For many of today’s hams there was no choice; obtaining a ham license required learning Morse code. Five words a minute was the requirement for the entry level Novice license and also for the renewable, but VHF only, Technician ticket. A General or Advanced class required 13 wpm and it was 20 wpm for an Extra.
In 1991 the code requirement was eliminated for the Technician class, in 2000 it was reduced to 5wpm for all classes that still required code and in 2007 the code requirement was eliminated entirely.
Whatever your reason for learning Morse code now, we have some links on this page that will help you.
Learn Morse Code
Beginner's Guide to CW by Jack Wagoner, WB8FSV
All of the basics, from learning the code and calling CQ, to holding a ragchew and taking part in CW nets.
Tips for Learning Morse Code
By Chuck Adams, K7QO & Rod Dinkins, AC6V SK
Learning CW Using the Farnsworth Method
An article by Jon Bloom, KE3Z from the April 1990 issue of QEX; describes the learning method in which characters are sent at a faster speed than the words.
Learning the Code without a Pencil by Fred Wagner, KQ6Q
An off-air method of learning the code with a partner.
Helping Kids Discover Morse Code
Resources and ideas for teaching kids Morse Code.
Why learn if you haven't, and how to copy faster if you have.
Some advice from Bruce Prior, N7RR
G4FONs Morse Training Program
This free application uses the Koch method to teach CW. Letters are sent at the speed which you hope to achieve, but only two at a time. When you reach 90% proficiency with two letters, two more letters are added.
K9OX's Multi-Platform Morse Training Program
A free CW application for Windows, Mac, Linux, or DOS; sends semi-random letters and numbers at variable speeds.
Learn CW Online
You can learn and practice CW at various speeds and formats with words, letter groups, and call signs through the Koch method. Offers training for the unique QTC exchange used in the Worked All Europe contest.
AA9PW's CW Practice
You can practice CW at various speeds and formats or download .mp3 files.
RufzXP Training Software
Software designed for those who want to increase to ultra high speed levels; sends random calls that can top 200 words per minute!
A program to decode morse code (CW) via sound card to text. It can work as a narrow-band sound DSP-filter also. All you need is a receiver and computer with a sound card. A 30-Day Trial is available.]
This 12-lesson course is designed for beginners who don't know the difference between a dit and a dah. It teaches students to copy and write down letters, rather than copying in their heads. It starts with identyifying the sound of dits and dahs and progresses to a five word per minute speed.
There is no cost or obligation to participate in CWops CW Academy Classes and membership is not required. Enrollment is open to anyone with the desire to learn or improve their proficiency in Morse Code.
Rather than using dots and dashes, it is best to learn the Morse code alphabet by the way it sounds: dits and dahs. Here is the Morse code dit/dah alphabet.
A di-DAH B DAH-di-di-dit C DAH-di-DAH-dit D DAH-di-dit E dit F di-di-DAH-dit G DAH-DAH-dit H di-di-di-dit I di- dit J di-DAH-DAH-DAH K DAH-di-DAH L di-DAH-di-dit M DAH-DAH N DAH-dit O DAH-DAH-DAH P di-DAH-DAH-dit Q DAH-DAH-di-DAH R di-DAH-dit S di-di-dit T DAH U di-di-DAH V di-di-di-DAH W di-DAH-DAH X DAH-di-di-DAH Y DAH-di-DAH-DAH Z DAH-DAH-di-dit
1 di-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH 2 di-di-DAH-DAH-DAH 3 di-di-di-DAH-DAH 4 di-di-di-di-DAH 5 di-di-di-di-dit 6 DAH-di-di-di-dit 7 DAH-DAH-di-di-dit 8 DAH-DAH-DAH-di-dit 9 DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-dit 0 DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH
Dash (pause) DAH-di-di-di-DAH Period ( . ) di-DAH-di-DAH-di-DAH Comma ( , ) DAH-DAH-di-di-DAH-DAH Question ( ? ) di-di-DAH-DAH-di-dit Slant ( / ) DAH-di-di-DAH-dit
Error di-di-di-di-di-di-di-dit Error (alternate) di-dit dit-dit Break (BK) DAH-di-di-di-DAH-di-DAH End-of-Message (AR) di-DAH-di-DAH-dit End-of-QSO (SK) di-di-di-DAH-di-DAH Please Wait (AS) di-DAH-di-di-dit
Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) was a painter and founder of the National Academy of Design. In 1832, while on a ship returning from Europe, he conceived the basic idea of an electromagnetic telegraph. Experiments with various kinds of electrical instruments and codes resulted in a demonstration of a working telegraph set in 1836, and introduction of the circuit relay. This made transmission possible for any distance. With his creation of the American Morse code, the historic message, "What hath God wrought?" was sucessfully sent from Washington to Baltimore.
The Morse code used in those days differed greatly from that which is used today. Morse code originated on telegraph lines and the original users did not listen to tones but instead to the clicking sounds created by sounders. They used the American Morse code as opposed to today's International Morse. When sending dahs (Morse code is composed of dits or short key closures, and dahs or longer key closures) the user simply sent two close-together dits. This was created by using a conventional code key.
With the advent of radio communications, the international Morse became more widespread. Users of the international Morse created dahs with a longer key closure, instead of two close-spaced dits. In order to increase transmission speed on early landline circuits and later on radio circuits, semi-automatic "bug" keys were invented in 1902 and were widely adopted. Bug keys used a vibrating pendulum to create dits and the user still manually creates the dahs.
In more recent times, the user can employ keyers that electronically create dits and dahs. Iambic keyers have a memory so that the user can operate a mechanical "paddle" quicker than the keying rate of the keyer. This makes for very comfortable and nearly effortless keying.
Today experienced operators copy received text without the need to write as they receive, and when transmitting, can easily converse at 20 to 30 words per minute. Morse code will always remain a viable means of providing highly reliable communications during difficult communications conditions.
Kids and adults alike enjoy building their own practice oscillator to begin the adventure with Morse code. Here are some suggestions:
- One Hour No Solder Oscillator from WA8SME and K7CCC
- World's smallest code practice oscillator
- W8WG's Cheaper Beaper
- Code-Practice Oscillator (beginner)
ARRL Now You're Talking pp. 11-1 to 11-2
This is a complete oscillator that mounts on a small piece of wood. The circuit board for this project can be ordered from FAR Circuits.
CPO Construction Steps.ppt Pictures of an oscillator being assembled.
- One Hour No Solder Oscillator from WA8SME and K7CCC
The National Security Agency's website for kids which includes games, activities and other student resources about code.
A great “beginners” electronics kit! Ideal for ARRL members, Amateur Radio newcomers, clubs, instructors and teachers seeking a classroom kit-building experience.
Produced for ARRL by MFJ Enterprises.