July 8th, 2011

sailor's dream

Straight Key

I've been spending more time with ham radio these days. Yesterday I hooked a straight key into my radio to see if I could send code with it. I learned to send morse code on what they call a paddle.

Lobby's excellent with the paddle :) This type of morse key connects to an electronic keyer which produces the "dit" and "dah" sounds when you press either the left or right paddle. If you hold one or the other paddle, it produces a string of perfectly timed dits/dahs. If you press both at the same time, it alternates between the two. Paddles are really easy on the wrist and they make it easy to learn to send morse code. But...I still haven't learned to send the old fashioned way - with a straight key!

Lobby is pounding brass on a straight key there :) The straight key seems harder to learn because I have to control all the timing myself. It's based on how long I hold the key down and how long I pause before pressing it again. With a key like this, I don't have an electronic device timing the dits/dahs for me! I would like to learn to use a straight key, though. I'm hopeful that listening practice has given me a good ear for the timing. I'm thinking about buying myself a new straight key for practice. The one in the photo is a WWII key - it's very nice and works fine, but I'm just not extremely enthusiastic about using it. I'd like to get a key that has a navy knob and that has a good, solid base. I don't like to have to worry about sliding the paddle or key around while I'm operating. I still haven't decided whether I'll get a new key (maybe something snazzy like this Vibroplex Know Code Key), but either way I do hope to work on my straight key sending.

I've also been studying my radio user manuals so I'm more comfortable with the controls. I went through the manuals today and highlighted the features that I most often need to reference. I also went through my little stack of QSL cards from the past couple years. (Those are the postcards that ham radio operators exchange after they've made a contact on the air to confirm the communication.) It was really nostalgic remembering the different people I've contacted using morse code. I think I only have 8 QSL cards, but each one was a special memory for me as a new ham! I also designed a new QSL postcard for my current location so I have it ready to send to folks if/when I can get my radio station back on the air. I'm looking forward to it!

*dit dit*