 6 had ington DC. Radio News Se. 1921.
Marconi Press and then messages “Wonderful Natrometer Gives
with static interference. Lessons 7 You Code-Speed in Half Usual
& 8 were press with static, and Time. will send messages in a
messages with errors and correc- human and not a mechanical
tions. Lesson 9 was press with in- manner at a rate which you can
terference from another station. vary from 3 to 3Ø words per
Lessons 1Ø through 12 were minute. ... The effect of static in-
groups of figures, ten-letter words terference may be added to the
and ten-letter code groups. It was messages being copied. ...A be-
an ambitious program which in- ginner can quickly learn the al-
cluded realistic, typical, practical phabet from our A dial.” Picture
problems of reception. Playing shows a mechanism similar to
time was short. Omnigraph, but about half the
In1921 the Wireless Press, New total size, using ten disks which
York City, advertised: “Study the were exchangeable. Price not
Code Anywhere” appeared. The stated.
ad said: “This New Way - The The first ad for the Dodge Radio
Sound Method for Memorizing Shortcut (Later “Shortkut”)
the Code. For success in tele- called “BKMA YRLSBUG”, by
graphing the letters must be C. K. Dodge, Mamaroneck NY.
learned by the sound. Each letter was seen in Radio News Dec.
has a distinctive cadence or 1921: The ad said: -”Memorize
rhythm which is easily memorized Continental Code Almost In-
by a few hours’ practice. The stantly. Two hundred beginners in
charts attached give the key to the 44 states have reported mastered
rhythm of each letter of the tele- [sic.] code in 2Ø minutes, in one
graph alphabets. It forms no pic- hour, one evening, etc., etc....” It
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 141
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
was a large 5/8 column ad. The minute.” Third month: “Learn
usual later ad was about one inch the Code at Home This Easy Way
in one column, though sometimes With Teleplex. Complete course.”
larger. Price at first was $3.ØØ for They provided a code instruction
small booklet. These ads appeared manual and help and advice per-
for many years afterward. (This is sonally by correspondence. It was
the worthless “Eat Another Raw initially a spring-driven punched
Lemon” method mentioned in paper tape machine. Later models
Chapter 21.) were electric-motor driven. In
Memo Code, H. C. Fairchild, 1942 they produced a paper tape
Newark NJ. Radio News Aug. model which could record one’s
1922. “Boys and grown-ups. own sending (using electro-
Makes you a real radio operator. chemical means) as well as send
By my System and Chart, you will user-prepared tapes. In 1956 they
know the code in 3Ø minutes... reverted to punched tape again,
Complete system $1.ØØ.” A and in 1959 they went to a ma-
buzzer-blinker key practice set chine resembling the Omnigraph.
available with course for $5.ØØ. Prices never published in ads. The
Teleplex Company later brought
In 1922 a Radio News ad of out an inked paper tape type of
Oct.1922 read: “The fastest way mechanical keyer, which was
to learn the radio code.” The available for several years. It used
American Code Co. of New York the sidewise motion of a pen with
City put out a phonograph course a conducting ink (apparently
recorded by the famous hero op- made from a silver compound),
erator Jack Binns, whose bravery and was followed by a similar me-
and skill saved almost every life chanical design using a chemi-
aboard the liner Republic after it cally treated paper tape. The user
was struck in 19Ø9. “Two pho- could make his own recordings
nograph records made by Jack with a key or from a receiver.
Binns and text-book $2.ØØ. ” Playback was by a pair of spring-
This course claimed to be able to loaded fingers which contacted
teach the code in one evening! the conducting ink to close the
Pretty Ambitious ! circuit. Later designs used a pho-
Teleplex Co., New York City. First tocell instead of direct electrical
ad in QST seen Apr. 1927: contact for reading the tapes. This
permitted the use of non-
“The Easy Way to Learn the conducting inks. These differed
Code Cuts Learning Time in Half. only in degree from Morse’s
The famous Teleplex for self- original “recorder.” McElroy’s
instruction at home. The quickest, company also manufactured this
easiest and most economical way type of recording system. These
of learning Morse or Continen- types of systems were generally
tal... Faithfully reproduces actual far beyond the average ham’s
sending of expert operators.” pocketbook.
Next month’s ad: “At last! The
Famous Teleplex ... with only a The Candler System, Chicago.
screw to turn.... 5 to 8Ø words per First ad seen in QST dated Sep.
142 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
1928 (probably advertised earlier right. In either case, it involved a
in other magazines), last ad seen substantial amount of money,
in QST Feb. 1959. Emphasis on which most amateurs could not
high speed and “scientific” na- afford. In addition, the variety
ture of course. Large ads from and amount of practice material
time to time, but usually about they provided was often rather
one inch in a column. Price not limited.
advertised. See Chapter 3Ø. McElroy’s “free code course”
The Instructograph Co., Chicago. offered in 1945 and again in 195-
Must have been in use before first appears to have been associated
ad seen in QST of Jan. 1934. with the use of one of his code
“(Code teacher) The scientific, machines. For its use the claim
easy and quick way to learn the was “Assuming that the average
code. Machines, tapes and com- person will practice several hours
plete instruction for sale or rent.” the first day, we can tell you...
Similar to the Teleplex punched that you’ll be copying that very
paper tape machine, speeds from first day, words and sentences at
3 to 4Ø wpm. Last ads seen in the character rate of 2Ø wpm. Ted
197Ø ARRL Handbook. has taken one-half the alphabet
Øther devices included machines and prepared a practice tape
for producing code practice using which runs for a full hour without
punched paper tapes. The tapes attention at 2Ø wpm. You won’t
were wound on reels and pulled copy 2Ø full words in one minute,
by a clockwork-type spring motor but each letter you write will hit
or electric motor having adjust- your ears at a full 2Ø wpm rate,
able speeds. The tape perforations and the space between the letters
actuated a spring-loaded contac- becomes progressively shorter as
tor to open and close the circuit. the rolls go along.”
Commercial machines were in use An odd little unit offered in 197Ø
long before they entered the was called the “Cotutor.” It was
amateur field. There, Teleplex just a simple whistle with a set of
and Instructograph were the disks which contained the alpha-
earliest and best known; other bet and numbers. Each disk had
later imitators were Automatic six characters, punched through
Telegraph Keyer Corp., Gardiner so that the characters would sound
& Co., etc. A few provided for when one blew into the mouth-
punching one’s own tapes. Ted piece while at the same time
McElroy, the long-time code turning the disk by hand.
speed champion began making a
series of similar high-quality Recorders And Computers
equipment primarily for commer-
cial and Military use during the The real turning point in avail-
WWII period and continued for ability and variety arrived with the
some time afterwards. advent first of the wire recorder
and then of the tape recorders.
Some of these units could be Here, like the phonograph, the
rented as well as purchased out- “machine” was probably some-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 143
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
thing already owned and could be which are reasonably accurate in
used for other things besides timing. For the student who has
code-learning. This kept the cost access to one of these, it will give
down. Many prepared code tapes him a chance to test his own
became commercially available, sending for accuracy. However,
or could be self-recorded from they are not recommended as
the radio or other sources and substitutes for personal receiving
played over and over as desired. by ear.
Many good courses became avail-
able and more are available today. Chapter 26
Some electronic keyboards and Speed Contests
keyers offer a wide variety of pre-
programmed practice materials Speed contests - officially and
for practice. One of their main unofficially - have been held over
advantages is that they always almost the whole history of tele-
produce perfectly formed char- graphy in America. Both the pro-
acters - something that greatly fessionals and the amateurs have
expedites initial learning. had a pride of accomplishment
which begged competition to dis-
But personal computers, which play and reward. Speed contests
entered the scene actively in the provided that.
early 198Ø’s, offer the widest
range for basic code learning and After WWI speed contests among
for advancing in skill. A wide va- amateurs, but open to others also,
riety of freeware programs for began under the sponsorship of
learning and for practice are the ARRL and also local hamfests
available, as well as programs and amateur clubs. Ted McElroy,
commercially produced. Not a who was not an amateur, stood out
few PC programmers have been as the world’s speed champion
able to prepare their own pro- for decades beginning in 1922.
grams tailored to their own par- (In 1933 he lost out to Joseph W.
ticular needs. A number of inter- Chaplin, but regained the title
active programs are available again in 1935.) There were others
which give either immediate or who demonstrated almost equal
delayed helps to the student - ability, and McElroy himself said
these offer tremendous help in on occasion that there were
learning. Some may also allow probably many others who were
the more advanced student to as good or better than he. Several
conduct QSO’s with the computer unofficial records have been es-
program, just as if he was actually tablished in this country, and
on the air. The potential here is lately the European clubs have
great indeed. (See Chapter 16) reported some astounding high-
speed champions.
Finally, there are available com-
puter programs and devices which At first, in the latter 18ØØ’s,
can read receive code transmis- contests seem to have been con-
sions. Because they are machines, cerned only about sending ability.
they can only read code signals This implies that receiving ability

144 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
exceeded their ability to send - wpm increments up to 55 wpm.
which is borne out as we read At each change of speed the con-
history: operators were then lim- testants first listened to some fa-
ited by their sending ability only. miliar taped material, followed
Only later, as “speed keys” and immediately by the fresh test tape.
then machine sending entered so The test tape material was in plain
that truly high sending speeds English taken from Chicago
could be achieved, do receiving newspapers and carefully edited
contests seem to have become im- so as to contain no difficult or
portant. That means until about unusual words or figures, and
the turn of the century. We have only the simplest of punctuation.
already looked into sending abili- Each section of test tape ran for
ties in Chapter 9, so we turn here five minutes at each speed.
to receiving contests. The set-up provided 2ØØ pairs of
We have little detail about most of headphones to listen to the 1ØØØ
these receiving contests. However cycle tone of the oscillator as it
for the one conducted at the was controlled by a Wheatstone
ARRL Convention in Chicago, in automatic keyer. The available
August, l933, where former World test room was small and not many
champion Ted R. McElroy was visitors could watch the proceed-
defeated by Joseph W. Chaplin, ings. Because there were so many
we have extensive information contestants the first test series had
provided by Ivan S. Coggeshall, to be run in two heats.
one of the four judges. Mr. Cog- Mr Coggeshall’s personal reac-
geshall was a telegraph operator tions to the tests are interesting:
himself, and later a vice president
of Western Union. He was the “At 8 wpm you sit back and
only non-amateur judge. (QST twiddle your thumbs, you
November 1933 p 3., personal yawn... At 15 you take up your
correspondence with Mr. Cogge- pencil and leisurely jot the
shall and comments from stuff down... At 2Ø you see the
McElroy, etc.) From these materi- first signs of life. For a minute
als the contest may be described or two you sit back and copy,
as follows:- and then, on second thought,
It was an “open” championship you hitch your chair forward a
for the world’s speed title and bit and straighten the paper.
cup. More than 25Ø contestants At 25 you quit ‘laying behind;
showed up, both amateurs and you decide to close the gap
professionals. Silver trophies were until you read about a word
to be awarded in eight classes, be- behind the sender. Not so bad,
ginning at 8 wpm. The contest now. At 3Ø the fun begins.
was run in two sections, the first a You can read it all right, but
preliminary classification test on the pencil seems to be getting
August 4, eliminating most con- a little sluggish - better make a
testants, and the final run-off the grab for a ‘mill’ [typewriter].
next day. The first section of test At 35 you begin for the first
began at 8 wpm, then 1Ø, and at 5 time to think about errors:
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 145
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
‘How many am I allowed on a parently could not be accurately
5-minute test run of this?’ At preset at these speeds, and speed
4Ø it gets hotter and very sud- was determined afterward by word
denly, too. The last 5 wpm count and time elapsed.)
have more mustard on them, it Rules of the contest allowed a
seems, than the first 3Ø. You maximum of 1% error for each 5-
are holding your own with minute run. At 61.6 wpm all
many a crack commercial ra- made more than 15 errors. At
dio or telegraph operator now. 57.3 (1432 characters or 286.7 5-
You quit worrying about single letter words) Chaplin had 11 er-
wrong letters and start hoping rors out of an allowable of 14,
you can put a typewritten line while at 54.1 wpm he had but 5
down without leaving a word errors, and McElroy made 8 at
out. At 45 the jig is up. You this lower speed. Chaplin was de-
quit, but half a dozen of the clared the winner at 57.3, break-
champs go on.... At 5Ø wpm ing McElroy’s 11-year old record
the dots and dashes get (1922) of 56.5 with one error on
blurred and jumbled at 53 it is a 3-minute run.
just a lot of static - no sense
now in trying to hear any- From this we can see that the 5-
thing. At 55 there is no letter word had been standard for
change. Just as easy to read some time, and is in fact repre-
the QRN [static]...” sentative of regular English. It is
not difficult to compare this with
As each group reached its limit, the present 5Ø-unit standard word
the contestants left the test room. (as in “Paris”) by using letter-
Finally, eight passed the test thus frequency tables (such as used in
far. Between this test section and cryptanalysis. See Chapter 25).
the final run-off a WU cable op- From this it can be shown that a
erator, J. C. Smyth, copied 5-letter word count based on standard
solid cipher code correctly at 45 written English may be expected
wpm, making all the other con- to come within about one percent
testants look like amateurs, and of the present standard of 5Ø
thus putting their attitudes on a units per word.
more nearly equal footing for the
speed grind to follow. Regarding speed contests in gen-
eral, Lavon R. McDonald wrote in
The test tape for the final run-off 194Ø: “About the speed tests,
had been prepared and sealed in government count is used, that is
New York in the presence of In- five units to the word. Only plain
spector Manning of the Federal newspaper English is used, eve-
Radio Commission, and was rything having clear meaning, no
opened by Inspector Hayes of the trick stuff.”
Chicago office at the scene of the
contest. As for the well known 1939 speed
contest, where McElroy was cred-
The final run began at 4Ø wpm - ited with winning at a speed of
then 45 - then 5Ø, 53, 54.1, 57.3 75.2 wpm, McDonald wrote: “ I n
and 6l.6 wpm. (The machine ap- the Asheville tournament, the
146 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
speed was practically the same for
McElroy and myself. We both Chapter 27
copied solid (press matter pre- Abbreviations
pared by the FCC), but they sent
some stuff at 77 wpm and I didn’t Some Of The More Common
get a good start on it. McElroy Abbreviations In CW Work
made something that looked like
copy, but pretty ragged looking, ABT about
so they gave him 75.2, I guess it AGN again
was. If only first class copy had
been counted, it would have ANT antenna
ended a tie. McElroy and I have BCI broadcast interference
had about the same telegraph ex-
perience.” BCL broadcast listener
At the present time the Europeans BK break
appear to have exceeded our re- C yes
corded contest speeds. In the
1991 International Amateur Ra- CUD could
dio Union high speed telegraphic CUL see you later
championship contest Oleg Bu-
zubov UA4FBP copied 53Ø fig- CUZ because
ures (numbers) per minute with CW continuous wave
only one error: that is 1Ø6 wpm,
DX distance
8.83 figures per second! Amaz-
ing! (See Morsum Magnificat 22- ES and
4) However, the duration of these FB fine business; excellent
tests is stated to be one minute.
This seems rather too short in it- GA go ahead; good after-
self or to be in any way directly noon
comparable with the contests run GE good evening
in America. It seems doubtful that
these speeds could be maintained GM good morning
for three to five minutes. GN good night
Some of the others who have GND ground
achieved very high speed have
been: GUD good
Eugene A. Hubbell, Wayland M. HI high; laugh
Groves, J. W. Champlin, J. B. HR here
Donnelly, V. S. Kearney, J. S.
Carter, Carl G. Schaal (W4PEI), HV have
Frank E. Connolly, Wells E. Bur- HW how
LID poor operator
MSG message
N no

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 147

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

NR number YL young lady

NW now Abbreviations Used In Traffic
OB old boy Handling
OM old man AA all after
OP operator AB all before
OT old timer ADR address
PSE please BN all between
PWR power CFM confirm
R received as transmitted CK check
RCD received DLD delivered
RCVR receiver GBA give better address
RFI radio freq. interference MSG prefix to radiogram
RIG station equipment NIL nothing; I have nothing
RPT repeat; I repeat for you
SED said PBL preamble
SIG signal; signature REF refer to
SKED schedule SINE opr’s personal initials
SRI sorry VC prefix to service mes-
TMW tomorrow
TXT text
TNX thanks
WA word after
TVI television interference
WB word before
TT that
WD word
TU thank you
UR your Examples Of The Phillips Code
VY very The Phillips code was developed
to bring the sending operator’s
WKD worked - working skill up toward that of the receiv-
WKG worked - working ing operator, who typically could
receive much faster than anyone
WL well could send by hand. Phillips code
WUD would is a systematic, rigid system of
WX weather abbreviations used along with
normal spelling of all other words,
XMTR transmitter and cuts total transmission time
XTAL crystal about in half. There were about
6ØØØ abbreviations under this
XYL wife
148 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
long-used system. It was used in AJ adjust
commercial press (news) transmis-
sions. A skilled operator could ANR another
easily keep up, typing out the AR answer
words in full as fast as the sender
could hand send, but he didn’t AX ask
dare let his mind wander. AY any
Words were cut to their “back- AYG anything
bone”, leaving only the letters
AYM any more
that carry the brunt of their pro-
nunciation. See the list below for B be
how this was done. Abbreviated BC because
words were modified by, e.g.,
adding “d” for the past tense of BD board
verbs and “g” for -ing; BF before
“s” was added to nouns for their BH both
plural; some words added “b”
for able. A couple of simple ex- BK break
amples of text are given here. BN been
Example of 188 letters reduced to BTN between
116 (?) 61.7%:-
BTR better
BTL, T FS D US X A CCN conclusion
CKT circuit
CAK.” Translated into normal
text, it says:- CL call
“The decision could mean the CLO close
end of the unprecedented two CLR clear
year custody battle, the first in the
United States in which a surrogate CMB combine
mother was taken to trial for CNG change
backing out of an agreement to
turn over a child she bore under CT connect
contract.” CU current
AB about CY copy
ABV above D in the
ADZ advise DD did
AF after DT do not
AG again DUX duplex
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 149
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

EMGY emergency MSG missing

EQ equip MSJ message
EQPT equipment MSR measure
F of the N not
FD find NA name
FJ found NF notify
FM from NI night
FR for NTG nothing
FT for the NUM number
FYI for your information NR near
G from the NV never
GD good NW now
NX next
GG going OD order
GTG getting OFS office
GV give OP operate
GM gentleman OTR other
H has OV over
HD had PGH paragraph
HM him PLS please
HR here, hear Q on the
HS his QK quick
HV have S send
HW how SAF soon as feasible
ICW in connection with SAP soon as possible
IM immediately SD should
INVG investigate SED said
IX it is SES says
TGH telegraph SM some
KW know SM somehere
LV leave SMG something
M more SM some
MK make SN soon
150 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

SNC since WY why

SPL special YA yesterday
STN station In addition to these there were a
large number of very short special
SVL several abbreviations for phrases com-
T the mon in news releases, such as for
TGR together “President of the United States,”
etc. Usually these consisted of 3 -
TI time 5 letters, very brief.
TK take A Few Useful Z- Signals
TM them
The Z-signals were developed and
TNK think used for a time by some commer-
TRU through cial operators. A few of them
which might be useful to amateurs
TS this are:-
TT that ZCG local receiving condi-
TTT that the tions good
TW tomorrow ZCP local receiving condi-
tions poor
TY they
ZLS we are suffering from a
U you
lightning storm
UN until
ZSH static is heavy here
UR your
ZOK we are receiving OK
VY very
ZSR your sigs strong read-
W with able
WD would ZGS your signals are getting
WG wrong stronger

WH which ZWR your sigs weak but

WI will
ZFS your signals are fading
WIN within slightly
WIT witness ZVS signals varying in inten-
WK week sity
WN when ZFB your signals are fading
WO who
ZGW your signals are getting
WR were weaker
WS was ZSU your sigs are unreadable
WT what
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 151
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

ZAN we can receive abso- ZRO are you receiving OK?

