Morse Code Chat
As a licensed ham who had to learn Morse proficiency at 13 wpm 40 years ago, IMHO the site sucks. I can use a straight key pretty well, but most of the symbols I sent were misinterpreted. I tried adjusting the parameters to no avail.
Does anyone have any data on how much use Morse Code still gets today? Are there any people still using it actively for communication, or are there literally zero practical applications anymore?
Morse code (aka continuous wave/CW) is in very common use in amateur (ham) radio, predominantly in CW Contesting , DXing, and low power (QRP) and portable operations (like parks on the air/POTA, summits on the air/SOTA ) as CW an extremely robust, efficient modulation.
In other words, a 5w CW signal is roughly equivalent to a 100w voice signal -- more miles per watt. Plus you can fit a lot of signals in less spectrum. It's slower than voice or data modes but you don't need to say much to exchange enough information for a valid contact. And learning Morse code is just fun and a superb mental exercise; amateur radio enables Morse code to be actually useful and enjoyable in the modern era.
It's also used for:
* amateur radio direction finding/ARDF (radio orienteering) 
* High speed CW competitions (which used to be much more popular in Eastern Europe) 
* automatic identification of radio beacons and repeaters (e.g. aviation Navaids like NDBs and VOR, EMS/fire/police/business radios)
* backup/emergency communications for governments & armed forces
 https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=cw+contest. Also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgnEGSLeedg - the radio displays a spectrum waterfall in which you can see dozens of CW signals.
clarification: CW is a modulation type, on which Morse code is encoded using an on/off carrier wave. Much like how Amplitude Modulation/AM is a modulation on which voice is encoded by changing the amplitude of the carrier wave.
Also worth mentioning the beacons used to assess current propagation conditions
About ten years ago I set custom vibrations for my top contacts on my phone to be the Morse code representation of their initials. Ever since, I’ve had the super power of knowing who is texting or calling me without pulling out my phone. I’d say that alone has made a quick memorization of the alphabet worth it.
I have a patent on using a phone to send/receive Morse using a rocker switch. That way you could text without needing to look at the phone.
You have a patent on having a button on a phone?
More specifically, it is a rocker switch. One side is for dit, the other for dah. It makes the dits and dahs unambiguous, and easy for someone to quickly learn to use. I don't know of any phones with a rocker switch on them.
I thought it would be a fun thing to have on a phone.
My phone has a physical Ring/Vibrate/Silent slider. Fairly big deal for a modern smartphone (sadly)
Really nice to be able to shut it up with wet hands.
That is kind of interesting actually. Thanks for sharing.
How did you do that? Do you have an app you recommend?
Koch method is to do "full speed" Morse code from the beginning, but only learn 1 or 2 letters at a time.
The way the app works is click on the "k" to hear how "k" sounds. Then click on "m" for its sound. Finally, hit the "Start Lesson" button, and the computer will make a random mix of k and m (and extended pauses, which means "space").
You type in "k m k mm mmkkm" or similar into the textarea, and the computer then sees how accurate you were.
Less than six months ago I found this same site and I was practicing religiously multiple times a day. Several weeks ago I interrupted my practice for one reason or another and last time I tried my score had dropped to below 40%. I need to start practicing again.
I haven't learned the full alphabet yet. I'm still missing letters q, g, h, z, x,c, v and all the digits.
Something I've found interesting is how much difference it made changing the tone frequency. My brain definitely got used to a certain tone initially, and when I first tried changing the tone my recognition ability dropped quite a bit. So now I change it occasionally to keep my brain on its proverbial toes.
I wish there was a way to practice just the letters I have more difficulty with; namely, the ones which were added later.
Plenty of use today in amateur radio, especially amongst QRPers (low power enthusiasts, signals <= 5 watts). It's easy to build transmitters/receivers for, and it's more efficient than, say, voice modes like SSB in terms of spectrum usage and how far you can get per watt.
In aviation, VOR stations broadcast their identifier in morse (so you can confirm it's the right station) but VOR is being killed off in favor of GPS.
