CW many times more effective in getting a signal out

CW many times more effective in getting a signal thru than is SSB. An example was last wkend, April 13, when I was at my cabin in NC testing a homebrew Buddistick I would use the following day on a SOTA activation of a mtn on the Blue Ridge Pkwy. I was particularly interested in 40m so I could communicate with my friends in Georgia so WA4ZXV in Atl agreed to a sked. On SSB it was worthless but on CW he heard me with 2.5w and I got 569 rst.

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QSO365 Streak Busted 12APR12

Inspired by the QSO365 Challenge I learned about on a Practical Amateur Radio Podcast in December, I began the New Year making a qso a day everyday I was in town (I had to relax the strict rule a little as I travel a bit on business and do not yet have a good, reliable portable radio setup) and managed it 103 days (minus travel days as discussed), but today I was busted.

I was returning from out of town and at first I didn’t think I’d even get back to the shack by 8pm EDT (2400Z) in time to even attempt a qso for April 12, but I did arrive abt 7:20pm.  After unloading, I was on the air by 7:35, in plenty of time, I thought.  But, Murphy conspired against me and I couldn’t hit anyone.  Tried a couple of Titanic commemorative stations (this wk is the 100th anniversary) but too much QRM and competition from stronger stations.  Finally, I heard K9KU calling CQ on 40m CW with a strong signal abt 7:58pm.  I answered him twice but he didn’t come back!  😦  At 8:01 I heard W8VLN a KHz up and answered him but to be honest with myself, it was after midnight UTC so it was the next day.

However, my reward was one of the best CW qso’s I’ve had in quite a while.  Larry, who lives west of Dayton, has been a ham for 57 years and been to Dayton 55 years!  However, he said he may not go this year.  He was very nice about QRS for me, which I needed as my CW is just plain lame right now.  We went on and talked about Dayton; he told me they had like 44,000 attendees 15 yrs ago but in recent yrs has been more like 18,000.  I went last yr for the first time (and will go agn this yr), and I thought it was plenty crowded at 18,000!  He told me (I think; my copy is ragged) they have 1,000 dealers this yr and 3,500 spaces outside.  Not sure if I copied that rt, tho.

As I received 599 from him, I lowered pwr to 50w and still got 599.  Lowered it agn to 25w and got 579.  Interesting thing to try in mid-qso.  I raised it back to 50w for remainder of qso, just for his ease of copy.

QSO356: will I go back to it or not?  It has been both a liberation and a burden.  A liberation as it has made me get on the air with diligence, and as a result, I have learned a lot more abt the many buttons and features on my rig.  A burden in that sometimes I am tired and returning fm an evening event at 10 or later in the evening and still feel the need to make that qso.  Often, just to make that qso for the log, I have found a DX station and done a quick 599 TU and got it over in a matter of seconds, which frankly is not that satisfying to me.

I think I’ll go back to attempting a qso a day but not be obsessive about it, and stress quality qso’s, like tonight’s, over just getting one in the log.

Bye bye!

CW Atrophy: If You Don’t Use it, You Lose it!

After two months of chasing CW DX, where the exchange is sometimes as little as 599, TU or at most, 599 GA Ken, and often at 25wpm, I engaged in an actual honest qso with an American ham, K6OLE this morning.

It was at abt 15wpm and the first thing I notice was that I could copy only parts of the qso because it was more than just the “standardized” and predictable DX exchange.  Normally, I shouldn’t have a problem at 15wpm so to me it is a revelation how much one loses fm lack of use or practice.  I would call it “CW atrophy.”  Atrophy is the wasting away of, say, a muscle, from lack of use.

This happened to me on xmit as well.  My sending was, well, frankly sloppy, again due to lack of use.  In contest DX especially, I barely touch the paddle.  Instead, my call is recorded and so is the exchange, so I just push buttons on the radio.  At contest DX speeds, sometimes 30wpm, that’s all I can manage!

Note to self #1: resume practice of CW and resume real actual QSO’s instead of just DX or contest exchanges if you want to be comfortable with CW.

Note to self #2: I will do this after I get my Diamond DXCC (special award for 100 countries worked in 2012) and my 100 countries on ten meters.  (I’ve already gotten 100  on 15 and 20m this calendar year.)

A few CW tips

  1. Join FISTS – The International Morse Preservation Society – www.fists.org.  “When you’ve worked a FISTS, you’ve worked a friend.”
  2. “Accuracy Transcends Speed.”  While no doubt true, even at my slow speed, my sending accuracy less than perfect.
  3. Don’t id with each transmission.  Once every ten minutes is all that’s required..
  4. Use abbreviations, Q’s and prosigns, and use them properly
  5. Cut out unnecessary words.  E.g., No need to say “name here is Ken;” just say “name Ken.”  We know where you are!
  6. If you have a longer or less common first name like I do, Wayne, use a shorter nickname in CW, esp with intl ops.  My middle name is Kenneth so I use “Ken.”
  7. This one is hard to break but try not to repeat everythiing unless asked.  For me, in Atlanta, GA, that’s a lot of letters to repeat. 

SKCC – Straight Key Century Club

Interesting QSO Thursday nite involving my new discovery of SKCC.  So we exchanged a few emails and here’s the thread:

Ron, emjoyed our QSO tonite.  SKCC I told you abt is at www.skccgroup.com.  I only learned abt it last wkend when I worked someone at 3550 who asked me for my SKCC #!  I ckd it out and joined (free) and got my # 2 days ago.

Wayne, I checked out the website you gave me after our QSO and, after sleeping on it overnight, I have decided to join too.  It seems like SKCC is a good place to meet some interesting old-fashioned hams.  I had never heard of it before last night.  Thanks for the introduction.

I do appreciate straight key proficiency and try to keep mine up to a decent level, but I use a keyer/paddles most of the time except for New Year’s Eve.

I just happened to be trying out my old Kenwood TS 830S that hadn’t transmitted into an antenna in about 15 years last night and the straight key was the only one I had handy with a cord having the plug for it.  I didn’t realize that I was sending CQ in the SKCC 80 meter working frequency range.

Ron, amazing coincidence that you were calling CQ in SKCC range.  I just got my # Weds so wanted to try it out Thurs.  I read on the SKCC website to tune dn 2 kHz fm 3550 if a straight key and tune up if a bug.  So I blew the cobwebs off my old key and got on freq, and there you were!