John KK4ITN left a comment on my post "Conditions" over at AmateurRadio.com. Here's a line from it:
"Seems when the bands are down every person with a ‘bug’ is out calling
cq. Wish they would put code oscillators and dummie loads on sale. Dits
at 20 wpm and dahs at 5 wpm."
I guess it's not directly related to band conditions, and I'm not sure that John's claim is 1,000,000% accurate, however - he makes an excellent point.
Not to dump on bug users, because I have a bug. I like using a bug. Using a straight key makes the arthritis in my hands go "Hey! Stop that!" But unless I've practiced with my bug (off the air) for a while .... my sending can be pretty bad. So I try to make it a point to take the KX3 "off the air" and practice sending with my bug on a regular basis. Not as regularly as I should, but I try to keep in decent practice.
I agree with John and I would posit that listening to someone use a bug (or even a straight key or paddles, for that matter), who doesn't know how to use it properly, is akin to listening to nails being scratched across a blackboard. NB: For any younger readers, a blackboard is what we used in school before the advent of whiteboards and smartboards. If you scrape your fingernails across the surface of a blackboard, it makes a sound unlike anything you've ever heard. It literally hurts to listen to it. It will make your teeth ache. There's something about human fingernails and slate that just don't mix. Listening to someone scratch a balloon is almost as bad. But .... I digress.
The phrase, "Dits
at 20 wpm and dahs at 5 wpm" resonated with me. Morse Code sent like that is not only unreadable - even worse, it's unbearable. No one is asking that all Morse be sent so that it sounds like it's coming from a keyer or a computer - but for Pete's sake - at least make sure your sending is copyable!
I would suggest that anyone who is inclined to use a bug perform this little exercise. Send some Morse and record it, either with a tape recorder (do they still make those?), or, I believe most smartphones have a voice recorder feature. Do it off the air. Either send your RF into a dummy load or turn off your "VOX" - that usually will put your rig into code practice oscillator mode.
Send some Morse, listen to it, and copy what you sent. Be honest and critical with yourself. If you can honestly copy what you've sent, then you're probably good enough to go live. It might even be a good idea to wait a day or two between the sending part and the listening to yourself part - just in order to make it a bit more objective.
I can tell you for a fact, that I have done this - I have listened to my own bug fist - and have said, "Oh my!". It was a rude, but necessary awakening. I am totally glad that I did not subject my fellow Hams to what I had thought was decent sending.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!