Bug Keys

Shipbuilder
18th May 2008, 19:41
Whilst putting my last entry in, I was reminded of bug keys. I know they were often frowned on by surveyors for some unknown reason. I was Ok on a hand-key from 1961 until about 1966. By that time, I was 4th in RMS WINDSOR CASTLE. The enormous amount of radio traffic became a real strain & I never did like those dreadful Marconi keys with the ball-races, thick barrells & ridiculous "handles." Most R/0's would drool over them with strange statements such as "perfectly balanced!" How could they be balanced with a spring in the end? How I longed for the old Siemens simple key with a decent handle & no frills. My morse detriorated rapidly aboard WINDSOR CASTLE with Portishead often coming up with statements such as "You are slurring your dots, get the chief." That only made me worse. Chief wouldn't let me get a bug key "Too much to go wrong in it." When I asked why we didn't go back to spark transmitters if we were so concerned about complicated gear, I was told to "sit down & shut up!" Eventually, he had a trip off & the 2nd went up to chief for a voyage (I was still 4th). Our new chief (ex 2nd) was as fed up with it as I was & on arrival Cape Town, sent me ashore to Hamrad to get a Japense bug key. I was using it within days & ever after, sending morse became a pleasure. When permanent chief came back, he caught me on the bug the first night out. He stood behind me for a while puffing at his pipe & said , "that's a great improvement, Wilson, don't know why you didn't get one earlier!"
Biggest hiccup was when 3rd R/O dropped it & bust paddle off it last night of voyage. We had delayed arrival & awkward passenger wanted to sent telegram as we steamed up to the berth. Fortunately, 2nd took pity on me & sent it for me!

Following repair with araldite, I continued to use it until 1977 when I upgraded to a Vibroplex that I still have.

Sorry to be so long-winded - any other bug key fans about.

PS
I always had to hid it in Cape Town when Mr. Fairlie (surveyor) came aboard.

Bob

mikeg
18th May 2008, 20:30
- any other bug key fans about.

PS
I always had to hid it in Cape Town when Mr. Fairlie (surveyor) came aboard.

Bob

Absolutely. I always took two fully automatic keys with me as I had to have a backup in case of an internal ic failure or some other component thats not available on board. I found that heavier radio traffic was no longer a strain and I hated using a conventional but did occasionally just to keep my hand in.
It was much easier on more complex texts - e.g. on one ship I had to send long japanese texts transcribed to english phonetics. It was also a breeze sending OBS messages. I never found any problem from surveyors just so long as the conventional key was connected. Marconi kindly sent me a couple of their key jack plugs free of charge even though I wasn't a Marconi man.. but I suppose they may have charged the shipowner without me knowing (==D)
Yep, bug keys made my life a lot easier. My first bug was semi-automatic and was very good but the hallulah moment was when I first got a fully auto keyer with selectable memory for hands free calling.. superb!!!
Mike

K urgess
18th May 2008, 20:58
I bought my Vibroplex on Guam of all places.
The attached shows it attached to my PC for a bit of morse practice.
It's all SN's fault. [=P]
It needs a good clean 'cos it's been knocking about in the garage or loft for years.
The 365EZ and it are connected across the left button on an old wireless mouse and used with the Morsemail program I've mentioned elsewhere.
After all these years I've found the 365EZ very tiring but that's possibly due to lack of use of the wrist muscles and having forgotten how to adjust it properly. The bug is easier to use but the devil to get used to again.

I used to prefer the old 365B clunker but they're like rocking horse manure and mucho diniero when you do find one.
I disagree and found that you could "balance" them quite nicely for your habitual key pressure. They were also easier to grip if you had been taught that method.
I tried the fully automatic bugs on a mate's ham gear once but couldn't get used to it. I suppose over time I could've cracked it but thought it was a bit impersonal and disguised your "hand" too heavily so I never acquired one.
When I've had a bit more practice I'll post an mp3 file of my crappy morse on each of them. (EEK)

Cheers
Kris

athinai
18th May 2008, 23:30
A blast from the past, I still have my old Vibroplex, and I use it on Ham Radio. Its still alive after all those years.

Rgds to All Side Swipers.

Keckers
19th May 2008, 07:27
Yeah got one in Yoko or Kobe and had a bit of a job getting it wired up - but managed eventually using the internal relay. Fabulous once you got used to it - which was pretty quick. Ended up giving it to my cousins husband who was a radio ham from Aberdeen, Scotland.

