CW is, to me, a fascinating mode to operate and has become my favorite mode. It is a link back to the very beginnings of this hobby. Learning Morse Code is a challenge, and one that I am truly enjoying.

I’ve compiled a few references in this section of my web site that I hope you will find useful. The references include common Morse Code abbreviations, prosigns and procedural signals, Q–Codes, and links to other sites to help you to learn the Code. I might even throw in a little bit of the history of Morse Code and CW.


I think that it may be beneficial to define a couple of terms related to CW. Mainly because some people use certain terms interchangeably, even though that is inaccurate.

Continuous Wave; While some people tend to equate it with Morse Code, CW is more properly a mode of operation in which a continuous wave is modulated by turning it off and on.
Morse Code
Morse Code is an encoding method that is often used with CW to provide the on/off and timing. Morse Code can also be used to modulate light in the same way.
Iambic Key
A purely mythological item that supposedly enables one to send Morse Code. What is usually meant is double paddle coupled to a keyer.
Double Paddle
This is what most people mean by “iambic key”. Consists of two opposing paddles that move towards each other. When plugged into a keyer, one paddle is set to send dits (dots), while the other is set to send dahs (dashes).
Single Paddle
Cousin to the double paddle, the single paddle, as its name implies, only has one paddle. Moving the paddle in one direction results in a dit or a dah, moving in the other direction results in a dah or a dit. Which is which depends on how the paddle is wired up and how the keyer is configured. Like its cousin the double paddle, the single paddle needs to be plugged into a keyer to function. The keyer can either be internal to the radio, or external as a separate device. Since this device is very similar to a side-swiper (see below), it can be wired up and operated as a side-swiper.
The keyer provides the timing of dits and dahs for single and double paddles. This timing is iambic, a reference to iambic meter in poetry. So it is the KEYER that is iambic NOT the paddles/key.
Straight Key
This is the classic telegraph key that nearly everyone recognizes and associates with Morse Code transmission, and my favorite type of key to use. The key moves in an up and down motion, with the length of time it is in the down position determining whether a dit or a dah is sent. The timing is entirely determined by the operator.
Side–Swiper or Cootie
Probably the easiest way to think of this key is as the horizontal version of the Straight Key, its motion being side–to–side rather than up and down. Aside from that detail, it functions the same way a Straight Key does.
Semi–Automatic Key or Bug
Somewhat similar to the Side–Swiper, the motion of a Bug is side–to–side, but only the length of the dah is determined by how long the operator presses the paddle against the contact. The dit length is determined by a pendulum and spring assembly, resulting in the semi–automatic designation.