Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Morse Code

I just got an email that contained a clip from Jay Leno on Morse code versus text messaging. If you get this email, give it a listen and see what I am talking about.

Morse Code is Greek and archaic to most people. I became interested in it as a child when I had the desire to talk to someone off the farm and away from my community.

I got a book from ARRL and taught myself the code. I started spelling out words in my head. I needed a key and oscillator and soon built a crude one out of scraps on the farm.

The first station I ever saw was David Yockey's K8CMO station right on the path from school to home. He was the hardware store owner's son and his dad and my dad were good friends since childhood.

I soon wanted to take the amateur radio novice test and asked dad who could I get to give it to me. He said you have an uncle Paul Hummer who is an active operator. I will call him and take you to Cincinnati to see what is involved.

I was so excited that hot August day of 1963 my hands were trembling when I opened the letter from THE FCC to see if I passed. I knew I did but I had to see it. There were my new call letters WN8RQQ!

Uncle Paul became my Elmer. Elmer in ham radio is like your hero, guide, leader, godfather type role model. Paul was very excited a family member wanted to do what he liked doing, talking to others via Morse code. He was concerned about it looking like an uncle giving his nephew a free ride on the test so he treated me like a stranger during testing.

I passed with flying colors and built an Ameco AC-1 40-80 meter CW transmitter to go with the breadboard receiver I had built. My receiver wasn't very good so we found a Hallicrafter's Sky Buddy receiver for $5 at a ham radio flea market. It wasn't much better than I had and code sounded more like a buzz saw than a tone but it got me by.

I built 40 and 80 meter dipole antennas and hung them from trees to the old woodhouse on the farm which still stands. Dad let me use the new strawberry stand he had built to sell produce in the summer by the roadside for my radio shack. Yes, that is where the store name came from, Radio Shack.

I have a lot of fond memories and stories about my active ham radio days. It had a positive influence on my life and kept me out of a lot of trouble while introducing me to a whole new world.

If you get the email with Jay Leno on it like I did, give it a listen. You know someone who actually understands Morse code.

Ed Winkle


  1. Why not get back in radio now that your retired Ed. Get up on the bands and we can QSO.


  2. Well now Kelly I think I have explained that. Can't handle all the QSO's via email. Sad the twisted pair has become my antenna but I like the people on it.

    Still nothing like a deep signal on CW though...

    Got the antenna farm of your dreams and wife thinks that would be a nightmare...