Left Handed Vibroplex

CW is not yet dead. As a matter of fact, if the current offerings of the telegraph key manufacturers are any indication, it may become as popular as single-sideband.

The traditional mechanical keys are still around and in a variety never available before. But the big new sound on the CW bands comes from the keyers—electronic devices using space-age circuits to make sending easy and more precise.

The electronic keyers require SPDT key action. So. tor the first time in many years, the "Sideswiper" key is in the spotlight.

And there are keyers with features that result, strangely enough, from the popularity of voice-only SSB transceivers.

The new look in CW has brought forth a bewildering array of keys and keyers to suit the purposes of any CW operator. In this article we will describe the relative merits of the

A semi-automatic key by E. F. Johnson. Model 114-520,

different keying methods and list the features of commercial keys and keyers.

Straight keys

The time-honored straight key is universally present in ham shacks and commercial radio rooms. With its round black knob it hasn't changed much since before radio was horn. Unless the FCC changes its mind about code exams it's likely to be around for a long time to come.

It s the only key recommended to the beginner for code practice and for operating on the novice bands. The amateur whose primary interest is in phone operation may never want anything more elaborate.

The E. \ Johnson Co. makes a complete line of straight keys ranging in price from $2.40 to $7.95. The lower priced keys are designed primarily for code practice. They have phenolic bases than can be cracked if screwed too tightly to tlie operating table. rhe more expensive models feature metal bases, smoother bearings and more precise adjustments. Keys are available with shorting switches (a feature important in wire telegraphy but not usually needed by the amateur radio operator) and in different decorative finishes.

The Brown Bros, model ST has a heavy square base that will not tilt under normal keying pressure, t is useful on a glass-topped desk where it would be difficult to screw down a conventional key.

Left. Brown Bros, model UTL srdeswiper has tap- need a complete sideswiper, the UTL can be pur-ped holes on front and bottom for mounting in chased mounted on a square base, custom electronic keyers, Right. For those who

Semi-automatic keys

It's entirely possible to send CW at 30 wpm and above with a Straight key- But it is difficult and soon becomes tiresome. Thus, for many years, operators have favored the ''bug" or semi-automatic key. it makes a string of dots when the lever is pressed to the left. Dashes are made manually by moving the lever to the right. It is a vast improvement over the straight key for sending speeds above 15 wpm.

Although the semi-automatic key is substantially more expensive than the straight key, it stands out as a star performer in the fight against inflation. In 1925 the Vibroplex Co. advertised their "Bug" at $17. Forty years later their "Champion" model sells at $17.95, Other models with jeweled bearings, attractive finishes, and complete with cord and wedge range up to $33,95,

The wedge slips under the circuit closing switch of a straight key (If it has one) so that the semi-automatic key can be attached to the transmitter keying circuit without permanent wiring- It's useful to the commercial operator who takes his own key to work with him but is not generally used by amateurs.

The standard semi-automatic key is for right-handed operators but left-handed models are available.

Electronic keyers

The electronic keyer is the device that sits in the spotlight today. It's truly a product of the age of electronics.

The multivibrators, gates, binary counters and other circuits that came into widespread use with the advent of Radar led to experiments with electronic keyers more than twenty years ago. In the past few years several commercial designs have appeared.

The electronic keyer uses a two-way lever.

Press to the left and it makes a string of dots; press to the right and it makes a string of dashes. But that's not all. Just as a doughnut is not complete without a hole in the center, N'orse code is not complete without proper spacing between the dots and das lies. Electronic keyers form the spaces with their "self-completing" action.

Here's how it works: Press the key to make a dash. Once the key has been lightly tapped the events to follow are temporarily out of the operator's control. The keyer will make a dash and then it will make a space. After the dash and the space are over the operator regains control and can call for the next dot or dash, lis because of this "self-completing" feature that the first try at operating an electronic keyer can be a ¡lightening experience. If the key is not pjessed at the proper times the output is gibberish. But, once the technique is mastered, code spouts out of an electronic keyer with a machine-like precision that is pleasing to the ear. Dots, dashes and spaces are perfectly "weighted," that is, dots and spaces are exactly % as long as dashes.

Hallicrafters' model HA-1 at $79.95 is a typical keyer. It will operate at speeds from 10 to 65 wpm, has the self-completing feature

The Vibroplex "Blue Racer" is typical of the semiautomatic keys. The wedge, in foreground, connects to the station's straight key.
Electrophysics Corporation's "Autronic" key typifies the new generation of sideswipers.

and includes an audio oscillator to monitor sending through headphones or on its self-contained speaker.

Electrophysics Corp. markets a transistorized keyer at ST9.50 with similar specifications, The panel lettering has been rotated 45 so it is readable with the keyer horizontal or set on end.

Sides wipers

The keyers described above require a separate key for their operation. It must have a SPDT action, one contact for dots, another for dashes. Pioneer builders of electronic keys had In make their own. One method was to adjust a semi-automatic key to have continuous closure on the dot side. Another was to place two straight keys back-to-back.

Today, keys designed especially for elec-Ironic keyers are available* Electrophysics Corporations "Autronic" key, $19.95, takes less

The "Autronic" key by Electrophysics Carp. Only 2" high it can be placed on end to save desk space, In its semi-automatic mode dashes are made manually. This mode is used "key down" for transmitter tuning,

space on the operating tabic than either a straight or semi-automatic key.

Brown Bros, model UTL, $10,95, is a key mechanism without a base for mounting on a home-brew keyer. Their interesting model CTL, $18,95, has a straight key and a side-swiper on a single base.

Both Vibroplex and Productive lool make kevs for electronic kevers that are similar in j *

appearance and construction to semi-automatic keys,

SSB keyers

1 lie keys and keyers described above are designed to key the transmitter carrier.

But what about the transmitters that don't have a carrier to key—SSB suppressed carrier transmitters? A few of the popular transceivers have provision for carrier injection so that they can be used for C\V\ Many do not.

Sideband Engineers lias the answer to C\V for the SSB operator in their "Codaptor/' It works this way: Connect an audio oscillator to the microphone jack of a SSB transmitter and out comes a CW signal. Its frequency is above (USB) or below (LSB) the suppressed carrier

Left, The square base and rubber feet of this Brawn Bros, key let it sit on the desk without screws. The double layer knob is known as the it

Navy knob/' Right, An unusual key by Brown Bros. On one base is a key for an electronic keyer and a standard straight key.

Left, The square base and rubber feet of this Brawn Bros, key let it sit on the desk without screws. The double layer knob is known as the it

Navy knob/' Right, An unusual key by Brown Bros. On one base is a key for an electronic keyer and a standard straight key.

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