Code practice oscillator

Roberta just posted about telegraph keys and coincidently I ran across this as I was continuing to unpack boxes that hadn’t been touched in 20 or 30 years:


The battery is new and that is all it took to make it functional. It’s a code practice oscillator that Brother Doug and/or I built back in the late 60’s or early 70’s. Once upon a time we put in a half-hearted effort to learn Morse Code but neither of us succeeded at learning the skill.


11 thoughts on “Code practice oscillator

  1. I built one of those in the late 90’s while working on my ham license. I got as far as “Advanced”. I could copy 13 WPM, but couldn’t write the letters fast enough to do 20. Ham radio doesn’t even require Morse code anymore so I suppose it’s a dying art.
    I also built my own 4 watt CW (continuous wave) transceiver on the 40 meter band, then added a 20 watt linear amplifier. Full disclosure, both were built from kits. It was a lot of fun, all the more because it was successful. 🙂

    • As a kit builder you already have a leg up on a lot of hams who use only ready-made gear. Building from scratch is neat but requires skills that many don’t have.

      As for Morse code no longer being required, that’s not accurate. It’s no longer required for the entry level (“Technician”) license, but the higher ones still require it at the same level as before. Also, as I understand it, the removal of the Morse requirement actually produced a revival in the interest in Morse.

      • No, they don’t require it anymore. You need not know Morse to get any level of ham radio license, not for 9 years now: It was completely eliminated as a requirement on February 23rd, 2007.

  2. The closest I came to that was to connect the leads of my multimeter to the key and set it to the continuity test beeper setting. It has to be the right multimeter though; it can’t have any delay.

    One thing about learning code is that it’s much easier to send than to receive, so unless you have someone else sending for you, that setup is of little use. In that case then it is better practice to tune in to an on-air CW conversation and see how much you can copy. They have regular, automated transmissions for that purpose on the HF ham bands too, and they start nice and slow, then work up in speed. Computer code practice programs are pretty good too. Another thing that’s good practice is to convert road signs and such into code in your head as you drive. Stuff like that. Same goes for keeping up on your Standard Phonetics.

    Use of the code has dropped sharply in the last decade or two, but it’s still good to know. Repeater station auto IDs are still often given in code.

    • Use of Morse hasn’t dropped in the last decade or two, not on the ham bands, even though you no longer need to know Morse to get any ham radio license.

      I should know, I’ve been licensed for 26 years now and operate almost solely Morse. I got into ham radio because of Morse, I was a Morse interceptor in the US Army before I got my license.

      What I have noticed is that there are a lot of new people doing Morse via computer now. You can tell because the keying is perfect and because often they don’t use the common abbreviations and prosigns that manual Morse operators use. It doesn’t really cost them that much effort to type stuff out completely (or even use a software macro). It’s kind of like how they would do PSK31 or Olivia.

      As for learning Morse, it’s not that hard to get the basic 5 wpm down, it just takes practice. It’s kind of like learning how to play guitar: You can get the basic chords and strumming down well enough to play songs fairly quickly, but mastery takes longer. It’s the same way with Morst. You won’t be doing Morse while driving like I do (contacted a guy in NC from upstate NY yesterday on the way home from work, both of us running just 5 watts power), but there is no reason you can’t be making simple contacts at 5 wpm within a month of starting to learn Morse.

      Us Morse guys tend to be very welcoming of people who are trying, even if they mess up a lot, so if you’re thinking you want to try it, go right ahead. We’re also not snobs: We don’t care if you’re doing it by computer or not.

      • Another 058 ditty bopper!

        I was ASA in 1965, and couldn’t make it past 15 WPM with a typewriter…so they sent me to 059 (teletype intercept) school.

        Then of to Sobe, Okinawa, Two Rock Ranch Station and finally Sinop Turkey.

        Every once in a while you run across another ‘lightning fast chicken plucker’!

        • Heh. When I was in, the MOS was 05H, so we were known as “hogs”. But I like “ditty bopper”, I even use it as a pseudonym on several websites, and for my gmail address. My former room-mate is also a ham, and we chat once in a while on the air.

          Spent my entire time in Hawaii, and I’m sure we copied the same mission at some point.

          /didahdidit, to *HELL* with it.

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