Shipbuilder
19th May 2008, 07:36
I passed both 2nd & 1st class using one of those big Marconi keys, but it was an effort & I never liked them. Those small, simple Siemens/AEI keys suited me much better, but as far as I was concerned, nothing could match the Vibroplex that I still have.
Bob

docgk
19th May 2008, 08:24
There is no doubt that any form of 'bug' key ( Vibroplex trade mark was a bug of some sort!) really cuts the effort and fatigue. I owned and used a Vibroplex at sea. It was semi-automatic and you made your own dashess while the dots were produced by a vibrating spring loaded flexible steel bar. Very reliable. I then switched to a fully automatic electronic bug bought in Japan. It took a bit of practice but soon rewarded effort. I never had any complaints by super/surveyors. Possibly this was because I wired in parallel with the 'clunker' - but I never removed it or made any attempt to disguise it. I became totally converted and still use one today on amateur radio. I remember that US CG stations like NBA etc all used bug keys exclusively. Also I can recall commercial stations like WCC ( Chatham) and WSL ( Amagansett) having operators using bugs.
Who can deny that gentle finger and thumb movements are better than tennis elbow or ******* wrist?
(expecting a response from traditionalists!)

mikeg
19th May 2008, 09:56
Does anyone remember using a knife as a semi-automatic key?
You clamped a knife blade under the knob and flicked it to get the dits, to adjust the sending speed you increased or decreased the blade length.
I met a couple of american radio men who were very profficient in using the 'knife'

gwzm
19th May 2008, 13:42
I never used a bug key at sea - just the ubiquitous Marconi 365. After I got my amateur licence I started using a twin-paddle electronic key but found that upset my ability to send on the straight key. I now use both up/down keys and bug keys right handed and electronic keys left handed (I'm naturally right handed). I don't get on the air as much as I'd like these days but enjoy using a Vibroplex when I do.

All the best,

John/gwzm

PS I have a rubber bung stuck in the microphone socket on my amateur rig and don't know if I could find the microphone if I need it! CW4ever.

Tai Pan
19th May 2008, 15:46
bug keys are for nancies. marconi 365 keys were used by men.

Gareth Jones
19th May 2008, 16:08
bug keys are for nancies. marconi 365 keys were used by men.

Yeah ! and wrists like popeye !

hawkey01
19th May 2008, 17:08
John G - sorry but its OK on a handkey for awhile but try sending thousands of groups of code or figures then the bug/electronic is a must.

I liked the handkey but it was just not a practical option when working for hours on HF. My first key was a combination Japanese beast I think it was a Katsumi with a 12v supply or mains. It could be used as either a bug or fully auto. A fabulous key but it eat batteries at a rate. When we had the new station (GKA) there were no power points available so it had to go. I mourned its loss but life was quieter without the clack of the relays. Had various Japanese bugs and also used one of my colleagues Vibroplex on many occasions - the Rolls Royce of bugs. Then there was the German twin paddle auto key - I am sure you know the one but the name eludes me. Finally and I still have it an auto key produced by one of my colleagues which was excellent.
At GKA we had to take a test on either bug or auto key before we were allowed to use them on air and the working points were only fitted with PO handkeys. They were excellent. When the new station was built we had auto keys fitted to all points - they were of the Japenese queeze variety. Most of us had our own personnel keys, so there was a wide range of products on view. Latterly the German key was the most popular. On of my colleagues from GLD did have a hacksaw blade key (similar to a knife I suppose) and he was just an ace with it.

Hawkey01

Shipbuilder
19th May 2008, 19:22
The chief on WINDSOR CASTLE often used to refer to my bug key as "your crutch," although in a joking manner. I also remember the day dawning when decimal coinage came in. By that time I was 2nd, & was all ready with my calculator. How easy the accounts suddenly became. "Another crutch, Wilson," he declared. I then challenged him to a race with the accounts "without crutches." He thought this a huge joke as in all the five years we sailed together he never made a mistake in the accounts (it was always me) & he was lightning fast. In our appropriate halves of the radio office (Me in W/T, him in R/T) at about 0730, the test began - I placed my calculator before him & then said to him "now take off your glasses." "I can't see properly without them," he said. "No crutches," I answered & that was the end of the contest. My bug key & calculator were never again criticised!
Bob

RO Vintage
19th May 2008, 20:59
Hello

I Picked Up My Bug Key In "Kobe" But Spent About 2 Months Before I Plucked
Up Courage To Fire It Up. My First QSO Was Bombay VI,,,,,,, Call Sign Fading
Into The Years. Got No Qsd So Called GKB With MSg, Asked Him Any QSD
But He came Back With OK.
Anyway We All Know That GKB Used A Bug Key With A Good Sidetone, No
Secrets Anymore.

