Yesterday, I was doing some reading and came across an article in QST that caught my interest. The ARRL publishes the names of people who have received their Certificate of Code Proficiency periodically in the club magazine. As I read, I recognized the callsign of one of my fellow Long Island CW clubmates, KN4ZMA, Sean. He had officially achieved a code proficiency of 15 WPM! During the Zoom class we both attend, I’m always astounded at the ease in which he is able to copy code. It often surpasses this 15 WPM threshold.
I was inspired, so I went to the ARRL website and looked up how to achieve these code proficiency certificates. As it turns out, the ARRL sends out these qualifying run code bulletins four out of five weekdays on 160m (1.802.5), 80m (3.581.5), 40m (7.047.5), 20m (14.047.5), 17m (18.097.5) 15m (21.067.5), 10m (28.067.5), 6m, (50.350) and 2m (147.555) bands. It’s as easy as copying one minute of code at a given speed (sent from 10 to 35 WPM in 5 WPM increments), then sending it in to the ARRL along with a $10 processing fee.
Simple enough. Challenge accepted! Now to make a plan…
Methodology and Rationale
CW is only a mode of sending radio waves, while International Morse is a language. It is not a language per se, but a character set. Moreover, it is not read nor written but it is heard and “spoken”. Before I get carried away, what this means in a practical sense is that both sending and receiving must be practiced, the two methods in which people communicate using Morse.
Therefore, I will achieve my goal of copying a 10 WPM ARRL bulletin through a combination of listening and sending practice. I will practice at least 10 minutes of copying and 10 minutes of sending daily and take notes of what was accomplished.
When able, I will copy the ARRL bulletins as they are broadcast. I have since printed out the calendar and circled the times that I will be able to copy when W1AW is on the air. When not able to copy W1AW on the air, I will copy code using mp3 files provided on the ARRL website. I will contain all of my code practice attempts in one notebook so that I can monitor my progress and check my work as the ARRL publishes past code practice sessions.
Sending practice will be performed using a combination of warmup exercises and performance drills. The warmup exercise will consist of sending a phrase at 10 WPM, then increasing in speed while maintaining accuracy. Then, I will choose a technical article from either QST, QRP-ARCI or another ham radio related publication in order to replicate what will be sent by W1AW.
Operating Challenge Day 1
Even though I couldn’t transmit since SWRs were high on my ice-burdened antenna, I was able to listen to the qualifying run today, 24 February 2022 at 2100z.
Let’s just say that I could copy most of what was sent at 10 WPM, enough to make sense of it. It was not full copy however. I got maybe 70% or so, which means that the code proficiency certificate for 10 WPM is within reach. However, my code copy at 15 WPM left much to be desired. That’s fine. I’ve known for a long time that my copying is the weakest link so this is an easy, fun, and measurable way to strengthen that link. I’m looking forward to the challenge!