Saturday, I worked 20m CW for a while. I had an interesting QSO with a guy in Mineral Wells, WV. I heard him calling CQ, and to be honest, his fist really sucked. Even so–being the good FISTS member that I am–I called him and we began the QSO. Well, after the first exchange, he came back, and not only was his fist excellent, he was sending somewhat faster as well.
As it turned out, he was using a straight key for his first transmission, and since he learned to send CW using a keyer, he was really bad at using a straight key. The reason he was trying the straight key–a $200+ model no less–is that he wanted to take part in Straight Key Night, held every New Year’s Eve. That’s quite a switch, as most hams learn to send using a straight key and have the reverse problem of learning how to use a keyer.
After another exchange, I told him to go ahead and use the straight key, and we struggled through another exchange or two before calling it quits. I do hope he sticks with and masters the straight key. As I said, he had an excellent fist with the keyer, and probably could develop one with the key as well. I’ll be looking for him again next time I get on 20m.
That QSO prompted me to try out my new paddle. I built a cable for the paddle that lets me use it as a sideswiper, and even connected it to the rig. I was so bad with it, though, that I went back to the straight key. I’ll have to hook the paddle up to my audio oscillator and practice for a while before getting on the air again.
I also note that my old Heathkit keyer has an input for an external paddle, so I might try hooking it up to the Heathkit. Unfortunately, I have a problem with the Heathkit in that the output doesn’t seem to be switching correctly. I’ll have to dig out the schematics and see if I can figure out what’s wrong with it. In the meantime, though, it does work great for code practice.