They say that CW is for those hams who don’t have much to say but prefer to take a
long time saying it. Maybe that’s why I like it. Or maybe I’m just weird that way. Ever
since I got my license a year and a half ago I’ve been more interested in CW than the
other modes. I started out well by taking the CW Academy course. But I’ve struggled
since then to get from the 15 wpm plateau up to 20 wpm.
Steve Parks offered to help. He set up a schedule with me a couple weeks ago for
Wednesday nights on 40 meters. The first week was pretty rough but I somehow got
through it and Steve was gracious enough to agree to a second week.
So on Wednesday night I fired up the rig and listened for his call. He called and I
answered. He called again and I answered again. He called again… and it dawned on
me that something was wrong. Then I realized — as I was sending, I heard my side
tone but also continued to hear my receiver. That shouldn’t be! It meant I was not
Panic set in. My radio is an Icom IC-7200 with 23 buttons and 7 knobs. It has menus
two levels deep. The manual has 104 pages. I had briefly gone through the manual
right after purchasing the rig, mostly to figure out how little I needed to know to get
on the air. On most occasions I’ve not needed anything more than the tuning dial,
the AF volume, and the buttons for 20, 30 and 40 meters.
Now, as Steve patiently continued to call me, I was desperately trying to figure out
what was out of the ordinary. I took a good hard look at the indicators on the front
panel display for the first time in a long time. CW and VFO A looked right. And RX
probably meant Receive, so I was receiving when I had the key down and it should
be TX for Transmitting. But I already knew that.
I paused for long enough to send a quick text message to Steve, telling him I was
trying to fix the problem. He continued to call, so he obviously didn’t see the text. I
followed up with an email.
Back to the task at hand. BK was on my display and must mean break-in. I dove deep
into my menus and confirmed that I was running semi-breakin. Maybe switching to
full-breakin would help. Nope, that wasn’t it.
TUNE was also on the display and I didn’t remember seeing it before. Maybe that
meant that I was matched so poorly to my end-fed long wire that my SWR was
dangerously high. But I had tuned up with my IT-100 autotuner just before the sked
With the manual in my lap, I searched for the answer. No, TUNE meant that my
tuner was activated and that I was at less than 1.5:1. Otherwise, the TUNE indicator
wouldn’t be on.
Meanwhile, Steve had obviously seen my email. He was in QSO with somebody else
and I didn’t have time to try to copy. Wait a minute: SPLIT — I haven’t seen that
before. I don’t want SPLIT, how do I turn it off? More rifling through the manual, and
I find that the IC-7200 won’t let me operate split across bands. That’s good, I
definitely don’t want that. But what frequency am I trying to transmit on? I’m
receiving on VFO A at 7.118 MHz. I switch to VFO B, and it’s on 14.110. Good thing I
wasn’t trying to transmit on 20 meters.
Then it hits me. How does my rig prevent me from working split cross-band? It can’t
throw up a dialog box like a PC would saying, “Error 603 – you’re trying to cross-
band, You Idiot.” It just silently refuses to let me do something stupid!
One more quick trip to the manual and I found the button for split. I had never tried
to work split before and must have hit that button accidentally. I pressed the button
to disengage it and all was right with the world once again. Too bad that our
window of opportunity for the evening had expired. Steve was kind when we
discussed it later. He said it was no big deal, he had enjoyed a dx QSO while I was
sweating bullets. And he explained that Russ Thompson had helped him a lot when
he first got started and he was just passing the favor on.
There are a couple of takeaways. I need to know my radio better, even those
functions that I don’t think I’ll ever use. I don’t want to be flipping through a manual
on Field Day or on an EmComm callout. None of us does.
Secondly, Steve has had a couple of other inquiries about learning CW. He thinks we
might be able to expand our sked and add a couple more ops. Would you like to join
us? We meet on Wednesdays at 9 PM on 7.118 MHz. We’d love to have you. Just take
it easy on me, would you?