December 19, 2010


As an amateur radio operator, I can send and receive Morse code at 20 wpm (on a good night with no QRM) and can contest at about 30 WPM if pushed. Contests are fragmented, repeated conversations comprised of the call signs (i.e., K6WHP), signal strength reports, and the official exchange (state, city, or other significant information as the rules of the 'test dictate).

Not bragging it's just a fact.

But contests have formats that are highly stylized patterns and once one understands the pattern, one can fill in the blanks with the repetition involved in the transmissions.

However, there are those who engage in HST -- high speed telegraphy -- at speeds in excess of 50 WPM and do this in plain text with no abbreviations. One of my good friends and fellow QRPer -- Chuck Adams, K7QO, in Prescott, Arizona -- is number eight on the list of those who send and receive ("copy") Morse code at such a blinding rate -- 140 WPM -- as to be incomprehensible to even those who are familiar with the discipline. Here is an article int he WSJ about Chuck:

In the above video, Chuck is engaged in a conversation ("QSO") at a modest 18 WPM -- probably out of courtesy to the ham on the other side of the contact. It does not trouble Chuck as he is a devotee of this art and would like to keep it alive for posterity. I have had a few QSOs with Chuck on 30 meters (10.115 MHz) and my limitations have kept Chuck (and others) at a sedate 15-20 WPM so that I could copy.

To give you another reference about Morse code speed and skills, consider this. A few years back, Jay Leno had a contest wherein he pitted some kids (he said derisively) who were supposedly at the top of their game texting messages to one another using this new-fangled technology versus a couple of old-time hams (actually, guys about my age) sending a message to one another using Morse code. As you might surmise, the kids got their clocks cleaned. I won't dredge up the You Tube video -- it used to be all over the internet -- but those guys were sending at the rate of 22 WPM which is just a shade faster than I can operate at. I am fairly typical of most ardent amateur radio CW operators so, basically, there's a whole bunch of us codgers out here who can shut down all of the young kids with their blackberries.. on you!

But to get an idea of what HST is all about, take a look at the video below; this guy is ripping off the text on that menu at 60 WPM. Can you imagine what speeds 80% faster would be like?

I can't either.

-..72 ES GL..DIT DIT..-


  1. They both are impressive. I remember a couple kids in the school I went to that were into Ham radio big time.

  2. In the Army I was able to send and receive 12 WPM and hit 15 on a good day. I can't imagine this. There's someone on the other end that understands it?

  3. ..the guy in the video going 60 WPM is using a "paddle" with what is called an electronic keyer (one side of the paddle forms continuous dots and the other continuous dahses). The keyers built into my radios or the standalone Idiom Press keyer go to about 70 or 80 WPM. I lose control at about 35 WPM; that is, I mean to send an "A" (dit-dah) and it comes out sounding like a "U" (dit-dit-dit-dah) or a "V" (dit-dit-dit-dah) or, on really bad days, a "4" (dit-dit-dit-dit-dah).

    Odie, I didn't know you knew Morse code; I think I'll do a post in Morse one day and see who copies.


  4. I used to know it War ... that was (age here) 40 years ago when I was 23.