Your first CW QSO

You’ve been practising your Morse for a little while now and it’s been hard work. Now someone has suggested you try a live QSO on air and all you want to do is run and hide until they go away! Don’t panic; your friends at LIDS are here to help.

Start by finding someone to help you. You can do this by tweeting your request for a QRS sked, and add the hashtag #lids for good measure. You’ll probably be inundated with offers. Arrange a mutually convenient time on a band you can both work that will give you a good chance of success. Also give them an idea of how slowly you want them to send to you. Be realistic; few things are more discouraging than trying to copy Morse that is too fast. Stay in your comfort zone.

Here are a few hints and tips for when it comes to the actual sked:

  • Start by finding and exchanging on Twitter a mutually clear frequency.
  • If your radio has a narrow CW filter, use it. You already know the exact QRG so eliminating as much adjacent interference as you can will make copy easier and more relaxing.
  • Arrange for your sked partner to contact you rather than you making the first move. They can also take care of ensuring the frequency is clear (QRL?).
  • Listen out for “<yourcall> <yourcall> DE <theircall> <theircall> KN”.
  • Take a deep breath and relax.
  • Don’t worry about messing up. You are working a friend, and your mistakes, hesitations and extended silences will be met with patience and understanding.
  • Don’t try to send faster than you are able. Take your time, think about each character you are going to send before you send it, even if that means taking a pause while you compose it in your head.
  • You may find it helpful to keep a QSO template or crib sheet of standard exchanges in front of you, so that you don’t get lost or forget what to say.
  • Remember: you are not in a contest and there are no standards to attain.
  • If you make a mistake in sending, pause, breathe, and send it again.
  • Don’t worry that your contact will be critical of poor sending or run out of patience. Quite the opposite. Like a parent watching their child take its first steps and then take a tumble, they will be nothing less than thrilled at hearing you make your first dits and dahs on the air.
  • If the other person is sending too fast, send ‘QRS’. There’s no need to pad it out or explain why, simply put it back to them to send again at a speed you can manage.
  • If you get really stuck, use Twitter’s direct message facility as a talk-back channel.

When you’ve finished, wait for that adrenaline high – you’ve just made your first CW QSO – well done! Make sure you tell the world via Twitter; the congratulations will come flooding in, and rightly so. Don’t forget to thank your contact, and ask them for constructive feedback. And then set up another sked!

73 ES GL.