You MUST have an opening and willing attitude towards learning Morse Code. Trying to learn Morse Code with a negative attitude is much like trying to run foot race with a ball and chain tied to your legs -- it's exhausting! If you have these thoughts:
Why do I need to waste my time on this
Because the FCC and ITU require code proficiency for operation on the HF frequencies. If you don't want to learn Morse Code, then your option is to go no higher than a Technician License. By the way, thousands of amateurs still use Morse Code. It is an extremely useful tool in many situations.
I can't possibly learn this
Yes you can. Any person who is willing, can learn basic Morse Code. It doesn't require any great intelligence, just practice. It is just like learning a language. You learned English, didn't you?
I have (fill in name of any handicap you can think of) and can't learn Morse; code
We've had deaf, blind and crippled people learn code, why can't you? FCC rules require you demonstrate proficiency in Morse Code. Examiners can make accomodations for handicapped individuals. These accomodations usually involve procedures for people who cannot write or hear. But they still must show that they can copy the code in some way. The bottom line is that if you can listen to someone speaking to you and understand them, you can learn Morse Code.
The Morse Code
program we will use is Morse Academy. Practice tapes
are NOT a good option. Only use tapes in ADDITION to computer practice.
Create a Folder for MA
Now that you have found the downloaded MA.ZIP file, we need to store the working
program somewhere. We will create a Folder called "MA".
Using Windows Explorer, click on the (C:) mark in the left hand window to
display the root directory of your hard drive.
Click the FILE command on top, then NEW, then FOLDER.
In the right hand window, you should see NEW FOLDER. Type MA in its place. Make sure you don't already have a Folder named MA.
Move MA.ZIP from where you found it in the step above to the MA folder. You can either drag it from its existing folder to the MA folder, or use the copy and paste function of Windows until you get a copy of MA.EXE in the MA folder. If you can't find MA.ZIP, use the TOOL command on top, then select FIND, then FILES AND FOLDERS. Type MA.ZIP in the NAMED box and C: in the LOOK IN: box. Note the folder location of MA.ZIP.
You will need an unzipping utility such as Winzip or WinRAR to unzip the file. Everyone should have a program like this installed. If not, contact Mitch.
Double click on MA.EXE to run it and will expand into many different files.
Starting the Program.
In the MA Folder, click on MA DOS icon to run the program. You can set up shortcuts from your Windows Desktop or Start Menu for easier access, if you like. When the program first runs, you will get a "QRX - Initializing" message. The program will generate exam and other files for later use.
Morse Academy (MA) consists of various menus. Each menu usually brings up other menus until you get to the function of interest. Simply type the letter of the item you are interested in. If you need help, hit F1. If you are in some unknown menu, use the ESC key to back out to the Main Menu.
The Main Menu of MA looks like this:
L. Learning menu
F. First practice
R. Receiving game
E. Endurance trials
P. Proficiency session
K. Keyboard session
G. Generate exams
W. Weighting selection
V. View Last Session
Setting Default Speed.
From the Main Menu:
Select "O" for OPTIONS.
Select "A" for ADJUSTMENTS TO PC CLOCK.
Select "S" for CHANGE SENDING SPEED.
Change it from 5 WPM to 8 WPM.
Select "T" for TRANSMIT PARIS MESSAGE.
This test will determine two things. First, if your computer is sending any code at all, and second, if it is working at the correct speed. The word Paris should be sent 8 times in one minute. Time it to make sure!
Setting the Default Character Set.
Using the ESC key, back out of the menus to the Main Menu.
Select "O" for OPTIONS
Select "E" for EDIT CHARACTER SET.
The character set is the order in which letters are presented. We will change these to start with the easiest letter first.
Slowly type in the following characters in the box:
E T I M A N S O R K D G W U C Q Y B F L H J P V X Y Z 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 . , ? / + = *
This is the general order in which you should learn the characters, from easiest to hardest.
Enabling the Practice Characters.
Using the ESC key, back out of the menus to the Main Menu.
Select L for LEARNING MENU.
A list of characters (hopefully, in the order you entered them) will be displayed.
Using the up/down arrow keys and insert and/or delete, turn on the first six characters (ETIMAN) and turn off everything else. When you are done, ETIMAN should be highlighted.
You should have a full manual on Morse Academy on your computer as part of the download. Look for MANUAL.PRT and click on it for full instructions if you get into big trouble or would like to do things beyond the scope of my directions.
And now, we're ready to begin!
Introduction to new characters.
Start at the Main Menu.
Select "F" for FIRST PRACTICE.
Select "K" for KEYBOARD PRACTICE.
The ETIMAN characters you selected above should be shown. Now type any of these characters and MA will play the correct sound and flash the character on the screen. If you are unfamiliar with the characters, use this practice to learn them. Otherwise, you can move on.
To end this practice, type ESC
Select "L" for LISTEN AND WATCH CHARACTERS.