lutely nothing You will notice that these signals
ZUB we are unable to break are much easier to remember than
you the Q-signals. The two letters fol-
lowing Z- are suggestive. (QST
ZVF your signals are varying 1943 No p. 63
in frequency
In 191Ø some wireless abbrevia-
ZDH your dits are too heavy tions were:
(long), please adjust
GA = go ahead,
ZDL your dits are too
light(short), please adjust 4 = please start me, where...,
ZMO stand by a moment 13 = understand,
ZMQ stand by for... 25 = am busy now,
ZLB give long breaks 3Ø = no more,
ZWO send words once 77 = message for you,
ZWT send words twice 99 = keep out
ZSF send faster Chapter 28
ZSS send slower
Letter Frequency Counts
ZTH send by hand
ZCS cease sending International Morse Code
ZAP acknowledge please
ZHC how are your receiving

Freq. Letter Structure Units Total

13Ø E 1ØØØ 4 52Ø
92 T 111ØØØ 6 552
79 N 111Ø1ØØØ 8 632
76 R 1Ø111Ø1ØØØ 1Ø 76Ø
75 O 111Ø111Ø111ØØØ 14 1Ø5Ø
74 A 1Ø111ØØØ 8 592
74 I 1Ø1ØØØ 6 444
61 S 1Ø1Ø1ØØØ 8 48
42 D 111Ø1Ø1ØØØ 1Ø 42
36 L 1Ø111Ø1Ø1ØØØ 12 432
34 H 1Ø1Ø1Ø1ØØØ 1Ø 34Ø
31 C 111Ø1Ø111Ø1ØØØ 14 434

152 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

28 F 1Ø1Ø111Ø1ØØØ 12 336
27 P 1Ø111Ø111Ø1ØØØ 14 378
26 U 1Ø1Ø111ØØØ 1Ø 26Ø
25 M 111Ø111ØØØ 1Ø 25Ø
19 Y 111Ø1Ø111Ø111ØØØ 16 3Ø4
16 G 111Ø111Ø1ØØØ 12 192
16 W 1Ø111Ø111ØØØ 12 192
15 V 1Ø1Ø1Ø111ØØØ 12 18Ø
1Ø B 111Ø1Ø1Ø1ØØØ 12 12Ø
5 X 111Ø1Ø1Ø111ØØØ 14 7Ø
3 Q 111Ø111Ø1Ø111ØØØ 16 48
3 K 111Ø1Ø111ØØØ 12 36
2 J 1Ø111Ø111Ø111ØØØ 16 32
1 Z 111Ø111Ø1Ø1ØØØ 14 14
1ØØØ Ave. Structure length 11.23 Ave. 9.Ø7 9Ø76

The letter frequency counts (left- 2Ø.3% longer than normal Eng-
most column) are taken from one lish word length.)
of the common books on cryp- A similar analysis of numbers will
tanalysis, based on number of oc- show that the average length of a
currences per thousand of normal number is 17 units (minimum 12,
English text material. Each char- maximum 22) or a group of five
acter is analyzed (“structure”) numbers takes about 1.78 times as
into units, 1 for minimum signal long to transmit as a five letter
duration (one dit), 111 (three word.
units duration) for a dah, and
each equal unit of silence denoted Comparing these calculations will
by!Ø (zero). The required three show some of the reasons why
units of silence separating each receiving speeds vary with the
character is added (ØØØ) to each kind of material being sent.
one below. As a matter of interest, we list here
From the above, if we take five the letters from the shortest to the
times the above average letter longest by the number of units
length and add the space required (less letter space) -- notice that all
for word spacing (seven total or lengths are odd numbers:
ØØØØØØØ) we arrive at the 1 - E;
normal English word length as 5
x 9.Ø76 + 4 = 49.38. This is just 3 - I, T;
a bit less than 1% shorter than 5Ø 5 - A, N, S;
units per standard word. (By con-
trast, a random five-letter group 7 - D, H, M, R, U;
averages 6Ø.15 units. This is 9 - B, F, G, K, L, V, W;
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 153
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
11 - C, O, P, X, Z; Hochschule, Braunschweig, Ger-
many, reported in Jan-Feb. 1936
13 - J, Q, Y. (see Sources), seem to be virtually
Foreign Adaptations Of The In- unknown outside of Germany.
ternational Morse Code His goal was to discover the most
efficient way to teach the Morse
If the same kind of calculations code to prospective radiotele-
are carried out for several foreign graph operators to meet the Inter-
languages, the following results national requirements for com-
are obtained for the average char- mercial radio operators.
acter length: (Frequency data These requirements were:
from Secret and Urgent, Fletcher
Pratt l942 Tables II to IV, p. 253 _ send 1ØØ words in five
ff.) minutes,
German 8.64Ø, _ copy a 1ØØ word telegram
in five minutes, and
French 8.694,
_ copy 125 words of ordi-
Spanish 8.286 . nary text in five minutes,
These range on the average from one word being reckoned
5 - 9% shorter per character than as five letters
in English. There seem little Koch’s researches involved: de-
doubt that if the code were some- termining what competent opera-
what redesigned and adjusted to tors are doing,!examining teach-
optimize it for English a reduc- ing methods in current use, then
tion of about 5% could be made. devising better methods, and test-
ing them in actual classes. His
For the Original American conclusions and recommenda-
Morse code tions seem to be the earliest real
Mr. Ivan Coggeshall made an research into how best to teach the
analysis of American Morse com- Morse code. They agree on the
paratively, using the same normal whole with the best methods of
dah lengths and word spacings today, and may offer some fur-
one unit shorter, and arrived at an ther ideas of value to us. They are
average letter (frequency) length summarized!here.
of 7.978 (as compared with
9.Ø76)!and average number Tests To Determine What Com-
length of l4. As noted in Chapter petent Operators Are Doing
16, American Morse timing is He ran three series of tests to de-
open to considerable variationtermine how the code is compre-
hended and for this purpose used
Chapter 29 four competent, actively-
The Koch Researches practicing radio telegraphers.
Three of these operators had
The obviously extensive re- learned the code solely by sound,
searches of Ludwig Koch, Psy- while the fourth was self-taught
chologist at Die Technische from printed code charts.
154 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
about 1Ø wpm character rate all
Sending Tests four operators were forming
For the first test each operator was fairly accurate patterns of sound
to send by regular hand key the (nearly to the International Stan-
series of ten letters b c v q f l h y z dard), except that the letters them-
x at various speeds while moni- selves were somewhat faster and
toring his sending with a pair of the spaces between letters were
headphones to satisfy himself as somewhat longer than standard.
to its quality. Out of his sight and By about 12 wpm all sending had
hearing a recording system made become quite consistent with the
an accurate timed graphical re- standard. (Only the well-known
cord of his sending, so that the individual peculiarities of sending
actual timing of signal and space by hand were obvious. At 1Ø
durations could be examined in wpm and above these deviations
detail. He was instructed to send, were always very small.)
using standard International The three operators who had
Morse timing, at each of six dif- learned by sound obviously
ferent speeds ranging from about showed no real sense of sound
2Ø to 8Ø characters per minute. patterning (Gestalt) at these very
Standard International Morse low speeds: no sense of unity, but
timing, as described in Chapter rather just a series of separate
12, was then used to compare elements strung together. Only by
their sending at all speeds. about 1Ø wpm were the code
Below about 1Ø wpm the only characters now felt to be entities
operator who closely conformed of sound in themselves, patterns
to standard timing was the one which were clear-cut in each op-
who had visually learned the erator’s mind,!no longer shattered
code. The three others deviated elements, disjointed parts.
considerably from “standard”
timing. At 5 wpm these deviations Receiving Tests
were appreciable: Test number One: - Each operator
_ The dits were too short, was to copy the 3Ø German
Morse characters sent by a ma-
_ The dahs tended to be chine in perfect “standard” tim-
longer than 3 times dit ing!at each of four different
length, and speeds over the same speed range
_ The spaces between char- as before.
acters were too long. At about 5 wpm these experi-
However, spacing between the enced operators hardly recog-
components of a letter was almost nized a single character correctly!
perfectly equal to their dit At 7 wpm only 4Ø% to 6Ø% of
lengths. the letters were correctly identi-
fied. At 1Ø wpm all operators
At successively higher speeds this were getting about 95% correct.
situation changed slowly and By 12 wpm all of them correctly
somewhat irregularly until by identified every character.
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 155
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Test Number Two - Here the student is required to memorize
length of the spaces between the this as a mental picture before
letters was doubled. This time the going any further. After that, the
operators recognized almost all characters are sent to him in stan-
letters correctly at all speeds. That dard timing, at first very, very
is interesting. slowly. This means they are sent
with long drawn out dits, dahs and
From these tests it was concluded spaces. The speed is then very
that experienced operators recog- gradually increased in tiny steps.
nize a code character by its over-
all acoustic pattern (Gestalt), and The faults with this system are:
that this pattern stands out clearly _ To begin by learning visual
only when sent at a minimum symbols creates a useless
character speed of about 5Ø char- detour
acters per minute. At lower speeds
it is heard simply as a disjointed _ Slow sending destroys any
series of signals. --!Koch con- unity, or coherent sound-
cluded that these operators could patterning
recognize the too-slowly sent let- _ The disjointed signal
ters only when letter spacing was doesn’t meet our need for a
doubled, because this increased sense of unity
interval gave them time to inte-
grate the sound and mentally _ Learner can hardly help
speed it up to where they could counting the dits and dahs
recognize it. (A beginner would _ The long spaces between
not have the skill to do this.) letters distract his attention
The operator who had learned from listening by:
from a printed code chart appar- _ Encouraging him to
ently formed better proportioned think and try to put the
characters at very low speeds be- shattered parts together
cause his visual mental picture was to make sense of them,
so strong. However, the price paid a shaped unity, (Ge-
for this was that it limited his stalt), or
maximum speed of copying: he
could barely meet the minimum _ Guessing what may
requirements - a marginal opera- come next
tor. (See below.) _ At each increase in speed
everything sounds different,
Analysis And Criticism Of Pre- and he virtually has to start
vious Teaching Methods over again.
The “Analytic” Method intro- In short, the student is sidetracked
duces the student to the code us- and severely penalized all the way
ing some sort of systematic ar- along: needlessly translating from
rangement, or chart, where the bits and pieces of sound to try to
code characters are arranged by put it together into a meaningful
number and type of related ele- whole, then converting that to vis-
ments, etc., in a visual form. The
156 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
ual form and then finally to the Analyzing these methods, two
letter. classes of errors can be seen:
The “Sound-Pattern” Method _ Errors which hinder the
first introduces the Morse char- building of a sense of
acters to the student at a character acoustic!unity
speed fast enough for them to be
perceived as an acoustic unity _ Detour through an op-
(Gestalt), but with wide spaces tical symbol.
between the characters. However, _ Disintegration of the
the student has usually already acoustic form of the
visually mastered a code table or character.
is encouraged to do so as he
learns. _ Errors which prevent going
d i r e c t l y f r o m acous-
Unfortunately, visual mental pic- tic!impression to the letter:
tures are usually very much
stronger and easier to recall than _ Thinking about the
auditory sound patterns. Thus the signal during long
student tends to convert the signal pauses.
pattern he hears into the corre- _ Guessing what may
sponding visual representation, come next.
break it into its component parts, _ Converting or trans-
and then finally into the letter. lating from sound to
This complex action tends at least visual and from visual
partially destroys the wholeness of to the letter
the acoustic impression.
_ Converting or inte-
This series of actions is encour- grating into a total
aged by the long pauses between rhythm pattern.
characters, giving adequate time
for thinking, speculation and the The remedy is obviously to elimi-
cumbersome translation proc- nate all visual references and as-
esses. With increasing speeds the sociate the sound directly with the
pause time becomes too short to letter, to send fast enough from
go through all this, and so the the very beginning so that coher-
student gets stuck below or ent sound patterns are immedi-
around 1Ø wpm, just as with the ately sensed, and to eliminate
analytic method. non-normal spacing between let-
So this method tends to suffer
about the same faults as the ana- Tests To Establish A Better
lytical method. Both generally Teaching Method
lead directly to that troublesome
plateau at around 1Ø wpm, where Character Speed For Initial
the distinct change in perception Learning
from bits and pieces to coherent The obvious goal was to meet the
unity of each signal occurs. International requirements. The
question is how best to get there.

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 157

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Would it be better to begin from “dit” and “dah”, whose vowel
the first using a 1ØØ character qualities and lengths make sound
rate per minute, or some lesser patterns stand out somewhat like
speed? This experiment was tried. little melodies. This helps accen-
For the average student it was tuate the differences between
found that the demands on his sound patterns and simultane-
concentration were significantly ously promotes an immediate
greater at 1ØØ letters per minute sense of meaningful unity of the
than at 12 letters per minute, es- acoustic patterns.
pecially as more and more new Could the use of two different
characters were introduced. pitches, one for dits and the other
(Above average students did well, for dahs, make it easier for the
however, at the higher initial new student to recognize the
speed.) But, of course, if one wholeness of the rhythmic pattern
learns initially at some lower (“melody”) of a code character,
speed, speed is going to have to and make it easier to learn?
be increased to meet the require- Could it help reduce the stress
ments. caused by the intensity of his
Various tests showed that about concentration in the early learn-
12 wpm was an optimal speed for ing stages, while he is being intro-
most people to begin learning. It duced to the rhythms and trying
is far enough above the 1Ø wpm to get accustomed to them? It
plateau to avoid it. Further tests looked worth a try.
showed that once the student had He conducted two classes simulta-
mastered all the code characters at neously to evaluate the merits of
12 wpm, it was relatively easy for the two-tone approach. After the
him to advance to 7Ø letters per first lesson, at each stage the two-
minute, and by continuing to tone group averaged two lesson
practice using the same principles, periods ahead of the monotone
to advance fairly rapidly, step by group. (For the two-tone class the
step, to the required speeds. Thus pitches were gradually merged
a 12 wpm beginning speed into one by about mid-course.)
seemed well justified. Results:- the two-tone class in 24
Can The Rhythm Patterns Be sessions reached what took the
Enhanced monotone class 28 lessons to
achieve. Total teaching time was
Koch observed that in the early 12 (two-tone) to 14 (monotone)
stages of learning, the beginner hours. (With both groups there
has to concentrate intensely to were the usual, occasional short
catch the letter rhythm-patterns. Is plateaus, each lasting generally no
there anything which could be more than one lesson period.)
done make this easier for him? Conclusion: - this is a worthwhile
improvement to help the begin-
He observed that some teachers ner.
were speaking, or even almost
singing, the sound patterns of
code characters using the syllables
158 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
What Letters Should Be When To Introduce A New
Taught First Character
1. Distinguishing Between His tests showed that it is safe to
Similar Sounding Patterns introduce a new character into the
What characters should first be list only after the student knows
presented to the student? Al- thoroughly all the characters he
though tests had shown that stu- has already studied. He set his
dents can, in their first lesson, working standard at a minimum
readily learn to distinguish similar of 9Ø%: that is, not to introduce a
patterns such as the series e-i-s-h, new character until the students
the degree of concentration re- were getting at least 9Ø% correct
quired had a negative effect on copy at any stage. This provided a
them. Experience has shown that good measure for comparison,
many sound patterns, as speeds and at the same time let the stu-
rise, can be mistaken for similar dent evaluate his own progress. It
sounding patterns, especially in is indeed interesting that the test
regard to the number of dits classes showed that students
which become pretty short at learned new characters almost in
higher speeds: e.g., S and H, or U exact proportion to the number of
and V. The dah characters do not lesson periods (total hours). The
run this risk so much: e.g., W and experiments also showed that
J. In addition some beginners do three to four new characters were
experience temporary confusion about optimum for any one les-
between mirror image characters, son period.
such as B and V, D and U. Thus it Should Practice Be By
seems best to begin with sound Groups Of Letters
patterns which are distinctly and The question he asked is this:
obviously different. In this way should the student practice one
the student can learn more gradu- group of characters until he
ally to discriminate between knows them well, then work on a
smaller differences. second group separately in the
2. Letters that Tend to be same way, and after that combine
Troublesome the groups?
Koch says these (for German stu- He began this teaching test with
dents) are generally x y p q. (Z is characters composed of dahs
very frequent in German.) If these only: t m o ch (German single
are introduced during the first character ch). After enough prac-
third of the program, there is tice (a couple of class sessions) to
more opportunity to give them “master” this group of letters, he
adequate practice, and this gener- began teaching the dit group e i s
ally results in shortening the total h by itself in the same way. Next
program. he combined these two groups
together, and found that somehow
during the intensive study of the
second group, the students had

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 159

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
forgotten the first group almost ual characters, tending to miss or
completely, and their confidence confuse them. They show up as
was badly shaken. He had to be- little plateaus on his record of ad-
gin all over again teaching these vancement. What letters these are
eight letters together until they varies greatly from student to stu-
were mastered together. dent. The five-column copying
After this, when these eight letters forms described below serve to
had been practiced to the point help identify which these trouble-
where they were correctly and some ones are - needing more
consistently identified, two new practice.
groups were studied separately in How Long Should Lessons
the same way as the first two Be And How Distributed In
groups. First the group d b g, then Time
after that the group u v w. Next, He cited B. Jost’s researches
when these two new groups were which found that people learn
mixed together, it was found that more quickly and retain it longer
the d b g group had been forgot- for a given total learning time,
ten. But worse, after these two when the lesson periods are
groups had been re-learned to- shorter and widely separated in
gether (d b g u v w) to the point time. E.g., for a total of 24 lesson
of correct identification, and then periods (which always include
combined with the first 8 letters, reviews):- to schedule four lesson
alas, the (combined) first two periods a day for six days is four
groups of 8 letters had been virtu- times more effective than to
ally forgotten! schedule eight lesson periods a
It appears that the student’s in- day for 3 days, and that to sched-
tense concentration upon a new ule two lesson periods a day for
group of characters by itself 12 days is eight times more effec-
causes that group to override and tive. That is, spread out the lessons
replace what had been previously in time.
“learned”. He sensibly con- What is the ideal length of a les-
cluded that teaching by groups is son period? -- Koch found by
wrong-headed. Therefore, the testing that to have a long morn-
most efficient way is to introduce ing lesson, and then after corre-
one new letter at a time and then sponding length of rest period to
immediately integrate it into the continue in the afternoon, de-
group of letters already learned, manded too much intense con-
until finally the whole alphabet is centration. The students got tired
complete. In this way all the pre- too quickly and the repetition
viously learned characters are un- practice was not as effective as it
der constant review and repeated should be. By trial he determined
frequently without lapses. that a half-hour lesson period was
Troublesome Characters about optimum. (Even a 45 min-
Experience has shown that quite a ute period began to show dimin-
few students have some trouble ishing returns.) He finally rec-
identifying one or more individ- ommended two half-hour periods,
160 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
one in morning and one in the at all times. This is facili-
afternoon as optimum. tated by:
Several courses using various of _ Sending at a speed of
these principles were conducted. at least 12 wpm (6Ø
However, at the time of this report, letters/minute) from
he had not had classes where he the very first. This will
could combine all the optimum promote the sense of
test conditions. The students sav- acoustic unity and by-
able were people who were inter- pass the discouraging
ested, but not primarily, at least, 1Ø wpm plateau (tran-
for professional purposes. Fur- sition) region com-
thermore, they were employed at pletely.
full-time work during the day, _ Emphasizing the me-
and were often tired by class time, lodic nature of the
which had to be scheduled in the code patterns initially,
evenings. Also, he could schedule like a little tune, by the
only two or three half-hour lesson use one pitch for the
periods per week. Hardly ideal. dits and a slightly dif-
In spite of this progress was good, ferent pitch for the
and no difficulties were encoun- dahs. These pitches are
tered. Three to five characters then gradually to be
were presented and learned in the brought closer to-
first half-hour period. He aimed gether so that by about
for many repetitions during each the mid-point of the
lesson, never less than ten repeti- program they are
tions of each character during a identical and continue
given lesson period, even after the from there on as a sin-
entire alphabet had been intro- gle pitch.
duced. Each successive period _ From the very first all prac-
began with a lively review of what tice is to be in five-letter
had been learned up to that point. groups, with normal spac-
New Philosophy For Teaching ing between the letters, as in
_ It is a mistake to let the stu- ciphered texts, but with dis-
dent see a code character in tinctly longer pauses be-
any kind of visual form, tween groups. This has a
because a visual impression dual purpose:
is so strong that it will al- _ To leave no time for
most invariably lead to conscious thinking or
analyzing it into dits and translation between
dahs, and thus shatter its letters, and thus to re-
unity. quire direct passage
_ Each Morse code character from sound pattern to
must retain its unitary na- the letter itself, and
ture, its acoustic wholeness _ So that the student will
immediately become

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 161

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
used to hearing letters a. Character rhythm:
in groupings as in Character - space -
normal communica- character - space
tion, and not as iso-
lated letters. b. Group rhythm: Letter-
group - space - Letter-
Designing An Efficient group - space ...
Teaching Program
From the very first, to get the stu-
1. The first exercise is to teach dent accustomed to overall
the student to hear and be- rhythms, he is supplied with
gin to become accustomed “copying” sheets having several
to hearing the different sets of five-column groups of lit-
overall rhythms of sound tle squares like graph paper, as
and silence:- shown below. They will also be
used for all subsequent regular
copying practice.
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .

