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CW Operators - why do some of you send much faster than the Activator?


Just listening to Marjan S51RU/P who is doing a fantastic job on 7032 working one after another caller…

However - Marjan is sending at 16 WPM (Measured by the RBN), so why do some chasers call him at a speed of 25 WPM or more? This is not good operating procedure macho men - and for some of you your sending spacing is far from perfect anyway! It took you longer to work Marjan than it should have done and you caused unecessary QRM to those of us who call the activator at or close to the speed at which he is sending…

You know who you are, no need to state callsigns here and cause bad feelings!

73 Phil


Spot on Phil! It’s not a contest that we are participating in. Cool it folks!!




I couldn’t agree more Phil. Time after time I hear this sort of thing and like you say it delays the whole exchange procedure!

Victor GI4ONL


This kinda puts people off.
Me, being a total novice in field of CW would be put off by it.

Now i ask how many of you would really slow down to help a real novice in CW operations

First thing i better learn is QRS .

One thing i have not learnt yet how on earth do you space between words so the CW don’t get mixed up is another thing i do wonder about. And understand better now the TEXT or shortening of words. So text messaging in shortened words been around a very very long time prior to mobile phones then.



Absolutely :grinning:

Regarding spacing of words, WHEN you learn CW it will become a lot easier.

Victor GI4ONL


Interestingly Karl years ago when my nieces and nephews were starting to get into texting on their mobile phones they were amazed that their Uncle Jack could ‘wheech!’ (another good Scottish adjective like dreich (;>) along using all these ‘kool’ shortcodes/abbreviations. When I told them it was the way we communicated using CW they at last thought there was some merit in my ‘nutty’ amateur radio hobby - hi!

73 es gl wid ur cw



You know, guys, while I can quite understand the frustration that started this thread, there is a good chance that the people it is aimed at will never read it!

People are lazy. I looked at the manual for the 857 that just happened to be handy, and there are five different operations involved in changing the keyer speed, including live sending whilst actually adjusting the speed, so while I don’t excuse it, I can understand why a lazy person would forge ahead rather than adjust the speed, particularly if he has to find the manual and the page before doing it!

Since we phone ops have to grin and bear multiple callers and tail-enders it is almost nice to know that the CW people have their crosses to bear, too! :wink:



It’s why I have an external CW keyer… it has a little speed knob on the front panel so I can slow down for people. Not that I go fast mind you.


I do 98% CW here and I always try to adjust my speed to the party on the other end.
If he/she cant copy at the speed they are sending ( which I find a lot send faster than they can copy )
I should hope they know what ( Q R S ) is.
If they want to do 35 WPM I can join right in there with them
If they want to do 5 WPM I can do that also.
W4DOW CW operator for 55 years as a Amateur Radio Operator.


[quote=“G8ADD, post:7, topic:11919”]five different operations involved in changing the keyer speed[/quote]Yeah, I think the 817’s much the same (if not identical). Yaesu clearly don’t expect operators to change their keyer speed that often. If you use the internal keyer then the only easy option is to leave longer gaps between characters. I expect that’s why folk use stand-alone keyers like the Palm Code Cube and the K1EL keyer…


The advantage of the front panel speed control is the psychological boost it gives to newer ops. I operate at 18-20wpm and when I get called by someone who is a little slower than me I will typically just send with longer gaps. Most people who can copy at 15wpm can copy at 20wpm with a bit of thinking time included. But when called by newcomers at 8-12wpm they get a boost to their confidence in hearing the DX (me!) send a stream of dits and hearing the repeat speed s l o w r i g h t d o w n. They know they’ve been heard and that I am making a deliberate effort to accommodate them. That does give people a boost in that the DX actually wants to work them.


Yes, I just checked and it is the same set of operations, so I guess it will also be the same for the 897. It may well be easier on other rigs, though.

Do you CW activators generally carry separate keyers? I would have thought that the extra weight and cabling would have been a disadvantage but what would I know, my mike probably weighs more!




