ZS2EZ CW OPERATIONS

 

Ever since beginning my Amateur career in 1985, CW was a stumbling block for me. Many attempts were made to learn the dreaded code, without success. As the years progressed this became a massive stumbling block for me, keeping me bound to the VHF bands for a shade under 20 years. The advent of computer software allowed me to make a couple of CW contacts on 50MHz, but for the main part CW was restricted to the occasional QSO with strong stations. Even the change of regulations that saw me finally upgrade my callsign and tackle the challenges of HF did little to change this. It was only in 2006 that I began to experiment with computer software for decoding CW, first via the MixW program and ultimately with CWGet, that I began to develop an interest in CW. This has grown to the extent that despite still not being able to decode by ear I have now reached 312 DXCC entities via CW and have a DXCC Certificate for the mode!

Having taken to browsing the CW portion of the bands on a regular basis, I have found that gradually some letters have become recogniseable, even at higher speeds. I am no longer reliant on software to identify my own callsign, or such common items as 5NN, TU, CQ etc! Currently I have something of a hectic schedule, but the long-term aim is to dispense with the PC for decoding! A long way to go still though...

A large amount of the credit for the nurturing of my interest in the CW mode must go to Donovan Van Loggerenberg ZS2DL. A top-class CW operator himself, Donovan has never derided my inability to copy by ear but has instead encouraged me to improve my setup to decode even weak signals sufficiently to make the QSO. His boundless enthusiasm for CW has led to me digging deeply into the settings and options of UA9OV's outstanding CWGet software, which has proved to be an outstanding investment!

I have used a variety of software for keying CW, but have finally settled on WinWarbler, part of the brilliant DXLab Suite by Dave Bernstein AA6YQ. I use DXKeeper for my logging, and WinWarbler works beautifully in conjunction with DXKeeper, SpotCollector and Commander. WinWarbler makes use of the Winkey built into my MicroHam Microkeyer to ensure perfect CW. It also allows direct keyboard entry, so when copy is good enough I can easily enjoy a CW ragchew! WinWarbler currently does not offer it's own CW decoder, but there is gateway software to allow CWGet decoding to be transferred into the WinWarbler Receive Window. In the interim, typing the call into WinWarbler works fine! During 2011 I added the excellent MRP40 software to my system, and find it really good for weak signal decoding! In 2016 Dave AA6YQ added a Gateway to transfer decoded text from MRP40 directly into the WinWarbler Receive Window.

During the early months of 2017 (thanks to help from Henry ZS1AAZ) I added the K3NG-designed Arduino-based keyer to my shack, as backup to my Microkeyer II's Winkey. As this keyer is Winkey-compatible it is able to interchange directly with the Microkeyer. Details on the K3NG Keyer are detailed on a separate page.

 


My Prized "Post Office" Straight Key

 

For the morbid curiosity of those interested in such things, my band breakdown of DXCC entities worked/confirmed on CW is displayed below:

BAND
WKD
CFM
80
24
23
40
112
105
30
172
166
20
189
173
17
226
213
15
171
155
12
204
184
10
146
127

TABLE LAST UPDATED 24 JANUARY 2017

 

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