Ham Radio News: Morse Code Converter Technology

Using a Morse code converter makes it easier than ever for ham radio operators to translate dots and dashes.

| January/February 1983

  • copthorne macdonald
    Copthorne Macdonald is the inventor of slow-scan television, a method of amateur radio transmission that allows ham operators to both hear and see each other during shortwave broadcasts.
    Beverley Mills Stetson
  • morse code converter - morse code key
    The technology has come a long way since these days. A Morse code converter simplifies transmission and reception.
    Photo by Fotolia/jayfish

  • copthorne macdonald
  • morse code converter - morse code key

A few minutes ago I transmitted an NDR Bulletin, using Morse code. There's nothing special about that, of course, except for the fact that my fingers didn't touch a telegraph key! Instead, they simply tapped the message out on a typewriter-style keyboard. (And soon I won't even have to do that. Once I've built a little more circuitry and written a little more software, the source of these Morse transmissions will be a text file stored in my computer's memory!)

Then, when the bulletin transmission ended, I heard another station calling me. The Morse dits and dabs came whistling out of my receiver's speaker, but I wasn't really listening. Instead, I was watching the message unfold — letter by letter — on a TV screen. Now this sort of morse code converter technology is rapidly becoming commonplace, perhaps, but I was still struck by the wonder of it. It carried me back to that magic moment, years ago, when I first heard the dots and dashes of my own brand-new call sign being sent by a station 100 miles away. I'd like to think that old Sam Morse must have felt a similar awe. (He did, you may recall, inaugurate his first telegraph system with the message, "What hath God wrought?")

Of course, machine-read code is just one example of what's become a widespread phenomenon: Our tried and proven tools are teaming up with microelectronics to do the old jobs better and more easily. Books are still with us, for example, yet today's electronic word processors and typesetters are making them easier to write and to publish. We still weigh things on scales, but solid-state chips are making such tools more accurate and easier to read. And in radio, Morse code retains certain advantages over other modes of transmission, but now microprocessors are helping to erase many of this particular mode's disadvantages.

As many of you know, Morse code (or "CW" as it's often called) continues to be used for a number of reasons. First, it cuts through noise and interference better than do other modes. (You get more miles of transmission distance per watt of transmitter power.) Second, the radio equipment needed to transmit the code is both simpler and less expensive than that required for voice transmission. Finally, Morse retains its place in ham circles because the multinational treaty that established the amateur bands mandates it. (By international agreement, all hams allowed to use the long distance bands must be proficient in the code.)



However, modern technology is making Morse more convenient to transmit and receive, allowing untrained people to use it, and permitting Morse links to interconnect with other data transmission systems and codes. The XITEK ABM-200 circuit board that I recently added to my computer/ham-radio system is a fine example of the new hardware. It performs a wide variety of code conversion tasks. In fact, this was the gadget that converted the ASCII code coming from my computer terminal into Morse code and converted the incoming Morse into ASCII for visual display. It'll also convert the Baudot teletype code to ASCII or Morse, and vice versa — and perform all these tasks over a wide range of transmission rates.

If you've already invested in a computer, the $239 cost of the board probably won't strike you as outrageous. The ABM-200 will, after all, open many new communication doors.






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE






Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard
Free Product Information Classifieds

}