This is similar to the previous step. It automatically plays and flashes characters.
Type ESC to end this practice.
Now it is time to try your hand at actual copying.
Select "M" for MORSE KEYBOARD TUTOR -- You will be using this function a lot!
Don't change any of the settings in the next menu, just hit enter to go.
MA will send you one of the letters you have enabled (ETIMAN at this point) and will wait indefinitely for you to type the correct letter as a response (it helps to be able to type). This drill will last 3 minutes. Try to strive for both accuracy and speed. When you make a mistake, MA will emit a low beep and send you the letter again, and again, and again, until you get it right. At the end of the three minutes, the drill is completed and MA will list stats for you - how many incorrect and the average time in milliseconds it took you to respond to each letter (1000 milliseconds = 1 second). Look for specific letters which you get wrong a lot or letters which take longer for you to get. You might want to narrow your practice to difficult letters but going back into the Main Menu, selecting L and turning on the troublesome characters and turning everything else off.
Adding New Characters.
When you reach a point where you are copying most of the characters correctly, and in a reasonable amount of time, it is time to add characters. Try adding characters 2 at a time - usually letters which are similar sounding. To do this, go to the Main Menu, and select option L and use the insert key to add the next two letters - "S" and "O", in this case. Keep practicing and adding characters.
Practice EVERY Day.
Set up a daily routine to practice Morse Code - without exception! Thirty minutes a day is sufficient. Or 2 20 minute session a day, if you find that you get tired of practice quickly.
The Receiving Game.
Copying Morse Code with an unlimited time to guess the letter is not real copying! Every so often, you need a reality check. When you reach a point where you are copying well, try your hand at the receiving game!
Go back to the Main Menu
Select "R" RECEIVING GAME.
This practice is timed at the copy speed. It you are too slow, the letter will time out. First, try this drill with 1-character groups (which is the default). You should do reasonably well at this.
Then adjust it to 3 and then 5 character groups. This is harder and you will likely get very frustrated that you can't copy much. This is entirely normal at this stage. This is very good practice for later. With more and more practice you will learn to copy 2 letters at a time, and then 3 at a time, etc. You will be getting better with time -- perhaps slowly, but you will make progress if you keep practicing. If you stop practicing, 5 wpm code test, no General Class license, and no juicy Worldwide DX!
Other MA Functions
There are other functions, such as the Endurance Trials, Proficiency Sessions and Exams in MA. When you start getting close to knowing all of the characters, you might want to play with some of these functions. They may help or even make code copy more fun. Whatever you do, make sure that you are putting in quality practice time and not time messing around with the program!
Typing vs. Writing
Most of the practice you will be doing will be on the keyboard. The advantage to this is that the computer can instantly score and evaluate your work and there is no cheating! There is also a tendency for students to practice more on the computer than to have to hunt down paper and pencil. Another positive thing is that there is no opportunity to skip letters you can't remember. Writing a dash when you can't recall a letter is a bad habit to get into.
There is a concern that ability to copy on paper (which is how the test is given) will not result from practice on a keyboard. I personally do not believe this, as I have always been able to copy using either method. If you want to copy using paper and pencil, there is a function in MA which will allow this.
Go to Main Menu
Select K for KEYBOARD PRACTICE.
MA will bring up a screen, similar to old text editors.
You have a number of options at this point.
You (actually, someone else) can type in anything on the screen and MA will send it when the F2 key is pressed. It doesn't work if YOU type it in, since you will remember it! It also results in better practice if you are NOT looking at the screen!
You can have someone make up a number of files by typing in messages and saving them. Later you can pull these files up and practice. Or else, you can grab a text file from somewhere in your computer and use it. To do this, make sure it is plain ASCII text, and it is a very short file. Copy it to the MA folder and rename it so that it has a .KB extension. Restart MA. This file will be available for practice. MA also has a number of exam files it generated when it initialized.
Type F6 to see the available files.
Select the file with the cursor key and it will be displayed.
If you are planning to practice - don't peek at it!
Get paper and pencil ready to go.
Hit F2 and start copying.
Don't erase the screen or end the program until you check your copy!
Practicing on the Road
Some people like to practice with cassette tapes in the car. You can certainly use MA to generate tapes and use the time driving to listen to code. However, practice in the car doesn't count as real practice. Unless you are writing down characters and checking your work, it isn't the real thing. (Please don't do this while driving). It is easy to delude yourself into thinking you are copying OK in your head, but this is rarely the case. If you have to be away from the computer for a few days, by all means, make tapes and practice with a cassette player, but make sure it is done in a quiet place where you can give 100% attention.
When you bring up a code test in MA at 5 words per minute you can always copy 25 or more consecutive characters every time. If you are sporadic, keep practicing until you can reliably pass exams at home all the time.
Everything should be covered on these pages. If I missed anything, drop me a line.
The 3 most important items: