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When I was ten years old, a friend of my father's, George McCullough, K6JI tried to get help me get my Novice ticket. I found the theory easy, but the code hard. George made me a nice practice oscillator with a key and morse code chart on a board. After a while I could send like crazy but could never receive any good at all. In the end, I never did take the test and it always bothered me.

Now it is 30 years later, I am in my forties and have a family. I am also "between jobs" and this gave me a chance to learn the code. I got my Technician license in 2001, but that took less than a week of study and I never used it. (I always felt the real "fun" of Ham radio was long-distance HF.) Even as I began to study I wan't sure I would ever go on the air, I just wanted to finish something I had started many years ago.

The personal computer gave me an advantage I didn't have when I tried to learn this before, in that I could be drilled with perfect code and never memorize what was coming next. (George had given me a set of Farnsworth's Learning The Radio Code records in 1969, and once I memorized what was sent they were no longer useful.) I used NuMorse Pro to study, because all the Linux, DOS and Mac programs looked like rubbish, and if I was going to be on the PC I wanted a Win32 program. NuMorse is both powerful and solid, and Tony Lacy, the author, is very responsive. My only complaint is that the program has a goofy interface that scatters the controls for various functions over many windows. This design requires you to learn the internal data-flow of the program and develop a "mental model" of its interior before you can use it effectively. The manual recognizes this and provides a diagram and check-lists to help, but a re-designed UI for this comprehensive engine would make an unbeatable program. (Tony is in the UK, I think this sort of fiddly love of detail is a cultural thing -- or a geek engineer ham thing!)

I studied for 10-20 minutes each morning with NuMorse for about 6 weeks and took and passed the General test in early June 2002. I was so nervous during the code test the pencil kept shaking. I tried to joke about this with my examiners -- they were sympathetic, but they didn't laugh! Fortunately, I had over-trained and got most the message without error. Since I had enough consecutive letters of good copy I didn't have to answer the fill-in-the-blank questions. Whew!

A co-worker gave me an old Kenwood TS-520 and soon I was on the air making nervous, very slow, CW QSOs on 40m. Funny thing is after running from CW all these years it is the one mode I really like. Go figure.

Thanks for reading.