I officially give up! Yet again.

Morse code is an anachronism.

Invented and used in the 1840’s, it seems somewhat out of place in today’s high-speed world, where data rates are so high that whole sentences of text can be sent in the blink of an eye.

It’s an outmoded form of communication, that just doesn’t sit well with modern  methods.

And yet… it does.

It is still used by the military – not necessarily as the main basis of contact nowadays, but certainly as a fallback, I’m sure.

And in the world of Amateur Radio, it is still a much sought-after skill amongst many.

There are plenty of amateurs out there who can do Morse.  Many of them excel at it.  And there are even some that won’t use any other method to communicate over the air.

Sadly, I’m not one of them.

I would LOVE to be able to read morse code, properly.  I can send at slow speeds and I can read it at very slow speeds. Very slow. Very, very slow. Reading is the hard part.

Rather like learning a new language (and ostensibly, that’s what it is), there are many different methods for learning it. Over the years I have tried reading books (Duh!); listening to tapes and listening to other operators sending. I have tried several PC programs and mobile phone apps. I have built machines for practicing with (see picture above), eventually taking them apart and using the bits for another project, because I was getting nowhere.

Frustratingly, in my teens, I did learn how to read and send, and could do so at about five or six words a minute.  If only I’d kept it up.

Similarly, I used to be able to parlez francais to a reasonable degree.

But I allowed them both to lapse and nowadays I struggle to learn either.

And it really annoys me.

I’ll admit that this is partially down to commitment. I don’t seem to have the time nowadays to study for such things.

And the inclination. That’s kind of gone too: I want to learn it, but I don’t want to put in the effort.  Like the rest of the MTV generation (yes, I think I just about fall into that category) and, as Freddie Mercury sang: “I want it all and I want it now”.

And so, after several months of “giving it another go”, I have hung up my headphones.


For the last time.

That’s it! I have resigned myself to the fact that morse code will forever evade me.

No more, will I try learning and decyphering that strange sound of dits and dahs pouring from my radio speaker.

No more, will I spend hours in the car listening to an 800Hz tone beeping out letters of the alphabet to me.

No more will I drive the family mad, as I sit in my room badly tapping away at a morse key.

No more, will I… who am I kidding? Give it three months and I’ll be back at it for another half-hearted attempt.


  1. Robert G4PYR

    Morse is just another language, and it needs practice, practice and more practice.
    Years ago there was lots of commercial more and that’s long gone, but it provided a good source of practice fodder.

    Listening to computer generated morse is not good as it makes listening to manual morse more difficult.

    Get on the HF bands and just listen, start with slow stuff and work your way up.
    Then at some stage you will copy it without writing it down and you will not convert it to english but just listen to the morse and understand it. Then you can start to have fun!!

    • Masher

      Yeah, I’ve tried that, Robert, but even the slow stuff is too fast for me. I know that it takes a lot of practice and some dedication and that’s where much of my problems lie: by the time I get home from work, walk the dog, have my dinner, etc, I’m ready for bed. So that only leaves the weekends… and that just doesn’t work.

      • Robert G4PYR

        What you need to listen to are characters at about 15wpm with larger gaps.

        Eventually when it’s correctly spaced it will be a rhythm.

        One problem many have is converting the mores into English, when learning a normal foreign language you don’t convert to English in your head. With more you do and it’s that bit of conversion many find problems with/.

        • Masher

          That’s exactly what I have been doing, Robert: 15wpm and learn the rhythm of the letter rather than trying to decode it into dots and dashes on the fly. But still no joy. I’m wondering whether my complete lack of musicality is the problem 🙂

          • Robert G4PYR

            I am tone deaf and can’t hold a tune in a bucket!!
            Your problem could of course be that you expect to have problems, that can be a barrier.

  2. Alan

    dit dit dit dah dit dah

    • Masher

      Nope, didn’t get any of that.

  3. Frances

    This is the 2nd time I have heard about morse code in the last 2 days. Do you listen to 3 Counties Radio BBC ?
    On Saturday they have ” Treasure Quest”and one of the clues this week was a string of morse code. Most hadn’t got a clue, but then an older bloke phoned in and said he was a radio ham, and the answer was Flore. I only know … _ _ _ … !!

    • Masher

      Nope, can’t say I do, Frances.

      Well done for knowing even that! There are many that don’t.

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