Morse Code (CW)

I struggled with learning CW for 4 years. I would practice then stop and that is no way to learn. I was frustrated. I could not get it!  I would be trying to figure out the letter sent and then 4 more letters would go by!  I was trying to count the da and dits. I tried to learn at 5 WPM. No I am trying at the recommended 20 WPM with spacing between the letters. It is called Farnsworth and I go about 10 spacing with 20 WPM mintues. I can learn the letters fairly well but when they  are put together I get blocked again. It has been two weeks since class started and we meet 30 mintues twice a week. We have homework and pratice each day. I have been very good about practicing 30 minutes each day so far.
Morse code is a type of character encoding that transmits telegraphic information using rhythm. Morse code uses a standardized sequence of short and long elements to represent the letters, numerals, punctuation and special characters of a given message. The short and long elements can be formed by sounds, marks, or pulses, in on off keying and are commonly known as "dots" and "dashes" or "dits" and "dahs". The speed of Morse code is measured in words per minute (WPM) or characters per minute.

Originally created for Samuel F. B. Morse's electric telegraph in the early 1840s, Morse code was also extensively used for early radio communication beginning in the 1890s. In the early part of the twentieth century, the majority of high-speed international communication was conducted in Morse code, using telegraph lines, undersea cables, and radio circuits. However, the variable length of the Morse characters made it hard to adapt to automated circuits, so for most electronic communication it has been replaced by machine readable formats, such as Baudot code and ASCII.

The most popular current use of Morse code is by amateur radio operators, although it is no longer a requirement for amateur licensing in many countries. In the professional field, pilots and air traffic controllers are usually familiar with Morse code and require a basic understanding. Navigational aids in the field of aviation, such as VORs and NDBs, constantly transmit their identity in Morse code. Morse code is designed to be read by humans without a decoding device, making it useful for sending automated digital data in voice channels. For emergency signals, Morse code can be sent by way of improvised sources that can be easily "keyed" on and off, making Morse code one of the most versatile methods of telecommunication in existence.

YouTube Video

YouTube Video

Below are some of the miscellaneous characters, procedural characters and prosigns that may be encountered together with an explanation of their use. 

Where two letters are together with a bar over the top, such as some of the procedural symbols, this indicates they should be sent as a single character.

This list is not exhaustive and there are bound to be a few missing but these are the more common ones you will encounter on the air.

= or BT ‘Break’ Used to break up statements during an over, such as “name sean, qth nr London” = “rig is ic756” = etc.

- Hyphen or ‘Long Break’ can be used as a paragraph break.

AR or + ‘End of traffic’ Indicates that the sender had no more information to send in this over so standby for callsigns.

K ‘Over’ Used to indicate that transmission is being passed to the other station but any other station is permitted to break in at this time.

KN ‘Over’ Used to indicate that transmission is being passed to the other station and break-ins by other stations are not wanted.

CT ‘Commence Traffic’ Used to signify the commencement of sending traffic. Not normally used during QSO’s. The main use for CT in amateur radio is during code proficiency examinations to indicate that the test/exam is about to begin.

/ Stroke or Slash Usually is sent as part of a callsign to indicate the sender is not at his home location (i.e. can be sent after a callsign to indicate a mobile (as in G4UCJ/M) etc. or if sent before the main callsign indicates the sender is in a different country (i.e. EA8/G4UCJ would indicate that I was sending from the Canary Islands). Here is an example of using ‘MM’ before and after a callsign which completely changes it’s meaning! A station signing as MM/W0ZZZ would mean that W0ZZZ(a USA callsign) is operating from Scotland, whereas if they were signing W0ZZZ/MM, it would indicate that W0ZZZ was ‘Maritime Mobile’ on a boat or ship and could be anywhere in the world, so it is important to work out correctly where any stroke in your callsign should be! One thing that is commonly heard on the ham bands is stations signing as “/QRP” indicating the sender is using low power. This is not good practice as it is actually illegal to send this in many countries! Not only that it confuses most logging software!! If you wish to indicate you are QRP send something like “your callsign QRP” (leave a space after your call sign before sending QRP and don’t send a stroke character).

CL ‘Close Down’ This is sent by a station to indicate that they are about to cease transmission and will not be available for further communication at that time.

SK or VA ‘End of Communication’, Sent at the end of a contact to indicate that the contact has finished. Is usually followed by 2 wide spaced dits, which is a Morse way of saying of ‘Bye for now’. SK and VA will sound the same if sent correctly.

AC or @ Symbol The ‘Commat’ as it is now known is the first new symbol to be added to the international Morse Code in a good many years. Obviously the main use for this new symbol is for e-mail addresses, which invariably include the ‘@’ symbol.

SN ‘Understood’ This is used to indicate that the previous message has been understood, particularly if an important piece of information has been passed.

AS ‘Wait’ This is sent as an instruction to other parties to standby. Uses for the AS prosign could be to acknowledge a station that is calling at the wrong time or if you need to stop transmitting for a short time you can send ‘AS’ to your QSO partner, who will then know to standby and wait for your return.

R ‘Received’ Not a prosign as such but is used for acknowledgment purposes, particularly in cases such as a station sending the ‘AS’, mentioned above.


Teaching and self practice resources and tools:

CW Ops Trainer

OOVOO: Free Internet Audio Visual Conferencing application:

Zen and the Art of Radio Telegraphy.
Morse Translator: Online Java application for translating text to Morse code

Morse Runner: Self teaching and practice tool - Excellent practice for homework assignments:

 AA9PW Morse Code Practice and Online Exam Tool:

 CW Operators' Club (CWops) Academy:

 CWops Academy Student and Advisor Resources:
RUFZ Call Sign Pile Up Trainer: Excellent practice tool for Letter/Number combinations and call signs

Some Abbreviations and Prosigns in CW:
8 E's:     Error                                    AA: All After           ?: ..__..
73:         Best Wishes                        AB: All Before        /:  _.._.
88:        Love and Kisses                   ABT: About