Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Joy of SKN

A fellow member of the Straight Key Century Club, Keith Darwin N1AS posted this to the SKCC e-mail reflector. It is a wonderful op-ed, which Keith has submitted to the ARRL about CW and Straight Key Night, which is tomorrow night. Keith kindly gave me permission to post this here. I think it is extremely well written, and spot-on! Thank you, Keith!

Regarding the SKN Announcement in QST

I read the 2007 Straight Key Night announcement (Dec QST, p. 98) with both joy and disappointment. Joy that another SKN is soon upon us, but disappointment in the color of the light with which SKN has been illuminated. While SKN certainly entails using some rather old-style equipment, it is anything but old-fashioned, and billing it as such sells the event short.

Consider the straight key itself. Contrary to common believe it is not just a beginner's toy, used to master the code to the minimal level and then cast aside in favor of something else. Instead it is a very workable, useable tool for sending CW on today's bands with today's rigs. No, that lowly straight key is a far more demanding task master who does not let you get away with sloppy sending or poor spacing. It's simple form places nothing between you and the CW you're generating.

In the same way, the simplicity of SKN gives us an opportunity to strip away the complex technology oriented aspect of our hobby as we zero in on the essence of Amateur Radio. We sit down in front of the rig with a straight key and set about to communicate with other people over vast distances. Just us and keys. No computer to generate the CW, no keyer to clean up timing errors and make us sound like robots. The priceless prize we get in return for our efforts is ourselves, encoded into unique sounding Morse code, sent through the ether and received in the mind of the op on the other end. The connection we make with the other op is more personal because the CW itself is more personal. In that moment a magic thing happens - we become, once again, a RADIO operator.

If this is old-fashioned nostalgia, then shame on us for ever having walked away from this essential core of Amateur Radio. I look forward to working you during SKN. I'll be using my straight key, doing my level best to send smooth code to you and hanging on every dit and dah you return to me as we share a special bond of manual CW.

KEITH DARWIN, N1AS
Ferrisburg, Vermont

73 de Larry W2LJ

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