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Since RO's and CW were all but gone by the time I started sailing, I have a question for you.

What style key did you use day to day? Was it a straight key, bug, paddles?

I have a Sailor straight key a captain gave me from one of my old ships, but wondered if that was the way the RO's really pounded brass. I know that in the amateur radio world, most people use paddles.

Thanks
 

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Whatever came with the station (so a straight key) up until mid 70's when I bought an ETM twin paddle electronic keyer, which was (and still is) a nice key.
 

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It seems most UK-trained R/Os were taught on straight keys and used them at sea . US operators were often trained on bugs and continued with those at sea. In the late 1970's electronic keys (paddles) were available, so some operators switched over. A few coast stations objected (I can remember a Greek ship off Cape Town sending very bad CW on a keyer and being shouted at by ZSC). After a few years they became acceptable as operators improved.
A good straight key operator could send at 25 words per minute which was sufficient. Bugs and keyers could go faster.
 

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Just used whatever key was on the ship. Standard key except for one (Greek ex Japan Line O/O) where there was a mechanical bug. Row of dots one side - continuous dash the other. Took a couple of hours on joining to get competent to use it without embarrassing myself.
 

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The only time I have used a bug key was when offered to bash at Armuellesradio when visiting (Tilapa). The C&W (I think) operator commented when I had difficulty regulating the dots "A few more here and there makes no difference".
 

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My old morse lecturer (and Bob Clay’s) told me that only people who couldn’t send on an up and downer, used side swipers. I suspect Ted Whitehead never could use a bug key. I stuck to my old Marconi up and downer and still have it at home.
 

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Yep Ted was a character. I'd been at sea as an engine rating for a couple of years when he taught me Morse but I still learned new swearwords from Ted. :sweat:

I still have a couple of up and downers, but I have to tell you, they're just ornaments now. Give me the twin paddle electronic key every time.

(Pint)
 

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Yep Ted was a character. I'd been at sea as an engine rating for a couple of years when he taught me Morse but I still learned new swearwords from Ted. :sweat:

I still have a couple of up and downers, but I have to tell you, they're just ornaments now. Give me the twin paddle electronic key every time.

(Pint)
Bob - you've become a slave to this modern technology.....[=D] The icon is an old reference to when CW was short for 'Cherubim Wings)
 

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Bob - you've become a slave to this modern technology.....[=D] The icon is an old reference to when CW was short for 'Cherubim Wings)
What other choice was there for a Sparky ?

Smart TV's, computers, the Internet, bikes that go from 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds, 100 watt transceiver that could fit into a shoe box, …. this is my kind of slavery .. B\)
 

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It was always the on board straight key. My PMG test was with side tone, and when I joined a ship without sidetone I ran a cable from TX to RX to provide it. Nowdays I still use a Marconi 365A.

Too many Amateurs send poor morse with paddles; extra dits and run-together characters e.g. CQ NST, NAG is BRIP (name is Brian), and I have been called PDRÜ. Well sent error-free code is a delight to copy. I am not perfect! My spaces between words are too short on this clip.
73, Andrew.
PS sorry about the video, I posted the unedited embarrassing version.
 

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I remember being taught to listen to the clicks when using the old up and down Marconi provided key,which was all I ever used.
 

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A lot of people seem to have the peculiar idea that say a twin paddle electronic key is purely about going faster !!

Now I'll agree a Vibroplex bug for example is quite tricky to slow down, it can be done with various modifications and some extra weight, but that key is like a racehorse and wants to fly. But the electronic key will transmit at whatever speed you like from slow, to fast to very fast.

For me it's great saving was less fatigue, particularly when sending chemical tanker cargo plans (26 tanks, often carrying all kinds of different packets) which often stretched out to several hundreds of words and as you trundled around the islands there would be all types of changes necessitating all kinds of re-transmissions. And of course, once mastered, the Morse is space letter word perfect.

I'm not condemning up and downers, I used them for years. But those who condemn electronic keys as somehow 'inferior' are incorrect in my view.

Bad Morse stems from the operator, not the key.
 

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Used the Marconi 365 key for a few years until I managed to obtain an Elektrix
Bureau key from a ship which had a couple of spares and have used that ever since and still do so today, it is easy to use and as i like a big gap can get up a nice rythm. Old Nobby Clarke on the Karanja taught me to widen the gap as we sent quite a few long messages to ZSD and you didnt tire out as you use your wrist and not nerve-send like a lot of younger R/O's. I believe the "Sparks"in
Bomber Command during the war used all 5 fingers on the key whilst in the aircraft, was almost there myself in the Lincoln Bomber days but opted to return
to a seagoing life instead.
Ern Barrett
 

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I suppose with a straight key where you control every element of a Morse character, you don't need side tone. You have that tactile feedback from the key. It seems Dickensian. But that is what we did . Now with paddles and bugs it is impossible to send without side tone. I challenge anyone to try.
 

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Why would you want to ?

I could usually tell the senders who didn't have a side tone by the state of their morse. Anything but controlled but of course since they couldn't hear it they went blindly on.
 

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I was taught to send on ancient Marconi 365s at the JWMC in Greenock in the early 60s. The PMG tests were without sidetone so you relied on the "feel" of the key and mechanical clicks. Marconi 365s of various vintage were the standard fitment on all the ships that I sailed on.
Later on, as an amateur, I tried using an electronic bug key but didn't get on with that as it upset my wrist movement when I went back to a straight key.
I taught myself to send left-handed on either a single- or twin-paddle key and use a straight key or mechanical bug key -right handed. I'm not as active as I'd like to be these days but, in order of preference:
#1 Straight key - right-handed (Marconi 365 or Lennart Petterson, no sidetone)
#2 Mechanical bug key - right handed (Any Vibroplex)
#3 Electronic key (twin paddle) - left handed (G4ZPY VHS)
#4 Electronic key (single paddle) - left Handed (Whatever works)
Happy days
GWZM
 

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My first ship as a junior was the Empress of Canada which was quite a heavy traffic vessel, then on one run to Montreal we had engine problems and they diverted us to Halifax Nova Scotia, consequently they gave over eight hundred passengers free telegrams so they could notify people that were expecting them and to make alternative arrangements for when they landed.

After sending traffic manually more or less nonstop for hours while on watch I decided to buy a bug key and never regretted it, I used it on all the ships I sailed on and still have it, see my avatar.
 

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Six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Still preferred my Swallow keyer, so much more relaxing.
Still gathering dust in the loft 30+ years later.
Still waiting for the call ("We need key bashers, the sun has fried the satellites " !)
:) ;)
 

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I used whatever the vessel I sailed on was fitted with. The best key for easy operating was a Mckay Marine device which was made from stamped metal and flexed as you depressed it. This allowed for less strain on the wrist. Unfortunately the key was live at 115v above earth, the arm with a bit of insulating sleeve on it and the knob was plastic. Had to be careful though. Working ashore in later life, sending and receiving morse on eight hour shifts an electronic key was the only way to survive!
 
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