Related to this question, but using humans, and in an actual QSO, not lab conditions:

Is there a record for QSO QRQ speed? And, if so, what is the record for the highest non-automated over-the-air CW/Morse Code WPM rate?

And, if so, are there separate speed records for keyer, vs. bug vs. straight key?


3 Answers 3


According to this book (1993):

  • Ted R. McElroy received just over 75 WPM in 1939
  • Harry A. Turner sent 35 WPM using a hand key in 1942 (using Continental code, believed to be equivalent to about 50 WPM in American Morse)

Guinness seems to think that further improvements have been made:

The Guinness World Records' record for the Fastest speed for a morse code transmission was set by Andrei Bindasov (Belarus), who successfully transmitted 216 Morse code marks of mixed text in one minute.

However, the Guinness site also lists a completely different set of individuals for "morse code sent and received":

Les Edwards using morse code sent the prescribed 160 character message to Ray Carter. Ray received the message by a morse code receiver and then typed it onto a piece of paper using an old fashioned typewriter in 1 minute and 8 seconds on the set of Guinness World Records at Seven Network Studios, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on 27 August 2005.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The first one is talking about marks, i.e., individual dots and dashes. So it's more or less consistent with the second, depending on how many marks there are in an average character. $\endgroup$
    – Pete NU9W
    Jan 24, 2014 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ @PeteNU9W Right, but it's two separate categories anyway (one for an individual, one for a sender/receiver pair). $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Jan 25, 2014 at 4:57

There are no official records for actual on-air contacts that I know if and it would be extremely difficult to establish them because (unlike at HST competitions where a team of judges is watching the competitor) it's impossible to detect cheating and there are no clear rules how to measure the speed.

There are some clubs dedicated to high speed CW operating without keyboards, namely the High Speed Club (HSC), Very High Speed Club (VHSC), Super High Speed Club (SHSC) and finally the Extremely High Speed Club (EHSC). The conditions to join these clubs are to receive a recommendation from existing members for Morse contacts without the help of decoders or encoders (other than standard keyers) at speeds of 25 wpm, 40 wpm, 50 wpm and 60 wpm respectively (125, 200, 250 and 300 characters per minute).

While the "basic" HSC speed of 25 wpm is something that many hams can easily achieve, at 40 wpm the air is getting quite thin: The VHSC has 421 members, SHSC 186 and EHSC 114.

So there are some hams on the air who can send and receive at 60 wpm (at these speeds, the sending is the limiting factor for most operators - there are numerous hams who have shown that they can do head-copy at speeds of up to 100 wpm!) with a paddle (no keyboard).

Why is the official Guinness record (as cited in another answer, 216 letters per minute by Andrei Bindasov) so much lower than 60 wpm?

Two major differences:

  • Those 216 letters were real sent characters, not measured by the PARIS standard. When you use completely random letters (the record was done at a HST championship with random 5 letter groups), 216 letters real are approximately 260 characters according to PARIS (52 wpm) due to the different distribution of character lengths.
  • At the HST competition you have to transmit one minute of random 5 letter groups from a sheet of paper you have never seen before, which is more difficult than sending plain text in a language of your choice. If you make an error and have to repeat a group, the repetition of the wrong group does not count as additional sent letters.

In on-air contacts you may make mistakes which you don't even bother to correct, because an extra dit here or there will not make a difference for the receiving party. So comparing on-air contacts with HST competitions is comparing apples and oranges.

Bottom line: Amateur radio Morse code contacts with manual keyers (not keyboards) at around 60 wpm are well documented.


Back in my pre-novice days, Harry Turner was one of my elmers. I did not know anything about his record setting feat. He never talked about it. His shack had telegraph sounders which, using the audio out from his rcvr and a device he made would allow them to rattle along using the railroad or continental code.

He hosted a net on 7040 kHz each A.M. at 9:30. Retired RR telegraphers from all over would participate, using continental code. As required by FCC rules they would stop every ten minutes, switch to international Morse and “roundhouse” I.D. Without a break they would go back to continental code. Each sounder by the way, had its own pitch according to its construction. I know he had a couple of speed keys, (bugs), but I never saw him use one. That was in 1959-60. KF9F

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Rich, I edited your post to not be in all upper-case, I hope you don't mind. Technically your post doesn't answer the question, but I'm not about to down-vote you for posting an anecdote about someone who may no longer be with us, and who helped advance the state of the art. Thanks for sharing your memories. $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Dec 6, 2021 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ This kind of post should really be in Ham Shack, as it's not an answer. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2021 at 15:51

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