Tuesday, April 30, 2019

"The claims of my demise are greatly exaggerated."

With the announcement of yet another digital mode du jour. FT4 - there are some who insist on dancing (yet again, prematurely) on CW's grave.

As I've stated before, so many times ..... my personal opinion is that Amateur Radio is a big enough tent to accommodate everyone's interests. I did digi in the 90s. Granted, it wasn't PSK31 or the newer FT modes; but it was RTTY, PacTOR and AMTOR. These modes were quite exciting at first, but eventually grew boring to me. All the conversations that I was having seemed to consist of a bunch of key presses to release a bevy of pre-recorded macros. Spontaneous conversations took place; but they became fewer and harder to find. That's why I drifted back to CW as my only mode of operation.

Now, that being said, I realize that my case is not the case for everyone. If digi floats your boat - then bravo! Go for it with gusto, kid! I like it when you are happy! But at the same time, please don't look down upon me when I politely say, "Thanks, but no thanks."  That doesn't make me a fossil, a cranky old fart, a relic or a yesterday's stale bread. It's just that I know what I like, what I'm good at and what brings me a modicum of pleasure.

As an added note, I do not look down upon, frown upon or consider anyone less of an Amateur Radio Operator because they never learned or just plain don't like Morse Code. Again - more power to you! Engage in whichever mode it is that makes you happy that you spent time doing it. But at the same time, don't regard my favorite aspect of the hobby to be "old fashioned", "irrelevant", "useless" or "unneeded in this day and age" just because it befuddles you.

Perhaps my feelings about CW were summed up by a lot of what Dale Parfitt W4OP wrote in a post on QRP-L. I asked Dale if he would mind if I re-posted his post here. He most graciously granted me permission - here it is:

"I think the decline in CW may be more associated with the decline in civilization in general. Fewer and fewer people seem inclined to work hard and more and more seem to be embracing the concept of a welfare state, participation trophies etc. In the amateur sector, the exams have become a matter of memorization as opposed to understanding,  off the shelf rigs replace homebrew and the focus of amateur radio today appears to be chatting as opposed to furthering the technical aspects of the hobby.

CW is a skill that does require work. But so enjoyable, and high speed CW is more akin to holding a conversation. I could work piles of more contacts off the moon if I did one of the digital modes. But for me, it is all about hearing these weak signals and constantly improving my station. I won't go into the fact that some of the digital guys on the moon seem to have to communicate via the Internet to complete  the digital QSO.

On HF, a nice CW ragchew,  adapting to the other's fist, using my brain and dealing with the vagaries of propagation, QRM  is what it's all about. If I want to simply send a message, I can text someone or send an email. All this has nothing to do with me being an old fart (although chronologically, I am one) . I embrace design software, love surface mount, design a lot of my  rigs and build more than I operate.


Dale W4OP"

Thanks Dale! I guess chronologically, we're in the same boat; but like you - for me it's about the challenge - and constantly marveling about how my radio signal gets from Point A to Point B without the aid of anything else but my radio and antenna, my key and my brain. And I think there are quite a few of us who would still like to occupy a seat on this pleasure craft - so for those out there who think we CW devotees are nothing more than a bunch of aging, irrelevant fossils ....... pay close attention to Dale's "YMMV". It's an invitation for us all to engage in what we enjoy while maintaining our mutual respect for one another.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. Nice post Larry. I wish I had learned CW before I got into digital modes. Now, I still try to learn it but other so many things occupy my mind these days. I'm glad digimodes exist since it doesn't need nuch time and effort. On the other hand I wish I could chat with CW so I look upon to you guys that know the skill, the art of CW. And I dream I will ever have the ability to complete learn it and make a CW QSO myself without the help of a computer. 73, Bas

    1. Hello Bas, just pick that skill, it takes about 1 year of daily practising for a half hour/day. Then you will be able to work with a very nice mode, maybe first with 12 words/minute but that doesn't matter. 73 Paul PAØK

  2. Hi Larry, Everyone must do what he likes. I am an oldtimer (70 years) and I started my amateur hobby with CW. For many years it was the only mode I used. Now I do use sometimes FT8 because I also like that, but I get bored quickly. I rarely used phone. I have tried many digi modes. But my heart remains with CW. I don't want to lose those skills. I worked hard to make it my own. CW sounds as music in my ears. 73 Paul PAØK