Breathing New Life Into An Old Key

For most of us who have experimented with Morse code, the oldest key we are likely to have used will have been a piece of military surplus kit from the Second World War era. [Kyle Gabriel] however is a lucky man. His grandfather left him his key-on-board telegraph practice set, a vintage key and telegraph sounder arrangement used to learn Morse code in the days when the telegraph was king. Rather than keep the set merely as an heirloom, [Kyle] set about bringing it up to date by interfacing it to a Raspberry Pi and writing a Morse reader program.

Along the way [Kyle] had to contend with debouncing the switching signal from the key, considering an RC network before settling on a software debounce timer. He provides a brief synopsis of the mechanics of Morse decoding software, and a demonstration of the code in action which you can see in the video below the break.

[Kyle’s] decoding software, beatbybeat, is on GitHub. We can see it will be a useful tool for anyone interested in Morse, or who is writing their own Morse software.

Morse code has featured on these pages more than a few times over the years. Of relevance to this piece are an Arduino decoding Morse code, a more up-to-date practice oscillator with a home-made key, and a couple of other vintage telegraphs reading RSS feeds and reading emails.

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Using a touch sensor as a telegraph key

[Sebastian] is learning Morse code and CW radio, and of course he needed a telegraph key. Instead of using the terribly unergonomic paddle style key, he built a capacitive touch iambic key over the course of a few evenings.

An iambic key usually has two switches. When one switch is closed, it will transmit a ‘dit’. When the other switch is closed, it will transmit a ‘dah’. Instead of using mechanical paddles, [Sebastian] brought his iambic key into the 21st century by using a touch sensor. An ATtiny45 measures the time it takes for a single metal plate to fully charge. It’s the same idea behind the wonderful Arduino CapSense library.

This isn’t the first capacitive-touch iambic key we’ve seen; this little guy is just a pair of metal contacts and resistors that plug right into an Arduino. With an ATtiny45, [Sebastian]’s build is a full-blown iambic telegraph key that plugs right into his CW rig. You can check out the walk through of the project along with [Sebastian] trying out his iambic key after the break.

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Doing it right with a morse code keyboard

Hackaday has seen dozens of Morse code keyboards over the years, but [Hudson] at NYC Resistor finally managed to give that idea the justice it deserves. He built a USB Morse code keyboard with the same type of telegraph key the pros use.

For his project, [Hudson] got his hands on a wonderful iambic paddle that is usually hooked up to CW rigs. Unlike previous Morse keyboards we’ve seen, [Hudson] used iambic paddles, a telegraph key with one lever for dits and another for dahs. Because the dits and dahs are separate electrical connections, it’s extremely easy for the microcontroller – a Teensy – to parse the Morse code and send the correct letter to the computer.

[Hudson] also added some audio feedback for the dits and dahs, and designed a laser-cut enclosure for the Teensy and speaker. Check out the video of the iambic keyer keyboard in action after the break.
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