Five letter random groups are b. On the associated rhythm,

then to be sent. At first these will letter by letter, of the writ-
all be unknown letters. As he ing hand, and
hears each acoustic pattern of a c. On recognizing the pause
letter in a five-letter group, he is after each group.
to place a dot in the square which
corresponds to the position of that A relatively short initial session
sound pattern within its group. (1Ø minutes or so) of this will
begin to accustom him to these
Thus he works along across the overall and detail patterns of
five-space line, becoming used to sound as entities.
hearing each letter-rhythm pattern
and then writing a dot for it in the 2. The second exercise is to
appropriate square. (At this stage start him on the way
he only recognizes the sound a. To recognize the dif-
patterns as entities, nothing more.) ferences in rhythm-
He continues to work line by line pattern between two
down the column as each new quite different-
group is heard. In this way he be- sounding letters, and
gins the practice of focusing:
b. Become familiar with
a. On the coherent acoustic the sound patterns of
forms and
162 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
each character, and to to recognize immediately and
become accustomed to automatically. He must get ac-
them. (all sending to customed to giving such signals
be machine precise.) no thought at all (except to put
A. This begins by introducing down a dot), so that he can give
the two first characters just his undistracted attention to the
as sound patterns - without next incoming sound pattern.
identifying what letters they Otherwise, during the all-too-short
are. They are to be sent pause after each signal which he
separately and at random does not immediately identify and
until the student definitely before the next one is heard, he is
recognizes and distin- going to try to think about what
guishes their individual signal it was. But while he is
patterns (pattern one and thinking about it the next signal
pattern two, or whatever). arrives, tending to upset him and
At this time they are not yet cause him to lose the flow of the
to be identified with their rhythm. This interruption must
printed letters: they are from the very first be stopped. His
simply recognized as dif- teacher must insist that whenever
ferent patterns of sound. the student does not immediately
B. Only after he has become and automatically recognize a
accustomed to distinguish- sound pattern, just to put a dot in
ing the first two letter pat- the corresponding square, then
terns from each other, and immediately let it go, and con-
to the rhythm groups as tinue on with the rhythm. This
they are, and writing dots in action must become habitual, and
the little squares, is he to be this technique has been devised to
told the names of these first develop it from the very first.
two characters. He should Now as he identifies the acoustic
from then on have no diffi- patterns he will write their corre-
culty in writing their letters sponding letters in the little
down in the little squares squares. If the teacher chooses to
whenever and as he hears mix into the 5-letter groups code
them. characters which the student has
This is to train him during these not been taught, there should be
early stages and later on that he is dots to correspond with them.
to recognize and react to the pres- After one or two short (about 1Ø
ence of each and every acoustic min.) practice periods this way,
pattern, either by identifying it or the relationships between the
by a dot in the square, and of the acoustic impression and the letters
larger groupings of letters identi- they represent should have be-
fied by the longer space. come so closely knit together that
It is obvious that, especially in the there is an immediate transition
learning stages, there are going to from the acoustic sound pattern to
be acoustic patterns passing by the letter (or a dot). Only when
which he may or will not be able
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 163
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
this point is reached is a third let- culties. First, he had only 4 regu-
ter to be added to the first two. lar operators to study -- that's piti-
3. Only one new letter at a fully few as a sample, but barely
time is to be introduced enough (because he had been an
and added to those already operator himself) to draw solid
known. The criterion for conclusions.) Koch had very few
adding a new letter is: classes to teach, and most students
when at least 9Ø% of the were only somewhat interested.
letters already well known None planned to enter telegraphy
are correctly identified. as a profession or hobby no
Each new letter is added to amateurs were participating. Most
the group of recognized or all had put in a full workday
sound patterns in the same before coming to class in the eve-
way as the first two were: nings. He did not get to try com-
first by simple recognition bined techniques, but could only
of the pattern without surmise they would function to-
knowing what letter it is, gether.
and in contrast with the This semi-translation takes these
previously known ones, factors into account and makes
and only when he readily some effort to summarize them.
recognizes it its individual Koch used 12 WPM character
sound pattern is he to be speed and standard character and
told what letter it is. word spacing, (his purpose was to
As an example of the introduction leave no time for conscious
of characters and the five-letter thinking or translation between
groups used, if the sequence of letters). I think if he had permit-
letters taught were h - f - a - g - ted or understood “Farnsworth”
etc.: for the initial two-character spacing he would have been wise,
lesson, groups were like: based on the US experience. Sub-
l. hfhhf fhfhfh sequent practice would shorten
these extra spaces as faster char-
2. Next character: aahfh acter recognition was achieved.
With just normal spacing, the
3. Next: ggbaf ghfah characters just come too fast for
4. Next: ccgaf gcafh , easy initial recognition, and so he
could not use much faster basic
5. etc. (In this example he did character speeds than 12 wpm or
not begin with the more many students would have be-
frequently “troublesome” come discouraged. Personally I
letters.) believe that 15 wpm should be the
Summary bare minimum initial character
speed and that 25 wpm may be
“It strikes me that Koch was al- too fast for some people until
lotted too little finances and was pattern recognition becomes ob-
pressed too hard to get it out. vious.
Koch worked under several diffi-

164 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Koch's first concern was, the stu- Chapter 3Ø
dent has to get familiar with the
code-type of rhythm patterns, and The Candler System
he can only do this when the
characters stand out alone clearly No treatise on learning the
and are unitary in nature (not a code would be complete with-
jumble of dits and dahs in series). out a summary and discussion
of this famous and formerly
The wholeness of each character long-advertised course.
pattern is vital. Musicians seem to
do this more quickly and easily Background
than non-musicians, who may By 19Ø4 Walter H. Candler had
need to learn it. N1IRZ Dave learned the American Morse code
Finley has said this well in his and worked for two years as a
book “Morse Code: Breaking the telegrapher. He had practiced
Barrier”. Koch seems to have had diligently and felt qualified to
little appreciation for the value of apply for a job as commercial
the so-called Farnsworth (spacing) relay operator in the Western
method, where characters are sent Union office at Atlanta GA. But
at higher speeds than overall he didn’t last out there even one
words per minute actual count. At day, and had to take a night shift
one point he barely mentions ex- job as telegraph operator at a
tra word spaces. Nor does Koch small town R.R. station. He was
recognize the value of starting the deeply hurt and puzzled. What
learner on longer characters (such was the matter? What mysterious
as Q Y 1 5, etc., rather than on ingredient was missing?
short characters and groups as E I
T A N so as to learn early to hear As was the custom at the best tele-
out the whole character before graph schools, he had visually
identifying it. memorized the Morse code from
a printed table of dots and dashes,
It is this very first stage of learn- and then practiced and practiced.
ing that is so vital. Unless each (This “standard” procedure was
character is so thoroughly learned confirmed by a former teacher at
by “reflex action” (stimulus- the well-known Dodge’s Institute
response) practice that immedi- - no connection to the later C. K.
ately after its sound (e.g., “dadi- Dodge “Radio Shortkut”.) One
dadit” ) stops it is instantly rec- night on the job, quite by acci-
ognized as the character “C” the dent, he discovered that when
learning process is incomplete. once in a while he dozed off at
Any attempt to build up speed is the operating table, he could read
going to fail, and the joy of using the fastest code coming over the
the code is going to be dimin- lines to his sounder. Yet when he
ished or lost.” was awake and alert he could
catch only a word here and there.
It was then that he began to real-
ize that telegraphy is primarily a

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 165

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
mental process, and that the so- 1939, and made extensive notes
called “sub-conscious m i n d ” on.
must play a vital part in it. (At that There is evidence that, although
time here was quite a bit of the essentials stood out strongly
popular writing about the “sub- and firmly, over the years the de-
conscious mind,” which no doubt tails varied in minor ways. His
helped him put it all together.) He basic philosophy may be stated
began experimenting until he had as:- “This system trains you to
solved his own problem and mas- use your mind” to develop “sci-
tered the code himself, and in entifically your coordination,
time he became qualified to teach concentration and confidence” -
others how to do it, too. By 1911 your responsiveness. The course
he had established his own consisted of ten lessons plus con-
“school” in Chicago to teach siderable valuable supplementary
“The Candler System,” later material, mostly as letters. It is
moving it to Asheville, NC. summarized below.
Although he died on 23 April The Essential Principles
1Ø4Ø, his wife, who was already
an experienced telegrapher her- Since Candler was concerned with
self when they were married in those training to become com-
1924, and had worked with him mercial operators, he first empha-
since, continued to handle the sized the importance of healthy
course for a number of years. (It living: eating, exercise, breathing,
was last advertised in QST in etc. This emphasis was needed in
1959.) those days because the typical city
operator worked long hours in
The Course unhealthy smoke-filled, darkish,
Originally his “High Speed” crowded and poorly ventilated
course was designed for operators offices.
who already “knew” American l. Develop “sound con-
Morse, but were stuck at some too sciousness.” -In Lesson 7
low speed. Later he added the In- he wrote: “In learning code
ternational code to it, covering it is necessary to con-
both codes. Still later a new sciously count the dits and
course, called “The Scientific dahs of the various signals,
Code Course,” designed to be both in sending and re-
successfully used by beginners ceiving. By repetition, the
working alone, was created from sub-conscious mind gradu-
the regular “High Speed” course ally assumes this burden of
by modifying it to add helps to counting them. As long as
get the beginner started. (Thus it you must consciously count
contained all that the “High them, work will be slow, but
Speed” course contained.) That as the sub-mind takes them,
new course was later renamed they go faster and faster.”
“The Junior Code Course,” and “As you progress,” he
was the one I obtained in October wrote elsewhere, “Begin to
respond more readily to the
166 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
sound patterns than to vis- and act positively: (The “ I
ual ones: learn to shift from can do it” attitude). If you
what you mentally see to maintain a positive attitude
what you hear. So long as as you think and consis-
you must consciously re- tently practice, the sub-
mind yourself that so many mind will take over the task
dits and dahs ‘stand’ for more quickly, and it will
certain letters, you are not become easier each time
learning code.” So, “when you do it. Conscious effort
you hear didah, no longer is needed until it becomes
say to yourself: ‘didah automatic. First you learn
stands for A.’ Instead, when by consciously employing
you hear didah, hear A. Do the principles in your
not translate.” “In learning regular daily practice. Then
code you do not have to gradually, if you practice as
relearn words, but you do directed, your sub-mind
have to change the ap- will take over the job with
proach...from visual to less and less conscious ef-
auditory... Once you have fort, and you will make
mastered this consciously, good progress.
your sub-mind will handle 3. Learning to read code, to
that detail, and do a faster, r e c e i v e, is the important
better job than your con- thing. That is, to understand
scious mind possibly can.” without having to write it
Critique down. Reading means lis-
tening and understanding
We must remember that he and what is being said, just as in
most of his students had already reading ordinary print or
“learned” visually, and now this when listening to someone
must be replaced by direct audi- speak. Reading code must
tory recognition. Here was the never depend on copying.
real reason they all had gotten As soon as you have
stuck at some slow speed. This learned all the letters, start
traditional approach must have listening to good code on
blinded his thinking so that it did your receiver (or nowadays,
not occur to him to start the be- practice tapes, etc.) for 5,
ginner with sound alone, and so 1Ø, 15 minutes at a time, or
save the beginner from having to until you become tired -
cross that annoying hurdle with its even if you cannot put to-
discouragement. gether enough consecutive
signals to form!words. Keep
2. Your sub-mind will only do on, and soon you will be
what you have consciously catching small words and
trained it to do. Therefore, then larger ones. But do not
teach it the right way and practice too long at one
the same way consistently time - never when fatigued.
from the beginning. Think “I am acquiring the ability
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 167
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
to read words subcon- easier to drop behind a few
sciously now. When reading signals without confusion
code, I know, as soon as a or fear of losing out when
word is sent, what the word you are copying. You must
is, although I didn’t con- break the bad habit of
sciously spell it out to my- copying letter by letter. Get
self as it was coming in the habit of carrying the
in,”!wrote a student. letters in your mind, form-
4. you cannot write down ing them subconsciously
what you cannot read (re- into words and sentences,
ceive). This is step two after without writing them down.
learning to receive. Writing “When I found I could be-
down what you receive is a gin to read small words as
routine matter that will take easily by sound as by sight,
care of itself if you are I was delighted. I soon
properly trained. Of course, learned to read words ‘in
in the initial stages of my head. After that, copy-
learning the alphabet and ing them by pencil was
numbers, etc., you must easy. Previously, I had
copy letter by letter, slowly, been writing words down
just as you had to learn to letter-by- letter: that was
read that way. After this wrong!” wrote a student.
stage, stop until: When you 6. Practice Intelligently: In the
get so you can listen to right way, Daily, regularly,
code and read it at 15 to 25 in short and well- spaced
wpm without copying, you periods, purposefully.
must begin copying some Never practice error. Prac-
at each practice period. ticing when tired is not effi-
Commence this way: each cient use of time. A good
day copy for 1Ø - 15 min- schedule is 3Ø minutes
utes, striving to copy one or daily, 15 minutes in the
more signals behind, then morning and 15!minutes in
spend a similar period just the afternoon or evening.
listening to good code The time between practice
without writing. periods is important - use it
5. When you do copy, learn to to prepare yourself to be
copy behind. If you have receptive by cultivating a
been copying letter by let- positive attitude toward
ter you must begin system- yourself and what you are
atically to overcome it, and trying to do. the ten lessons
the best way is to listen to With these statements of ba-
good code and form the sic principles in mind, let us
habit of reading it without look at the lessons for the
copying. As you acquire beginner. Note that each
the independent code new group of code letters
reading habit, by daily was presented in the old
practice, you will find it visual dots and dashes
168 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
manner, but the student was
told to think of the letters in Lesson Two
terms of dits and dahs as Emphasis again on thinking of
they sound. He seems to the letters in terms of dits and
have anticipated that a typi- dahs as they sound, not as they
cal student would take a appear in dots and dashes. Groups
week or two to complete of new letters to be learned the
each lesson. same way: D U V J B; R K L F; P
X Z C Y Q. Words to be practiced
Lesson One included the rest of the shorter
Emphasis on sound units. The 1ØØ most common words. Em-
first group was E I S H, to be sent phasis on accuracy of timing, and
smoothly and in accurate, regular that repetition builds habit
timing by the student with his key, (whether good or bad).
saying the dits as he pounded
them out. Candler recommended Lesson Three
that two or more beginners work Emphasis on knowing you are
together so each could send to right, then going ahead and
and receive from the other. As making it a habit by repetitive
soon as he can recognize them practice. Analysis of the letters in
easily and send them smoothly, he code, accuracy of signal, spacing
was to form words, such as “he, is, and speed: precision. Get in the
see, his, she.” Next to take the habit of instantly recognizing
letters T M O, and do the same each and every letter when you
way, saying the dahs as he sends hear it, without having to stop and
them, and then to make small think: automatic association of
words using both sets of letters, as each signal with its letter. Also
before. Lastly the letters: A N W now learn the numbers and com-
G. Then practice small words, in- monest punctuation. When you
cluding as many of the 1ØØ most have learned the letters so that
common words as can be formed you do not have to “stop and
from these eleven letters. At one think” of what character any
period Candler either supplied or combination of dits and dahs rep-
recommended the use of me- resents, begin listening to good
chanical senders, such as the code every day regularly without
Teleplex, with his course for the copying, even if only for 5 min-
student studying alone. This utes at a time. (The radio was his
would provide an accurate timing favorite source of good code:
sense as well as good hearing commercial press and government
practice. With a machine or com- stations were on 24 hours a day.
panion, he would be able to listen Now we have ARRL code practice,
and, during this initial period, tapes. etc.) Catch everything you
copy letter by letter as he heard can as you listen. You may not
each character. get much at first, but keep trying
and you will soon begin to hear
letters and words.

