As I’ve been cleaning up the ‘shack’ and playing around with some of the stuff I’ve collected over the years, I found myself marveling at the advancement a common piece of Ham equipment has gone through.

I recently added a K1EL Winkey USB keyer to my arsenal of contesting tools. It came as a kit and I built it in a matter of a couple hours. It’s a keyer, but it also couples the computer to the Morse Code sending process.

Winkeyer USBWhat’s a ‘keyer?’ It’s a device that helps you send Morse Code, especially faster than you would be able to do with a manual or ‘straight’ key. The common interface to a keyer is a set of ‘paddles’ which are just like a straight key, except two of them are placed back to back and a horizontal motion is used to operate them. Press one paddle, you get dots. Press the other, you get dashes. The keyer generates the stream of dots or dashes as long as you hold the paddle, so you can see a lot less effort is needed. I won’t get into the fine points here of ‘iambic’ operation or differe3nt paddle types. Let’s just say paddles are as collectible as any other key or ‘bug’ and vary widely in quality and price. They’re quite a status symbol to many Hams and preferences of which is best are very much a personal choice.

I have a number of keyers of various sizes and complexity. I plugged in a set of paddles, which I also have quite a few types, into the WinkeyUSB for testing. It performs perfectly, but the whole point of the Winkey is to NOT plug in a paddle! The reason I bought it is so that I can let the computer do the sending during contests. The contest logging software sends the information – callsign, exchange, my call, etc. – to the Winkeyer and it keys the radio just as if I had done it manually. No, better, actually. Continue Reading…