The Art & Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

-Second Revised Edition-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF

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Chapter 18 - Computer Programs And Tapes For Learning And Improving Skill In Code

It is always a bit risky to try to list currently available materials and books.  These change with time, some for the better, a few for the worse, and some simply vanish from the scene.   With that in mind, the following programs have been found representative, both adequate and good.  It is quite impossible here to go into the many details of each program, so only the barest outline is given for information.  They all provide a range of speeds and pitch of the tone.  Some provide various options of screen or printing capabilities, etc., and/or allow the user to remodel it for his preferences, etc.  Some provide various ways of increasing or decreasing speed while sending.  All use the speaker in the computer for sound output. Helps are provided on screen in most of the programs. ("Freeware" means that there is no mandatory cost to the user other than that of providing the diskette.  "Commercial" means the program is for sale on the market.)   Unless otherwise noted all are IBM-compatible.


($50)- was an excellent Advanced Electronic Applications program for the Commodore C-64 computer, plugged into cartridge slot, with manual..  It included

1) Learning was at 20 wpm Farnsworth character speeds with a 3 second interval between characters.  There were 54 basic lessons, plus 7 which teach the German, Spanish and Swedish characters, if desired.  It was suggested that one spend two 20 minute sessions each day, and at the end of a month many would have achieved a solid 20 wpm receiving speed, and have enjoyed learning.  Several options were available.
2) Proficiency sent a random sequence of characters with programmable starting and finishing speed. Speed was adjustable(5 - 99 wpm), length of  practice (up to an hour), number of different characters (up to 45), size of groups, and length of intervals between characters.

SUPERMORSE by Lee Murrah

A great deal of variety was built into this program, which is really a series of integrated programs.  A learning phase introduced the student to the code characters, a Building speed phase provided variety in practice materials, an Enhance phase extended this to as fast as one might want, while a Measure phase provided for testing of skill with built-in or user-constructed tests, and finally an Operate phase.  Interaction was provided in several aspects.

MORSEMAN+  by Robin Gist NE4L/ZF2PM

had a Tutorial module teaching the characters, a Trainer module developing skill, another, "Testing" provided for various evaluations of skill, while an Interactive mode provided for certain user-response reactions.  Several types of practice were provided in each of these modes or modules.

GTE Morse Tutor.

version 2.1 for IBM PC, XT, AST and equivalents ($20).  11 lessons for basic learning.  Each lesson reviewed previous characters as well as introducing new ones, up to lesson 12 which provided random QSO practice of infinite variety up to a length of 10 minutes per QSO.  User specifies Farnsworth and all speeds as desired up to over 50 wpm. Character  Excellent Non-Commercial Programs Presently Available

The Mill.

MILL98a is the present status of  long MILL developments by James S. Farrior, W4FOK.  It is unique among the many freeware programs  in providing for both old American Morse and International codes at user's selection.  Jim has gone to great lengths in designing the character formation controls to incorporate the feature of old Morse environmental variability (see Chapter 20) to such a degree that it sounds "natural" to old time Morse operators, unlike the machine-regular International code, and has simulated sounders and output for regular telegraph sounders.

There is a basic learning section, a section for sending any file the user wishes to send, and another allows the user to create files he may wish to use. Another feature provides for using the computer as a control of the transmitter, using any of the other program aspects which are appropriate.  It is a carefully designed and elegant program, and Jim continues  developing improvements. It was written in QBASIC.  and is available from James S.Farrior W4FOK, 1332 Harrison Point Trail, Fernandina Beach FL, 32034, and any user, including Tony Smith G4FAI  at: 13  Morley Road, Sheringham, Norfolk NR26 8JE England.


is the result of another similar development for International Morse by Gary E. J. Bold ZL1AN, professor and long time code teacher in New Zealand.  It is written for GW-BASIC. and may be readily modified by the user. Like most other programs, it has several unique features.  Each portion is a self-contained program.  "Teach" interacts with the beginner, and regulates the instruction according to correctness and error in responses.  "Random" practice programs are provided for code groups for any subset of characters or words from any source.  A sending program sends any ASCII files for copying or reading practice.  A keyboard program sends whatever is keyed in the keyboard.  An interesting  module is provided for key input to analyze the quality of the user's sending.

There are also other similar programs both  freeware  and commercial.  Some PC programmers have been able to prepare their own programs tailored to their own particular needs.  A number of interactive programs are available which give either immediate or delayed helps to the student -- these offer tremendous help in learning.   Some may also allow the more advanced student to conduct QSO's with the computer program, just as if he was actually on the air.  The potential here is great indeed.  Finally, there are available computer programs and devices which can read received code transmissions.  Because they are machines, they can only read code signals which are reasonably accurate in timing.  For the student who has access to one of these, it will give him a chance to test his own sending for accuracy.  However,  they are not recommended as substitutes for personal receiving by ear


The ARRL, several companies and some individuals which make or have made tapes for cassette recorders for learning up to the 20+ wpm seed range and higher, and some have prepared punched paper tapes for high speed transmission and reception.  Some of these tapes are excellent, but some are of poor quality.  The ARRL tapes are of high quality.

The Twin Oaks Associates (mental health professionals) offered code training programs.  Three courses using cassettes and an instruction book,  emphasized learning by ear - mentally or verbally recognizing what is sent automatically.  Course 1, alphabet took to over 5 wpm.  "Practice listening through the first side, without writing anything down or rewinding to pick up anything.  Side one first sounds each character and then the narrator immediately identified it.  Then did the same thing on the second side,  reviewing all previous material without the narrator.  This is to train ear and brain to work together first without the complication of writing.  After comfortably mastering the first tape, go to the second, etc, through all six tapes.  The first tape presents the characters E T I A M N which have one or two elements.  Each subsequent tape adds characters having one additional element, up to the fifth tape where numerals and punctuation are introduced."   To be practiced 30 minutes a day.   The Study Guide detailed the methods and theories used.  --  The two other courses take the student up over 13 wpm, and up over 20 wpm.

In the past, as noted in Chapter 25, the Instructograph Co. and the Teleplex Co. were the best known makers of punched and inked paper tape machines for code instruction and training and used both by commercial operators and by amateurs..  Commercially  the Boehm inked tape and the Kleinschmidt perforated paper tape machines  were the most commonly used.  We mention these here because they were sometimes used for teaching or practicing the code, but much more often for commercial transmission of code at high speeds.

Similar systems were manufactured during WW-II by Ted McElroy's company.  With these machines the operator would prepare the tape for transmission, either on a typewriter keyboard or with a special three-key device, for transmission.  Transmission speeds of the tapes might go up to several hundreds of words per minute when conditions were good.  At the receiving end the equipment would reproduce the incoming signals on a corresponding paper tape, inked or otherwise.  The receiving operator was trained to read the tapes much as the good reader of ordinary print does, by words or phrases.  He would read the tape as it was pulled past his eyes in a sort of track while he transcribed it on a typewriter at comfortable speeds.  Typing speeds of 60 - 70 wpm seem to have been typical.  McElroy prepared and promoted materials for building up these skills on his equipment.

The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy-Second Revised Edition-
©William G. Pierpont N0HFF