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with the recent ITU Conference decision to not require CW testing on an
international treaty basis, there is lots of talk about CW having died.
It seems quite often that those proclaiming its death have a personal
hatred of Morse code and the effort required to learn it. Unfortunately
CW is a subject that cuts deep into the hearts of many hams, either pro
or con and evokes strong emotions. In an effort to cut through the
emotions, I have assembled some actual data to try and convince myself
if CW is really dying or not. This page is the result of my
Let me first state that I like CW and use it quite a bit, but I also use voice and the digital modes. I don't believe that dropping CW testing will kill ham radio as we know it. I also believe that before jumping to conclusions, one should investigate the facts and the data available. That is what I am documenting here.
Based on the data presented
here, it appears premature to announce the death of Morse code on the
amateur HF bands. Instead, there may be an increase in activity in
recent years. Based on various data sources, it appears that the
overall activity on the ham bands is close to evenly split between SSB
and CW, with digital modes accounting for less than 10% of the total
activity. Overall SSB does enjoy about 5% more activity than CW, but
that is not an overwhelming percentage.
Based on the analyses
presented below, it appears that the CW issue in ham radio is often
based on emotion rather than fact. The data do not indicate an overall
decrease in CW activity. The argument being used by CW opponents that
CW is dying seems to have no merit. On the other hand, the argument
that relaxing the CW test requirement to 5 WPM would lead to the
destruction of the Amateur Radio Service does not seem to have merit,
either. The data show that when the code testing was relaxed in 2000,
CW activity remained stable in the following years. Therefore, if more
newer hams started using SSB, the same percentage also started using
CW. I interpret that to mean that most hams will use the mode that
meets their objectives, whether it is CW or not. Of course, there will
always be vocal minorities in both the pro and con CW camps.
Therefore I would recommend that the CW testing requirement be relaxed for access to the HF bands. However, CW testing should not be totally dropped, since there is still a lot of CW activity. I recommend that CW testing be treated as an operating mode for the General Class license to ensure that all amateurs are familiar with CW, but it should not be used as a barrier. Taking the data interpretation one step further, I would conclude that those with access to the HF bands will discover what the DXers already know: CW works and if you want to seriously work DX, then the use of CW is useful.