Learning CW

Last January, I passed the General Class written test with flying colors. I also failed the CW test miserably. In June, I failed it again, and I have one month to take it one last time or else I have to retake the written class test over again. I’m not looking forward to that at all. So, I’m putting my nose to the grindstone and I will pass the test next time.

My first learning method was visually. I was using a book called Morse Code for the Rest of Us that had each letter in code written with cute little pictures. I learned the code that way, and I can even send code at a decend rate now, but I can’t hear it. I have trouble telling the dit’s from the dah’s. After a few seconds, I get lost and everything jumbles together. That’s the problem with learning CW visually, or so I’m told. You have to start learning code by ear. That way, your ears pick up the sounds and start recognizing the patterns immediately.

Now I am using K7QO’s Code Course. The only problem I see now is with me. I have to make the time to do this. I wish I had more patience for this kind of thing. I know that once I can hear the code and translate it instantly, I will never loose it and I will be up to 20WPM in no time. It’s getting there that will be the problem.

Apartment Antennas

MFJ has an antenna that is marketed towards apartment dwellers called
the MFJ-1622. Barker and Williamson have a similar product called the
AP-10B. Both of these products look good, but the price is mighty
high. They run from $89 for the AP-10B to 99 for the MFJ-1622. The
other problem is that, at least according to eham.net, the set up
leaves a lot of be desired, and the performance can be lackluster.
If we don’t have $100 to spend on an antenna, what are the other
options? It seems to me that these antennas are made of three main
components. 1. a whip 2. a loading coil and 3. a counterpoise. I am
wondering if something could be made akin to a hamstick dipole. In
case you are not aware, a hamstick is a whip antenna that is attached
to a long loading coil that is usually used for mobile operation. The
hamstick dipole is two dipoles connected with a metal plate that can be
clamped to a support pole. Hamsticks have two main problems. First,
they are narrowband antennas. In other words, they have to be retuned
regularly to keep swr low and they require a counterpoise like a car
body. The dipole configuration effectively doubles the available
bandwidth and it solves the problem of the counterpoise. But this
creates one more problem. Who wants a 20′ dipole in their apartment?
Not to mention RF burns on family members who accidentally touch it.
If you notice one thing about the advertised apartment antennas, then
have a length of wire to take care of the counterpoise. Why not do the
same with a single hamstick? Clamp it to a patio rail or sturdy piece
of furniture, stick one end out of a window or on a patio and leave a
curled up piece of insulated wire at the base for the counterpoise.
One more thing, if you are in a really touchy complex and you try this,
I would get some hobby paint and paint it black. Most HF activity is
best at night and a black antenna would be much harder to see.
Pass along any ideas that you might have.
Links:
MFJ-1622
http://www.mfjenterprises.com/products.php?prodid=MFJ-1622
eHam Review
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/2035
Cost
$99.95
B&W AP-10B
http://www.bwantennas.com/ama/ap10b.ama.htm
eHam Review
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/667
Cost
$89.00