CQ WW CW Contest – This is NOT what i learned morse for!

This weekend turns out to be the CQ WW CW Contest weekend, the event of the year for CW operators. This is what the the 20m band looks like during the contest. There is no space for any normal QSO anymore. I tried to participate in the contest by looking for 20WPM stations, but they are impossible to find. All stations are 30WPM and up. And really, i cannot make anything out of 30WPM.

What i suspect is the following: Yes, there are operators that can work manually at 30-35WPM, i appreciate that, but i get the feeling that 80-90% of the operators work with computerised systems. Computers, software and electronic keyers like the K44 i ordered (for completely different purposes, BTW) do the task. And guess what? You don’t have to know morse for this.

I did a few QSO’s at 30WPM. This is what i did: A normal contest QSO looks like this (S=me Sending, R= me Receiving): R: “CQ <him> TEST”, S: “EA3HOE”, R: “EA3HOE 599 <cq zone>”, S: “599 14 TU”. This is easy to automate. I programmed “EA3HOE” in CH2 and “599 14 TU” in CH3 of my radio. Then i listen on the band and let FLDigi or CocoaModem do the detection of the callsign. When i have the callsign i press CH2 to play my callsign. When the station responds i press CH3 and the contact is done.

So you can basically participate in a CW contest without knowing any CW apart from the programming of the replay channels in the radio. I made some contacts to try things out and all worked perfectly. It took 1 hour of excitement, 1 hours of “is that all there is” and then the fun was basically over. I never actually touched my key except for programming the channels. And i could have done this using my logging program as well. That’s not what i learned CW for!! Anyway, at the end 50 contacts, sent the log, move on with my life.

I will be glad when the contest is over, the bands are clear again and when i can hunt for 20WPM contacts to make again. Using paddles is much more fun than using a computer!!

New tool in the box (Update 3)

This week i ordered the Hamcrafters K44 CW Keyboard. Not because i think i will be a great contester, not because i don’t want to decode CW myself, i bought it because one of the students in my CW Academy class has a K42c (a previous model of the K44) and he tells me it’s a great device to track if your key timing is right, if you get the right characters, it has a learning mode and it’s a portable keyer.

So the idea is exactly this: a device to help me getting my timing right and for bringing it on my travels with my old key so i can practice in de evenings in my hotel.

I will do all to get this CW thing under my skin. And i’m still having fun!!

UPDATE

It’s been more than a month now since i ordered the CW Keyboard. Turns out that the device was and is still stuck at customs here in Spain. Last Friday i received the notification that i need to pay import charges. 61 euros import charges for a device that cost €125 ($149). That is almost 50% taxes!! All i all i am paying now € 161 (the device plus shipping) + € 61 = € 222 euros for a device that cost € 125 off the shelf. Next time i just buy stuff in a store when i go the US and stick it all in my travel bag…

UPDATE 2

Could this be true?

UPDATE 3

Priority mail!! I mean, really??

And….. no power supply! Now i’ll have to go and search for one. To be continued…