Have funny phonetics for your call sign? Paul, NR3P, does. He goes by “Now Roasting 3 Pigs” on the air and wanted it visualized on his QSL.
His idea was to have three Angry Birds-style porkers on a spit, being rotated over simmering vacuum tubes. It’s the kind of image we cartoonists love to draw. I was only too happy to oblige.
One part of his QSL commission puzzled me, though: Paul wanted an alligator dressed to the nines doing the cooking.
So I asked him: Why a gator?
Paul explained that because hams benefit from propagation, he wanted the cooking done by a “proper gator.”
I’ll let you supply the rimshot.
“A Christmas Story” — the holiday classic movie about little Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun — is shown non-stop on TV this time of year. Did you know Ralphie eventually became an amateur-radio operator?
It’s true: the late Jean Shepherd, the author and voice behind the movie, became a ham in his teens and stayed licensed throughout his life. He was a fixture on New York broadcast radio, and his semi-autobiographical essays, published mostly in Playboy magazine, became the basis for the much-loved movie.
Shepherd was a hardcore CW operator, so much so that the American Radio Relay League had him introduce this code-practice tape circa 1980, produced several years before “A Christmas Story” premiered in theaters in 1983. You can hear it above. Enjoy — and Merry Christmas!
Here’s another cartoon I drew for Gordon West’s latest Extra-class license guide, shared for the CW enthusiasts among us.
Maybe 10 percent of my QSOs are CW these days (the rest are PSK31), and I can cruise along at up to 20 wpm as long as copy is good and I don’t have to write everything down. (Tip: You can speed up your CW if you read more in your head and learn to listen as if it were just another person talking.)
I thought I was fast — and compared to a lot of licensees, I suppose I am — but realized just how slow I really was when I worked Field Day with the CW old timers at the Alford Memorial Radio Club. Those guys copy 35-wpm-plus like it was nothing. I tried to help log and was left in the dust every time.
My goal for next year: Work enough CW that I can keep up with the Old Timers. What’s yours?
Throwback Thursday: This is a cartoon I drew some years ago for “Morse Code: The Essential Language,” written by L. Pete Carron Jr., W3DKV, and published by the American Radio Relay League.
What do satellites have to do with CW? Carron wrote at the time that the “low-duty-cycle characteristic of the code makes it especially popular for satellite communication.”
That was in 1986 (the book is now out of print). Who uses satellites now, and how do you use them?
This cartoon I drew for “Morse Code: The Essential Language” by L. Peter Carron Jr., W3DKV, reminded me of how you know you’ve hit warp speed copying CW: You hear whole words instead of just letters.
When I earned my Novice ticket in 1973, it was all I could do to count the dits and dahs to copy CW. It kept me slow — but, fortunately, there were lots of other newbies in the Novice bands at the time who were just as slow as I was to keep me company.
At some point, I started recognizing whole letters, and I got a little faster. But it wasn’t until I started hearing whole words — at least, the short common ones like “the,” “it” and “for” — that CW started to feel comfortable.
These days, when I’m not on PSK31 I operate CW almost exclusively. I rarely use my microphone on HF. As a casual ham, I’m hardly a speed demon, but I am fast enough (around 20 wpm when I work at it) to have fun with a key. It’s also made me very popular at Field Day (CW contacts score higher).
How do you get that fast? It’s the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.
“Morse Code: The Essential Language” was published by the American Radio Relay League but has long since gone out of print. It’s still available online, often in used editions. If you’re into CW, it’s worth seeking out.