CW sending and health condition

Last night, as ususal, I had a nice chat with Steve N6TT. When he called me on 40m, he surely sounded fine and in great shape. His CW sounded like a superman flying from over the buildings. Fast and steady with the spaces between words being just right and having to be in that way. No errors at all. I knew he had had good sleep before he mentioned about that. He often has had a problem of insomnia, as he said. As I expected, he told me he had taken good rest the day before.

Steve and Jim W6YA in Steve's shack. Before his collection of keys.

CW sending is deteremined by many factors like the set up, the keyer and the key etc. These are always constant and not varying from day to day. But health condition or amount of sleep clearly makes up the quality of sending CW as well. If the operator has had good sleep and in good health, sending could be so smooth and reflects directly the sender's ability. It is changeable from day to day.

I sadly remember the last days of Steve Eichman WA6IVN, who has had a malignant lymphoma since his young days. We often talked in 1980s when I came back on the radio. He sounded to fill his life with as many things valuable as possible. Boating, hiking and ham radio. It seemed as if he had hurried up living his life. Both contesting and DXing have occupied his mind at first. But later, when he had got another cancer and has gradually lost his physical strength, he seemed to enjoy chatting on CW.  We routinely chatted on 40m CW those days. In sometime, as his condition deteriorated, he became inactive. In 1991, just before my 3rd trip to the Bay area, he has given me a call after some interval. His fist was not like before. Sluggish, staggering with improper and inconsistent spaces between words. I realized how he felt as soon as I heard him calling my call sign. I was so sad to hear him in that way. I could not remeber what we talked at that time. But his fist at that time still remains in my memory.

So, so far as we could enjoy the vivid and pleasant CW, we should do that. I would enjoy each QSO with friends like Steve N6TT all the time. We could tell our health and mental conditions from keying. We should be more aware of that. And  we should be considerate and gentle for the other people, I believe.  It is what I tell to myself.


  1. I am always very interested in your blogs about CW since I have been actively using this mode of communications for nearly 60 years. I usually send my CW on a simple mechanical device fondly called a Bug. Although I have an electronic keyer, and a special brass Paddle, which I am still learning to use, I much prefer the bug. My father before me had been a CW operator and ham, for many years using CW also. He helped me with learning how to send properly with a bug, and he along with a number of now silent keys helped shape me into the operator I am today. I am not super fast, but I still am able to solidly copy W1AW at 45 wpm solidly in my head, but I am not a fast with my typing skills so I have never even tried that method of copying. But I have hand written many a message and then delivered or re-sent the messages to other stations nearer to the point of delivery. I spent many enjoyable hours chatting with other hams with this mode of operation. While I prefer moderate speeds, I also often work stations that cannot copy the old 13 wpm speed that was required to gain a general class operators license for so many years. Some of these are newer operators, and some are old timers who left CW behind and used voice to chat with other hams via radio. Shin as you know, when I am rested and feel up to snuff, I can enjoy the art of Rag Chewing with the best of them. My only wish would be to see this old school way of communication continue as a means of enjoyable ham radio communications. Thanks for writing your blog once again on CW operation.


  2. Hi Shin,Bob,

    I too am a bug key operator. It limits me to a comfortable 25-30 wpm when my mind is clear.

    I wish there were more rag-chew operators in my part of the world (Singapore). It's a great pleasure when I can work JA1NUT or N6TT who both slow down for me.

    JE1TRV Atsu san has been in touch by email and we will set up a regular ragchew session in the evenings, maybe twice a week. I think Atsu also needs his regular CW ragchews !

    1. Bob and John,

      Both of you are great bug users. An admirable skill. I am sorry there are now decreasing number of hams learning it and enjoying leisurely ragchewing. Please keep up your own way. I would go after both of you.


  3. All of you guys sound excellent on the bug. It is music to my ears and I can always tell who is sending before I hear the call signs. Even though I can pick out Shins fist on the paddles, The banana boat swing with the bug is very distinct. I wish I would have kept up with my bug sending, I will not embarrass myself these days and put it on the air. Bravo to all of you guys for good cw bug operators are the best and hard to compare to using paddles.