My first CW QSO, with Paul M0GSX

I have been practicing Morse Code using the Morse Machine application on Android and more recently the KMT Pro application. These allow me to practice the Koch method to learn to recognise the sound of the characters and, with KMT Pro, listen to RSS feeds and practice copying them. I use the Farnsworth method of fast characters and longer gaps.

Last week I bought an Iambic paddle from BaMaKey for portable use. My hope was to use this as a reward for reliable 12wpm copy, but I moved early due to fear of import complexities. It is a nice key and one I could write more about another time. My previous key was a Kent straight key which I built with my wife when we took our license exams.

The Iambic paddle takes some getting used to! I’d spent some time practicing sending CQ and my callsign and making the letters of the alphabet. I’d not practiced numbers much, which made sending “73” at the end of the call under pressure and tired quite challenging. Demonstrating to a passing dog walker afterwards without the pressure was easy.

Paul was calling CQ. He’d just had a conversation. He was sending using the Farnsworth spacing with reasonable gaps between the letters to allow decoding but good letter speeds to allow recognition of the rhythm. The KX3’s decoder assistant was working quite well and offered some more confidence, so I answered and Paul called me back!!

The conversation we had was quite long. By the end it was starting to get cold and dark and dew was forming on bits of equipment not warmed by the heat of a transmitter. We covered equipment setup and locations. Paul is near Birmingham, a distance of 175km and uses a Yaesu radio.

As the conversation progressed both of our signals grew weaker. Other interference became apparent, both on the radio and outside with something involving a lot of sirens happening in town not so far away. A passing dog tried to search my bag for food and run off with the bag for my key. I had to tell a dog walker who asked that I really needed to concentrate and couldn’t talk, sorry. I found I could turn the KX3’s filter bandwidth right down which helped reduce the other nearby signals.

The KX3’s decoder started to fail missing more and more characters and I had to turn it off to stop its attempts distracting me and allow me to concentrate on Paul’s transmissions by ear. The pen and paper came in helpful with me writing down each character as I heard it then reading back the message.

Paul was very helpful. He tells me in a follow up email that he is part of an organisation called FISTs which I will look up. This organisation promotes Morse Code. I heard and clearly recognised “KEEP IT UP” on air.

I’m afraid another passing dog walker on the way home got a very impromptu explanation of how I’d had my first Morse Code contact. That was quite an experience and one to try again.

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