The Art & Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

-Second Revised Edition-
William G. Pierpont N0HFF

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Learning The Morse Code An Overview
Where we are going?

If you are looking for any magic, any secrets, any tricks here -- or hypnotism-- you won't find it. What we do offer is just practical, time-tested working methods, which together take advantage of all that has been learned over the years about how to teach and learn the Morse code efficiently and well...

George Hart, long time code expert with ARRL put it this way: "The greatest obstacle in learning code is the method used."

Ted R. McElroy, teacher and long time code speed champion said that any normal person can easily achieve 25 wpm. This is an easily achievable and reasonable goal. One who can handle this speed comfortably is a good operator.

The original American Morse code of 1845 was designed to communicate: to transmit over the telegraph wires any and every kind of written message or information in letter-perfect, number-perfect, and punctuation-perfect form. It was recorded as a wiggly line on a strip of paper tape to be read or interpreted by eye. Very soon the operators discovered that they could read the recorder's noises accurately by ear, and so in time sounders slowly began to replace the recorders.

Not very long after this beginning operators became so skilled that they began to chit-chat easily over the wires among themselves, much like radio amateurs do today when they "chew the rag". That kind of freedom should be our goal - easy, natural use of the code to communicate, similar to the way we read and talk. That's where we are headed.

The code is not a new language. It is the language you already know, "written" in sound patterns instead of patterns of ink on paper - it is your own language. You will learn to "read" by ear the language you already read so well by eye.

This is lesson one -- itis most important always to think of it this way: -- EVERY CODE LETTER, NUMBER AND SYMBOL IS A UNIQUE PATTERN OF SOUND.

Psychology teaches us that when we start to learn something new, if we think of it as being EASY, it will be easy. The best teachers never hint or suggest that there is anything hard about it, and their students learn it quickly, usually within a week or two. They also make learning it FUN. We learn much faster that way; so think of learning it as fun -- enjoyable. If you want to learn it -- you can.

Our FOUNDATION is the alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks. Learn these SOUND PATTERNS so well that when, for example, you hear "dahdahdit" you immediately recognize it is "G". This is basic, but don't stop there. Code is to communicate: and we don't talk in letters, but in words. Words are our smallest thinking units. Even while we are still learning to master the alphabet we can begin to recognize small common words, such as "the" and "of" as words when we hear them.

When we first learned to read, we could already talk, but reading was something new, and it took a little effort to learn. At first we had to spell out each word, then try to figure out how to pronounce it, and then remember what we had already deciphered while we tackled the next words until we had laboriously "read" the whole sentence. The beginning stage of learning the code is that way, too, but it doesn't need to stay that way. Words are written as strings of letters, one letter after another. But we don't read them that way -- we read the word. If we couldn't spell we couldn't write either -- or else we would have to use hieroglyphics. Words must become our units of thought in Morse because words make sense and they are easy to remember.

Reading code, like reading print, becomes much easier and faster when we have learned to RECOGNIZE WORDS instead of spelling them out as strings of letters. A good reader reads words, and even strings of words at a glance. We can learn to do it: many, many others have. We are hardly conscious of the letters which spell out the words we read so easily now. Our attention is focused on the THOUGHTS written in print, and our reactions are to the ideas expressed.

When we begin to reach this stage with Morse code, we are beginning to become proficient. So our plans are

That is proficiency, whatever the speed is being received. We can learn to do this at any speed. Our goal should be to learn to use the code so that it becomes easy and natural, like the way we read and talk.

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