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 169

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
conscious to automatic, that is,
Lesson Four subconscious, making it a useful
Think of the code as being easy habit.
to learn. Trust your sub-mind to
do its work. Review and practice, Lesson Six
especially any characters you tend Development of skill is develop-
to miss or confuse, until they are ing coordination, where every-
automatic. Every character must thing runs smoothly. It begins by
stand on its own feet. Keep drill- constant practice listening to and
ing on the 1ØØ most common sending consistently and perfectly
words, both receiving and send- formed code characters, learning
ing. Begin using the “two- to recognize each code signal in-
column drill” where you set up stantly, learning to read it all eas-
two parallel columns of three or ily, and when copying, to write it
four letter words, each having the down in a uniform, simple style of
same number of letters; then go handwriting. Watch for any step
down the columns spelling the along the line where there is any
word in the first column out loud hesitation or question, and prac-
while simultaneously writing tice to overcome that block. Give
down the other. Then do the this your attention, and allow time
same, reversing the columns. (See for it to develop until it becomes
Chapter 8, “Conquering Our automatic, habitual. This is the
Fears of Losing Out,” third para- scientific way. Do some practice
graph.) These are the first easy copying mixed five-letter groups,
drills on learning to copy a word but do not write down any letters
or two behind. of a group until the whole group
has been sent. Have wide enough
Lesson Five spaces left between groups to al-
Practice each letter and character low you to write it down before
until you know them all so well - the next group starts. (His empha-
whether receiving or sending - sis throughout the course is on
that you don’t have to stop and receiving and copying normal
think about them at all. Do the English, not ciphered groups.)
same with the 1ØØ most common
words. Keep up the practice of the Lesson Seven
two-column exercise started in Emphasis on proper timing while
lesson 4, going on to words with a sending. Start by sending a series
few more letters as you find it of letter E’s with wide spaces be-
easier. This is to help disengage tween them, first with six counts
conscious attention from the between letters, then gradually
proper functioning of the sub- reducing the space to normal one
conscious mind so that it can do letter space. Then do the same
its work unhindered. Learn to way with S, T, H, O, etc. (Here he
trust it by continuing this kind of discussed “counting” as given
practice until it becomes easy. above under “1 - Sound Con-
This is a highly successful method sciousness, Critique.”)
of training to shift the effort from
170 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
learning stages) is obviously
Lesson Eight excellent.
A discussion of “glass arm,” or This is actually an old procedure
telegrapher’s paralysis, and its used by many teachers long be-
prevention by certain exercises, fore Farnsworth, who popularized
relaxation and proper warm-up. it. It appears that the first clear
Continuing practice of funda- mention of this approach is by
mentals. Thomas Edison, a highly skilled
Lesson Nine telegrapher himself in 19Ø2. He
hit the nail on the head when he
Obstacles to progress listed as: wrote as follows about his
punched tape course called
_ Lack of practice, “Audio Alphabets” (by Freder-
_ Thinking visually rather ick J. Drake & Co.) for teaching
than by sound, the American Morse code: “It is
not the speed at which a letter is
_ Hesitation over poorly sounded that perplexes the
learned signals, causing loss learner, but the rapid succession
of the following ones, in which they follow each other.”
_ Looking back over one’s A few students have felt tempo-
copy while copying, rary rhythm recognition problems
_ Negative attitudes. One with the way this method was used
must force oneself to copy by some teachers as the speeds
behind by degrees, gradu- were increased by shortening the
ally. spaces, making the characters
seem to run together. They may
Lesson Ten feel a bit frustrated, but this is
easily avoidable.
Learning to carry words in your
mind by continuing the copying This effect seems to be most no-
behind practice. Learning to write ticeable when using a character
rapidly and legibly as an aid to speed of around 13 wpm, and is
receiving. Learning to copy on one of the reasons why it is rec-
the typewriter. (He had a separate ommended from the very begin-
course specifically for this.) ning to use character speeds of 18
Learning by doing until it be- - 25 wpm. These higher character
come second nature. speeds also make it easier to con-
centrate on the character as a
Chapter 31 unity of sound, without the risk of
counting or analyzing it as a col-
The So-Called Farnsworth or lection of shorts and longs. (Of
Spacing Method course, after learning the code, we
This method (in which the need to get used to hearing it at
spacing between letters and various speeds, including those
words is lengthened to facili- slower than our initial learning
tate recognition of character speed. One reason: operator’s
patterns and words in the early
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 171
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
tests for license will be slow So this is actually an old proce-
speed.) dure based upon the experience
This method starts out by having of many teachers long before
the beginner hear each character Russ Farnsworth (W6TTB), whose
from the very first at a high name apparently became attached
enough speed for it to be per- to it because of his Epsilon Re-
ceived as a unit of sound (which cords Code Course consisting of 3
means at least at a rate of 12 or LP phonograph records in an al-
more wpm), rather than as com- bum put out in 1959. In that
posed of dits and dahs. It accen- course the characters were from
tuates this perception by separat- the very first sent at 13 wpm,
ing the letters and words at first widely spaced, and the time be-
by wide spaces, giving the student tween them gradually reduced as
time to recognize each one clearly the student became more profi-
and associate it with its printed cient. Next of record we find two
letter, or number, etc., and then as bulletins published in 1917 and
the student progresses, gradually 1918 by the Federal Board of
shortens the spaces to normal Education which recommended
length. It has been confirmed by sending each character at a rate of
experiments in psychology which 2Ø wpm with rather lengthy
have proved that if a stimulus can pauses between them.
be grasped as a single unit, a In Chapter 11 of “Radio Simpli-
wholeness or “Gestalt”, learning fied”, a popular book of 1922-3,
will take place at a rapid rate. And authors Kendall and Koehler, in-
with respect to how this course structor and director respectively
handled it, he added: “The prin- at the YMCA Radio and Technical
cipal feature of the Audio Alpha- Schools in Philadelphia wrote
bets is the graduation in the inter- about learning the Code: “T o
vals between the letters. By begin- begin with, the novice should not
ning with a record in which the set out by committing [to memory]
characters are widely separated the number and order of the dots
and then changing to others with and dashes in the various letters
less and less intervals, the student and figures in the code, as for
gradually reaches the one having example, that “dash-dot-dash-
normal telegraph spacing.” dot” equals “C”. Much of the en-
This spacing method is perhaps ergy so spent will be wasted. The
the most obvious and effective radio operator does not recognize
way of focusing a beginner’s letters as so many dots and so
conscious attention on the Gestalt, many dashes nor does he trans-
or form, of each individual code late signals in that fashion. The
form of letter. It makes the letter- operator hears and learns to rec-
patterns stand out prominently ognize each letter as a combina-
and allows him time to associate it tion of sounds “dah-de-dah-de”
with its equivalent printed letter [sic.] as the letter “C”, “de-dah-
with a minimum of interference de” as “R” , “dah-de-dah” as
and distraction from all other “K”, etc., in much the same man-
characters. ner as children in the primary
172 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
school learn to read words by
sounds instead of by learning to Chapter 32
spell them.” Other Alphabets
Although they do not mention the
spacing method directly, they im- This would be incomplete
ply it by comparing it to how without some mention of non-
children learned to read in those English alphabets.
day, by recognizing letter forms Other languages require certain
and spelling out words at first. diacritical marks, or additional
This involved one at a time letters, or symbols for common
learning with spaces as a natural digraphs (single sounds repre-
part of learning, without calling sented by two letters in writing,
any special attention to it. In like our th). Here we shall include
194Ø, in his Master’s Thesis the Germanic group, French,
“Teaching Radio by Radio” Spanish, and Polish, Hungarian,
Marshall Ensor summarized his Turkish, all of which use the Latin
highly successful code teaching alphabet, and Greek, Russian, He-
methods (which began about brew and Arabic, which use dif-
1929 from Olathe KS). He clearly ferent alphabets. Japanese does
used this spaced-learning method not have an alphabet, but uses a
to teach hundreds of students syllabary (spelling by syllables
during his one-hour lessons daily instead of single sounds), and re-
on 16Ø meter phone “broad- quires 73 - 78 characters In gen-
casts”. Each lesson alternated eral, letters which represent
teaching code, theory and regula- sounds more or less identical to
tions. (See Chapter 12) those in English are represented
In 1945 Ted McElroy offered by the same code signals as in
printed copies of his free English. For example, B, D, F, G
“Morse” Code Course said to (hard)*, K, L, M, N, P, R, S*, T.
contain “everything he has “A” represents the letter “A” in
learned in 3Ø years of operating European languages, including
experience.” He claimed that, Russian, and Alpha in Greek,
“Assuming that the average per- Aleph in Hebrew and Alif in Ara-
son will practice several hours the bic. “C” represents written “ C ”
first day, we can tell you ... that in European languages and Pol-
you’ll be copying that very first ish, but é in Greek, thƒ in Arabic,
day, words and sentences at the samech in Hebrew, and tseh in
rate of 2Ø wpm. ... You won’t Russian. “E” represents “E” in
copy 2Ø full words in one minute. European languages, Greek and
But each letter you write will hit both yeh and eh Russian, but vav
your ears at a full 2Ø wpm and in Hebrew, and hamza in Arabic.
the space between letters becomes “G” represents ghain in Arabic,
progressively shorter as the rolls not jŒm. “H” represents “H” in
go along European languages, “H” in
Greek (a vowel), “X” in Russian,
HeT in Hebrew and guttural Hƒ in
Arabic. “I” represents the same
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 173
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
letter in European languages and cz, Greek diphthong “îY”, Rus-
Greek, i and i-kratkoyi in Russian, sian cheh, Arabic zƒi. dididahdah:
yod in Hebrew and yƒ in Arabic. _, Polish ziet, Greek diphthong
“J” represents this letter in Euro- “AY”, Russian yu.
pean languages, the diphthong dahdahdahdah: digraph ch,
“Yi” in Greek, ayin in Hebrew Greek X, Russian sha, Arabic
and jŒm in Arabic. “O” repre- shŒn, Turkish sh-sound.
sents this letter in European lan- dahdahdidahdah: ¤, and
guages, but He in Hebrew and khƒ Hungarian ny. didahdidahdit:
in Arabic. “Q” represents this Polish ¢. dahdidahdidah:
letter in most European lan- Polish digraph sz. didahdahdidah:
guages, but Psi in Greek, shcha in Polish cie. dahdidahdidit: Turkish
Russian, qof in Hebrew and qƒf in ‡. The Hungarian vowels marked
Arabic. “S” also represents shŒn with double quotation mark-like
in Hebrew as well as sŒn. “ U ” accents have the same Morse
represents this letter in European characters as those with double
languages, “Y” in Russian, the dots.
digraph “OY” in Greek, Tet in
Hebrew and Tƒ in Arabic. “ V ” Chapter 33
represents this letter in most
European languages, dotted z in A Brief History of United
Polish, zheh in Russian, the diph- States Operator Licensing
thong “HY” in Greek, and Dƒd Requirements and Military
in Arabic. “W” represents this Training
letter in European languages, In the Beginning
“B” in Russian, ê in Greek, tsade
in Hebrew and waw in Arabic. Prior to 1912 no licenses of any
“X” represents this letter in most kind were required, either for sta-
European languages, “hard” L in tions or for amateur operators.
Polish, Xi in Greek, both tvyordy An amateur, however, might apply
znak and myakhky znak in Rus- to the Navy Department which
sian and Sƒd in Arabic. “Y” rep- would issue a “Certificate of
resents this letter in European Skill.” This merely stated that the
languages, “Y” in Greek, yerih in successful applicant was “profi-
Russian and Zƒ in Arabic. “ Z ” cient” in code. It had no legal
represents Z everywhere except value or necessity.
Arabic dhƒl. “8” also serves to
represent the diphthong “Oi” in The First Laws 1912 to 1927
Greek. Additional code characters
are needed or used for the trans- In 1912 Congress passed the first
mission of other languages. Such laws requiring licenses for wireless
characters are:- didahdidah: „, operators and stations whose sig-
Polish nasal a, Greek diphthong nals would:-
Ai, Russian ya, Arabic 3ayin. di- a. Interfere with government
dahdahdidah: , † dididahdidit: ‚, or bonafide commercial
Polish nasal e, Arabic final hƒ. stations (those open to
dahdahdahdit: “, Polish digraph public use) or

174 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
b. Cross state lines. 1919 the required speed was
raised to 1Ø wpm.
c. This meant that very, very
many “Little” stations and When the U.S. entered WW-I all
their operators did not need radio activity, receiving as well as
licenses. “Little” often in- transmitting , except for that spe-
cluded even those up to one cifically authorized by the Mili-
kilowatt, the maximum al- tary, was prohibited. All equip-
lowed for any licensed sta- ment (including all antennas) had
tion. This was because the to be either dismantled or sealed.
“passive” (mostly crystal This began on 17 April 1917 and
detector) receivers in those continued until 12 April 1919
early days were so insensi- when receiving was once again
tive that reception over land permitted, and finally when ama-
masses beyond a hundred teur transmitting was again al-
miles or so was exceptional. lowed on 1 October 1919. 1923:-
The word “amateur” does a new Extra First Grade was cre-
not appear in these regula- ated requiring at least two years
tions, but is covered by the experience as a licensed operator.
term “experimental”. [In A new written examination in-
England, by contrast, a li- cluded requiring the applicant to
cense was required even for diagram a transmitter and receiver
owning receiving equip- and to explain the principles of
ment.] their operation, plus a code speed
From 1912 until 1933 operator test at 2Ø wpm (the speed re-
and station licenses were sepa- quired of a Commercial First
rately issued and were impressive Class operator). The license was
diploma-like documents about 8 printed on pink paper! Such op-
by 11 inches. They had to be erators were qualified for “Spe-
posted at the station location and cial” station licenses which con-
were usually framed by the op- veyed CW privileges on certain
erator. Initially there were two wavelengths longer that 2ØØ me-
classes of license, with identical ters and also gave them distinctive
qualifications. Amateur First call signs. As shorter wavelengths
Grade was by examination by a came to be used this grade of li-
government examiner covering: cense lost popularity. In the early
radio laws, regulations, proper 192Ø’s licensed amateurs began
adjustment and operation of to get skittish about working unli-
equipment, along with sending censed stations (with their self-
and receiving tests at 5 wpm in assigned calls), including the “lit-
International Morse code. For tle boys with spark coils.” (They
those living too far away to come were often a big annoyance and
in for personal examination, there source of interference.) The De-
was an Amateur Second Grade partment of Commerce, how-
whose applicant had to certify by ever,!seems to have taken little
mail that he could meet these notice of them unless they caused
identical requirements. In Aug. serious interference

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 175

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

The Radio Act Of 1927 1933 And After

Most of these unlicensed stations In 1933, after the creation of the
had already vanished!from the air Federal Radio Commission, ama-
when the Radio Act of 1927 re- teur regulations were completely
placed the Radio Act of 1912 and revised and operator and station
brought all radio transmissions licenses were combined on a sin-
under regulation for the first time. gle, wallet-sized card, good for
(Legal doctrine had by then come three years. Extra First Class li-
to hold that Congress had power cences would no longer be issued.
to regulate intrastate activity A minimum code speed of 1Ø
where its total effect reacted upon wpm was required of all three
interstate activity.) The days of classes of license: A, B and C.
the “little unlicensed station” Class A (advanced) required one
were over. 1927:- “Special” sta- year of experience, a written ex-
tion licenses. Amateur First Grade amination on both phone and
renamed “Amateur class”. telegraph theory and regulations,
Amateur Second Grade renamed and conveyed exclusive phone
Temporary Amateur Grade and use on 2Ø and 75 meters, and was
valid for one year only, and re- renewable by application. The
newable. 1928:- “Special” li- Class B (general) examination
censes reinstated on somewhat covered less on phone operation,
different terms, and called “Extra and gave all privileges not re-
First Class” operator. 1929:- the served for Class A, but required
2Ø meter band was opened to re-examination for renewal. Class
phone, and Extra First Class li- C, a temporary license for those
censes were extended by an en- living 125 or more miles from an
dorsement “for unlimited radio- FRC examining point (adminis-
telephone privileges” on that tered by class A or B amateur),
band. ?? 1932:- Extra First Class differed from Class B only in be-
renamed Class A, Amateur Class ing taken by mail. 1936 the code
renamed Class B, and Temporary speed for all classes was raised
Class renamed Class C. Ten (1Ø) from 1Ø to 13 wpm.
wpm speed required of all classes.
1951 And After
Operator and station licenses
combined on wallet sized card. 1951
The special endorsement (of
1929) became available for all The whole structure was revised
amateurs with at least one year of for Amateur licenses: Extra Class
experience, upon passing a special (new, available 1 Ja. 1952), 2Ø
test on radiotelephone subjects. wpm, no exclusive privileges, two
This endorsement was now ex- years Advanced Class (previously
tended to include use of phone on Class A), 13 wpm General Class
75 meters also. (Previously Class B) 13 wpm
Conditional Class (previously
Class C, by mail, 125 miles or
more), 13 wpm Technician Class
176 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
(new, available 1 July 1951), 5 1983
wpm, 5 years Novice Class (new),
5 wpm, one year, non-renewable Volunteer Examiner (VE) system
set up to conduct Technician and Gen-
1952 eral class by December.
Hams licensed before May 1917
eligible for Extra class without Various Military Training Re-
examination. quirements
1953 At the outbreak of WW-I the U.S.
No new Advanced Class to be is- Military forces desperately
sued. needed wireless operators and
equipment. Many amateurs vol-
1954 unteered as operators and as
teachers. Training in all phases
Novice and Technician available was minimal, and “operators”
by mail only after 1Ø Jan., if over were usually graduated without
75 miles from examination point. having had any hands-on experi-
ence with the actual equipment or
1964 operating procedures. (Absolute
17 Mar. filling fee $4.ØØ assessed radio silence was the rule in gen-
for new or renewal of license, ex- eral - except for the most extreme
cept no feel for novice. emergencies on the high seas.)
1967 For operators in the WW-II period
Signal Corps graduation require-
Incentive licensing was adopted. ments were: 25 wpm plain lan-
Advanced class was reactivated guage, 2Ø wpm code groups with
and given more spectrum than pencil or mill, receiving, and 25
General class, but less than Extra wpm sending. Qualifications for
class. Novice class licenses were field operators - 2Ø wpm pencil
extended to two years. printing copy and perfect sending
1968 copy at 15 wpm; for fixed base
operators - 35 wpm straight copy
Advanced and Extra were made on mill.
available for shut-ins, and Techni-
cian class eligible for Novice. For Marine Corps graduation they
were: 2Ø-23 wpm plain text, 15-
197Ø 18 wpm coded groups, 17 wpm
Fees increased to $9.ØØ, five perfect sending of plain text.
years license duration. WWII training varied widely be-
tween various schools, but in-
1976 cluded actual operating proce-
Required new Technician class to dures though wired QSO’s among
be tested by FCC examiner. themselves to overcome the be-
ginners’ initial “buck fever” and
to set them up as operators.
Real radio interference learning to
copy through QRM and noise was
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 177
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
added, and it became louder as hams today can and often do the
the student progressed. Advanced same things.
students also practiced on the
“mill” (typewriter). For high Sending and writing at the same
speed training, there was a room time
where high speed press was cop-
ied for practice. Almost all old Morse operators devel-
oped this kind of skill to some degree,
In 1988 a U.S. Special Forces ra- and usually were able to send with one
dio operator’s test required!18 5- hand while writing on the message
character groups (e.g., QY9/Z blank the number, time, date, etc.,
6G.J4 X5,B7, etc.) a minute. with the other hand. Pressure of work
almost demanded it in a busy office.
Chapter 34
Examples which Illustrate Sending and receiving simulta-
the Nature of Real Skills neously

