Guest Post: CW OPS Academy – a great route to CW skills

Many thanks to Steve (MW0SAW) for the following guest post:

CW OPS Academy – a great route to CW skills.

by Steve (MW0SAW)

I had tried twice before to self learn CW and failed to stay motivated past learning a few characters. If you can talk, you are capable of learning CW like any language. But as most CW operators have already discovered, most of us need to put the hours in, it’s a journey and an investment.

So about two and a half years ago I decided to have a go at learning CW for a 3rd time, my interest in DX chasing was strong and I met with a now good friend Kevin who introduced me to SOTA. I started using the G4FON windows application, using the Farnsworth method. After a few weeks I got to the point where I felt I knew most of the letters. I started operating basic DX <callsign report TU> exchanges and before I knew it my country count was increasing as I realised there are a lot of stations out there that only operate CW.

So the months went by, I got my first DXCC and I was content with my progress. I even tried to activate a few sota summits. Which was a bit of a baptism of fire I might add! I became interested in Thomas’s QRPer blog and YouTube channel, finding listening to the CW activations very helpful practice.

So after 18 months I was happy I hadn’t given up, but I couldn’t really have a rag chew and my biggest mistake I had realised is that I had become dependent on a cw decoder on the background of my PC. When listening to CW and looking at the decoder, your brain takes the path of least resistance. This totally bypasses your ability to decode CW in your head.

As it happened Kevin was fascinated to see a couple of my CW SOTA activation efforts. In the coming months he signed up for the beginners CW Ops academy course. Kevin encouraged me to join him and before I knew it I was on the course about 4 sessions into the semester.

CW ops academy has been created by some wonderful folks whose passion is to spread the joy of CW to more operators around the world. Each level is an 8 week, 16 session semester, with a bi-weekly zoom call with your fellow students. If you are serious about making a 1 hour per day practice commitment then you will be rewarded with new friendships, progression and motivation on your CW journey. It really is a great way to keep pushing forward and improving.

I decided to join the next level (fundamentals), but after participating in the first 2 sessions, Bob at CW ops, moved me up to the Intermediate class.  I just successfully completed this, ended at 25wpm characters with QSOs and stories at 20 Farnsworth. All the CW ops levels can be found on the CW ops academy website.

So I guess I have to try the Advanced level next to see if I have what it takes lol.

Every day each QSO I make and each YouTube video I hear gets that little bit easier, and I pick out more and more of the conversation. I would like to give a big thanks to the administrators and instructors of the CW ops academy. Also of course a big thank you to my fellow CW ops students and new friends

11 thoughts on “Guest Post: CW OPS Academy – a great route to CW skills”

  1. CWA, CWI, LICW are all doing a great job.
    Day after day there are new ops in CW thanks to this organizations (and smaller national groups).

    What I really like about CWA (and other) classes is the people you meet, your “travel buddy” in this long journey towards CW proficiency. All these travel buddy share the same final goal, and they are applying daily time to learn and improve. They are the motivation that keeps you going.

    Thanks Steve for sharing.

  2. Completely agree with Steve’s recommendation. Though I passed the mandatory morse test back in ’95, I never really developed my skills and periodically plodded along with a straight key trying to recognise characters.

    Some SOTA activations, discovering POTA and a certain K4’s videos inspired me to get back into morse. I tried a number of tools, slowly improving and then bit the bullet with CWA, completing my Intermediate journey last spring. I cannot recommend highly enough the structured and semi-disciplined approach. It worked form me – not a microphone in sight on my operating desk, just some lovely keys and radios!

    However, like all musical/linguistic skills, if you don’t practice regularly the skill fades somewhat. Just keep going and you will get there.

    When time permits, I’ll be volunteering with CWA – I want to payback too – this was one of the most fun series of courses I’ve undertaken inside or outside the hobby!

    72/73 Richard MM0RGM

  3. Totally agree with Steve’s comments. I too passed the 13 wpm test many years (decades) ago, and then never sent a single dit after that. A couple years ago, I resolved to add CW to my repertoire of operating modes and enrolled in CW Academy’s basic course. I’m now reasonably conversant at 20-25 wpm and CW is my primary (almost exclusive) operating mode. I’m looking to continue to improve, but wherever I end up, I can’t say enough about the generosity and enthusiasm of the CW Ops guys. 73 Skip K4EAK

  4. Nice article, Steve. I also find Thomas’ field reports both entertaining and instructional. I completed the CW Academy Intermediate course last year, but have yet to tackle the Advanced. 73, Vic KB7GL

    1. Hi Peter,

      Sadly Ray is now silent key as you noted. Ray was very passionate about cw and did many presentations include one about for the RSGB which is on YouTube. I actually met Ray, he taught me for my foundation license at the Newbury club.

      I was just giving some background context for my own personal cw journey. Joining CW ops will use other more recent tools.

      Best 73

  5. I was also honored to take the CWA course and it was a wonderful experience with wonderful people. This is also a great opportunity to improve your telegraph. I highly recommend these courses.

  6. Learned CW as a Novice in 66/67. Was common then for one to get on as Novice so one could learn the code so they could upgrade to General which I did. Things were very different then for Ham Radio. After 3 months on as a Novice could do 20wpm, receiving and sending with straight key. I never lost my love for CW and most of my operation is this mode. I do venture up into the phone bands for POTA ops operating SSB for know many dont use the code. Today worked W1A on 20m SSB, one of the the MARS 75th Anniversary stations. Will be looking in the CW segments of the bands for the W1x MARS Anniversary stations. 73, ron, n9ee

    1. Learned the code at age 12 due to my older brother W6TKX. Got my general age 18, W6STL. Went to USAF radio school in 1952, copying 30wpm. Got sent to Nome, AK(not a state yet). Long story but salvaged military equipment(stole) and got in the air. I was dx. Applied and got KL7VNL. On air mostly 20 and 40 cw. Put up 20m vertical gp and 600 foot long wire. Used a BC-610, 300 watt xmtr. Worked anyone I wanted. Very little qrm and qrn there.

  7. I always enjoy this page. I signed up for cw academy for Jan Feb.
    Thanks for such a great page and posting great stories, I read every one.
    Terry. NE7TS

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