I wrote this in 1997 for K3WWP’s. CW website.
It’s still active on his website.Hello, my name is Jeffrey Demers, I am 17 years old and an avid Amateur Radio enthusiast. My callsign is N1SNB. I was first licensed in 1994 as a Tech(-). I currently hold a General class license. I operate mainly on HF CW and VHF/UHF. My favorite mode of operation is CW! CW you say??? Yes, CW. I never thought for an instant that when I upgraded I would become interested in CW! CW to me was that useless mode that all the realllllly old-timers used. I thought I would never use it, I was going to be a SSB MAN. At the time I was having all these anti-cw thoughts I didn’t know much about equipment and antennas and didn’t have much money to spend on equipment. I wanted to get on HF, but couldn’t afford to purchase a “real” rig so I ordered an MFJ-9015 QRP CW transceiver with accessories..tuner/key. In all it cost about 220 dollars. When the equipment arrived I set up my station complete with 40 foot longwire hanging out my bedroom window. N1SNB was on the air!
In December 1994, I began studying Morse Code. I studied using code tapes from Radio Shack. Every night for three straight months I would sit down and practice code for thirty minutes at a time, trying to achieve the unattainable 13 wpm level. By February of 1995, I felt that I knew the code well enough to test, so I headed off to the local VE-testing site. On February 5, 1995 at 4:12pm I failed my five wpm examination!
If Steve, N1SG (the VE who gave my cw test) hadn’t encouraged me to stick with Morse Code and pass my test, I probably would have given up and focused on VHF stuff. Steve invited me to his station, showed me his equipment, and helped me study the code. On February 17, just two weeks later, not only did I pass five wpm, I passed the 13 wpm examination!! Below is a list of tips given to me, that were a big help when I was studying the code:
-Use more than one set of code practice tapes if possible, to avoid memorizing the tapes instead of learning them.
-Don’t study for more than thirty minutes at a time: you’re more likely to go downhill than uphill.
-Set a practice schedule and stick with it.
CW is only as hard as you want it be. If the people that cried about learning the code, spent half their crying time studying they probably would be filling up the bands at 40 wpm by now!
My first CW qso was with W9MYZ in Bigfork, MN. I proudly display that QSL card in my shack still. Even though it was the bottom of the sun cycle, and all I had for equipment was a 15m QRP radio, I made the most of it. I didn’t make many contacts, but I kept plugging out those CQ’s trying to fill those first few pages of my logbook. This is how I learned CW, I was forced into CW, SSB wasn’t a temptation. CW is such a powerful mode of operation, it is literally awesome. If you try to apply SSB to the situation described above, it just doesn’t work. Qrp+SSB+15m+ bottom of cycle=no way!!
In June 1995, I graduated to a Yaesu FT-101EE HF SSB/CW 160-10M rig. The local ham I bought it from at an extremely discounted price had “lost” the microphone, so again I was “just” on CW. With this rig new worlds opened up to me on all the new freqs. that my new radio had. It is at this point where one could officially call me an ADDICT. It was the summer, there was no school, I was on that radio probably five hours a day working any and every station I could on CW. CW was the mode for me. It was just so fascinating to be able to talk to other people in code, using such basic equipment and yet have so much fun in the process.
Finally in October, 1995 I mustered up enough dough for a microphone. What a disappointment!!!! Trying to work stations on 20M ssb w/100w and less than awesome antennas was an uninteresting challenge. I knew that on 20M CW there would be half the QRM, and twice as much DX. I also learned that 80M and 160M SSB are less than interesting for those hams that want to just call CQ. CQing on 80M SSB is usually met with anything but positive vibes. Again why bother with SSB and all the garbage that goes on in the SSB subband when I could go to the CW subband where more stations could hear me, and actually wanted to talk to me. My mic got put away except for some contests. I urge all younger hams to give CW a try, it is a great mode. Many people say CW is old-fashioned, and that it should be dropped. Many of these people have never operated CW, never will operate CW, and never wanted to operate CW. It is possible for people my age to enjoy CW. Don’t overlook it as an “old-timers” mode, it isn’t. Get on the CW bands and give it try, I think you’ll like it.
I have met so many fascinating people on CW, and had so many great QSOs it is impossible to say which were the “best” or most memorable. The feeling of great excitement when I broke my first pileup, and worked D68SE on the other side of the world comes to mind. My first QSO with Europe on 80M was with my rain gutter loaded as an antenna. My first QSO with an Asian station. I am glad I became a CW MAN, be cause looking back I wouldn’t have wanted to miss these CW experiences for all the money in the world.
Its now 1997, I still love to operate CW, and do so on an almost daily basis. Since 1995, I have made over 18,000 QSOs. I have the necessary QSLs to receive my WAC, WAS, WPX-1000, US-CA 500 and DXCC. I have WAS on separate 15/20/40/80M CW, I have WAS on 40M QRP CW as well. I have worked 158 countries on CW. CW is a great mode. It is possible to accomplish so much with a simple and inexpensive setup, using CW. During the week I am usually on 7030 kHz around 2100z daily, if you hear me, give me a call!
73! From New Hampshire
Report written in 1997 when Jeff was 17.