The following are samples A regular RR agent-operator at a

taken from the literature to small town near Salina, KS, was
show various skills some op- observed to be sending a bunch
erators have achieved. of RR manifests (lists of freight
cargo, giving details) when he was
They illustrate clearly the auto- called on another wire. Without
matic, subconscious nature of real pausing, he opened his key with
skill in telegraphy, that it is a ha- the other hand, sent an acknow-
bitual form of behavior, done ledgement, closed the key switch,
without conscious intervention or picked up a message blank and
effort. They also show what can slipped it into the typewriter,
be done by what has been done. rolled it into position and pro-
People who do things well do not ceeded to copy the message with
struggle with them: they enjoy one finger of his left hand while
doing them. It can be seen that continuing to send the manifests
there is a hierarchy of skill habits, with his right hand. This was not
ranging from lower degrees to at all unusual for regular opera-
very high degrees of skill, each tors: there are many examples. A
step leading to greater freedom of slightly different example is with
action than before. the many old RR operators who
regularly would copy down an
Receiving Code While Doing incoming message with one hand
Something Else and simultaneously send it on
down the line with the other hand.
Both in the past and in the present
there are very many examples of Receiving two or more messages
sending or receiving while at same time
speaking or doing other things at
the same time. Old land line op- One ship operator offshore of
erators typically could do this at California had the amusing expe-
speeds up to 35 to 4Ø wpm. Some rience of simultaneously receiving
the identical message for him
178 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
from two different shore stations, them out correctly by memory
KPH and KPJ. Both called him at afterward. That looks a little hard!
same time, and he told the one to Using both American Morse and
go ahead, but instead, both began Morse International codes simul-
at once to transmit. He tried to taneously:- R o b e r t (Dick)
copy them both. This became Johnstone of old KPH was a phe-
very easy when he discovered nomenal operator, said to be one
they were both sending the same of the best of his day. He could
message. The climax came later send one message in International
when both of them billed him for Morse while simultaneously
the same message! In 1924 in the sending another with his other
Boston Postal Telegraph office a hand in American Morse. Similar
wire chief claimed he could si- claims have been made by others
multaneously copy one message also.
in French with one hand and an-
other in English with the other Comparison with other mental
hand. His chief operator took the functions and discussion
challenge, promptly went out and
picked up one message in each Can’t we compare this to a certain
language, provided pencils and extent with other habitual activi-
pads to the wire chief, and had the ties, such as driving a car while
two messages sent to him simulta- thinking of something quite dif-
neously at the usual keying ferent? (Later wondering, e.g,,
speeds. The wire chief made good “Did I stop at. . . , or did I drive
on his word in the presence of all on?”) Or like the stenographer
the other operators in the office, who looked at her notes after
and made perfect copy on both. taking dictation and was startled
to see she had written a joke being
A former Navy operator claimed told in the same office while she
that while copying one message, was taking dictation?
he often could mentally note
other messages which were inter- Doing two things at once, one
fering with the reception of the subconscious or automatic and
one he was copying, and do so the other conscious is relatively
accurately enough to write them commonplace. For example, I can
out later. He said that, especially read aloud from printed matter
when he was copying some par- while consciously thinking about
ticularly dull and uninteresting something quite different, and still
material, he was always fully con- read so that it sounds meaningful
scious of the content of messages - yet afterwards have little or no
heard at the same time on adja- recollection of what I had read
cent frequencies concerning shore aloud (and sometimes wondering
leave, pay or other interesting as- if I had included anything of what
pects of these transmissions. I had been thinking at any point
along the line.
One expert operator in San Fran-
cisco is credited with having re- As for the operators who could
ceived three separate dispatches at copy two messages simultane-
the same time, writing each of ously, is it possible that both ac-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 179
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
tions were automatic? Were they rything from straight news to
hearing one with the right ear and tabular matter. Hand sending was
writing it down with the left hand, absolutely steady, rhythmic and
while hearing the other effectively even, intelligently coded and
with the left ear and writing it with spaced - a joy to listen to. On the
the right hand, or what? Or, was main traffic arteries of the Associ-
the one automatic and the other ated Press, speeds up into the 6Ø-
conscious, although done at fairly 7Ø- wpm range were said not to
high speed? If both were auto- be uncommon. In 1937 WCK had
matic, were they free to think of two press schedules, one at about
or hear something still different at 45 wpm to be copied by ear and
the same time? This seems possi- another very much faster for
ble from the experience of a few automatic recording and visual
who have said that they were at- tape transcription. Yet Pete Pettit
tending to two messages and yet and Paul Magarris, Navy opera-
hearing salient points of still a tors, could copy the higher speed
third, or voices in their environ- press solid, and others were run-
ment. Or, is this something like ners up. Ralph Graham, W8KPE, a
the “sandwich” operation of a landline telegrapher, demon-
large computer where each of strated at Smithsonian during
several different people seems to AWA conference before ten wit-
be doing his job as the only one nesses, copying a 79.4 wpm. -
in control, yet the computer is George Batterson W2GB (first
apparently handling them simul- AWA president) at age 94 could
taneously. Actually the computer still copy 5Ø wpm, but com-
does this by dividing the jobs into plained that his sending speed had
parts which are scheduled and slowed down to only 35. Mike
processed in an interwoven man- Popella KA3HIE could copy 45
ner by a schema for optimum us- wpm by hand on paper.
age of computer functions,!time- Jim Farrior W4FOK wrote this
slicing and controlling to keep way:- “When I was a boy of 13 I
each one separate, and only lived in a small town in AL. The
seeming to give each operator RR telegraph office was one of
sole control. For a human exam- the few things in town that inter-
ple, how does the traffic control ested me. One of the three agent
officer of an airport keep alert to telegrahers gave me his sounder
the arrival and departure of many and telegraph key. The night
aircraft all at the same time, agent usually had little work to do
seeming to give each “simultane- and often helped me by sending
ous” attention? Very interesting, to me and telling me about oper-
isn’t it? ating procedures, etc. The
Speeds sounder there was nearly always
active, and I gradually became
By 1933 it was written that a good able to copy directly from the
commercial operator can and wire. I guess I learned it pretty
does average about 4Ø wpm over much like one learns to speak,
an 8-hour stretch, handling eve- because I don’t remember trying
180 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
to learn. I was told that it was cult or dangerous battlefront con-
really very easy, and I guess I be- ditions, and when things let up a
lieved it. I was just having fun, bit, easily dropped off for a few
and dreamed that some day I winks of sleep.)
might become a telegrapher.” James H. Bunnell became an op-
Some Interesting Examples Of erator at age 13. He was so short
Young Skilled Operators Of The that he had to sit on a stool to
Past reach the telegraph instruments.
At age 16 he was one of the best
In 1856 seven year-old John operators in the country, noted
O’Brian delivered telegrams for for his speed of 38 wpm (by ac-
his brother Richard, who at age 15 tual word count). These are just
was the telegrapher for the local two examples of the many, many
RR office. After two years of this boys who quickly became skilled
John prevailed upon his brother telegraphers in the mid-18ØØ’s.
to teach him how to operate. So,
while still only nine years of age Examples Of Effective Code
John became a good operator and Learning
was eager to have a job of his
own. The RR offered him the po- Learning
sition at a nearby town, and he
snapped it up. People in those At the lowest skill levels: Four-
days were used to seeing young years-olds, barely able to write
telegraphers, but not this young! even block letters have been able
Very soon, however, they became to pass the code test. How many
so pleased with his work that no of us are willing to admit a four-
more questions were asked. year-old can outperform us?
Those youngsters were motivated Then consider these higher skill
and quick to learn. When the Civil levels:- In 19Ø9-191Ø Don C.
War began he volunteered along Wallace learned the code with a
with many others, became their friend, John Cook, and the help of
youngest operator, and by early the operators of Commercial sta-
1862 was already the assistant op- tion PJ in San Pedro CA. In 191Ø
erator at the important military he set up his first station. In 1915
station of Ft. Monroe, VA, and he passed the test for a first class
considered an expert. When the commercial operator’s license,
Commander, General Wool, first said to have required demon-
saw him he was astounded. On a strating ability to handle 25 wpm
subsequent military assignment at in Continental code and 3Ø wpm
Norfolk, VA, on one occasion in American Morse code. Later
John scrawled down two incoming with Tony Gerhardt he played a
messages while he was actually game they called “burnout.”
asleep, writing them down in a One would send as fast as he
book he had been reading. (Civil could with speed key (bug) while
War operators often worked im- the other copied on a typewriter,
possibly long hours under diffi- the idea being to see who could
go the faster. This continued
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 181
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
wherever they were until Don months later, and finally was
could send in excess of 45 wpm given a job as sole operator on
and receive about 55 wpm second shift all summer.
Later he needed a staff of 35 as-
sistant operators of about his own
speed capabilities. Within a short
time he found them among Navy
personnel where he was stationed,
and did it this way: by sending his
requests at these speeds and see-
ing who responded to what he
sent. Here were at least three
dozen men with high speed skills
before 192Ø. They were men who
enjoyed the code so much they
achieved high goals. Moral: If
you want to do it, you probably
Arnie’s Father was chief telegraph
operator at a RR station and had
once won a 6Ø wpm award in a
contest for RR operators. His son,
age 8, Arnie hung around the sta-
tion all his spare time. He didn’t
say how, but he learned Morse on
his own and soon had learned to
send and receive at about 25
wpm. When dad was out he cop-
ied down the train orders for him.
He wanted a job as operator. After
much pleading, his dad said he
could operate the station all by
himself when he reached his 9th
birthday. So he did, all day, while
his dad looked over his shoulder
and smiled a time or two. Arnie
begged the RR to let him be a
second shift operator after school
and weekends for 5Ø cents an
hour as second shift operator. He
was required to pass the cooked-
up special qualifying test: of
sending a train order at 25 wpm
using one key with his left hand
for the dashes and a second key
with his right hand for the dots.
He succeeded in doing it some
182 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
contact and Ed had to finish it for
Appendix me.
A New Way To Talk “When I was 14 I clocked myself
“It was in 1925 in eastern Penn- at 34 wpm, plain language. I dis-
sylvania that Ed Hart at age 15 covered that I had mastered the
became a ham with his first op- Morse code and was able to carry
erator's license and call 3NF (two on a conversation just like Ed did.
licenses were required in those “So my advice is: to acquire pro-
days) . His 3-1/2 year younger ficiency in code sit and listen, and
brother George got curious. What keep listening and want to under-
was this Ed was doing and having stand it. Anybody who's learned
so much fun with? Was it some to talk can learn CW. It's that
sort of new language he was us- easy. Just live with it and it will
ing? -- George said:--”I admired come to you. Morse code is just
my big brother Ed. He was my another way of talking.” [Young-
ideal. He was 15 and I was 11. sters and adults will no doubt be-
I began to learn the Morse code gin to learn differently.]
like a baby learns to talk – by lis- Learning conversational CW is
tening to my big brother operate more like learning to talk than it
and I picked up the code by 'os- is to learning another language. It
mosis' -- recognizing and imitat- is far easier -- you don't need to
ing the more frequent sounds I learn how to pronounce or hear
heard. I wasn't aware of any such strange new kinds of sounds, learn
thing as “dots” and “dashes”, a new vocabulary or a new gram-
but only of symbols with mean- mar. It is just recognizing the
ing. simple mono-tone sounds and
I quickly learned the sounds of imitating them. Learning it is “all
his frequent CQ's, his call 3NF a matter of incentive.”
and special procedure signals “In my opinion achieving high-
such as “AR K”, “DE” and speed CW is a natural progression,
“R” (all still used), and “U” (for if you learn it right in the begin-
US calls to foreigners before the ning and continue to practice it
prefixes W and K were issued), the right ways.” .For receiving
and absorbed other sounds, as George has for many years been
sounds with meaning. I just sort able to read code up to 6Ø wpm,
of drifted into it by listening. It almost 7Ø, but now he can only
was easy for me. send at about 4Ø, and so his
“I didn't start out with any deter- QSO's today are rarely over that
mination to learn the code, or to speed.
get a ticket, or get on the air. But Talking
one day -- it was 14 Sept. 1926 --
using my brother's station, when I Most of us talk so fluently and so
was 12, that I made my first QSO easily that we scarcely give a
with W9CRJ in Lexington, KY,. I thought to how very different we
was pretty shaky on that first are from every and all the ani-
mals. From birth we are well on

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 183

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
our way to learning to express our Now, what about Morse and other
needs:-- for water, for food, to get telegraphic codes? Where do they
rid of some discomfort, and for fit in? What are they? They are
companionship, to be cared for more like writing than they are of
and loved. To be part of the speaking. They are more like a
family and society around us -- different alphabet or (small) set of
communicating first in body lan- symbols than like a language it-
guage and simple cries, and soon self.
in the spoken language of family,
friends and neighbours. Many of us today are so literate
that we read as easily and readily
Behind “language”, communi- as we talk. We hardly see the one
cation is this growing overall as being any different from the
sense is our ability to think. Hu- other.. We can think, and to ex-
man thinking is a God-like activ- press what we are thinking and
ity. At first we tend to think of communicate with those around
concrete things: things seen, felt, us, we use our native language. .
tasted, smelled and heard. But
soon we begin to have thoughts of Let us here in this appendix re-
things not having physical exis- think our views and our attitude
tence, things we remember or toward the Morse code.
imagine. We learn to think and This year,. 2ØØ1 A. D., the so-
express our thoughts about these called Morse telegraph code
“things' in words, too. And peo- reached its 163nd year or age.
ple around the world do this in Like printing, it can talk in any
over six thousands recognized language. Using simple stop-start,
and different languages and dia- on-off type signals or motion, we
lects. can communicate using touch,
Writing and learning to read are sound, light, electricity, radio
other skills, not “natural” or in- waves.
herent or innate, but by practice It has no dialectical peculiarities,
they seem almost automatic, as no lisps, no strange or difficult-to-
talking is. Learning to write and hear or pronounce sounds, or
to read takes conscious effort on “speech defects”, nothing to
each one's part, and lots of active make it hard to understand..
practice. Paralysed persons can use it to
Written records of what was once “talk” by blinking the eye or
just spoken have been kept for at wiggling a finger. More normal
least some 6ØØØ to 7ØØØ years. people can use it by radio to talk
Strings of spoken sounds or syl- to those on the other side of the
lables (Japanese, etc.), and some- world or in space. With practice
times whole words (e. g., Chinese) and the help of modern sending
have been given arbitrary, but equipment it can be transmitted
conventional symbols (“charac- and “read” by ear at speeds al-
ters”).. One such set of symbols most as fast as ordinary conversa-
has been generally agreed upon tion. It may be sent and received
within each language group. automatically at speeds many

184 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
times faster, but this is not of in- learn to understand code the same
terest to us here... way, but with a different form of
Edward Vail, one of Samuel characters, spelled out as words.
Morse's hired and most valuable In this way it resembles reading,
co-workers, did not realize what a because we need to know how to
wonderful communication tool he spell. This is an added (hopefully)
invented in 1838. small difficulty for English
speakers languages. Spelling is
Let's keep these words in mind:- it hardly a problem for speakers of
is a communication tool. Italian or Spanish, which are
In the early days of telegraphy it spelled almost exactly as they are
was thought of as “writing at a pronounced..
distance”, which is what the word These are clues to help us speed
telegraphy means. (See Ch. 19.) up to near talking speeds. Now in
But very soon the early operators the next chapter let's see how to
found they could understand the go about it.
letters and words from the noises
the printer made. Then they dis- QRQ Operators
covered they could also just con- The experiences of a Number of
verse together without having to QRQ Operators Who Have
write anything down. This all oc- Achieved it
curred within 1Ø - 15 years of the
start of telegraphy. Talking by This is roughly in historical se-
Morse code is not something new quence --documentation of spe-
at all cific high-speed operators, mostly
How then did we radio amateurs
get started thinking of it as I. Highest hand-sent code speeds
something to have to learn to in the range of 45-55 wpm using
write down? It is because writing a bug.
it down exactly as it is heard is the As test speeds were achieved by
only proof positive that we have commercial high-speed punched-
correctly received it. This is called tape sending machines. The em-
“copying? And to obtain an gov- phasis was the evidenced ability to
ernment amateur operator's li- copy.
cense we had to be able to copy it Reading did, not count.
at various specified speeds. (This
is still true but at a speed which is #1 Theodore McElroy
hardly practical - 5 words per Who was a commercial telegra-
minute.) pher, not a ham. Perhaps the ear-
But do we copy down everything liest and most famous name at
we hear on the telephone? Even high-speeds is Ted McElroy who
to think of that would seem silly. almost permanently held the
We understand speech because it high-speed record of copying at
is spoken as strings of sounds one 75+ wpm from 1939 wpm on.
shifting or blending into the next, What many may not know is that
forming words and sentences. We at 75 wpm Ted acknowledged that

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 185

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
there were many other operators to try, and he easily wound up --
who had abilities as good or better using International Morse code,
than his, but they did not enter the which by then he hadn't used for
contest. What most people do not about a year -- at 51 wpm.. It was
know is that Lavon N. McDonald great fun for him. Later in 1922
was equal with him, and but for a at Chicago he won the trophy at
slip in the increase to 77 wpm 55-1/2 wpm with perfect copy for
trial, might have been the techni- World's championship. He lost it
cal winner. to his friend Joe W. Chaplon at
Ted was born 1 Sep. 19Ø1 and 55.3 wpm with 11 errors. In Sep.
died suddenly in Nov. 1963. He 1935 a contest at Brockton MA
was one of four brothers who he retook the title. Again at the
were telegraphers. He left school World's Fair he scored 69 wpm
in 1916 and went to work for with only two errors, while Joe
Western Union as a messenger Chaplon made three. In July 1939
boy. As he passed by the telegra- he and Lavon McDonald of Chi-
phers, he saw how many of them cago tied at 75 wpm. But when
could nonchalantly turn out 5Ø – the speed increased to 77 wpm
6Ø messages per hour. He man- McDonald fumbled worse than
aged to get some of them to teach Ted did. So Ted was called winner
him Morse code during their 15 at 75.2 wpm which has remained
minute rest periods and after a as the official world's record.
few weeks he imagined that he In a telegram to Frank Borsody
was himself to be a good opera- dated 14 Sept. 1933 he wrote “ t o
tor. my old pal Frank Barsody, in
He got a try-out - it was tough - grateful recognition of the valu-
but it gave him a start. He found able coaching and assistance he
odd and ends jobs here and there gave me, to which I owe my abil-
and finally wound up at Fort ity to gain the world's champion-
Devons, near Ayer MA, where he ship as Radio Operator. And
continued until the end of the war again in a letter dated 4 Sep. 1935
in 1918. to Frank Borsody Ted wrote
“You have been the best friend to
Back in Boston he got a job using me on this code racket that I've
International Morse code at sta- got. I cannot understand how I
tion RCA, Chatham MA. It was can fail to win it this year. As I sit
rough getting used to the new in this chair I am copying solid
(International Morse) code during (?) without a single error for five
the first two weeks. In 192Ø the or ten minutes at a time, at 7Ø
station moved to NYC, but it did- wpm, and I cannot understand
n't work out well for him and he how any XXX living man can do
moved back to Boston and got a the same, because I know that the
job with WU again. signals I am copying can't be read
On 6 May 1922 he learned of an [copied ?] by anyone else, that is,
Exposition in Boston which would without error .
include a code speed contest. His In a telegram from Dorchester
boss allowed him the evening off MA dated in 1935 to F Borsody,
186 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
McElroy wrote: “I want to tell an overall general speed increase
you that I very deeply appreciate with their arrival in the 196Ø's
the help you give me in winning But it was the keyboard that really
the title.. Your equipment and started the great step upward in
advice really won the title. I will speed.
never forget the debt I owe y o u . ” Among the early high-speeders
[Notice that this totally refutes the were:
rubbish he wrote as to how much
Candler's method had helped 1961 the “Codamite”, .in 1967
him.] one designed by John Ricks
W9TO these and others had nei-
Borsody, in a letter marked in ink ther memory or a space bar.
“received April 1975” to Eitel (Others had no more than just the
that he clocked McElroy at an automatic individual letter spacing
informal run [“I invited him to sit after each character). Spaces were
down and take a little workout hand created.
receiving some high-speed code.
My sending operator, Jack In 1974 the “Curtis KB-42ØØ
McKessy, punched up the tape, Morse Keyboard”, was one of the
and the receiving operator, right first units with. a space bar to pro-
there at the exhibit, let McElroy vide normal word spaces, and had
sit down in his chair and type a 64 character type ahead mini-
down the copy. In another place memory. A meter showing how
Borsody says that showed an ac- many character spaces there were
curate 79 wpm for 75 lines with- between typing and sending al-
out a single error. Elsewhere Bor- lowed a form of “continuous
sody says that he and Taylor veri- typing”
fied McElroy's [later] contest #3 James B. (Jim) Ricks, W9TO
speed as 76 wpm, containing
technical material with which Ted b: 1914-12-23 promoted and
could not have been familiar. developed the keyboard system
He first designed a keyer using
Ted also said at another time thatvacuum tubes, (Gary Bold used
he could read the code much one of these for 15 years begin-
faster as many others he knew ning in 1966, when he then went
also could -- it was typing which to the Curtis Keyer.) Jim was a
limited him. cofounder of the CFO club and
#2 Lavon McDonald must have been a high-speed man
himself. No information on his
Was another commercial operator, background.
but a radio operator equal with
McElroy. He definitely tied with #4 William (Bill) Eitelb
Ted McElroy in the 1939 contest. 19Ø8, d. 1989. And perhaps his
No further information on him, wife Laneil.
except that he was also a ham.
On High-Speed Code
II. Keyers made it easier to send
faster, and there must have been
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 187
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Taken from a file of some of his Have we forgotten the history of
letters and replies from friends keys?. Stop and think of the
and others beginning in 1974.. gains in ease and speed when we
His early radio and code learning went from a straight key to a side-
history does not seem to be swiper, to a bug, then to a keyer!
known in any detail by any corre- Is a keyboard something evil?
spondent now living. He was ac- Is the true measure of one's re-
tive in radio in the early 192Ø's, ceiving proficiency one's ability
and was familiar with the argu- to copy to “put it down” on pa-
ments between spark to CW en- per? Copying was very important
thusiasts in those days.. He was a when messages were being han-
genius in the development of dled and the code had to be re-
high-powered vacuum tubes and corded so the message could be
other electronics aspects, and was given to the recipient in a useful
a co-founder of the well-known form.
Eimac Co. in 1934... He was a Official government messages,
deep thinker. Most of the follow- diplomatic and military required
ing materials are in his own absolute accuracy, but when we
words. see the Morse code as a means of
The potential of Morse code for communication between individu-
communication, using the benefits als and not as a means of han-
of modern equipment, expands dling messages, we have a whole
our past ability in a manner never new set of circumstances and
thought possible. Some amateurs benefits, it is no more desirable to
have been and are talking to- “put it down” than it is to put
gether with Morse code at speeds down a phone conversation.
of 8Ø - 1ØØ wpm or more. These This use of the code can become
new high-speed operators accept a challenge both to master the
new equipment as a means of im- code and the associated modern
proving their operating ability (a equipment available at speeds
tool) and not as a threat to their above and below 8Ø wpm. E. g.,
status. It has and is being done. It in a round-table one can transmit
is interesting to note that the 5- a thought while waiting for the
Star hams attained their speeds VOX to respond to SSB.
using keyboards having no mem-
ory such as we have today. Yes, there may be some whose
physical or mental limitations
Because with our older tools prevent these speeds, but the big-
could only send so fast, is this gest deterrent is the lack of a real
really also the upper limit for our interest.
receiving ability? Let us not resist
either improved operating meth- Once you determine to master the
ods or equipment that will allow Morse code, I believe it will be
better use of the code for some found that practice can be as
vague “romantic” connections much fun as operating. The most
with the past -- history. important and final ingredient is
the determination to use the key-
188 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
board, and any other useful joying CW and still think of it as
equipment. GOOD code becomes “fun”.
easy at high speeds. I'm still enjoy high speeds at near
Good spacing tends to be a prob- 8Ø wpm as W3NJZ, K3TF,
lem, but one that practice can KB9XE, and I 'harass' each other
overcome. on Wednesday night for about an
5-STAR club originally required hour on 3.533MHz. My real
7Ø wpm, but soon raised it to 8Ø high-speed pal, Ira-NU2C, used to
wpm. There were four other 'challenged' me to actually deter-
members originally, but by 1974 mine how fast I actually could
had increased to a total of 1Ø. read code. We found the maxi-
There must have been others also. mum speed that I could under-
stand and correctly respond to his
(See QST November 1974 page questions, was 144 wpm. (I am
155 for a good photo of Bill and not a “freak” -- hi..hi).
his wife Laneil in an ad promot-
ing the Ten-Tec Triton as work- I suspect the starting key to being
ing well with high-speed code able to copy high speed code is
keying input. The letter-head one's initial learning attitude. It
gives the Butro Ranch and Labo- may be strongest factor.
ratory at Dayton, NV 894Ø3, and I believe that learning code has
was dated August 2 4, 1974.) . forever been talked about just like
we talked about that 'awful'
#5 Tom Alderman, W4BQF. mathematics stuff in high school,
First person story:--As a boy of 8 therefore most potential hams
or 9 I was wondering what my start off with a 'bad' impression of
Dad found so entertaining about code.
sitting at a desk copying all those I'm pretty much convinced that
dits and dahs; but I could tell that there is a 'speed hump' that most
it was something he greatly en- hams (myself included) seem to
joyed as a CW traffic net opera- have a problem exceeding. I think
tor.. that speed hump range is between
Therefore, I didn't start hamming 45 and 6Ø wpm. Almost everyone
with the slightest negative attitude I have helped get into the 6Ø+
about code and so I never gener- wpm area, have had an extremely
ated the attitude that “I'll never be difficult time debunking that
able to do that”. In fact, copying mythical 'negative attitude' and
CW is one of the great enjoyments actually copying faster than that
that I get out of this hobby. It is hump. I can imagine what most of
fun . them thought when I would tell
Before I had finished my year as them to try not to think of copy-
a Novice ham, I too, was into CW ing 6Ø wpm as something they
traffic nets and enjoying it tre- can't do, think of it as just learn-
mendously. So for the past 49 ing a different way of talking.
years (since 1951) I've been en- Because I'm convinced that QRQ
CW is one just conversing in a
second language.
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 189
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
How does one read CW in excess word I had just missed therefore
of, say 8Ø wpm? I can honestly losing total concentration; by
tell you that I have no clue! glancing up at that code reader,
Around 5Ø-6Ø wpm one no my brain would be quickly satis-
longer copies dots and dashes, fied, and I would continue with
they literally begin copying the copying! At the time I didn't
words. As the speed increases, I realize this was actually happen-
don't think your copying words ing, however after about a year of
any more, you get into the flow of this, it suddenly dawned on me
the conversation and literally be- that I was not looking at the
gin copying phrases or complete reader any longer and I was
sentences. Interestingly enough, I copying in excess of 6Ø wpm. In
find that when copying over 8Ø a sense, we are pretty lucky with
wpm, I don't even realize I'm code readers, they copy extremely
copying code, u n l e s s a major well in the speed ranges we need
word is either misspelled or really them to help us get over the
hacked on the keyboard. I don't 'speed hump' but with the QRN of
concentrate on the code, I con- 4Ø/8Ø metres, once you try to get
centrate in what is being said. them to consistently decode CW
There is no difference in doing over about 7Ø wpm, they just cant
that, as having a native American do it because of the normal band
converse fluently in French. noise!
Code Readers He says “There is a lot more to
be said on this subject. zzz'
It certainly bugs me that most
hams think that if your using a #6 Bill Pletting KB9XE
keyboard and/or your running He was about age 35 and was en-
CW over 3Ø wpm, that you MUST joying personal radio communi-
be using a code reader! (I think cation with CB. It was real fun.
that's another part of the universal His CB buddies were having
negative attitude about code.) weekly get-togethers just to so-
Sometime around 1968-69 I be- cialize. Then he discovered that
gan trying to copy the QSO of the one of them was also a ham,
guy in New York and the guy in whom he visited in his home. Bill
Florida, who almost nightly held a was astonished to hear Morse
1ØØ wpm one-hour long chat. code and, like many others, ap-
My wife (I still don't know how parently had never heard com-
she found out about them) munications in Morse code be-
bought me an Info-Tech Morse fore. It fascinated, intrigued him.
code reader for my birthday,
which of course I, at that time, Then and here he became so en-
sneered at. But I found that when thusiastic to learn it that he
I was trying to copy the 'hump' bought a set of learning cassette
speeds around 55 wpm, if I tapes from Amateur Electronics
missed a letter or a word, my Supply,. A reputable and well-
brain would freeze up and try known company in Milwaukee,
concentrating on deciding what which advertised in QST. [Quite a

