Morse Miscellany by Jakey G3JKY


Jakey (G3JKY) on the key at a recent field day.

Morse code was used in the early days of telegraphy to send messages by wire. To overcome losses, relays were included at intervals to increase the range. The code we use today is not quite the same as that used in the 19th century.

Reception of messages was originally by printing on paper tape. Later, the operators who read the printing found that they could read the clicks made by the equipment.  Telegrams were sent by Morse as late as the 1930s, perhaps even later. I don’t know if or when tones were introduced to facilitate reception. In the 1960s I missed my chance to ask, when buying a money order to import a “bug” key (semi-automatic mechanical) from Germany. The lady desk clerk had been a Post Office telegraphist in the past!

I learned Morse by passing messages written in dots and dashes in Latin classes  and then moved on to more conventional methods in the Scouts and the Air Training Corps. In the Scouts we used ex Army keyed lamps but the speed was limited by persistence of vision and the slow decay of light from filament bulbs. Professional lamps as used by the Royal Navy used a continuous light with a shutter to make the dots and dashes.  I believe the heliograph, used in early times, used sunlight and a movable mirror to get the same effect.

The only time I was paid for using Morse was in 1955 when I was working on maintenance of some RAF RTTY equipment which had a Morse facility for emergency use. When the radio circuit started to fade, a burst of Morse came out of the gear when the distant operator suggested the circuit should close for a few hours. As it happened I was the only person present who could read it and was able to respond. Ten minutes of fame, and many years later I found out that I had been remotely keying 4 kilowatts into a rhombic aerial!

One night in 1996 I was operating my battery powered 4 Watt CW rig in my brother-in-law’s basement in Illinois when the temperature outside was about -15 degrees Celsius. Suddenly, the house lights went out, the central heating shut down and the cordless phone stopped working. However, I remained in contact with St Louis. I very much doubt that I could have made the contact on SSB with the simple equipment and aerial that I had available!

I have read of two occasions in the Pacific around New Zealand where light signalling has proved its worth. In one, some folk in a lifeboat were able to send “All safe” to a search aircraft. In the other, a civil airliner was diverted to fly over a broken down vessel and use its wingtip lights to send “Help coming tomorrow”  Only a few words, but very re-assuring.

One-time member of Clifton ARS, G3NWD/9H1BP, told me years ago that his mates in his squadron of Canberras were puzzled by the fact that he was able to communicate with their base in Malta when they were on the ground in Cyprus. The microphone press-to-talk switch is not an ideal key but it will serve as I have proved myself by working G3ROO from ZL1JKY in New Zealand  when my key had been lost in transit.

Finally, a transmitter for use with Morse can be constructed with the very minimum of components, From memory, my first transmitter used one valve, one crystal, one meter, one coil, two resistors, two RF chokes, two variable capacitors and five fixed capacitors.

So, although Morse may seem “old hat” to folk brought up on modern electronics there are still times when it can perform well, and best off all, it’s fun!

73, “Jakey”


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Popular pages

Get your amateur radio licence - Find out more about amateur radio licence training.
Month on the Air - G3MGQ's popular monthly DX contest/expedition list.
Wilf Gaye Memorial Cup - The clubs annual operating event in the memory of Wilf Gaye M0GYE.
St. Richard's College Buildathon/STEM/ARISS - HERC attends St. Richard's Catholic College for their various events surrounding the Tim Peake ARISS contact.
G3BDQ - John Hey's Rare QSL Cards.
Sussex Electronics Radio Fair - SERF Sussex Electronics Radio Fair 2016.
Vital Spark - A selection of articles re-published from the Vital Spark.
RSGB News - Find out how to get RSGB news on your mobile or PC.
Experimenters Corner - A selection of Proteus projects by Bob Gornal (G7DME)
BBADL - Bath Based Distance Learning Course.
Conquest Hospital Radio - Presented by HERC member Antony (G4CUS).
Radio Rallies 2016 - An up to date list of radio rallies scheduled for 2016.
Club QSL Cards - A selection of QSL cards the club has received over the years.
Other Newsletters - Excellent newsletters and magazines from other clubs.
TX Factor episodes - Take a look at the TX Factors YouTube videos.
John Taplin - A bio of the late John Taplin.

Amateur Radio Resources

Other Radio Clubs & RAYNET

BSARS - Brede Steam Amateur Radio Society

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HERC members sites

Sigord - Gordon Sweet
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