I have met Chuck N6UOE again on 20m in morning a few days ago. It was last Sept. when we met for the first time. It was a couple of weeks since he had come back on the air after 45 years of absence. He was 77 years old retired professor from UC Davis. His specialty was communication social science, which I had had least idea of.
He seemed to have been active on CW ever since. We have, however, agreed that there have been much less conversational CW activity on any bands. I was glad, despite of that overall low activity of conversational CW, he had still stuck to this enjoyment of CW.
He thought the reason why it had declined was that they had dropped the requirement of CW skill from the exam. And the internet has taken it over as well. I agreed fully with him about that. It might be very boring and take too much time and labor for young hams to train themselves for conversational CW.
In addition to the reason above, I thought of the old timers whom we missed, mostly retired R/O, so proficient in CW and kind enough to do with new comers and eventually to educate them to be good CW conversationists. I could recall dozens of such examples who were active from '60s through '80s. Sadly enough, most of them have gone inactive or even silent key by now. It was those old timers who had conveyed the art of CW from the previous generation to us.
Lastly, it seems to be the most important reason to me that few question about the essence of the pleasure to converse on CW. It may be too obvious for them to question about that. Some say CW is a handy mode to work DX with small set up. The others say CW QSO is so quick that it won't take much time. These may be right but seem to be only secondary. What is the essential question to be asked? It is what makes us feel pleasant and relaxed to converse on this mode. Without asking and realizing about it, we could hardly tell young new comers why it deserves to learn CW spending that too much time and work.
Even after having been on this mode wondering about that question on the intrinsic aspect of conversational CW, I have not reached any definite answer yet. Recently, I have thought that working memory in our cognitive function might be a clue to answer this question. Working memory is a functional concept of cognitive psychology, which deals with the cognition and memory with the short and long term memory cooperating at it. It is closely related with the secondary language acquisition. Recent advance in functional brain science with f MRI is revealing the anatomical sites in brain responsible for this function as well.
CW reception is comparable to reading printed materials as I have reiterated in this blog. That highly intellectual process may progress in working memory. Long term memory provides the code memory itself which is almost dealt in subconsciousness in a proficient operator. In case of non English native, translation process must be made with another long term memory. The information of the other we talk to might come from the long term memory as well. So called head copy requires the short term memory. In this process, we need to comprehend what it has been sent and to conceptualize it, which may help to store the information into the long term memory. This is a pretty rough sketch of the working memory hypothesis in conversational CW. It is important that conversational CW is a highly intellectual process in our cognitive function, where we should activate the whole working memory. When it successfully works, it might give us satisfaction. This is what I believe we still adhere to this primitive as well as slow mode of communication even in this modern era when we could utilize the other modes.
When I mentioned a bit of this idea to Chuck, he has agreed with me. As the usefulness of conversational CW, he thinks, it would work to prevent the aged people from suffering from dementia. That may be another aspect of conversational CW as the intellectual process, described above. It could be a rehab or prevention of dementia.
I am far from understanding the working memory hypothesis of the essence of conversational CW and even the working memory itself. The above mentioned observation is only very primitive rough sketch of the process. It seems to deserve studying about that, however. That will make me consent to have spent so much time and energy for this mode in my life, which is the basis we could recommend young people to start with it with confidence.