NDB stations, an even older type of radio navigation beacon, also broadcast their identifier like this. I fancy they might even outlast VORs due to how much cheaper they are to operate. The real survivor though might be the ILS (Instrument Landing System): ILS transmitters broadcast their identifier in Morse code, as did the prototypical Lorenz systems, making them very nearly a century old already (Lorenz systems were first installed in the 1930s). ILS approaches are the most common type for commercial aviation in most countries.
The one navaid likely to be around for the foreseeable future is DME. Which sounds slightly strange if you know a bit about aviation, you probably know it as slightly subservient to VOR as in VOR/DME. However, taking a number of DME fixes is a common (though slightly outdated) way of updating a fix for an aircrafts inertial navigation system.
I think a minimum viable VOR network is planned to be maintained as a backup to GPS.
Indeed; Eurocontrol have published a handbook about it: <https://www.eurocontrol.int/sites/default/files/2021-10/euro...>. Here's the USA's Federal Aviation Administration's page on the topic: <https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/at...>
Practical applications include:
1. communicating with other prisoners
2. communicating with the team trying to rescue you in your sunk submarine
3. any place where you're trapped but can bang on something
4. keeping your comms secret because nobody will even know you're using morse
5. secretly communicating with others during class (I knew two sisters in high school who would jibber jabber all through class by signing letters with their hands under the desks).
6. blinking in Morse when the terrorists put you under the TV cameras for your confession
7. your radio setup can only do on/off
8. you cannot remember how smoke signals worked
9. you need to flash a lamp at the airplane who might rescue you
And so on.
There has been a bit of a revival in CW since the pandemic in ham radio. Lots of hams took the time to finally learn it with the extra free time they had. So as far as amateur radio goes, it’s more popular now than it has been in a long time.
For anyone looking to get serious about learning CW including the "protocol" for using it on amateur radio bands, check out CWAcademy. It's like a group class setting led by volunteer "old timers" who are passionate about the technology and community. I had no prior morse code experience and successfully made my way up to about 15 words per minute over the course of about 5 months. It takes work and patience, but it's a lot of fun. There's a bunch of arduino-based gizmos and other software that hams have made to simulate and teach morse-code-heavy interactions (shout-out to Morserino, Morse Runner, and Morse Code Ninja).
That, or Long Island CW Club  - highly recommend either one. Or Learn CW Online/LCWO  for self-led drills and practice in addition to those apps.
And definitely avoid charts, graphs, mnemonics, memory hacks, visual aids -- at all costs -- if you want proficiency.
Morse code is alive and well, especially during contests where efficiency means performance. There are a few reasons:
It has high spectral efficiency; a CW transmission is only a few Hertz wide on the spectrum, whereas even SSB voice needs several kHz. This lets you use very narrow receive filters, to cut out adjacent noise and make contacts in difficult conditions.
It can achieve useful communication at very low power, with very simple equipment. Look up "qrp cw kit" and you can get $15 transmitters that you solder together from parts in a few minutes, and these aren't VLSI parts like some wifi chip or whatever, these are single discrete components. Hams love hand-built equipment, or at least the theoretical ability to use hand-built equipment, and QRP (low-power operation) is a hugely popular challenge.
It occupies a sweet spot where it's simple enough to encode by hand and decode by ear, but also easy enough for computers to operate. So there's a wide range of automation available, from whole-band decoders to keyboard-interactive QSOs, or you can go completely bare-handed if you prefer. That makes it appeal to more people than a more modern computer-required mode like PSK31 or FT8. (Those have even higher spectral efficiency, though, so they're popular in their own way.)
Out of curiosity, what does the CQ in your username refer to?
A nice thing with CW is that you can get it through some really impressive noise floors. I personally never use it outside of contesting though and that barely counts since it tends to be macros.
Also, all amateur stations are required to identify regularly. Relays will ident quietly in morse so it doesn't interrupt the voice comms happening on that channel.
Last year I was running a semaphore lamp off my fire escape
It works great for zero dimensional displays that are far away in brought daylight. For example, the Chaos Computer Club used to hack some rental bikes which had an LED that indicated whether the bike was available or not and the hacked bikes would flash "CCC" in morse code, so you could easily identify the hacked bikes from a distance.
I'm not sure about audio morse though, I'd guess voice would be better in all cases there.
