World’s Thinnest Morse Code Touch Paddle

Morse code enthusiasts can be picky about their paddles. After all, they are the interface between the man and the machine, and experienced telegraphers can recognize each other by their “hands”. So even though [Edgar] started out on a cheap, clicky paddle, it wouldn’t be long before he made a better one of his own. And in the process, he also made what we think is probably the thinnest paddle out there, being a single sheet of FR4 PCB material and a button cell battery. This would be perfect for a pocketable QRP (low-power) rig. Check it out in action in the video below.

There’s not much to a Morse code paddle. It could, of course, be as simple as two switches — one for “dit” and one for “dah”. You could make one out of a paperclip. [Edgar]’s version replaces the switches with capacitive sensing, done by the ATtiny4 on board. Because this was an entry in the 1kB challenge, he prioritized code size over features, and got it down to a ridiculous 126 bytes! Even so, it has deluxe features like autorepeat. We’d have to dig into the code to see if it’s iambic.

We’ve seen capacitive touch sensor paddles before, of course. In fact, more than once. But this one is very nicely executed and a beautiful one-piece solution.

A DIY Morse code paddle is a great simple project, and it’s one more part of your radio shack that you built up yourself. Having essentially everything defined by the firmware means that you can customize it to fit your skills and desires.

15 thoughts on “World’s Thinnest Morse Code Touch Paddle

  1. Pretty sure you only need one switch for morse… I learned on a straight key and have sent morse just tapping on the power wire to an oscillator so I am pretty sure that is ‘thinner’ than this contraption.

    1. Aye, true. A wire to the oscillator would be smaller. and you could make some REALLY thing straight keys. Maybe it would be more accurate to call this the thinnest two switch keyer. Some guys can go faster (or it is easier for them in their head) to do one paddle as dit and the other as dah and go from there.

    2. You only need one for morse. However, by having 2 paddles, one for dot and one for dash, you can consistently create dots and dashes. Making it easier for radio operators to interpret and much easier for computers to translate.

    3. Have you ever received Morse code that was sent by tapping on an oscillator’s power wire? Because the startup of the oscillator is transmitted, the code ends up being terribly chirpy. Much better to have the oscillator free running and connect your key to a FET or similar buffer on its output. As for one vs two switches, to each there own. I’m a straight-key guy, but the people who can use iambic paddles love them and can really fly!

  2. “There’s not much to a Morse code paddle.”
    At the ROOT of Functionality, you are correct. However in-reality you are WRONG. As a very experienced Morse operator with experience using myriad forms of Keys and Keyers (both mechanical and electronic), trust-me – you are wrong.
    Don’t belittle/deprecate things you know little to nothing about HaD. Thank You

      1. Thank you for the reply. Addidis are your the Author of the project on HaD.io? (Sorry, but the HaD.is such a MESS when it comes to the UI I can’t tell who the Author is without a LOT of scripting allowed; and even then it is hit-and-miss). If in-fact you included a lot of tuning parameters to adjust the key user-experience, then I must applaud your work. But to be frank HaD.io is too difficult to deal with to delve further.

    1. Dear drone, I assume that the author of this article did not realize the impact of his sentence and I’m sure that he did not intend to offend you. I do not know much about morse code operators and their preferences/requirements but based on previous articles as featured on hackaday I am aware of the fact that a good morse key requires much more material then “just a paperclip”. However I do understand the point that the author is making. And from what I think to know about morse code keys the key presented here does no offer any real feedback, so I can assume that the device presented here does not really qualify as a decent substitute for a real morse key.

      HOWEVER, I certanly see the fun in the project and the ingenuity behind it, so I guess we could say that this project has reached the goal it was trying to achieve.

      While writing this comment I thought of the following absurd sentence:
      “You could easily make a wheel by sawing a slice of a tree trunk, after all a wheel is nothing more then a circle.”

      1. Thanks Jan for the reply. See my above reply to Addidis. I don’t take offense with anything here. I just want to emphasize that the user-experience with a manual Morse key is probably one of the most complex “simple” UI devices to get right in electronic form.

  3. If you put an edge connector on your QRP radio that would be very easy to store out of the way. I’ve never seen an application for capacitive touch that I thought was clever enough to implement. This is nice.

  4. “We’d have to dig into the code to see if it’s iambic” – Electronically, it’s just 2 switches, rather like the other paddle in the video (a Black Widow – a lovely low-budget paddle kit). The iambic keying in the video is done by a different keyer circuit, off-screen, probably built into the radio. EG my Black Widow just connects via 3-core cable to my Elecraft K2 transceiver which has a great iambic keyer built-in (in software).

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