Radio amateur CW operating procedure, including abbreviations, have been handed down from commercial telegraphy operators since the time when Morse code was the only method of communication. (Seen in old western movies).

Abbreviations were used to reduce transmission time. For example the old landline operators could have been operating between railway boxes or sending a news story to an editor. Common words known to both operators would be abbreviated; for example “Good Morning” became GM, “Be seeing you” became BCNU and “Thanks” became TKS.

Letters with long Morse symbols were substituted for shorter letters, so “For” became FER" and “With” became WID. These short-cut words have been handed down throughout the years and are now used by the younger generation when sending phone text messages

Common words known to both operators would be sent by just using the first letter and substituting “X” for the remainder, so “Conditions” became CX, “Distance” became DX, “Prefix” became PX, “Transmitter” became TX, “Receiver” became RX and “Weather” became WX.

Specific services sending the same information repeatedly would substitute figures for standard phrases. For example “The Northbound train has just passed” could became “21” “Stop all trains 22” and so on. From this code radio amateurs still retain “73” to mean “Best Wishes” and “88” to mean Love and kisses.

UK Chief Morse Examiner 1990-1999


You can program a CW speed knob on the front panel of the FT 857, and 897 (not sure if this works on the FT-817).

  1. Enable extended Menu Mode No.001

  2. Select menu 57 which selects the function which is engaged when you press the MEM/VFO CH knob

  3. Turn the main dial to CW SPEED

  4. Exit memories

Now when you want to change CW speed you just press the MEM/VFO knob and turn to increase speed faster or slower, then press the knob again to exit.Takes about 2 seconds.


[quote=“G4SSH, post:14, topic:11919”]not sure if this works on the FT-817[/quote]No, the FT817 doesn’t seem to have that rdefine option.


From the FT817 manual: “If you are already using Operating Function Row 10 [VOX, BK, KYR], press and hold in the C key to switch instantly to Menu #21 (CW SPEED).”

Now the question Phil asked was about chasers replying faster than the activators, and I guess the FT817/857/897 will more often be used by activators than by chasers. Adjusting CW speed when at home should be easy.

It would only be be polite to make sure the activator can copy you, and to slow down in case of doubt…


There are a few issues here.
Original topic
1). If an op on a hill is using low power say 3-5W, then slower may make for more legible copy in poor condx, even though he/she may be able to copy CW faster than the speed they’re using, and may be known to be able to do that (I can think of friends in that catagory). Many of the Chasers seem to be such regulars that they perhaps are used to those who are faster and those who are not.

2). Condx can make for slower sending - fingers cold and numb, key or paddle sliding about, etc… If you’re CW and an Activator you’ve been there, surely.

Secondary topic, adjustment of CW speed in the keyer. Rigs DESIGNED to be primary CW rigs, if fitted with internal keyers, will have simple speed controls to adjust speed directly: e.g. - K2 a front panel speed knob, KX3 front panel speed knob. Not sure but I think KX1 single key press (I don’t have a KX1), K1 is certainly a single key press. Last two are CW only rigs of course.

On any of them changing speed is the work of a couple of seconds, and no extra weight in the rucksack. Elecraft is surely not the only manufacturer to include this essential feature on portable rigs?

Regards to all,
Les g0nmd


Use a straight key and the keyer between your ears? Easy enough to slow that down!
Not that I’d risk a cw activation - I find it difficult enough to sort out a pile-up in ssb, let alone cw!
I have chased at least one prominent cw activator who doesn’t QRS or send Farnsworth. I don’t bother any more.
Regards, Dave G6DTN


If this happens, an activator can also help himself simply by sending “PSE QRS” or a bit stronger “PSE ONLY QRS”.
I occasionally use QRS 18-20WPM to make my signal more readable for DX chasers.


Karel de OK2BWB


I do, I try to do the same speed and the person on the other end.
Only way to be a good Amateur on CW