At a very early age, I became interested in radio. The way messages traveled though space seemed magical to me. (still does) I listened to my parents portable shortwave radio that would receive am only. Sometimes I could hear garbled “Donald duck” sounding speech and wondered why it sounded that way. After some study, it seemed a “bfo” or beat frequency oscillator was needed to receive single sideband or continuous wave transmission. I found that if I took little am broadcast radio in close proximity to shortwave and tuned, the squeal of heterodyne was heard, and I could adjust it so that some of the “Donald duck” sound could be clarified. This was also the first time I heard the cryptic morse code that I had read about. It was not until 1989 that I learned enough morse code (5wpm) to pass tech license as KB7FRS.

  Actually learning CW well enough to communicate didn’t happen until fairly recently. I saw a web page,, that offered free classes offered in 3 levels.

Level 1-Basic morse character learning in skype virtual classroom.

Level 2-Learning to “head copy” and make actual  radio contacts between members under direction of instructor.

Level 3-Intro to “cwops” contesting and continued on-the-air and skype sessions.

I took several ideas away from this experience.

1-To develop speed, writing it down becomes a handicap.

2-Constant practice is required. Similar to learning musical instrument or language.

3-Copying on-the-air QSO and W1AW practice sessions very helpful.

4-Sending is trivial compared to copy. Paddle is best to start because it forces timing discipline.

5-Free practice programs are very useful. This is one I still use today.

Just sharing my experience with crossing and item off “bucket list” 🙂


Gary lust