Morse code is a fascinating mode that uses the human brain to decode the signal. It has been in use for over 170 years. It takes a few weeks to learn and a lifetime to master. A good way to practice Morse code, of course, is to get on the radio and actually send and receive code. This is where the CW net can help you. Once you have a basic understanding of the alphabet and numbers, you can check into a CW net and get some real world experience sending and receiving code.
The Old Virginia Hams radio club hosts the weekly OVH CW net on Wednesday nights at 7 PM on 3.550 Mhz. This net is open to all amateurs. The net is QRS, meaning it’s a fairly slow net. While we can slow down to 5 words per minute if need be, we’ll start at around 10-12 words per minute character speed with some extra space between characters, known as Farnsworth spacing. If you are really new to CW, and you feel like it’s coming in too fast, feel free to tell the net control QRS, which means “slow down”.
CW nets operate pretty much like phone nets in that there is a check in time followed by a comment time. Before we talk about the actual net, there are a few quirky abbreviations found on CW to know about.
DE= “This is”. So when you call CQ you would call CQ DE <your call sign>
KN= “Over but it’s directed at a particular station” For example: KG4NXT DE K9VEG KN means KG4NXT this is K9VEG over to you and only you.
AS= “Stand By”
To start the net, the net control operator will call something like this:
CQ CQ OVH NET DE K9VEG QNI K — QNI means let’s all check in.
DE WA2SWX K —This is Don checking in
DE KG4NXT K —This is John checking in
R R KG4NXT ES WA2SWX AS —This means that John and Don checked in
“AS” means stand by. “ES” is CW for “and”.
QNI K —This is asking for more check ins. Once everyone is checked in, The Net Control will go for a round of comments, just like in a phone net.
WA2SWX DE K9VEG KN —This says to Don “hey, it’s your turn to make a comment” If Don doesn’t have anything for the net, he can simply respond with QRU.
K9VEG DE WA2AWX QRU 73 KN —QRU basically means “I’ve nothing to say”.
The net goes back and forth like this until everyone has had a chance to comment. Just like in a phone net, you can comment on anything (except politics and religion). Just keep the speed under 15 WPM. If you can’t copy 15, we aren’t going to quiz you or put you on the spot. Just send at the speed you are comfortable receiving. If you can only do 5 WPM, we’ll answer with that.
It sounds more complicated than it really is. It’s fairly easy to get the hang of it. Listen for QNI, check in, wait until you are called, make a comment, that’s it.
The OVH CW net is hosted by either me, K9VEG or Don WA2SWX on Wednesday night at 7 PM.
There is another net on 40 meters at 8 PM on 7.035 Mhz. This one is hosted by me as part of the North American QRP CW Club or NAQCC. Information about that club can be found on their website. There are many more nets that are available there as well.
Jeff Porter, K9VEG