Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Waxing eloquent

Ward Silver, NØAX writes the ARRL's "Contest Rate Sheet". Ward has been so very helpful to me in aiding me to get the word out about "Runs For the Bacon" and the NAQCC Monthly Sprints. This eloquent essay on Morse Code, by Ward, appeared on the Straght Key Century Club e-mail reflector, earlier today.

Stop Painting?

Regarding the end of CW testing and the future of CW on the airwaves, I thought this statement from Paul W9AC was worth consideration, "An artist does not stop painting because cameras can more accurately capture an image." Nor does a fly fisherman stop fishing because there are fish in the store or a sailor scrap his sailboat because a power cruiser can go faster.

Morse will be a part of ham radio for a long time, as long as someone wants to use it. Well, as long as TWO people want to use it. The question is whether it will drift off into obscurity or stay healthy. For inspiration, we can look to RTTY - the fastest growing contest mode of all! Who would have thought ten years ago that would be the case today? RTTY required an external gadget, cables everywhere, strange filtering, and so forth. Today, with a simple audio interface, a computer sound card, and free or cheap software, anybody can get on RTTY. Wow! Looked at the RTTY contest scores lately?

In the CW universe, high-speed Morse competition based on RUFZ and other programs is attracting some good young operators. The speeds are ridiculous - 200 wpm has been reached - and I don't expect to hear dots and dashes flying by quite that fast on 40 meters. In fact, I can't hear dots and dashes AT ALL at 200 wpm. It's like bar code! Nevertheless, there is plenty of interest to be tapped.

That's where you come in, of course. Lift that chin up and let's see if we can't actually make a compelling story out of Morse on the airwaves. I can say for sure that we won't convince a single person to take it up by loudly claiming that the hobby is all "dumbed down." When a prospective customer hears that sort of talk, the chances are pretty good that they'll just keep their money in their pocket as they walk on down the street.

Lately I've been looking at some pretty funny pictures of Novices that have all grown up into serious operators. They're sitting in front of ancient gear all lashed together and it's a wonder that they didn't all get electrocuted. What sold these kids on ham radio? It sure wasn't a bunch of old timers telling them how everything was better twenty years ago. It was pictures and stories of other people having what looked like fun and was something they could join on
their own terms.

Well, back to trying to find a clear frequency in between all those obsolete Morse signals! Seems like a guy can't hardly find a spot to call CQ anymore with all the signals on the band...

73, Ward N0AX

Bravo, Ward - from your "pen" to God's ear!

73 de Larry W2LJ

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