A crisis in CW culture

The band conditions have been good for a week or two. When the sun was going to sink here, as always, I listened to 40m and called CQ beaming to NA. As Dick N7RC often told me after having worked in his ranch, I needed relaxation of CW music after having worked hard in the garden.

As I have repeatedly written here, I get very few callers from NA. I am almost used to it. The time has changed. Nowadays, in the US, there are much less CW operators staying up late at night. Or they would just listen on the bands and won't try to touch their paddle/key. That's OK for me. I have accepted that reality as it is.

But, not so infrequently, I am called by the guys who could hardly communicate on this mode. They won't tell me to slow down. They won't ask me about what I had told them. They would go on a QSO like a template and quit there as if nothing problematic had happened. Isn't it a real crisis that there is such a ham, not exceptional, in the US where the culture of ham radio was born?

Do they feel bored with conversing with me? Are they too busy after midnight? I suspect they could not copy other than the routine informations such as name or QTH.  I won't blame them. But it is still a crisis for CW culture.   

Sorry for my complaint too familiar to you readers of this blog.  I am too often astonished by such a scene on the air. That is the reason why I have repeated this here.


  1. In the CW Culture, there are three types of operators: DX Chasers, Contesters and RagChewers. These are not mutually exclusive, most operators fall into more than one group. This is further complicated by skill level and technology. Skill level is offset by keyboards and code readers. Oh yes, one more factor. CW is a an antique mode of communication, almost exclusively used by old time amateurs most licensed around 50 years ago. One of us falls into that category...
    So, when you call CQ in your evening on 40, your audience is limited to DX Chasers and Ragchewers. Contesters are too busy sending CQ TEST themselves. DX chasers have many opportunities for Japan, so demand for you is low. What is left. Ragchewers. Unfortunately, that group is small in size. Half are still in bed.

    Now on to the next level, skill and technology. Technology will give most operators your call sign regardless of their skill. RBN and skimmers will decode your CQ in a minute. So, those less capable cw operators can call you accurately. Almost anyone can get signal report. QTH is on QRZ.com. There you go, a completed QSO. At least for them. You are left with unanswered questions. Maybe, if you are lucky, you might get a weather report.

    Here's the sad result. I could not know CW at all. Not one dit or dah. I could find your call sign on RBN. I could use a keyboard and call you. I could have a code reader tell me what you send back. How's that, CW with no cw skills at all, just technology. Might as well be RTTY.

    The sad truth about a waning radio skill.

    1. Isn't it an issue in the US that some hams, either DX chasers, contesuters or ragchew oriented ones, could hardly copy codes? Such a ham always seem to have long career in ham radio with an extra ticket. I won't blame them. But the US is the mother country where CW communication was born and grown up. It is a serious problem to me. It is only you who kindly responded to me. I believe there are some good experienced CW operators reading this blog. Don't they share the same problem with me or you? Do they think I am too impudent to mention about this? Or a feeling of despair for the future of CW conversation is covering their mind?

  2. I'm guilty of being a very early morning person, and turn into a pumpkin at night, unless there is a contest going on. Shin, "turning into a pumpkin" is a way of saying that I get very sleepy and go to bed early and/or read. However in the morning, I'm up and about. Unfortunately, my ham radio shack is in a separate house behind the main house here, and so it's not convenient to walk there. That cuts down my hamming except in the main parts of the day.But I do drive in my car going to run at a lake in Austin, and usually hear you calling CQ with your bug key on the lower end of 40 meters. And unfortunately, usually no one calls you. I don't call usually, as my mobile signal is weak on 40, and you call me a "mosquito" and copy is difficult on your end. There is some good activity here in the mornings including N6TT, WA7HVT/5, K1NVY, etc.plus a group including K6XZ (I think, suddenly can't remember Roy's call) and K4WJ. But you are correct in your overall observation that the number of CW operators is decreasing. Sad, but probably related to the aging of the group, and not surprising. We must enjoy CW while we can. 73, Jim N3BB

    1. Jim,

      Thanks for the nice comment. Yes, I am lucky to have good company like you or the others you mentioned of. WB6BEE Don is another active and enthusiastic guy. I have made over 1000 QSOs with Bob W6CYX since '60s. But, in perspective, I feel there are less CW operators who are able to converse on this mode in the US. For me, CW operators in the US have been idols. It is, however, changing to a undesirable way. I admit it is no use to complain of that or to give possible reasons/causes. The fact itself overwhelms my mind.