It's not. Combine a loud emergency whistle with Morse Code, and you have the ability to signal without any electric power over much longer distances than voice.
For years the only Morse I knew was how to use a whistle to send SOS. Maybe it's time to learn a few more letters...
At the moment, it throws 500 errors when you try to transmit something
500 seems excessive. One or two should do nicely.
Nine hours later, it still does.
13 hour later: "broadcast failed. server_error server returned status code: 500"
If only this had existed when I was studying for my General, back when there was still a Morse requirement!
Back then, there was a nightly practice session on broadcast, somewhere. Details are foggy... --- ...
W1AW, various frequencies. They still do it: http://www3.arrl.org/w1aw-operating-schedule
Funny, that call sign rings a very distant bell in my head. Maybe that was always it.
Just a little improvement, user-select:none on the button! At least on iOS a double tap selects the button rather than sending two events.
This sucks. I remember letters my of name, after training 2 months in the army, but it fails to understand. - .. -- --- -. --- -.- ---
I made one adaptive morse receiver in 1970s already and the key property was to measure average lengths of dashes. All other issues are trivial.
Wow, so much beeping -- sidetones all over the place. You need some way of tuning. Speaking from experience, CW operators love a narrow crystal filter to help with selectivity!
This is some hilarious chaos. I love this a lot.
Anyone else have the issue where hanging around a bit borks their browser? Using Firefox on Windows it would cause the entire thing to go to a white screen with a grey box in the middle. Rest of the OS was responsive. Went back to recreate it for a screenshot and it didn't happen again after happening several times across refreshes.
I guess we'll need to wait for the HN hug of death to go away, so that we get things other than 500. After that it'd be nice if it supported my actual call sign, not "you are in this country, so clearly you must be using this club sign prefix" or whatever the pattern is.
I wonder if HN could have a "hugged to death" mode where a site under stress is removed from the front page for some fraction of viewers, increasing that fraction until the site recovers, so it's shown to only as many people as it can handle.
The pattern is there so that every username will look like a call sign. If you write me your username on the website and your real callsign i'll change it asap
First message I saw was someone dropping the N-word.
I'm not upset at the app. Just wish we could have nice things.
When I saw the URL, I thought "did Smitty Halibut get a new domain name"? But it's not the same person/people, apparently. "Different fish, people!"
(halibut.com is the QTH of well-known podcaster/hacker/dude Mark Smith)
Aaaands it's broken.
.-- . .-.. .-.. --..-- / .. .----. -- / .... --- .--. .--. .. -. .----. / --- ..-. ..-.
Chat GPT :): The text you provided is Morse code. When translated, it reads:
"Hello, I'm hoping off."
>> .-- . .-.. .-.. --..-- / .. .----. -- / .... --- .--. .--. .. -. .----. / --- ..-. ..-.
> Chat GPT :): The text you provided is Morse code. When translated, it reads: "Hello, I'm hoping off."
I got "well, I'm hoppin' off"
A couple years ago we made a Morse Code chatbot for an xkcd April fool's comic . I learned a lot about the UX of Morse input. It can be tricky for folks new to Morse to have consistent timing around dots and dashes. Displaying the dot immediately, and transforming into a dash after the requisite delay makes a big difference because it teaches the tempo expected. I was pleased to see a similar preview in the input here!
Ugh, straight-key input is so hard to get right, when keyboards have such awful springs. Offer an iambic option, especially one that uses mouse left and right buttons, and it's much easier to implement a "paddle".
I've been wondering if a cellphone's accelerometer would allow you to simply nudge the front and back of the phone itself, in the absence of any physical buttons at all, and have it run through an iambic keyer in software.
This is a community musical instrument.
Talk about complete chaos, I love it!
.- -. -.-- --- -. . / --- -. .-.. .. -. . ..--..
-.-. --.- -.-. --.- -.-. --.- -.. . .-. .- .---- - .- .-- .-. .- .---- - .- .-- .--. ... . -.-
Gosh, I barely remember CW, it's been such a long while... Though my callsign should be still registered, I think my dad still paid the license renewals for me (even though I moved countries some years ago).
.... . -.--
Crafted by RajatSource Code