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I am a ham radio operator, father, husband, Christian, musician, avid reader, Texan, philosopher, and chronic hamburger fiend. After spending several years exploring the different avenues of Ham Radio I decided to share my ideas, experiments, and activities with my fellow "technically challenged" hams as I humbly present to you: "Ham Radio For the Rest of Us". I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Microphones? We don't need no stinking microphones!

     Back when I got my Extra license you had to pass a CW test.  I worked really hard to pass it and promptly let my hard earned skills go by the wayside in favor of SSB.  There was a CW operator in our club that always fascinated me.  Good old Ted Stubbs (KB5EAZ) could make those paddles sing.  And he made it look so easy!
     Well after many years I developed an urge to try it again.  After a few weeks of practice with software and some on air QSO's with another local ham who was also interested, I am now closing in on ten words per minute.  Not lightning fast yet but I am having great fun with it.  I bought a Kent straight key and joined the "Straight Key Century Club".  They're a great bunch of guys and I'm looking forward to making some contacts with them.

     The straight key is great and the Kent makes a beautiful addition to the shack; but my Bencher paddles are by far my favorite way to go.  With paddles you need an electronic keyer also.  They can get pretty salty.  But as usual, I scoured the net looking for just the right deal for my frugal shack.  Frugal refers to both price and technical difficulty!  I found probably the best deal on a keyer on the face of the earth.  It's called the N0XAS Pico Keyer Kit.  It comes in a kit form (that even I could assemble); however I cheated and was given one by a fellow ham here in town.  At a starting price of less than $20.00 they're quite a deal.  You can find them at hamgadgets.com.  If anyone is curious; no I don't have any affiliation with them, its just a really cool little piece of equipment.

     Let me give you two other nuggets if you are interested in honing your CW skills.  I used two free software programs to practice with.  The first is the Koch Morse Trainer by G4FON and the second is The Morse Code Teaching Machine found at http://c2.com/morse.  The G4FON can be easily found if you Google the call sign.  They are both great programs and they're free.
     I have found that I am interested in collecting unique keys and so far I have bought a couple.  Who knows where this is going to lead.  I guess I may have to build one next!

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