Learning Code, for real this time

I spent our first two weeks of 2009 in Okeechobee FL studying to upgrade my Amateur Radio license to Amateur Extra. This wasn’t an impulse, I studied the material more than 100 hours between August and January. Why leave the outcome to any chance, if I could guarantee it?

Mission Accomplished — I took the test in Moore Haven, FL on January 15, 2009. Tested, passed, and upgraded on FCC’s database. Now what? My next challenge seems diminutive in comparison, to relearn Morse Code and then learn to transmit and receive it.

I learned all the Morse Code alphabet in sixth grade for BSA Second Class rank. I relearned the alphabet and numbers two years ago for my General class upgrade, but FCC dropped the Morse Code requirement immediately before I tested. The test administrator wouldn’t allow testing on Morse Code since FCC no longer required Code.

A lot of life events subsequently took precedence over continuing learning Code. We determined, and started working toward, our retirement date. Our exit plan included, necessarily, developing disposition lists for our household effects. And we needed thorough planning on migrating from home-based accounting, record-keeping, storage, bill payments, mail handling, and telephonic and email communications.

One year later we have learned the basics of full-timing, installed the radio into the Airstream and very good antennae on the roof. I’ve always been interested in the special capabilities of Code. Code is readable across far longer distances than voice. And Code takes us back to the origins of wireless radio.

I’m on this new project. A pair of 5 minute sessions daily I listen to “Just Learn Morse Code” on my laptop. While listening, I type the characters I hear. The program compares my keystrokes to the emitted sounds and grades my accuracy. If I add two characters weekly, I’ll have all 44 characters by end of Summer. Then what?

I can only imagine, since I’ve never received nor sent Code. I imagine making contacts with stations in every state, every country, every continent. I imagine trying to pick out weak signals from background noise, and understand the messages. I imagine the capability to reliably send emergency messages, even with low power. And I imagine enjoying continuing my adult learning and hobbies.

Why? Because I’m a Ham.

For more information about Debbie’s and Jim’s introduction to amateur radio visit here

A very cool story here shows how an amateur radio operator in Bozeman, MT, 600 miles away helps a stranded hiker in Everett, Washington.

See this surprising YouTube video clip on the contest between text messaging and morse code here. Who do you think wins?

This link will show you the morse code learning program I’m using.

For more information about amateur radio, visit American Radio Relay League, ARRL, here

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