190 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
few others also had such courses, Now Bill got a transceiver and
including the ARRL.] went on the air using code ac-
Bill became so “obsessed” with tively in all QSO's. But also often
those dit and dah characters, that away from the radio he just
he quickly learned the sounds of tapped out the code with his fin-
the alphabet, numbers and punc- ger.. He knew he needed to build
tuation, and within a couple of up his code speed to be able to
weeks he had begun to practice read most signals. He did so well
wherever he was and would not that within a year of getting his
disturb others. He would tap out Novice license, he took and suc-
all kinds of stuff with his finger as cessfully passed the Extra Class
if using a key.-- or saying them in license (2Ø wpm) exam..
“dits and dahs” (At home it was With total access now to the ham
so bad that his wife was getting bands he tried RITTY and some
irritated !) other digital transmission meth-
He was determined to do it. Ap- ods, but absolutely nothing could
parently he did not question hold his fancy like Morse code
whether it would be either did. He was also discovering that
“hard” or “easy”.-- he just did the more you practice doing a
it . So it was “easy”, because he thing the right way, the better you
never thought of it being “ h a r d ” . get at it.
He eagerly wanted to do it and Higher speeds were a constant
learning was enjoyable -- fun. . challenge. He still kept hearing
And because he started learning it stations that were too fast to un-
as it is used -- hearing it and derstand, and he wanted to under-
sending it as sound patterns -- he stand everything he heard. --
did not have to do any relearning. these were like a spur jabbed into
He was learning it in the perfect his side. He kept telling himself::
way. He was practicing it almost “I've just gotta read that.” This
constantly and enjoying every was the incentive that drove him
minute of it. onward.
It was “easy” because it wasn't During this period a number of
“hard” in any way. It was some- new build-it-yourself kits came
thing to be enjoyed and done -- out, including some Heathkits.
that was it. About this time he One was the Heathkit Ultra-Pro
bought a ham band receiver just CW Keyboard which came out in
to listen to amateur signals. 1983, and he built several of these
Meanwhile he also read and un- -- some also for friends.
derstood or memorized the an- Along the way a number of high-
swers to the necessary technical speed operators helped him:--
questions and regulations so that W4BQF Tom Alderman, WØGHX
within a month he took and easily Ray Larson, W9TO: Jim RICKS,.
passed the 5 wpm code text and K9AMC Christ C. Kovacheff,
the written test, and soon received KU2D Daniel E. Silsona (de-
his first license - as a Novice. ceased), KØPFX Melvin L. Whit-

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 191

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
ten and others Soon, in only peted one against another to be-
about 4 years from when he got come head of the class. At 45
his first ticket, he reached the 8Ø wpm an attractive young lady stu-
wpm speed range, and has pur- dent still paralleled his speed, and
sued it ever since. In short, he so he pushed himself harder by
“took off and flew.” long (up to six) hours of daily
Since that time, like Tom Alder- practice.
man and others, he welcomes any After school he spent some years
newcomer and tries to help him in military service as a flying ra-
get into the higher speed ranges. dio operator and instructor, and
then entered the commercial
#7 Harry W. Lewis W7JWJ world of radio broadcasting and
(b.: 1923-Ø2-Ø2) is another old TV. Over the years he worked at
timer of high skill.. (The material nine different radio stations, three
here was gleaned from World Ra- TV stations, a telephone company,
dio Aug. 1991 p. 56, and March a computer center and several
1993 p. 31,32 and a number of other places. Lots of experience.
personal letters. Sometimes things Since 1946, during part of his
are paraphrased to bring out the various jobs, he managed to teach
basics.) amateur radio classes. He helped
He got interested in ham radio in a total of some 3,5ØØ students to
High School when a friend's obtain their amateur licenses. He
transmitter penetrated the school loves teaching Ham radio and
movie sound system. He was readily admits it..
hooked. He found the two Morse He observed that over this long
codes in a physics book and period the average age of appli-
learned both all by himself. He cants gradually increased by 15
does not seem to particularly years and it was taking longer and
“love” the code, but it consti- longer to teach them the code. To
tuted a challenge to him. As long attract high speed code operators
as he has felt a challenge he has and learn the secrets of how they
been driven to it. gained that skill, he started giving
When he was having an early code contests at various hamfests.
health problem, he saw learning This wasn't just for the fun of it -
the code as a goal to help recover he wanted to learn more and bet-
his health. Learning the code to ter teaching methods.
this degree of skill was not easy He applied what he was learning
for him. to his own practice and he began
He decided to become a part of to approach the 1ØØ wpm rate
the magic world of radio, so when for copying. But he was disap-
he finished high school (about pointed that the same things did
194Ø) he entered a radio and not help the students to improve
telegraph school to learn the code greatly, as he had anticipated. He
really well, because it seemed to researched books on the psychol-
be a prerequisite to progress.. ogy of learning, etc., and found
There the better students com- there are five fundamental factors
192 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
involved if one expects to have absolute concentration, almost to
success in teaching how to copy a state of hypnosis.” When asked
code:-- if he could start copying immedi-
1. First and foremost, the stu- ately at 75 wpm, he said “NO! I
dent must be strongly self- would have to prepare myself
motivated. But it was hard psychologically first, and that
to convince the students of takes from a few minutes to as
this. much as 45.”
2. Diet The over consumption He then was asked if he thought
of sugar, pre-processed there is an upper limit to receiving
food and meat products speed, he said “It is definitely
seemed always to impede above 12Ø wpm, because his
the code-learning process. friend Jerry Ferrell had been
[Note that Candler said clocked at 9Ø% complete reading
much the same thing yeas at 125 wpm.”
before.]. He was certified by the ARRL in
3. Exercise (such as push-ups, 1988 at 76 wpm copying . Now
running, etc.) before and with advancing age (7Ø) he feels
after practice periods [Can- he is slowing down somewhat.
dler also agreed here, but in #8 George Hart, W1NJM,
his day cramped working
quarters, poor sunlight and A long-time ARRL headquarters
air circulation were com- ham. First Peson story:-
mon problems.] In 1924 in a small town in Penn-
4. Correct methods of code sylvania Ed Hart became a ham
practice. Successful code with an operator's license and call
learning results in the indi- 3NF. His little brother George was
vidual copying totally by curious. What was this Ed was
subconscious mind activity, doing and having so much fun
but that does not occur un- with? Was it some sort of new lan-
til the mind has been prop- guage he was using? What did
erly trained. [Lewis was George have to say about it?
aiming at copying ability, “I admired my big brother Ed.
not just understanding.] He was my ideal. He was 15 and I
Another factor involved the rise was 1Ø. I began to learn the code
and decay times of the code sig- like a baby learns to talk -- by
nal envelopes (the dits and dahs), listening to my brother operate
the frequency (pitch) of the tone and picked up the “code” by
and its timber, etc., adjacent vowel 'osmosis' – recognizing and imi-
and consonant combinations, etc., tating the more frequent sounds I
to optimize the impression to our heard.. I wasn't aware of any such
ears. thing as “dots” and “dashes”,
but only of symbols with mean-
When asked in 1991 what it is like ing. I quickly learned the sounds
to copy at very high speeds he of his frequent CQ's, his call 3NF
replied “at 75 to 85 wpm there is and special procedure signals
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 193
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
such as ARK (now DE), U (used them. Learning it is “all a matter
between calls), R (signal strength), of incentive.”
and absorbed other sounds, as “I was given a Vibroplex key in
sounds with meaning. I just sort 1929 and in my late teens and
of drifted into it by listening. I early 2Ø's I could send almost
must have been born with a key like a machine at 45 wpm. But
my mouth. first with straight key and later
“I didn't start out with any deter- with a bug he developed the pain-
mination to learn the code, or to ful 'glass arm'. When keyboards
get a ticket, or on the air. .But one came out he found he could send
day -- it was 14 Sept. 1926 -- I with his two-finger method up a
made my first QSO with W9CRJ to about 55 wpm.
in Lexington, KY, using my “I never learned touch-typing, so
brother's station. When I was 12 I this is a handicap with the key-
discovered I had mastered it and board. I use two-fingers and when
was able to carry on a conversa- copying text to send the maxi-
tion. I could communicate like mum I can do is was 55, because I
he did, I could do 34 wpm send- must keep shifting my eyes back
ing with a straight key. Finally my and forth from text to keyboard
brother Ed bullied me into getting quite rapidly. Thin not only slows
a temporary license in 1931. The me down, but promotes errors
code was not a problem, but I increasingly as I grow older.
barely passed the written theory
test with a grade of 7Ø. I received “In my opinion high-speed CW is
the call W3AMR, which has a a natural progression, if you learn
great CW swing and I learned to it right in the beginning and con-
love it. I wasn't capable of build- tinue to practice it “.For receiving
ing my own station yet. George has for many years been
able to read code up to almost 8Ø
“So my advice is to acquire pro- wpm, but now he can only send
ficiency in code sit and listen, and about 4Ø, and so his QSO's today
keep listening and want to under- are rarely over that speed.
stand it. Anybody who's learned
to talk can learn CW. It's that Most of the time since 1957 he
easy. Just live with it and it will has actively promoted high-speed
come to you. Morse code is just reception by putting weekly prac-
another way of talking.” tice periods and occasional quali-
fying test sessions on the air, and
Learning conversational CW is awarding certificates of profi-
more like learning to talk than it ciency. He did this first from a
is to learning another language. It small club he formed, advertising
is far easier - you don't need to in the QST. Later with help from
learn how to pronounce strange friends in a the Society of Wire-
new kinds of sounds, learn a new less Pioneers. His transmission
vocabulary or a new grammar. It were made using a tape puller at
is just recognizing the simple speeds ranging from 2Ø wpm to
mono-tone sounds and imitating 7Ø wpm. Only recently has he
ceased doing this.
194 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Now he rarely sends over 3Ø - 35 day and probably aiming at the
wpm. He feels he could maybe higher speeds he heard.
make 4Ø in copying it down. He has not sensed any loss of rest
He feels that “personal aggran- during sleep with the recorder
dizement is a basic motivation of playing. He does not need any
the Amateur radio pursuits, espe- prepping-up to start reading at
cially DX-ing and contesting. We high speeds. He just starts. Typi-
do what we do because we enjoy cal misspellings and other such
it”, and some do enjoy it purely errors cause him no problems in
for itself. reading. He does not lose out..
#9 John F. Rhilinger, KC1MI, #1Ø Katashi Noshe, KH6IJ.,
Was able to read at 8Ø wpm, and was a long-time ham, a DX man
to copy at 7Ø. In 1992 I asked and code teacher. What his top
him some 22 questions, each of speed was is apparently not re-
which he answered, plus several corded, but he used up into the
nice letters. Here is the essence of 6Ø wpm range in DX, and his
what he says was his experience.. students advanced rapidly from
zero to 3Ø - 35 wpm with no
His father W1QQS was a close problems. In 1959 Katashi Nose
friend of Ted McElroy, the long KH6IJ wrote “Any DXer worth
time speed-record holder, who his salt is good for at least 6Ø
frequently visited them, and wpm. He gears his speed to what
whom he knew as Uncle Ted. By comes back.” He was a well-
age 6 he became interested in known DXer.
Morse code and from them at that
time he learned the code up to a #11 Jerry A. Ferrell WB7VKI
rate of 1Ø - 15 wpm, but did not (CFO # 76Ø) is another very
get a license. high-speed operator.(over 1ØØ
In his later years when he had be- wpm with whom I had extensive
come a ham and reached a speed correspondence in 1992. He was
of 3Ø wpm, he began to practice born in 1927. In 1945 at age 18
sleep-learning. (Sleep-learning he joined the US Coast Guard and
was a method successfully tried aptitude tests showed he should
by some in the early 192Ø's.) make a good radio operator. He
Generally he practiced it up to was assigned to the six-month ra-
four hours each night. He used a dio course at Atlantic City, where
tape recorder to send continuous the goal was 2Ø wpm of ciphered
code materials previously heard 5-letter groups. Only a very little
and recorded at various speeds, standard English was practiced
and speeded up ultimately to the toward the end., but he was not
6Ø wpm range or higher by the too good at that.) Otherwise he
recorder play-back (running 1- was at the top of the class. The
3/4 inches a second.).. This seems course plan at the CG school was
to have been the main way he to start out at some 5 wpm (ap-
reached the higher speeds. He was parently using very slow code
also actively hamming six hours a characters -- far below their rec-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 195
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
ognition as patterns, which occurs he bought a reel to reel tape re-
in the range of 1Ø-13 wpm), and corder and a keyboard and made
progressed faster by one week at a some 5Ø large reels of 1/4 inch
time increments until reaching tape at speeds ranges of 5Ø - 75,
2Ø-wpm. 6Ø - 8Ø and 7Ø to 9Ø wpm for
After school he started out on US practice. Later he made more
CG ships, but left for part of tapes with 5 wpm speed incre-
1948-9 and went into RR telegra- ments between 5Ø & 8Ø, etc. He
phy. He spent one month at their has a 75 & 1ØØ wpm. “warm-
telegraph school for the American up” tape that makes the others
Morse code and then went on seem rather slow.
temporary assignments. Later in I sent him a list of questions
1949 he returned to the USCG which he answered in consider-
and stayed until his retirement in able detail:--.
1966. During various assignment 1. He rightly suspects that the
in the CG he copied normal Eng- main reason for the in-
lish messages at 2Ø-25 wpm, and crease in number of high
press broadcasts for the ship's speed operators is the wide-
newspaper at 35-4Ø wpm. He was spread use of keyboards for
so good that sometimes the shore sending, but as for key-
station operators would punch boards which also receive, I
tapes to send to him at 5Ø-6Ø have heard of none. (Some
wpm to try to trip him up - but he computer programs can re-
did not miss, and they wondered ceive, however, but I do not
what was going on. Then for a know how fast.).
period of 12 years, 1996 to 1978,
he worked at different occupa- 2a. He felt that it would be so
tions with no radio or telegraphy stressful for an operator to
activity. In early 1978 he got a copy at 6Ø wpm for 1Ø -
ham license. And in May that 12 hours daily as to be vir-
year he visited the Vancouver tually impossible. He feels
Ham Fair. On entering the build- no strain while reading, but
ing heard code signals and lo- high speed copying is
cated their source, as a code speed stressful for him. He is
demonstration for a crowd of quite correct that reading
spectators being given by Harry code and copying code are
Lewis who had a keyboard, a TV two different kinds of op-
monitor and a meter showing erations -- copying being
sending speed. Jerry asked for a by far the more difficult.
try, starting at 3Ø wpm and in- This because one must get
creasing by 5 wpm increments, the code from you ears,
copied up perfectly through 5Ø process it through the brain,
wpm. At this time he became then on down to your fin-
friends with Harry Lewis who gers to the typewriter.
from then on lent him equipment 2b. For him, he finds it hard to
and helps, and encouraged him to sustain for very long. It is
increase his speed capability. So with this he must practice
196 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
for an upcoming contest. ping of attention that makes
For the upcoming contest the difference between
in five months he would reading and hearing it as
spend at least an hour each noise. Hard or unusual
day. He must also get words, etc., are sometimes
psyched-up before a con- difficult, but generally do
test. not cause drop-outs by de-
2c. He says he is sure that the stroying overall concentra-
secret of learning to copy at tion. He may be conscious
higher speeds is to start out of missing something (due
listening to and trying to to misspelling or sending
copy 1Ø or so higher than error, etc.) and be momen-
one is comfortable with and tarily puzzled, but not for
then dropping back. Like long, as he continues on.
driving a car at 9Ø mph Attention is on under-
and then slowing down to standing - that keeps him
8Ø seems slow. going. Long words do not
cause any problems.
3. He says that to him Inter-
national Morse code at 75 5. He does not know whether
wpm or more sounds like there is a limitation on the
“chicken fat in a hot grid- speed of understanding, but
dle.” To start reading it he thinks there must be.
has to make up his mind to 6. He has always been able to
break into it and begin listen to the code or send it
concentrating on words and while doing other things --
phrases. typing at moderate speeds,
4. Then so long as he con- conversing with others, re-
sciously maintains his con- tuning, etc. While he was a
centration, he can continue shipboard operator and re-
to read it. What does he turning with others from
concentrate on, and how shore leave after being still
does he do it? He visualizes somewhat inebriated they
it as something like this -: would sometimes try to trip
“Listening to a news him up by sending him
broadcast on the radio words spelled backwards,
while reading the daily pa- etc. But he did not trip up.
per, one or the other will 7. Although he can read and
have priority of attention: copy American Morse up
While I focus on one, I am to around 3Ø-4Ø wpm it
conscious of the presence does not sound right to him
of the other, but not fully with a CW base. He does
aware of its contents- in fact enjoy reading it occasion-
it is may be more or less ally from taped sounders,
gibberish to me.” [Para- however. He never prac-
phrased} This is an inexact ticed at higher speeds.
parallel, but it is this snap-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 197
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

