Sunday, February 12, 2006

He's Got the Cooties!

No ..... not the Cooties; just a Cootie. And this Cootie has nothing to do with imaginary childhood pretend diseases.

When I joined the SKCC and started using the straight key on a continued basis, my elbow and arm let me know in no uncertain terms that it was objecting mightily! The prolonged up and down motion was creating a repetetive stress disorder.

So I sold a couple of military jet models on eBay. These were sitting around collecting dust; and in the process, I earned enough cash to purchase an LTA Cootie Key from Marshall Emm, N1FN at MorseXpress.

The Cootie Key, or sideswiper as it is also known, does just that. It allows you to send Morse Code by swinging the lever from side to side; instead of pumping it up and down. You make contact on each side of the swing; so it's more like using two straight keys back to back and then laying them on their sides.

I thought that it was going to take a real long time to get used to it; but fortunately, that hasn't been the case. I guess all those years of using a keyer and paddles has helped. The hardest thing to get used to is that you're making these dits and dahs manually. The temptation is always there to let your "keyer" make you either a string of dits and dahs. I have to constantly remnd myself that there is no keyer and that I have to break contact in order to make more dits and dahs.

After about a week's worth of practice off the air; I have ventured towards using this beautiful key on the air in realtime QSOs. I must be doing okay as no one has called me a "lousy fist" yet; and everyone seems to understand what it is that I'm trying to say.

In any event, practice makes perfect and I'm sure I'll get better and better the more I use it.

73 de Larry W2LJ

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