Ro Vintage George (Ex Mimco 22271)

Keckers
20th May 2008, 06:28
I think my "electronic bug key" was a Katsumi or somesuch. Could be set for full auto or semi-auto (always used full auto) and was in a kinda brown painted metal box. Fabulous to use. Didn't look anything like those horrible Marconi ones.

Ron Stringer
20th May 2008, 06:48
Does anyone know what type of key was used on Russian stations? They always seemed to go at a hell of a lick.

john strange
20th May 2008, 07:30
Whilst putting my last entry in, I was reminded of bug keys. I know they were often frowned on by surveyors for some unknown reason. I was Ok on a hand-key from 1961 until about 1966. By that time, I was 4th in RMS WINDSOR CASTLE. The enormous amount of radio traffic became a real strain & I never did like those dreadful Marconi keys with the ball-races, thick barrells & ridiculous "handles." Most R/0's would drool over them with strange statements such as "perfectly balanced!" How could they be balanced with a spring in the end? How I longed for the old Siemens simple key with a decent handle & no frills. My morse detriorated rapidly aboard WINDSOR CASTLE with Portishead often coming up with statements such as "You are slurring your dots, get the chief." That only made me worse. Chief wouldn't let me get a bug key "Too much to go wrong in it." When I asked why we didn't go back to spark transmitters if we were so concerned about complicated gear, I was told to "sit down & shut up!" Eventually, he had a trip off & the 2nd went up to chief for a voyage (I was still 4th). Our new chief (ex 2nd) was as fed up with it as I was & on arrival Cape Town, sent me ashore to Hamrad to get a Japense bug key. I was using it within days & ever after, sending morse became a pleasure. When permanent chief came back, he caught me on the bug the first night out. He stood behind me for a while puffing at his pipe & said , "that's a great improvement, Wilson, don't know why you didn't get one earlier!"
Biggest hiccup was when 3rd R/O dropped it & bust paddle off it last night of voyage. We had delayed arrival & awkward passenger wanted to sent telegram as we steamed up to the berth. Fortunately, 2nd took pity on me & sent it for me!

Following repair with araldite, I continued to use it until 1977 when I upgraded to a Vibroplex that I still have.

Sorry to be so long-winded - any other bug key fans about.

PS
I always had to hid it in Cape Town when Mr. Fairlie (surveyor) came aboard.

Bob

G'day Bob shipbuilder. If you were R/O on the Windsor 1961/66 you may remember me as assistant officres steward and officers steward in charge Bob Rae. Bill Forde was frig engineer, Murphy senior second engineer and Abercrombie chief engineer. Bob Kerr was first officer and went on to be master some years later. Oakley was skipper for some of that time. Your posting brought back some memories of great times.

Tai Pan
20th May 2008, 09:44
I see your point, but bug keys all sounded the same. it a well known fact that operators using proper keys could be recognised by their style, and it was nice to imagine the guy at the other end. I also have to say that some of them would have been better mixing concrete. I still use a 365D marconi key, can still send at 20,s, and I am ancient. cant write at 20 though but still can read it. I never sailed on P&O or Orient so would not know about bug keys and swords.

andysk
20th May 2008, 10:03
..... I always had to hid it in Cape Town when Mr. Fairlie (surveyor) came aboard.

Fairlie - he used to come on board the fridge ships every trip on the first and last day in Cape Town for a chat and a sort of survey. I remember him telling me on more than one occasion to hide any contraband in the transmitter PA stage, because the rummageers didn't like to risk going in there !

Pleasant chap, wonder what happened to him ....

King Ratt
20th May 2008, 13:45
My morse instructor at college used to say "don't get into bug keys" they are for those who can't use a proper up and down key!

K urgess
20th May 2008, 13:58
I was quite happy using a Marconi clunker until I sailed on my first VLCC. The stores messages ahead were a right royal pain.
A couple of trips later I spotted a Vibroplex in a shop window on Guam while nursing tanker elbow from too many code groups and snapped it up. The only one on the island. My only regret is that I didn't keep the box.
I didn't use it all the time preferring to be recognised by my "hand" when doing ship QSOs or calling on 500.
Long sessions of calling on HF it came in handy though and of course those bloody code groups by the thousand. [=P]

Keckers
20th May 2008, 15:02
I was quite happy using a Marconi clunker until I sailed on my first VLCC. The stores messages ahead were a right royal pain.
A couple of trips later I spotted a Vibroplex in a shop window on Guam while nursing tanker elbow from too many code groups and snapped it up. The only one on the island. My only regret is that I didn't keep the box.
I didn't use it all the time preferring to be recognised by my "hand" when doing ship QSOs or calling on 500.
Long sessions of calling on HF it came in handy though and of course those bloody code groups by the thousand. [=P]

I am the ultimate slacker - so used the "bug" all the time. Slick and without substace - thats me!(Thumb)

ChasD
20th May 2008, 15:49
My morse instructor at college used to say "don't get into bug keys" they are for those who can't use a proper up and down key!

