CW - Morse

Developed in the 1830s and 1840s by Samuel Morse (1791-1872) and other inventors, the telegraph revolutionized long-distance communication. It worked by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations. In addition to helping invent the telegraph, Samuel Morse developed a code (bearing his name) that assigned a set of dits and dahs (pronounced di da) to each letter of the English alphabet and allowed for the simple transmission of complex messages across telegraph lines. In 1844, Morse sent his first telegraph message, from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland; by 1866, a telegraph line had been laid across the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. to Europe. Although the telegraph had fallen out of widespread use by the start of the 21st century, replaced by the telephone, fax machine and Internet, it laid the groundwork for the communications revolution that led to those later innovations.

An international version of Morse code became widely used which you will find further down the page.

Morse and amateur radio

Anybody can pick up a microphone and talk but using Morse also known as continuous wave (CW) requires skill and finesse. Knowing and using CW correctly is like belonging to an exclusive club. Sadly CW has been decreasing in popularity over the last several decades as voice and other digital modes become more popular. But have a listen across the CW portion of the ham radio bands and you will find thousands of hams still using this vintage communications technique, so it's not dead yet and I don't think it ever will die. To me CW has a magic that other modes don't have. I do hope you find the information on this page useful.

First steps

The first step in learning the Morse code is to learn the individual characters themselves. This can be done in a number of ways. One is to look at the characters and repeat them one by one. Another is to have a recording of the letters in alphabetical order, or identified by voice in sound. In this way the particular sound of the letter can be associated with the letter. This is particularly beneficial because as learning process continues and speeds increase, it is necessary to recognise the sound or rhythm of the letter and associate this directly with the letter.

Basics of learning the Morse code

There is no one way that is right for learning the Morse code. Different people have been successful teaching the Morse code in different ways, and different people respond to the some methods better than others. Often, though, learning the Morse code is more a matter of persistence and regularity rather than the Morse code being difficult to learn. In many ways, learning the Morse code is a little like learning a foreign language, the more it is spoken, the easier it becomes. So too with learning the Morse code. A little practice often, possibly each day is far better than a large amount once a week.

Things to remember

  • A dash is equal to three dots.
  • The space between the signals which make the same letter is equal to one dot.
  • The space between two letters is equal to three dots..
  • The space between two words is equal to seven dots.
  • It is extremely important to refer to a dot as DIT and a dash as DAH (pronounced di da).



    The alphabet numbers and punctuation marks







    Procedural Signals (Prosigns) for Morse Code. These are letters strung together in one continuous symbol.



    CQ – Calling any station
    AR – end of message
    K – go, invite any station to transmit
    KN – “(” go only, invite a specific station to transmit
    BK – invite receiving station to transmit
    BT – Pause; Break For Text
    R – all received OK
    AS – please stand by
    SK – end of contact (sent before call)
    CL – going off the air (clear)





    The RST Code

    The RST code is used by amateur radio operators and shortwave listeners to exchange information about the quality of a radio signal being received. The code is a three digit number, with one digit each for conveying an assessment of the signal's readability, strength, and tone. The code was developed in the early 20th century and was in widespread use by 1912.


    1 -- Unreadable
    2 -- Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable
    3 -- Readable with considerable difficulty
    4 -- Readable with practically no difficulty
    5 -- Perfectly readable


    1 -- Faint signals, barely perceptible
    2 -- Very weak signals
    3 -- Weak signals
    4 -- Fair signals
    5 -- Fairly good signals
    6 -- Good signals
    7 -- Moderately strong signals
    8 -- Strong signals
    9 -- Extremely strong signals


    1 -- Sixty cycle a.c. or less, very rough and broad
    2 -- Very rough a.c. , very harsh and broad
    3 -- Rough a.c. tone, rectified but not filtered
    4 -- Rough note, some trace of filtering
    5 -- Filtered rectified a.c.but strongly ripple-modulated
    6 -- Filtered tone, definite trace of ripple modulation
    7 -- Near pure tone, trace of ripple modulation
    8 -- Near perfect tone, slight trace of modulation
    9 -- Perfect tone, no trace of ripple or modulation of any kind



    Most commonly used 'Q' Codes


    QRM – Interference from others
    QRN – Interference/electrical/atmospheric
    QRO – High power
    QRP – Low power
    QRQ – Shall I send faster
    QRS – Shall I send more slowly
    QRT – Close(d) down
    QRV – Are you ready
    QRX – Stand by
    QSB – Fading
    QSL – Confirmation of contact
    QSO – Radio contact
    QSY – Change frequency
    QTH – Location




    Abbreviations are very commonly used in CW. They save time and are, I think, one reason why CW is so cool. Once you have learned many of the abbreviations as well as CW operating techniques, you are "in", you're a member of the CW fraternity.



    ADR Address
    AGN Again
    ANT Antenna
    B4 Before
    BK Break Break
    C Yes
    CUL See you later
    DE From
    FB Fine business
    GA Go ahead
    GA Good afternoon
    Good bye
    GB God bless
    GE Good evening
    GG Going
    FB Fine business
    GA Go ahead
    GA Good afternoon
    Good bye
    GB God bless
    GE Good evening
    GG Going
    GN Good night
    GND GND Ground
    GUD Good
    HI High
    HR Here; hear
    HV Have
    HW How; how copy
    LID A poor operator
    MSG Message
    N No
    NIL Nothing
    NW Now
    OB Old boy
    OM Old man
    OP Operator
    OT Old timer; old top
    PSE Please
    PWR Power
    RIG Station equipment
    RPT Repeat; report
    RX; RCVR Receiver
    SED Said
    SEZ Says
    SIG Signal
    SRI Sorry
    TMW Tomorrow
    TNX Thanks
    TU Thank you
    TVI Television interference
    UR; URS Your; Yours
    VY Very
    WKD; WKG Worked; working
    WL Will
    WUD Would
    WX Weather
    XMTR Transmitter
    YF; XYL Wife
    YL Young lady
    73 Best regards
    88 Love and kisses