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Morse Code

The simple answer to this question is because it works when nothing else will.

If the code is so great why is it being phased out by government stations, commercial stations, military communications, and now even as I write this, by ham radio organizations in many countries including our own U.S.A.? The simple answer to this question is money. It is now cheaper and much quicker to digitize information and send it all over the world via satellite than it is to pay a radio operator who requires training and skill in the use of the code to sit at a radio and send at 20 to 35 words per minute with a keyer of some sort to another operator at the other end who is typing or writing what he hears on a typewriter or pad of paper.

Elimination of the code or a reduction in the minimum copying speed as an amateur licensing requirement has another purpose. It sells things like VHF radios, antennas, memberships in organizations and subscriptions to magazines. The present code tests given in the U.S.A. allow a passing grade on the code test if 7 out of 10 answers are correct. This is a far cry from one minute of solid copy which was the passing score of the former test. It will allow a passing score for someone who cannot copy the required 13 or 20 words per minute. My experience is that the newly upgraded General or Extra Class operator can not usually handle more than 8/9 or 17/18 words per minute, if that, and should be given all the help possible to get their speed up to at least a solid 13 or 20 wpm as soon as possible. It cannot possibly be much fun for a new General to be uncomfortable when they are not in the Novice band.

The question of "learning the code" has always been a negative consideration for many people who think they might want to get an FCC license to operate an amateur radio station. I certainly felt this way in the beginning and most of my ham friends did also. It was not until we became competent using Morse code that we realized what an excellent mode of communications it was when you want to talk to someone on a radio who is far away and speaks a different language. The use of Morse code has allowed us to enjoy the full flavor of amateur radio and to gradually progress up the license ladder to the top, a place where any of us should be quite proud to be located.

Is it hard to learn the use of Morse code? Not really! Let's face it, the new operator is required to learn the sound of 26 letters, 10 numbers, which are very easy to learn, and a few common punctuation marks. Most of us learned these things as children when we sat on our parents knee and began learning the fundamentals of English or some other language. To summarize, learning the code is NOT rocket science. It requires persistance and some study, using tapes and a tape recorder for a few weeks, period. Most of all it requires a desire to succeed at a fairly simple task.

What good is it to anyone except a few of us who enjoy using it? If a child, male or female, is learning the code, he/she is developing a learning skill that requires them to make decisions about how to spend their free time in order to succeed at a self imposed task. It requires that they develop personal skill with problem solving. In return, the student receives a license from the FCC that demonstrates to everyone that they have a skill not possessed by many people in the world. Most of all, when a parent hears his/her youngster banging away sending code in his/her "radio shack" he/she knows that there is nothing going on in that young person's life that will be harmful in any way, shape, or form while sending Morse code. Who in their right mind would criticize this result of learning the code, especially in these times? Ham Radio and the use of Morse code is really a way of life, and a very good one at that.

Be proud of your skill and keep pounding brass. History will love you for it.

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