#12 Frederck M. Ryan W3NIZ terms of sound as “dits” and

“dahs”. Whether he learned it by
(b. 1932 -Ø1-2Ø) sound or visually, he says he was
In about 1942 when he was 1Ø, sort of “stuck” at the test speed
Fred's Father as a Christmas gift, of 13 wpm for a while. He had
gave him a toy telegraph set little time for speed building be-
which could be used to send be- cause he was busy with high
tween two stations, using a buzzer, school studies, and since that was
a clicker (sounder simulator) or a the limit of most of his contacts
lamp. There is no doubt as to he felt no interest or incentive to
why he was given that. His Father go any faster anyway.
was a telegrapher on the Pitts- In the early 195Ø's when he was
burgh and Lake Erie RR, his in the Army he was using a
Grandfather was a telegrapher on straight key up into the 15 - 17
the Pennsylvania RR, and an uncle wpm range.
on the Baltimore and Ohio RR.
He taught himself the letters and Sometime in the 196Ø's his first
numbers by memorizing them at real improvement began when he
a very low speed.. started listening to the ARRL code
practice transmissions in prepara-
After WW-II when ham radio was tion for taking the Extra class
again allowed, he decided to im- exam. He knew from experience
prove his code ability and take the that one tends to do worse under
exam. He practiced on his tele- test conditions, so he waited until
graph set and also mentally put- he could copy at 3Ø wpm before
ting advertisements (posted in the being tested at 2Ø. Of course he
trolley car during rides into town passed.
or in newspapers) in to code. His
Father was not much help because On into the 197Ø's his compre-
he knew only American Morse. hension and sending speeds in-
creased slowly to about 4Ø wpm,
He took the test in 1946 and when he used a keyer for sending
failed the 13 wpm code exam. At and was no longer copying it all
that time one had to wait six down. In the mid 197Ø's, when
months before trying again. So, keyboards became available, he
during that interim he practiced heard some fellows sending over
more, as he had previously, and 8Ø wpm, but could understand
remembers that his sending speed very little of what they were say-
was good up to 18 - 2Ø wpm, but ing. He thought that would sure
he barely made it at 13 wpm, and be fun to do. But he thought
so successfully passed it early the “They are really in a different
next year. league than I am and what they
Since he expresses himself in are doing is above my ability. I
terms of “dots” and “dashes”, had little time to try it because of
he probably followed his father's the pressures of my job.”.
copying and thinking approach “When I retired in 1992 I finally
and practice, rather than the more had leisure time to spend on CW,
recent ham practice speaking in so I bought a keyboard and
198 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
started sending at 45 wpm. Then He began his experimenting and
he heard some guys holding practice at his then present 7Ø
QSO”s at over 6Ø wpm, I decided wpm. Successful changes were:
I could would see if I could im-
prove to that level. 1. He turned off the side-tone
completely, and.
“It took a lot of desire and prac-
tice, but over the past three years 2. stopped looking at the
(from 1997 to the end of 2ØØØ) screen, except maybe a
I have gone from 45 wpm to over glance when his fingers tell
7Ø wpm. I intend to keep it up him he has made a mistake
and improve more. It has been a and,
lot of fun, and I have met some 3. He did not look at the key-
great people also who acted as board either. These three
mentors to me.” changes eliminated the dis-
In his own experience he says he tractions, so he could con-
finds the way his brain functions centrate on his fingers;
is:- “below about 55 wpm I start 4. While he does not look at
constructing the words from let- the keyboard, he “visual-
ters, and comprehension is izes” it, so he could men-
thereby cumbersome. Especially tally concentrate and direct
below about 25 wpm I find that where his fingers are going
my attention span in remember- to go next. He just “wills”
ing the slowly incoming letters his fingers to go there and
and constructing words from they do. It is rather hard to
them is tedious. Above 55 wpm describe.
my brain starts paying little atten-
tion to the letters, and the words 5. He compared it to this:
just “pop” into my head. Even at “When I was seriously into
9Ø wpm I am still getting words playing the piano, although
and putting them together to form I was aware of the presence
thoughts. 9Ø wpm seems to be of the piano keyboard, I
about my limit to do that, and I never looked at where the
believe that to comprehend over fingers were going to go.
9Ø wpm I will have to change the Even if I was jumping sev-
way in which my brain operates. eral octaves quickly, I could
Further practice and time has hit the proper note(s) ex-
raised his comprehension speed to actly without ever turning
over 1ØØ wpm. my head. Looking to the
keyboard to see where the
Raising His Typing Speed fingers were supposed to
Fred tells how he improved his land would have made
sending and reduced the number good piano playing impos-
of errors at speeds over 7Ø wpm sible.”
on the keyboard. He experi- 6. Within a couple of weeks of
mented and found that it took experimenting and prac-
about ten days of practice to ex- ticing, he found he could
ceed 1ØØ wpm. . send as easily at 1ØØ wpm
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 199
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
as he had before at 7Ø.. But #13 Ted J. Newport
what most surprised him
was that now he could chat (b. 1919-Ø9-11 (age 81) First
just as easily at 1ØØ wpm person account. “I learned code
as he could before at 7Ø. when I was in flying school dur-
He said “I can get the ing WW-2. We had to send and
thoughts organized in time receive 12 wpm before we could
to keep the fingers busy at start our flying training. After the
these higher speeds. When I war I bought my son a short wave
had mastered this tech- receiver, heard CW on it, and re-
nique, I found to my sur- learned the letters I had forgotten.
prise that getting the I taught myself code with tapes
thought-flow going at lØØ and with friends helping me on
wpm became very easy. I the air, I owe what speed I have
was wrong”. through the help of two friends
both deceased, who worked with
7. One further thing -- he me on the air for years, helping
needed to improve the ca- get my speed up. The were Jimmy
dence of his sending.-- Moss W5GRJ and Gene W4JKT
sending each letter at ex- who kept pushing me.
actly the same rate. He
said: “Errors that I make, “First you must have the desire to
such as sending “adn” for learn CW, and to like/love CW, and
“and”, are due to hitting have the desire to increase your
the “d” finger out of ca- speed, instead of staying at a pla-
dence, too quickly to allow teau.
the “n” finger to type. “Next, practice practice, practice.
Now I concentrate on When you reach a solid copy
keeping the cadence con- speed, then you must have the
stant, something that I have desire to want to go up to the next
never done over the past 5Ø level of copy speed. Tapes are
years. I had thought that fine, but the best practice is to get
would be the really hard on the air with friend who will
thing to master. But it was- push you to the next level, and
n't.” who will send to you on a regular
How observant and thoughtful he basis.
was. Are these suggestions I need “Gene taught me how to increase
to follow? speed. When I got to one solid
He has noted that in his 53 years copy speed, he would increase ins
of hamming he has not operated a sending speed. When I could not
great deal-- typically less than an copy solid at the increased speed,
hour or two a week. Even now he he would then send to me at a still
is fortunate to find one week in a higher speed. I was not able to get
month when he can communicate too much of it, but when he
with a truly high speed operator. dropped back to the one I could
High-speed operators in the U.S. not copy solid, it would then
are rare today. sound slow and I could copy

200 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
solid. In other words, he would He spent most of his time in the
not slow down when I wasn't get- south pacific and was at Pearl
ting solid copy, but would go to a when it was bombed.
still higher speed and let me listen
to it, even if I could only get a #15 Melvin L. Whitten KØPLX
word or two, and then, when he (b. 1946- Ø3-Ø5). He learned the
dropped down to the lower speed, Morse code from his Father,
it would seem slower then and I W4BI, (see above) who started
could copy it. “I cannot copy teaching him the code when he
and send as well as Tom Alder- was about 9 or 1Ø years old.
man and the others do I don't get
on much any more and my read- Since his Father-teacher was a
ing (not copying ) speed is in the QRQ expert, Mel was never trou-
range of 6Ø to 7Ø wpm. bled by first “memorizing” the
code visually as printed dots and
#14 Rodney L. Whitten W4BI dashes, but rather heard it as it is,
(b. 1912-Ø4-22) is one of our as patterns of sound.. Further-
oldest available examples of very more, he must have had no con-
high-speed operators. His interest cerns as to whether it was “ h a r d ”
began in 1924 when he was 12. . or “easy” to learn.. It was just to
be learned like anything else. If
Spark was beginning to lose its there were any difficulties along
rough, noisy thrill and sense of the way, his Father encouraged
power (like a motorcycle), and him to keep on, with something
was going out of use, displaced by like: “Look how much you have
the tiny vacuum tube with its learned and can do already.”
peeping CW signals and the rapid
increase of DX occurred as Then, because the FCC office was
“short waves” became shorter 15Ø miles away at the time, he
and shorter -- into the “useless” used his Father's call sign for a
range. couple of years until finally he
managed to get to the FCC office
He was interested and wanted to for the test and to get his own li-
learn. . cense and call in 1958.
He joined the US Navy in and was He was able to copy 4Ø wpm up
selected to be a CW operator. He until somewhat more than 2Ø
was trained as one of that special years ago when both he and his
crypto “over the roof gang”, an Father got electronic keyboards.
elite His sending speed began to go up
bunch of guys trained to learn and along with it his copying
various codes (he learned to copy speed rose to 45 then 5Ø and fi-
8 different codes) before and nally reached 55 where it started
during WW-II. In all they in- being work -- above that he must
cluded some 178 men who were sweat up to his absolute limit of
so trained. Their work included 6Ø wpm. His comfortable range is
QRQ copying.. 45 - 5Ø...

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 201

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
He says he owes his “QRQ” to 1937 and passed both the
35 years of QSO's with his Father 1Ø words a minute code
who has long been able to copy test and the theory test.
over 6Ø wpm... 3. He had no initial mental
He feels that if he would work at blocks -- that it might be
it, he is sure he could increase it “hard” - but rather just
even more. “It just takes a lot of “that's the way it is”,
practice.” something, like everything
else that he wanted to learn.
#16 Ira I. Silverman, He enjoy learning it. It was
No data other than that he is a fun. Without the excess
very fast operator, can type into misdirected baggage so
the 14Ø wpm and receive at least many unwittingly carry, he
to 1ØØ reached a 5Ø wpm copying
ability in three years. His
#17 Oscar (Ozzie) Levin evidence joins the rest of
W5RK. that relatively small group
(b. 1918-12-4) This is one of the who did it right from the
most interesting cases, for it illus- beginning and had nothing
trates “normal” learning. to have to relearn.. That is
why it seemed “natural” to
He “got interested in Ham radio him. He “entered the Coast
back in the mid-thirties after vis- Guard in 1941, just before
iting a Boy Scout that had a ham we got into WW-2, and was
station.” - He was more than just assigned as an apprentice
“'interested.” Seaman operating the high-
1. He wanted to learn the code speed circuits along with
and had no preconceived veteran operators. {After
ideas about it. We may say another assignment} he left
he loved it already. the service in 1946.
2. He started from the concept 4. For ten years he was inac-
of the code presented as tive, though he continued
sound --:”spoken” dits his license. In the late '6Ø's
and dahs -- not printed dots he ran into the Chicken Fat
and dashes. He had no vis- Operator's Club [CFO's}
ual road blocks. What did where one of the operators
he do? -- He “learned the observed he had been
code on his own” because copying the high-speed and
he “had no mentor or any- asked him if he wanted to
body to send code to him.” join them. He did, but soon
He learned it by looking at found he could not keep up
a newspaper and saying the his sending speed with just
dits and dahs to himself for a paddle, so he built an
all the letters and numerals electronic keyboard.
in the story he was reading The use of a keyboard, which is
He took the examination in only a tool, is the almost
202 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
universal newer hardware #19 Gary Bold ZL1AN
key which gives that boost
to pass the frequent “pla- is the only known New Zealander
teau”, the speed “barrier” who belonged to the CFO club.
around 5Ø - 6Ø wpm. He says: “4Ø - 45 wpm is as fast
as we ever go. Keyboards are not
Some kind of internal change in in general use. He was quite as-
mental approach seems generally tonished to learn that some hams
needed (Is it a change that is hid- in America were conversing in
den from our conscious under- Morse code at 1ØØ wpm. Gary
standing?) .He could now practice had himself written computer
well-sent code at home or during programs to read code at fair
QSO's with others using key- speeds, and using them, managed
boards. (Bug or keyer sending is to reach his present limit at 55
a special skill that not many wpm.
achieve at those speeds).
#2Ø Jesse W. Caravello, Jr.
This change resulted in a notice- W8MCP
able increase of his receiving
speed and he was soon sending b. 1936-Ø6-Ø7 The following
7Ø wpm. “It was a wonderful ex- comments are from Gary Bold
perience.” Today he finds few ZL1AN. In 1985 I visited Ann
hams using these high speeds. Arbor on Sabbatical leave and
encountered him on the packet
#18 Florence C. Majeras system. He invited me to visit his
W7QYA home.. He told me he was also a
b. 21-1Ø-1915. Bill Eitel said, CFO Club member. I thought it
“She is a very talented and prac- was defunct. Learning that I was
tical woman. Her accomplish- rig-less, Jess lent me a SWAN
ments are many and unknown to transceiver, power supply, tuner
most people, because she is a and filter which at our rented
modest and sincere person. She is house, put me in regular contact
a pilot, musician, school teacher with other CFO members and nets
and a top CW operator. She does whenever possible. He also con-
not have to take a back seat to any nected us home to our teenage
one when operating CW. She can children through the ZL packet
send it, read it in her head, or system. When I went back to ZL,
copy it down on a manner which we kept schedules on 4Ø when
people do not realize because she conditions were right. Later went I
is no show-off. She is the kind of returned to Ann Arbor several
person I formed the 5-Star Club times, each time I enjoyed his and
to recognize.” his wife Brenda's hospitality. They
became very dear friends to me.
I have no information as to how
she learned or when she started I know virtually nothing of his
into ham radio. early Morse experiences. I am
sure that he would have told me
everything. A couple of years ago

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 203

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Jess passed away, I think due to a b: 1944-Ø8-Ø1,
massive heart attack.
Carlos Dale Hamm, W5LN,
Jess was, indeed, a first class CW
man. I know he had spent time as Melvin J. Ladisky W6FDR,
a sea-going operator. I don't Charles H. Brown, JR, W4AFQ,
know how fast he could receive,
and I never saw him use a key- b: 1928-Ø5-28,
board, but he could read any- Wells E. Burton, N4EE b: 1919-
thing. He could copy noisy, weak Ø7-14
signals covered in static and QRN Other older operators for whom
from which I was gleaning mere we have no data on their leaning
letters and occasional words. methods: Frank J. Elliott, Cpl.
Strange fists were no problem to James Ralph Graham, at 6Ø wpm
him. Nor do I have any informa- or more:-- A.J Burkart (1913), E.
tion on the following names who Proctor, W5FDR Earnest L. Sitkes
are supposed to be very high- (W4AFQ), W5GET, W9RUM, Wil-
speed operators:- liam L.Gardiner, Wells E.. Dur-
David H Freese Jr. W1HKJ ham (N4EE), Cpl G.Schaal, others
in Eujrope, who used these speeds
Wrote software for 99 wpm and daily
on Bill Eiel's request revised it to
run at 16Ø wpm. No further in- There were nearly one thousand
formation on him. listed members of the Chicken Fat
Operators club, which required at
Others in the high-speed class on least 45 wpm for entry, before it
whom I have no other informa- faded out as a club a few years
tion:--. ago.
Fred C. Clarke W9AMC, I suspect that the number of
Christ C. Kovacheff K9AMC, highly skilled commercial opera-
David H Freese Jr, W1HKJ, tors and hams around the world
who can or could receive at over
Charles F. Vaughn, III, AAØHW, 45 wpm would add up to many
b: 1958-Ø1-18, thousands, with a large number of
them capable of well above 6Ø
J Philemon Anderson W9TP wpm.
b: 1929-Ø5-31,
Raymond H. Larson, WØGHX,
b. 1936-Ø8-Ø1,
Charles F. Vaughn, III, AAØHW,
b: 1958-Ø1-18,
J Philemon Anderson, W9TP,
b: 1929-Ø5-31,
William Sepulveda, K5LN K5LN,

204 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

Sources of Material 1987 No p24; 1989 Fe p7,42;
1991 Au p56
The following are the major Break-In
sources for the concepts ex-
pressed here. Official Journal of the NZART,
“Morseman” column (by Gary
Very few of them have been Bold), various issues.
quoted verbatim, but when they
have, they have normally been Radio
enclosed within quotation marks. 1935: How Telegraph Operators
(References in general are to the are Made, 3 parts -- McElroy Ja,
first page of the article only.) Fe, My (Related article in Radio
QST News No 1939)
KEY NOTE CW Fists Club
1923 Jl p52; 1925 Mr p45; 1929
De pI, 1933 Fe p76, No p39 -- various issues.
1935 My p68 -- 1937 Au p7, No
p26 -- 1939 Ap 6 -- 194Ø Oc p9, Dots and Dashes, (Morse
73, De p9Ø -- 1941 Ja p45, Fe Telegraph Society)
p48, Jn p66, Jl p44, Au p51, Se
p35, Oc p44 1942 My p66, Se various issues.
p23 (Au p4Ø, Oc p28 -- 1943 Ja Learning The Radiotelegraph
p17, Fe p13, Ap p13, My p14, Jn Code
p4Ø, p5Ø, Jl p9, Au-p9 -- These John Huntoon, ARRL 1942
items concern military schools)
-- 1944(?) Ja p34, Mr p19, Oc Your Introduction To Morse
p3Ø -- 1949 Oc p1ØØ -- 1951 Code:
Fe p54; 1952 Ja p49 -- 1972 My ARRL 19 ARRL National Educa-
p1Ø1, Au p58 -- 1975 Au p1ØØ- tional Workshop: #1, #2, #3
- 1976 Se p53 -- 1978 Jn p48 --
1979 Jn p51, Au p58 -- 1982 De Conquer the Code with Rhythm
p55 -- 1983 Ja p76, p77Au p45, article, source unknown pp. 17-21
Oc p3Ø; 1985, Au p49; -- 1989
Ja p9 -- 1991 Oc p6Ø, p66; Old Wires And New Waves
1992 Mr p 51 Alvin Harlow 1936.
Ham Radio Army Technical Manual TM-11-
1988 Ja p1Ø, p35, p36
TO 31-3-16
73 Magazine
1971 De p83; 1972 Fe p , Jl Sparks Journal, various issues
p12Ø; 1978 Ja p8 CQ: 1959 Fe
p63; 1963 Ja p47; 197Ø De p35; Morsum Magnificat, English
1972 Mr p45; 1973 Mr p28; Edition, various issues
1987 Oc p1Ø6; De p56 Radio Handbook
Bill Orr 21st Ed.

