You know how it is. You’re learning something new, and when you have already spent a lot of time and effort you suddenly find a piece of information or software that could have saved you a lot of time… if only you had found it earlier.
I’ll list here some information and methods I used, or I wish I used, to learn Morse Code. I’m still learning myself – so take everything with a grain of salt and do your own research. If you have found more stuff (or different opinions) that could be added to this list, be sure to leave a comment below!
The general idea
I started out learning morse by memorizing a simple graph (pyramid scheme) I found on the web, like this:
The idea is that you put your finger at the top, and then move down and to the left if you hear a short dit, or down and to the right for a long dah. This surely works well, especially if you use some mnemonic to remember the letter order on the graph. You will find yourself able to code, and even decode, low speed (low WMP) morse messages after a little practice. This might sound great – and it definitely gets you started faster than other methods might – but it will let you down in the long run. For it gets increasingly difficult when you try to up the WPM. You simply won’t be able to keep up!
The solution? Use a different learning method! I recommend:
Learn to recognize morse code at high WPM at the very beginning
There is a big difference between learning to recognize the ‘melody’ of a morse character at high speed- “dit dah dit dit, that’s an L” – and sort of translating the sounds at low speed – “dit (to the left) dah (to the right) dit (left) dit (left), let’s see … the fourth row is HVF_L_PJBXCYZQ_ … therefore..”. You get the point.
Don’t worry though, this does not mean you’re going to have to listen to recordings non-stop until you finally recognize a character or your head starts hurting. No. Learning systems like the Koch method and spaced-repetition-system software have been developed to make it easier.
And once you can recognize morse characters individually, you can start practicing words and then sentences, as well as keying morse yourself (which you will notice will be pretty easy after you have practiced listening for a while). Also, you’ll quickly learn to recognize the most common words like ‘the’ and ‘is’.
(Web-) apps to make your life easier
This is a really simple iOS/Android app that uses the Koch method to guide you through the entire process of getting to recognize individual characters. It’s UI makes it look more like a game. It is available for free for iPhone and iPad and Android, though it does have some (not distracting) ads in it.
Learn CW Online dot net is a free online course to learn morse. Like morse toad, it uses Koch’s method to increase efficiency. And because you create your own account, you can pick up right where you left off on any computer with an internet connection. I have not used it myself, but it looks promising. http://lcwo.net
This is quite a full-featured iOS app that can do almost everything you will need. It costs $1, though to get access to the most usefull features you’ll have to hand the developer an extra $5 (via an in-app purchase). I use the $1 version, mainly to encode text (to practice listening – this way I don’t have to search the web for recordings. Download it from the iOS app store.
Anki is a really versatile cross-platform spaced-repetition-system app that can help you remember all sorts of things, not just morse. In fact, I am using it now to learn maritime signal flags and the japanese language. It first helps you to learn losts of data very efficiently, but then proceeds to keep questioning you to make sure it gets pushed into your long-term memory. For every item you have to remembery, you create a flashcard, so to create an entire deck of cards can be tedious work. But you’re in luck – again – because someone else has already done this work for you, and shared the result here. You can then customize the deck to your needs. Anki is available for free for Mac OSX, Windows, Linux and Android – but since the developer also needs food to stay alive, he charges $25 for the iOS version (in my opinion well worth the money). Anki also comes with a free web app and synchronisation service, that will keep the decks and progress on all your devices up to date. This app is worth checking out even if you’re not planning to use it for learning morse. www.ankisrs.net
This is an iOS app I created: it installs two custom keyboards on your device with which you can type using morse code. As it turns out, typing with morse code on your iPhone or iPad is a great way to improve your skills quickly – and it won’t really cost you any extra time since you’ll just use it instead of the default QWERTY keyboard. The two keyboards have in total three different modes: classic mode (with just one button), dual button, and iambic mode. The WPM can be adjusted, and automatic space insertion can be turned off (which will make it easier to use for beginners). Morseboard is available for just $0.99 on the iOS appstore.
Check out for example the Amateur HAM Radio Koch CW Morse Code Trainer app and Amateur HAM Radio Practice Keys app for Android. I couldn’t try these since I don’t own any Android devices, but the developer kindly asked me to add these links and I thought why not?
If you know of any other resources that might come in handy for morse-learners or have any relevant app that you’ve written, please leave a comment below and I’ll add them to this article.