Quarter of a Century of Morse - M1BUU

Nothing makes you feel older than realising that you took your Morse test in the 20th century! Today marks 25 years since I nervously tried a Morse test for the first time. The intention had been to get an idea of what to expect and then build up my confidence to take the test ‘for real’. My ham friends had been egging me on just to have a go. It didn’t quite go to plan and I ended up being signed off!

I thought it would be nice to mark the anniversary with a SOTA activation (with Morse of course!). Unfortunately the weather has been pretty awful, but I braved the elements and successfully activated Whernside G/NP-004. At first I tried my 9V RockMite 15m and despite calling for about 20 minutes, I managed only two in the log, OH3GZ and SQ9IDE. I’d taken a 9V RockMite 20m for back up, so I switched the antenna links and called CQ on 20m. It took a few minutes but I was eventually answered by Gene, NT2A in NY! That’s two transatlantic 9V QSOs in less than a week! My activation was qualified when Jan SM5LNE thankfully tail ended NT2A to get my 4th QSO logged.

I measured the power output of the RM20 when I got home at 190mW. The QSO with Gene would be somewhere around 17,500 miles per watt.

Despite the horrid weather, I wanted to try for some decent CW QSOs, not the hard work, low powered stuff with the RockMites. I’d taken my MTR-5B and decided to try 40m for inter-G. What a difference in audio from the MTR-5B compared to the RockMites! :slight_smile:

I worked G3RDQ, GI0AZB, GW0PLP, GI0AZA, G0HRT and finally EI7KH.

I’m thankful to all of the chasers who unknowingly shared my special day. I had a lot of fun and got thoroughly soaked!

73, Colin


You are so young! I took my Morse test at British Telecom International in London in 1983. I will have to see if I can find my pass slip!

I had a listen for you on 40m but you were very weak here. It wasn’t helped by the fairly high background noise.

73 Richard


Well done Colin, although I think you are a glutton for punishment. My QTH is 26km west of Whernside and the rain has been pretty much continuous (again!) today. Just out walking the dog, I found the ground is saturated and the going under foot up Whernside must have been slippery.

From your first photo I thought that you had taken an orange tent, but from the second photo it looks like you were just sitting in the rain. The rig and logbook look pretty wet. I wouldn’t think the former is waterproof. My rigs are certainly not. My Palm Pico twin paddles ‘misfire’ when they get wet.

I took the Morse test in the 1990s and - back then - it was like this …
WhatsApp Image 2023-08-15 at 15.31.17


Wow, you got a proper looking certificate! All I got was a tatty bit of paper from the Post Office Maritime Dept in London :smiley:

Seriously though, well done Colin and I’m sorry I missed you today.

73 Jon


I was sat in my bothy bag. I tried to keep my radio gear as dry as I could, I wish that I had taken another ziplock bag - I didn’t want to steal the one keeping my phone dry!

The logbook is a cheap waterproof one a budget outdoor store - either Regatta or Trespass, I can’t remember which, they were on 3 for 2, so I got 3 :slight_smile:. The paper gets a bit soft but it’s not a disaster in the rain.

My MTR-5B is definitely not waterproof but it’s a workhorse. The case is home made so there’s plenty of gaps to let the water out! I just dry it well, after an outing. The Pico Paddle rarely lets me down, in fact the only problems I’ve had with it are down to my home made cables, it’s an early Pico and the key sense is swapped. I’ve made my own cables to swap the key sense.

73, Colin

Whernside was boggy, as expected, which is why I chose to wear wellies.


Well done Colin executing a novel idea. I’m unlikely to be able to hijack the concept as the date of my morse test anniversary is too close to the XYL’s birthday. However, this year I’ve planned a three day outing starting on my birthday with the full approval and encouragement of my XYL… hmm… I suppose it is MY birthday. :grinning:


Fantastic Colin, what a novel way to celebrate the 1/4 of a century achievement, I didn’t know of course and chuffed we were able to be in on the fun.
Very well done :slight_smile: Ian AZB.


Thats so awesome to look back at such and achievement 25 years later and still operating cw. And having the paperwork.

73 de VE6JTW, Jesse

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Ha! Only 21 years for me next month! Still it’s quite surprising how quickly those 21 years have gone.

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Well done Colin, keep up the good work.

ScreenHunter 462


For Jon - I don’t remember getting a piece of paper like that on Dec 31st 1981 when I passed my Morse Test with Mr Jardine at the Marine Surveyors Office on Liverpool Docks.

What was interesting to me though about the certtification you have, is that you weren’t allowed an amateur licence if you left it more than 12 months and allowed your newly acquired Morse skills to “get rusty”.

73 Phil G4OBK


I still have my very plain but important piece of paper.

73 Victor GI4ONL


:+1::clap: great stuff Colin, and thanks for the report!

Your thread prompted me to delve into the archives too:

Happy days!



BUSBY’S - that was the nickname that illegal CBers gave to the Post Office employees who went round closing them down!

73 Phil G4OBK

Interesting to see the evolution. I like the “Wireless Telegraph section” stamp on Adrians certificate, very nice!

I also just noticed that the “Mr” is part of the form - I’m not keen on political correctness taken to extremes, but thankfully we have moved on from making that assumption now!


“Nothing makes you feel older than realising you took your morse test in the 70’s!”

… and 45 years later I still remember it as being a nerve racking experience and it is the only time I have had a day out to Mablethorpe!.. I found paper exams much easier than practical ones… ( the other exam which was memorable was my Mountain Leadership exam. The other candidate had dropped out so it was a 1:1 with the assessor. I think I was rather optimistic about timings for the north ridge of Tryfan and I remember not only trying to navigate perfectly, but also trying to reach the top at my estimated time with a very heavy pack as I now had the tent and the stove… Then there was the night navigation at the top of Cym Tryfan - it turns out that the small pools of water were not as accurately mapped as I had hoped… still managed to pass both exams but I suppose it has the side effect of making navigation for most SOTA activations feel relatively easy! ). 73. Paul


Well done Colin, congratulations.

Yes, time really does fly by inexorably - it’s been 56 years since I took my amateur radio license exam in 1968, it’s hard to believe.
BTW, At that time I was able to send and receive at 20 wpm without any errors (test duration 5 minutes, flowing text, not just call signs and RST :wink:).


The name was Buzby based on the yellow cartoon bird that featured in many TV adverts made by Post Office Telecommunications from the mid 70s onwards. Buzby name came from the slang expression “to give someone a buzz” meaning to phone them.

And until you mentioned this Phil, I had completely forgotten about the annoying adverts featuring the cartoon. Still they where less irritating than the follow up ads featuring Maureen Lipman as Beattie (as Post Office Telecomms became British Telecoms aka BT). As adverts go they must be considered successful as once you said Busby they all came flooding back, the definition of successful advertising as we’re going back 48 years for some of them :slight_smile:

Interesting that GI4ONL’s pass chit has the signature “Busby” - so does mine, but I took my test at the Aberdeen Harbour Coastguard office. Perhaps it became a generic signature

Congrats Colin. Although I got my technician ticket in the 20th century, I have yet to learn CW; actually I got my technician ticket when the FCC dropped the code requirement. Now as I approach retirement and look forward to spending MUCH more time in the mountains, I am attempting to learn CW specifically for use in the wilderness. Currently I am using “Learn CW Online” and experiencing fairly good progress but was wondering if you (or any others) have input as to approaches that older hams could use to learn something they should have learned when they were much younger :slightly_smiling_face:

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If you’re serious and you can’t find some in-person training with a local club then get onto one of the on-line training courses offered by CWops or LICW.