Morse code, or CW as it’s known to hams is no longer required to get your license. You can however, get a certification for it once you have passed your basic exam.
Invented by Samuel Morse, CW took the messenger industry to task by being able to send messages instantly over a wire. Until then, messages were limited to human carriers with a speed limited by the pace of their horses. The alphabet, along with numbers and a few punctuations were converted to a series of dots and dashes. A dot being 1 time unit and a dash being 3 time units. A pause is inserted between characters and words.
Certainly, with today’s SSB and digital modes, CW would seem unimportant and even outdated, but it still has it’s uses. Morse code requires much less power to send over long distances. There are countless QRP (low power) radios capable of sending CW signals several hundred kilometers with less than 1 watt of power! These little radios can be bought for a fraction of the price of a modern multi band HF tranciever.
For Canadian hams, CW certification consists of passing a simple send & receive exam with an 80% accuracy. Although getting the piece of paper is cool and looks good in a frame on your shack wall, you are only required to learn it at a pace of 5 words per minute…well below practical use on the air. Most hams are capable of sending and receiving morse code at a rate of 20 words per minute.
Learning morse code can help the radio prepared in many ways. First, most hams certified in recent times do not know morse code, which gives you a bit more “privacy” in communications. As mentioned, morse can be transmitted over long distances with very little power, which can be a valuable resource that shouldn’t be squandered. Let’s not forget that QRP radios for CW can fit in a shirt pocket saving space and weight when you’re on the go.
Learning Morse Code can be daunting if you just try to memorize it from a sheet of paper, and the modern tricks and cheat sheets have had little success in teaching it. There is however a software program that teaches Morse Code, one character at a time in the correct speed…it’s called CW Trainer
Try it…you’ll love it!