I'm with you King Ratt ! I've tried the bugs at various times , electronic and the semi - auto vibrating spring thingy's. But gimme the old up 'n down steam job any day ! Mebbe I'm just a traditionalist relic of the past !

Keckers
20th May 2008, 16:00
The Katsumi key I used - the biz.

mikeg
20th May 2008, 16:33
The Katsumi key I used - the biz.

Interesting, it's got the same casework as the Heathkit auto keyer Model HD-1410.

Mike

mikeg
20th May 2008, 16:43
The Katsumi key I used - the biz.

My biz below...

hawkey01
20th May 2008, 16:44
Kerkers,

just like the ones we had fitted at GKA. Seem to think they were Brown, no doubt made by one manufacturer and sold to everyone to put their names on - like Mikes Heathkit.


Hawkey01

R651400
21st May 2008, 17:19
Anyone who says you can't customise a bug key to suit your needs hasn't heard Greek-style morse in the old days. Elongated dashes and slurred dots was the norm.
Japanese bugs were made by a company called Dentsu Seiki (sic) in a black plastic case with clear perspex cover and single paddle without the thumb knob. I bought mine in Shimoneseki in '58 and found it as good as a Vibroplex but losing a bit of dot "weight" depending which side the ship rolled.

Peter Eccleson
25th May 2008, 17:10
Just sold my two old Vibroplex keys on Ebay. One went to Portugal. Both collectable these days and got a good price for them.
Faithful servants but proved a bit of an issue when trying to interface to Marconi equipt through a console with rear contact de-sense. Needed to mess about with a pcb and relay.
Cheers

mikeg
25th May 2008, 18:49
Just sold my two old Vibroplex keys on Ebay. One went to Portugal. Both collectable these days and got a good price for them.
Faithful servants but proved a bit of an issue when trying to interface to Marconi equipt through a console with rear contact de-sense. Needed to mess about with a pcb and relay.
Cheers

De-sense was also a wee issue with powered auto and semi-auto keyers as well. I just built in a relay powered by the keyer to provide de-sense, as shown below on my Heathkit autokeyer

R651400
25th May 2008, 19:00
De-sense was also a wee issue with powered auto and semi-auto keyers as well. I just built in a relay powered by the keyer to provide de-sense, as shown below on my Heathkit autokeyer
Accepted we had to do our morse test sans sidetone. Mimco's receiver desensitisation through the key back contacts, all well and good if you were sending and receiving on the same frequency but apart from that as useful as the two spots on my chest.
I never came across any gear in my time that offered a reasonable sidetone and wonder if it ever improved.
Worse was RCA 5U console with a keying relay that clacked so bad it kept the mates awake in adjacent cabins.

radiotech
26th May 2008, 00:09
Hi all
Bug key stories ! I knew from the beginning morse was my weak point so onto my first ship I took a home made (not by me) valve double paddle key.
I think it had a couple of ECC83's in it and it was a monster. First ship was ITT radio station with ST1400 (luxury/bliss - and more stories later !) plugged in my valve bug and immediately blew up the transmitter ! See one side of the bug was earthed, but keying the ST1400 was in the supply line to the MO, I found out later !
However being a good techy, analysed the problem (it basically blew up PSU for MO) ordered bits and repaired the ST1400. The valve bug of course got the float test (wish I'd kept it) and got a Katsumi in R'dam I think. Still got it and it was/is a joy to use.
In later days had engine room data (mostly numbers with odd letter) to send;
remember sending to KFS (San Fransico) he said QR(send faster - forgotten)
sent as fast as I could 30-35's and he just replied 'R' - amazing !

R651400
26th May 2008, 05:34
Before the Katsumi model with memories above, I bought their original el-key around '67. A simple two transistor multivibrator for dots and dashes with transistor tx switching. It was total crap like a lot of things from that part of the world till they get their sums right.

docgk
26th May 2008, 09:52
QRQ - Send faster
QRS Send slower

radiotech
26th May 2008, 09:54
Thanks Docgk - that saved me getting the handbook out !

Peter Eccleson
29th May 2008, 11:12
(==D) Does anyone remember QLF??????

K urgess
29th May 2008, 11:15
I had enought trouble with the Rs, Ss, Ts, and Us etc.
My morse always was of that left-footed quality but they were usually too polite to point it out. (Jester)