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Given that it is no longer a license requirement, are there any current statistics available on what percentage of licensed amateur radio operators still learn Morse Code to some degree of proficiency? (e.g. without needing to use a computer decoder) U.S. or Worldwide?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if anyone compiles CW statistics, but listening to the CW portion of a band shows quite a bit of activity. Looking at DX clusters also shows CW and phone activity, so you can draw your own conclusions as to numbers. $\endgroup$ – Ron J. KD2EQS Jan 23 '14 at 15:06
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From my experience, not many. Not many at all.

Learning CW at speeds that facilitate conversation, vs just sending callsigns and signal reports, is, frankly, daunting. I've only been a ham for a few years and I avoided it at first for that very reason. I tried learning it that first year and when I'd hear the 'old' hands banging away at 25+ wpm, I gave up thinking there's NO way.

However, I always end up tuning over to the CW frequencies and there's ALWAYS somebody operating CW no matter the band conditions. So, I've since changed my tune, taken the CWOps course, and and am now practicing everyday so that I can join in. I'm also encouraging all the non-cw hams in my club to join me. Since we're all new to it, I've found quite a few takers. CW is fun, and it seems to embody the spirit of ham radio for me, so I try to impart that to them as well.

So, there are not many new hams using CW, but we can change that. At the very least, lets try to!

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    $\begingroup$ Congratulations, JD! I find the sentiments expressed in your answer to be quite common. There's something attractive about practicing an arcane art, like CW, perhaps because somewhere deep down we suspect we might need it. $\endgroup$ – Brian K1LI Oct 16 '18 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ Might be worth checking (if you can) how many of those "old hands" at 25+ wpm are actually typing on a keyboard and listening with a decoder. If you can copy fast enough, you can tell from the fist -- perfect code at that speed doesn't come from human hands... $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jul 8 at 16:30
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I don't think there is a way to answer this question definitively. In my area (central Maryland, USA), there are three separate clubs that hold monthly exam sessions within an hour of my home. I used two of them to progress through my exams. My club (one of the 3) gave approximately 200 exams last year. I don't know a single new ham that learned CW before they took their exams. Several, myself included, started learning CW afterwards. How many are active? I can't really tell. I would say not many, perhaps 5%? Purely anecdotal information though.

I will say that the "cred" or attitude towards CW is improving now that it's not required. The no code hams feel like it's a cool niche now, not something foisted upon them.

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Good question. I would say that I operate 1/3 CW and 2/3 SSB, but wish that the ratio was the opposite. Reminds me of a joke:

"What's ya got for lunch?" - "Baloney sandwich, and I hate baloney." - "Who makes your lunch?" - "I do."

I like to QSL too, and keep a log. On review of my log, I see that the 1:2 ratio is true.

I wonder what the ratio is with other hams? The ARRL may do some analysis of their LoTW statistics to get a fuller, more accurate picture.

W3TTT

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  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem to answer the question, which is asking about statistics across many operators, not individual reports. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Sep 21 '16 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ Kevin - try reading to the end of my post. $\endgroup$ – Joe Cotton Sep 21 '16 at 18:06
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As others have posted, answers to this question would be hard to find. I would point you towards the SKCC and FISTS membership roles and then do some data analysis comparing SKCC/FISTS members to the age of their license using the FCC database or other resources on-line. Even then, you are likely to capture a lot of older hams who were away from the hobby for decades during career and family time and may have learned CW back in their youth in the hobby days of yore.

I am mostly CW. I do one thing in SSB and that is to QNI into an evening 80-meter net. All other activity is CW. I haven't called CQ in SSB in close to 10 years I think. But, I call CQ in CW almost every day. However, my purpose here is to note that in all of my CW contacts I have not run across a new ham that I know of -- most, if not all, are old codgers like myself. In fact, there are times that now at the age of almost 70 I feel like a youngster compared to the other CW ops I run across some are in their early 90s.

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  • $\begingroup$ For whatever it's worth, though I have yet to make a CW QSO, my SKCC number is 20267, implying roundly twenty thousand members worldwide. How many are new hams, I doubt even the club officers know. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jul 8 at 16:50

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