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Report by Jason, N0SG
Three years ago in June 2000, I passed my Technician class exam. About two weeks before that, my uncle and his family came to visit my family and he brought along his VX-5R. He made several contacts on local repeaters with it. I was hooked. After he left my mom took me to the Ham Radio Outlet he had told me about. I bought a copy of the ARRL's "Now You're Talking". While reading this book I first learned that Morse Code was not just an early version of the telephone that was only capable of short messages. The book distinctly told me that I should learn CW, and you receive a great sense of accomplishment when you use it on the air.
After passing my Tech exam, I began to operate 2 meter FM/SSB with an IC-260A from my uncle. I met several hams that loved to operate CW on HF. They encouraged me to upgrade to General. I went back to HRO and picked up a straight key, code oscillator and some ARRL code tapes to begin to learn CW. After I had most of the alphabet down, I hooked the straight key up to the 260A and had a CW QSO with a local ham. It was a lot of fun despite the fact that I only copied about 40%. After some more practice I took the code test at a local hamfest, but failed. I figured out that because I had schoolwork, I was not practicing frequently enough like everyone had said I needed to and that I need to practice with other materials than tapes because I would memorize the tapes if I listened to them multiple times.
In order to get practice that was not repetitive, a very generous local ham loaned me a Drake receiver to listen to W1AW and QSOs on HF. After practicing with this for a few week and finding a weekend that worked, I took the code exam and passed on May 5, 2001. A month later I passed the General written exam. Calling on my uncle again, he loaned me his back up HF radio, an Icom IC-735, and helped me build an antenna when he brought his family out that summer to visit. I later bought the 735 from him and it has been my main HF rig ever since.
My first HF CW QSO was after a 40 meter slow speed NTS net. I, nervously, called the net control station and had a nice memorable QSO. Unlike my first CW QSO on 2 meters, I copied about 90% this time and was permanently hooked on CW. I learned that CW had an 18dB advantage over SSB, which, on the air, meant I could work DX easier on CW. I found this out very quickly. I also began to work QRP CW because I had been listening to the stories from the guys on the Colorado QRP Club net. It was so much easier to work people on CW than SSB. This fact encouraged me to get faster on CW. I can now copy about 18 wpm rag chewing and 30 wpm in a contest.
CW is my favorite and most used mode. As I live in a covenant-controlled neighborhood, I do not have a great antenna, so CW is the best way for me to get my signal out. I have worked almost all states on CW along with many countries on all continents except Antarctica. I cannot understand why anyone would want this great, yet simple mode to be removed from amateur radio.