Some say that Morse code is the original digital communications technique. That being the case, isn’t the combination of Morse code and the Internet a natural combination? Some people seem to think so, namely MRX Software of Australia.
They have several different products, include a Morse code trainer and a PC-based spectrum analyzer (or analyser as they spell it there), but perhaps the coolest is the CW Communicator, or CWCom for short. Working somewhat like EchoLink does for voice communication, CWCom enables anyone with a computer to communicate with Morse code over the Internet. And just like EchoLink, CWCom is free.
To use CWCom, you have to first download and install the program. This is a very straightforward process. I have the program running on an old Windows98 laptop. Next, you have to decide how to “key” the computer. CWCom can be configured to receive input from a straight key or paddles using either the joystick port or serial port, or you can use the down arrow of your keyboard as the “key.” You can also type directly to the program, and it will translate the characters you type to Morse code.
I chose to make a cable that allows me to connect either my straight key or my Bencher paddle to my laptop’s serial port. I did try using the down arrow key as a straight key, but that feature didn’t seem to work on my computer.
If you use paddles, you can configure the program to act as if the paddles are connected to an iambic keyer. This feature works very nicely. You perform all of the setup with dialogue boxes, and it’s very straightforward and quick to do.
Once you have your key or paddles connected and the program configured properly, you connect to one of the channels on the CWCom server. There are thousands of channels available, but only once in the past few days have I seen more than two channels occupied. Currently, nearly everyone meets on either channel 1000 or channel 100. To find out who’s on, you simply click one of the function keys, and the program queries the server and displays a table listing the people logged onto the server and the channels they’re on.
Who can you talk to on CWCom? Well, over the past couple of days I’ve had contacts with a half dozen CWCom users. Most of them, obviously, are hams, but there are a few users who do not have a license. Of the hams on CWCom, many are from the UK. I guess it’s the Commonwealth connection.
I hope to use it to help my code class students “get on the air,” so to speak. I figure that once they know the letters and numbers, we can get on one of the CWCom channels and go as slow as we need to. I also think that this would be a great medium for the FISTS Code Buddy program. Using CWCom, anyone who’s volunteered to be a Code Buddy, can be one no matter what kind of radio equipment they have.
If you’re at all interested in operating Morse code, give CWCom a try. We could certainly use more operators, and it’s a lot of fun.