Monday, May 1, 2017

The Struggle Is Real

I am fortunate to have many fellow amateurs encouraging me in my quest to learn code. Many have offered to meet me on air and have a qso but I feel I am far from that. I have one elmer that offered to trade mp3 recordings with me so that I could practice decoding his and he could critique my sending skills. Every new ham should be so lucky as to have elmers who help explain whatever new mode that is being tried. We should all be willing to help in this way.

But, back to me. I am frustrated. Part of me says to give up. In my head I hear, "You will never get it." I am struggling. I received an mp3 a week or so ago and it was way too fast for my skill level. So, like a great Elmer, Brian sent me another. This time I heard the first part pretty clear. W9BRI de KB9BVN. That much was easy because I use my friend's call signs in my sending practice often. After that I continuously hit rewind to try and decode each word. Even more discouraging is the speed he sent it seems, at least in my mind, to be about 5 wpm. And I am struggling!

Tell me to send a letter and I can do it no problem. To ask me to decode a letter I struggle. I do not understand. Am I counting? Am I anticipating the word? I don't know, all I can tell you is that I am not hearing the sound even on letters I have worked on for quite some time. The struggle is real.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Code Learning Choices

For those who want to learn morse code there are many programs out there. They have different methods on how to aid you in your learning process. Some are on paper and some are auditory and you have to decide what works for you. But, I buy into what many operators say and that is that you should not learn code by counting dits and dahs and that is the problem with the paper process. Counting dits and dahs seems to slow down your words per minute (wpm) capabilities. I am learning right now at 18 wpm but if I had to learn by counting I think I would be closer to 5 wpm or less. I buy into what I believe is the best method and was suggested to me by two elmers KB9BVN and W9ILF and that is to learn by the sound of each letter. Ivin, W9ILF, plays the cello and he is very proficient in operating cw. He attributes that to the fact that he has always associated reading cw with playing music. This seems the most logical way to learn to me.

So, my learning started with the program from K7QO. Unfortunately, the files have been pulled down for site maintenance and I allowed myself to take a rest. BIG mistake. I stopped for a couple of weeks and finally downloaded the program from G4FON. I continue to work with that one and I also recently signed up for CW Academy. My course does not start until September so I have plenty of time to prepare. I found out that the Morse Code Trainer is based on the training program written by one of the CWOps academy facilitators so I am using a mixture of that, to be ready for my class, and the G4FON depending on which device I am using. Search around and find out what is best for you. There are multiple programs to choose from.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

No Code Hams

February 23, 2007 was a day that will live in infamy. To many an older ham this was the day ham radio took a turn for the worse. On this day the FCC eliminated the need for a prospective ham or a ham wishing to upgrade their license to show proficiency in receiving and sending morse code. Get on the air and tune around the bands. You will hear it as the topic of conversation in many QSO's. If you were licensed after February 23, 2007 you will find out that you are not considered a "real" ham. According to many, you, and I, might as well be talking on 11 meters (That would be CB frequency for you non ham educated readers). Probably the only thing the older hams hate worse than a no code ham is a CB operator.

I am not learning morse code to appease those who think no code hams are the reason there are so many LIDs on the air now. No, I am learning morse code as a challenge to myself. One thing I have found in amateur radio so far is challenge. I went from not knowing anything about electronics to learning a little while studying for my Technician license. My thoughts were to upgrade to General so that I could at least get on the HF bands and talk all over the world instead of 50 miles in most directions around Indianapolis. When I learned enough to pass my General exam I thought I would be content. That is when I felt challenged to see if I could pass my Amateur Extra exam. I accomplished that and now I look at learning morse code as the biggest challenge I could face in amateur radio. I can do it. I will do it. 

How far are you willing to reach? Oh yeah, you won't be calling me a no code ham forever!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Today is a tough day. Five years ago my wife and I had to make a decision like no other, one that I would not wish on anyone. We had to make the decision to remove the ventilator from our nine year old daughter and hope that she would be able to breathe on her own. She could not. 3/21/2012 at 1412 p.m. our beautiful daughter Brianna Nicole became an angel.

Pediatric brain tumors are real and their research is underfunded. If you are of the charitable type and you would like to give to our fund to help research and provide smiles for the kids battling please take the time to donate by going to our page and giving a few dollars. You can reach it here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Learning Morse Code

.-- . .-.. -.-. --- -- .  -.. .  .-- ----. -... .-. ..

A few weeks ago I decided to restart an adventure I began once before. I decided I wanted to learn Morse code. Like many others before I went into it motivated and got so frustrated that I gave up after a month or so. I have new motivation now and have found that I am doing better this time even though I am learning different letters than I did last time.

After reading the websites of a couple of well known "fists" it is quite obvious where my failure came from the first time around. I was spending too much time trying to count and not listening. By the time you try to count the dits and dahs the next letter is gone and you will never keep up. I still find myself doing this occasionally but now that I recognize it I can re focus and get back on task.

I have been using the code course by K7QO playing it on my cell phone while working, driving, and just sitting around. I realize that Chuck Adams (K7QO) says to get in a quiet room but I stay pretty busy and find time whenever I can to listen and learn. You can find the code course here.

My latest inspiration came from two fellow hams who decided to do a QRP WAS on 40m using only 2 watts max. Brian, KB9BVN, is running his newly acquired Heathkit HW-8 on a dipole in his attic. Ivin, W9ILF, is running a Small Wonder Labs SW+40 and an unkown antenna. Check out their blogs and enjoy the challenge. Brian can be found by clicking here and Ivin here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What Do I (We) Owe Amateur Radio?

Photo Credit: Doug Butchy

So what do we owe back to the hobby that brings us joy? This question is so loaded and I bet we would agree on many answers that others might give but in turn, I would also have to believe that we might be shocked at some of the answers. Not everyone is into amateur radio for the joy it might bring them. I have noticed during my brief adventure that for every ten good operators out there we have an idiot among us. But, giving them attention just provides incentive for them to work that much harder at being annoying so let us move to the subject of what do we owe amateur radio. I may have to revisit the LID situation down the road just to encourage the new operators to ignore these people but for now it is all about you, the good operator.

It is pretty simple really. We need to promote the hobby and encourage those who might be interested or newly licensed. We need to be elmers and not answer questions we have heard a million times in a condescending manner. We need to be courteous operators and follow the rules by operating in a manner that is in line with what we learn in our first studies of Technician license content. In other words, don't be a LID!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What Do I Want from Amateur Radio?

I want what this ham has. A smile on my face. I have truly found that so far in my adventure. I find enjoyment from listening in on a ragchew while I am doing work for my second job as Riding Academy Manager at Southside Harley Davidson in Indianapolis. I like to join in on those occasionally and I frequent the OMISS net to get a few contacts here and there. I get a thrill while chasing contacts on JT65, especially when it is a new state or country.

And, I want a challenge. I find challenge in learning a new mode or method of operation. I am trying to learn the nuances and protocols of PSK31. I plan to work heavily on QRP adventures over the summer. My daughter plays fastpitch softball all over the US and this summer I will set up the Buddipole in the outfield and run the FT857D and see how many contacts I can make. We have a tournament the weekend of ARRL Field Day so I plan to work from there.

I am also in the process of learning morse code. I believe that knowing this may pay off in the long run. As frustrating as it is, I find great enjoyment in it and believe it will just add to the fun factor I take away from ham radio. The coming posts will probably deal alot with my learning adventure. It is going to be a fun ride.

So, what do you want from amateur radio? Take the time to throw it in the comments and let me know. A little food for thought for next can you give back?