DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

CW Code Readers

CW Code Readers


For those of you who have survived the ARRL SSB Contest, I offer the following: Despite its disadvantages, one of the major advantages of SSB operation is that it is easily interpreted. Of course, there are language issues, but it is easier to learn a language that is taught in schools and spoken by millions of people than the code, which is spoken by relatively few, worldwide. When we wish to use the code, we must learn how to interpret it.


Some of us take to learning the code easily, some not so. Some of us learned the code at an early age and have enjoyed it immensely, some not so much – some not at all. For those of us, who have little expertise with the code, but still wish to utilize it for whatever purpose – chasing CW DX for example -- there are alternatives. One way to get on CW for chasing DX is to simply learn the code well enough to be able to at least copy your callsign, and maybe the question mark – “?” Needless to say, this leaves something to be desired, since all of our efforts in learning how to chase CW pileup DX rely on “listening carefully and learning how to find out what is going on.”


Another approach to using CW is the use of code readers. For a CW buff, that might be considered sacrilege. Code readers are available in hardware and software forms and some work better than others. I have experimented with a few of these programs and devices with varying degrees of success. None can compare to the experienced CW operator, in my opinion. I will proceed, however…


Should the use of code readers be frowned upon? Should their use be sanctioned? Some folks, particularly contesters, would likely say “yes” to both questions. Another question, though is “should hams interested in any form of the hobby be discouraged because of an initial lack of knowledge? Should we tell those who are interested enough to try CW, even through the use of a code reader, be told to go away and do something else? Of course not. We should welcome these folks to our part of the hobby. If things work out well, they may eventually become proficient with the code. At least, further experience with CW may well lead to a lesser need for these devices.

There is a caveat, however: If you are interested in CW, and you do avail yourself of one or more of these devices (I wonder if two or more of these devices operated in tandem would provide better copy.), you should make every effort to understand what is being transmitted sufficient to be “in the game” without causing disruption. You must know what is transpiring on the DX frequencies. The use of a code reader should never be seen as an excuse for operating in improper operating technique. If you have had success with a code reader system, I would like to hear from you. Please email me at n7ng@arrl.net and tell me about your experiences.