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 205

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Radio Simplified The American Telegrapher
What It Is - How To Build and A Social History 186Ø- 19ØØ.
Operate The Aparatus, by Lewis F Edwin Gabler 1988. BRASS
Kendall and Robert P. Koehler, POUNDERS Young Telegraphers
John C Windston Co. 1922 of the Civil War. Alvin F. Harlow
Psychological Review 1962.
Vol. IV (1897) p27-53, Vol. VI The Military Telegraph During
(1899) p345-375. The Civil War
Journal Of Experimental Psy- 2 vol. William R. Plum. 1882.
chology Peak Performance
XXXIII (1943) “The Relative David R. Krauss 1984
Difficulty of Morse Code Alpha- The Psychology Of Skill
bet Characters Learned by the
Whole Method” S.D. S. Spragg William Frederick Book.
p1Ø8-114. Your First Year Of Teaching
Journal Of Applied Psychol- Shorthand And Transcription
ogy Marion M. Lamb.
1943 “New Method of Teaching Geschichte Der Telegraphie
Code Reception at Columbia U.
p4Ø7-415; “Errors Made in Th. Karasss, Brauschweig. 19Ø9
Telegraphy” p5Ø4-5Ø9; 1944 p.347-35Ø
“Errors, History p254-266; 1945 Geschichte Der Nachrichtentech-
“Second Level Training in Re- nik
ception” p161-3; 1946 “Effect
of Phonetic Equivalents” p265- V. Aschoff. Band 2 p. 198-2Ø8
27Ø. The Story Of Telecommunica-
Memory: Surprising New Insights tions
Into How We Remember And by George P. Oslin, 1992 Mercer
Why We Forget University Press. Chapter 2.
Elizabeth Loftus, 198Ø Zeitschrift The American Leonardo
f_r angewandte Psychologie und
Charakterkunde. Feb. 1936, pp. 1 Carlton Mabee 1943, New York
- 7Ø, Ludwig Koch “Arbeitspsy- Samuel F. B. Morse, Letters And
chologische Untersuchung der Journals
T„tigkeit...f_r Funker” Students' Manual
The Candler System for the Practical Instruction of
Junior Course. Walter Candler Learners of Telegraphy, J. H.
1939 edition. Bunnell & Co. 1884, reprint by L.
Book Of Facts About The Can- A. Bailey
dler System The Edison Album
1939 ed. Lawrence A. Frost 1969, Seattle
206 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001
The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
Cyclopedia Of Telephony And others later, including Clarence
Telegraphy Wallace (W)9ABJ, my brother P.
Kenneth Pierpont, KF4OW vol-
Vol. IV American A Technical unteer instructor; all of whom
Society, 1911 & 1919 contributed something of value
Personal Correspondence from (including some materials). Since
these materials have been assem-
R. J. Miller, Teleplex Co. 22 Oc. bled over a period beginning
1942 Raymond K. White, Dodge about 193Ø, some few sources
Telegraph School L. R. McDon- may have been misplaced or lost.
ald, high speed contestant Ivan S.
Coggeshall, Western Union, con- With the Psalmist we may well
tests and misc. John F. Rhilinger, say: “I will praise Thee; for I am
KC1MI, high speed code Donald fearfully and wonderfully made.
K. deNeuf, WA1SPM, various as- Marvelous are Thy works, and
pects old and new George Hart, that my soul knoweth right well.”
W1NJM, high speed code Tony William G. Pierpont NØHFF
Smith, G4FAI, general and his-
torical L. A. Bailey, American Third Revised Edition-March 16,
Morse operator William K. Dun- 2ØØØ
bar, K9IMV, AD9E, American
Morse operator Verle D. Francis,
WØSZF, American Morse opera-
tor Charles Bender, W1WPR, for-
mer chief operator W1AW ARRL
Station Cecil Langdoc, Elkhart,
IN, American Morse tapes James
S. Farrior, W4FOK, computer
programs both codes, Warren L.
Hart, AA5YI, general Steven D.
Katz WB2WIK, general Tom Per-
era K2DCY, general Louise Mo-
reau, W3WRE, general Loraine
McCarthy, N6CIO, general Carl
Chaplain, W7QO, general Gary E.
J. Bold, ZL1AN, and probably
several others.
Personal discussions with a num-
ber of CW operators
George Marshall, amateur 9AER,
9CX, commercial first class from
1915-6, and Navy to about 1945;
Quido Schultise, amateur 9NX
and commercial from 1919,
K6TK, K5OJ; Alvin B. Unruh,
9BIO from 1923, (W)9AWP,
commercial, and WØAWP; and
William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 207
abbreviations38, 5Ø, 53, 54, 55, 6Ø, better than others 17, 24, 61
74, 94, 139, 159, 176, 179, 18Ø bored 33, 66
ability22, 29, 49, 58, 59, 65, 66, buzzers 48
69, 71, 74, 78, 85, 94, 96, 97, 99, by listening18, 29, 4Ø, 56, 61, 64,
1Ø3, 1Ø9, 149, 156, 171, 198, 215 71, 123
accomplishment 24, 43, 171 champion 12, 52, 9Ø, 169, 171, 172
accuracy35, 4Ø, 43, 49, 51, 84, 95, clubs 1Ø3, 1Ø4, 171
1Ø9, 122, 129, 136, 139, 144, 16Ø, code is sound 55
171, 2ØØ coded groups 75, 21Ø
acoustic wholeness 19Ø coherence 4Ø, 7Ø
advance16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 38, comfortable17, 2Ø, 21, 23, 24, 28,
55, 56, 68, 96, 1Ø3, 1Ø6, 141, 154, 37, 45, 48, 5Ø, 51, 52, 56, 61, 65,
186 66, 68, 79, 83, 84, 86, 87, 88, 9Ø,
afraid of losing something 57, 68 94, 96, 97, 99, 1ØØ, 131
age27, 1ØØ, 1Ø8, 14Ø, 157, 213, commercial operator49, 73, 75, 81,
214, 215 98, 1Ø4, 13Ø, 138, 142, 146, 154,
alphabet13, 14, 18, 26, 29, 3Ø, 34, 179, 196, 213, 215
35, 43, 55, 58, 71, 83, 94, 1Ø6, 117, common13, 19, 29, 38, 42, 43, 51,
125, 13Ø, 132, 135, 136, 137, 139, 53, 54, 55, 58, 59, 6Ø, 63, 68, 69,
143, 146, 152, 153, 168, 17Ø, 189, 74, 8Ø, 81, 91, 94, 96, 99, 1Ø7,
19Ø, 198, 2Ø5 12Ø, 141, 146, 148, 149, 16Ø, 179,
alphabet of sound 14, 29 181, 2ØØ, 2Ø1, 2Ø5
attention11, 14, 2Ø, 21, 22, 23, 34, common phrases 38
36, 46, 49, 55, 57, 59, 61, 62, 63, common words13, 19, 38, 42, 55,
64, 66, 71, 8Ø, 96, 97, 99, 1Ø1, 58, 68, 69, 96, 146, 148, 2ØØ, 2Ø1
1Ø5, 113, 114, 117, 125, 151, 17Ø, contesting 51
185, 193, 2Ø1, 2Ø3, 2Ø4, 213 copy behind18, 66, 68, 69, 7Ø, 156,
attitude15, 2Ø, 22, 26, 28, 44, 8Ø, 2Ø2
1Ø9, 151, 197, 199 copy letter-by-letter 68
attitudes22, 23, 24, 25, 112, 173, copying in your head 72
2Ø2 cycle 81, 142, 162, 163, 164, 172
average letter length 181 daily practice 42, 197, 199
avoid1Ø, 12, 17, 21, 31, 35, 61, 63, deliberate 121
73, 78, 79, 1Ø5, 1Ø7, 12Ø, 152, determination 28, 43
154, 161, 186 develop16, 18, 24, 31, 43, 47, 57,
background 19, 74, 11Ø, 111 58, 59, 64, 69, 72, 77, 8Ø, 84, 121,
baud 162, 163 133, 193, 196, 2Ø1
beginning11, 13, 14, 18, 22, 28, 32, developed2, 2Ø, 26, 48, 77, 99, 1Ø3,
44, 63, 84, 97, 1Ø1, 1Ø6, 119, 12Ø, 12Ø, 121, 132, 134, 135, 136, 139,
131, 147, 148, 154, 171, 172, 186, 14Ø, 142, 148, 176, 179, 211
187, 197, 2Ø3 developing skill 12, 128
best9, 12, 13, 17, 18, 24, 26, 37, distracted 24, 1Ø2
38, 39, 4Ø, 44, 45, 47, 51, 55, 66, earliest51, 96, 11Ø, 121, 165, 169,
67, 77, 78, 8Ø, 83, 87, 97, 11Ø, 182
114, 115, 118, 12Ø, 13Ø, 138, 151, echoing 35
157, 162, 163, 169, 182, 186, 188,
195, 198, 212, 214

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 208

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
element51, 77, 88, 1Ø8, 1Ø9, 112, keyer 5Ø, 77, 92, 1Ø8, 166, 169, 172
13Ø, 136, 137, 148, 154, 162, 163, keying speed in bauds 164
164 learn at your own rate 21, 24, 28
enjoy the learning process 28 learn to copy17, 26, 65, 68, 69, 7Ø,
example13, 16, 27, 33, 34, 39, 5Ø, 74
53, 54, 59, 62, 65, 68, 69, 7Ø, 83, learn to hear words as words 58
88, 9Ø, 95, 1Ø9, 122, 146, 147, learn to trust the mind 57
152, 154, 16Ø, 162, 163, 194, 2Ø4, learning to send 77
2Ø5, 211, 212, 213 let it go 63, 193
expert operator 168, 212 letter frequency counts 181
fading 62, 63, 64, 73, 119, 159, 179 letter-by-letter copying 72
familiarity29, 34, 38, 45, 56, 58, license9, 2Ø, 42, 48, 5Ø, 69, 1Ø5,
6Ø, 7Ø, 71 11Ø, 123, 14Ø, 2Ø3, 2Ø7, 2Ø8, 2Ø9,
faster13, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28, 3Ø, 215
31, 36, 37, 38, 4Ø, 41, 43, 45, 46, listen and enjoy it 45
48, 5Ø, 61, 67, 68, 72, 75, 76, 84, listening and writing 33
88, 94, 97, 1ØØ, 1Ø4, 142, 145, listening only 33
147, 148, 149, 155, 176, 179, 183, long term 114
194, 197, 213, 215 long time 1Ø, 12, 84, 129, 139, 151
fatal to speed 96 long words 62, 159
fear of losing out 71, 72, 199 make it fun 39
five-letter groups 191, 194, 2Ø1 making sense 1Ø1
for learning26, 28, 36, 93, 1Ø8, mental16, 25, 26, 37, 4Ø, 41, 45,
13Ø, 171 46, 47, 48, 58, 59, 62, 63, 68, 7Ø,
forget it 37, 66, 67, 8Ø 73, 76, 77, 84, 85, 96, 99, 1ØØ,
general9, 25, 34, 54, 56, 66, 8Ø, 85, 1Ø1, 112, 114, 116, 119, 123, 13Ø,
1Ø7, 121, 125, 145, 174, 2Ø5, 2Ø8, 151, 152, 154, 184, 185, 196, 212
21Ø military 12, 1Ø9, 111, 141, 214
getting stuck 1Ø miss something 57, 71, 1Ø2
give yourself a chance 72 missing something 66
glass arm 79, 8Ø, 85, 88, 89, 2Ø2 most common words18, 38, 42, 58,
good operator13, 28, 3Ø, 58, 68, 73, 68, 69, 2ØØ, 2Ø1
84, 94, 164, 214 noise12, 64, 74, 1Ø1, 115, 117,
handicaps 27 163, 164, 21Ø
higher skill 111, 113, 214 not recommended 129, 171
how fast 4Ø, 43, 46, 1Ø2, 167 notes 54, 74, 196, 212
ill19, 24, 28, 56, 63, 92, 111, 118, obsolete? 11
134, 143, 149, 156, 157, 2Ø3 of success 36
immediate recognition 147 operator12, 13, 19, 24, 26, 28, 3Ø,
instant recognition 18 36, 41, 42, 43, 49, 5Ø, 52, 53, 54,
interference11, 17, 4Ø, 44, 46, 48, 55, 58, 65, 67, 68, 69, 73, 74, 75,
52, 62, 63, 64, 73, 74, 75, 8Ø, 85, 76, 77, 78, 8Ø, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85,
9Ø, 97, 1ØØ, 111, 112, 115, 119, 86, 87, 88, 89, 9Ø, 94, 95, 97, 98,
148, 149, 159, 161, 167, 168, 174, 1Ø4, 1Ø7, 115, 117, 12Ø, 121, 126,
175, 2Ø3, 2Ø8, 21Ø 131, 132, 136, 138, 14Ø, 141, 142,
interference and static 11, 48 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 149, 154,
introduction 122, 194 159, 161, 164, 165, 166, 168, 172,
irregularities 75 173, 175, 176, 182, 183, 184, 194,
is comfortable 2Ø, 51, 83 195, 196, 2Ø3, 2Ø4, 2Ø7, 2Ø8, 21Ø,
keep on copying 47 211, 212, 213, 214, 215
keyboards92, 95, 1Ø3, 1Ø4, 118, over-learning 29, 46
123, 17Ø passband 162

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 209

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
perfectly formed characters 17Ø recorders for learning 13Ø
plateau15, 22, 27, 41, 11Ø, 152, regular practice 48
154, 185, 186, 19Ø relative83, 92, 116, 118, 132, 133,
positive attitude 24, 25, 44, 197, 199 137, 138, 143
practical11, 12, 56, 72, 111, 132, relax 21, 25, 28, 45, 56, 57, 9Ø, 2Ø2
134, 136, 137, 138, 14Ø, 142, 156, repeated38, 83, 84, 1Ø5, 1Ø6, 122,
167 126, 189
practice17, 18, 19, 2Ø, 21, 22, 23, right way2Ø, 21, 26, 27, 38, 42,
25, 26, 3Ø, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 1Ø9, 113
4Ø, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48, 53, same way22, 33, 46, 63, 84, 11Ø,
54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 6Ø, 61, 62, 122, 144, 147, 188, 189, 193, 199,
66, 67, 69, 7Ø, 71, 73, 74, 77, 78, 2ØØ, 2Ø2
8Ø, 83, 84, 92, 96, 1Ø5, 1Ø7, 11Ø, self-study 34
114, 115, 117, 118, 119, 122, 123, sense of accomplishment 24
124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 13Ø, short practice 59
146, 151, 152, 154, 156, 16Ø, 165, signal12, 16, 17, 55, 6Ø, 64, 66, 73,
167, 168, 169, 17Ø, 171, 186, 188, 74, 77, 9Ø, 91, 117, 118, 119, 131,
189, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 197, 136, 137, 143, 147, 148, 149, 153,
198, 199, 2ØØ, 2Ø1, 2Ø2, 2Ø4, 21Ø 161, 162, 163, 164, 175, 181, 183,
practice by 26 185, 186, 193, 2ØØ, 2Ø1
practice copying 66, 73, 2Ø1 signal element 77, 136
practice listening 36, 61, 2Ø1 signal-to-noise ratio 12, 117
practice material17, 38, 6Ø, 66, 123, silence39, 6Ø, 118, 119, 148, 162,
128, 17Ø 181, 191, 21Ø
practice periods39, 44, 45, 48, 59, skilled operator1Ø, 24, 43, 5Ø, 51,
83, 193, 199 65, 74, 81, 94, 95, 145, 176
practice sending 4Ø, 1Ø5 solid copy 66
practicing17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 35, sound consciousness 58
4Ø, 45, 47, 6Ø, 72, 1ØØ, 131, 147, sound is the letter 27
155, 182 sound pattern13, 14, 27, 28, 29, 3Ø,
pressure in short bursts 23 31, 32, 35, 39, 45, 47, 55, 112, 153,
prevent anticipating 38 154, 155, 183, 185, 186, 187, 191,
proficient operator 43 192, 193, 197
quality22, 47, 48, 5Ø, 56, 63, 64, sounder52, 11Ø, 116, 119, 135,
74, 76, 81, 83, 84, 85, 1Ø2, 111, 14Ø, 142, 143, 147, 148, 149, 166,
119, 129, 13Ø, 143, 161, 163, 164, 196, 213
165, 169, 183 speed records 1Ø2, 125
ragchewing 51, 126 standard word 163, 164, 173, 181
random33, 34, 38, 4Ø, 47, 67, 69, static11, 17, 26, 4Ø, 48, 52, 63, 7Ø,
7Ø, 1Ø6, 122, 127, 128, 155, 163, 73, 75, 9Ø, 119, 12Ø, 142, 148,
181, 191, 192 149, 159, 167, 173, 179
receiving11, 16, 18, 19, 2Ø, 25, 26, static interference 167
29, 37, 39, 4Ø, 47, 49, 51, 54, 55, success15, 2Ø, 22, 24, 29, 36, 44,
56, 57, 59, 6Ø, 62, 64, 66, 73, 74, 1Ø5, 111, 153, 167
75, 78, 81, 86, 97, 99, 1Ø2, 111, swings 12Ø, 121
113, 114, 116, 117, 119, 121, 124, take it easy 45, 75
125, 126, 127, 13Ø, 131, 132, 134, tapes and courses 35
136, 138, 139, 14Ø, 143, 144, 147, the ear17, 21, 22, 27, 3Ø, 31, 37,
148, 149, 159, 16Ø, 161, 165, 171, 38, 39, 4Ø, 51, 53, 56, 64, 67, 83,
172, 176, 179, 181, 197, 2Ø1, 2Ø2, 86, 96, 99, 1Ø6, 117, 118, 12Ø,
2Ø7, 21Ø, 211 124, 132, 141, 142, 148, 151, 153,
receiving by ear only 14Ø

210 William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy
155, 161, 165, 167, 169, 17Ø, 182, wireless11, 53, 86, 89, 111, 139,
187, 2Ø2, 2Ø7 142, 146, 148, 18Ø, 2Ø6, 2Ø9
thinking in code 27 wpm1Ø, 12, 16, 19, 27, 28, 3Ø, 31,
timing16, 17, 19, 31, 35, 4Ø, 48, 32, 35, 36, 4Ø, 41, 42, 43, 47, 49,
63, 77, 84, 111, 115, 117, 118, 119, 5Ø, 51, 52, 62, 65, 67, 68, 71, 72,
12Ø, 129, 138, 144, 145, 171, 182, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 84, 86, 9Ø, 93,
183, 184, 199, 2ØØ, 2Ø2 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 1ØØ, 1Ø1,
to start17, 29, 32, 33, 45, 166, 185, 1Ø2, 1Ø3, 1Ø4, 1Ø6, 1Ø7, 1Ø8,
192 1Ø9, 11Ø, 111, 115, 123, 124, 125,
unique sound pattern 3Ø 127, 128, 13Ø, 131, 137, 141, 142,
unit of sound 3Ø, 2Ø3 146, 152, 153, 154, 155, 163, 164,
variety17, 21, 34, 66, 87, 1Ø5, 1Ø6, 166, 167, 169, 17Ø, 172, 173, 174,
123, 128, 17Ø 183, 184, 185, 186, 19Ø, 194, 198,
want to learn1Ø, 13, 15, 27, 29, 111, 2Ø3, 2Ø4, 2Ø5, 2Ø7, 2Ø8, 2Ø9,
146 21Ø, 211, 213, 214, 215
whistle it 48 WPM 194
wide spacing 167 Z-code 53

William G. Pierpont N0HFF” 1932-2001 211

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