the application is a bit outdated, the lesson presented in this article
about taming the chirps and thumps of keying Morse code via pulse shaping
techniques is still useful today. While fully tamed commercial keys
and keying circuits are available that require no technical knowledge
of how they work or how to fine tune their operation, there are still
many more older units operating that might need some tweaking. This
is part 3 of a multi-issue article, so a couple references to nonexistent
illustrations are not typos. Unfortunately, I have not yet acquired
those previous two issues.
See all available
vintage Radio News
Remedies for Poor Notes and Key Clicks
Fig. 1 - Plate current during key clicks.
The author shows the effectiveness of various key-filter circuits by
means of oscillographs
Key clicks and thumps are produced when
suddenly applying a potential to a circuit which causes the current
to build up immediately to a maximum value. They may also be produced
when the circuit is opened if the current falls very quickly to zero.
If inductance is inserted in the circuit, a time "lag" of the building
up will result and eliminate or decrease this undesirable effect on
closing the circuit. A combination of capacity and resistance will eliminate
or bring to a minimum this interference quality when the key is being
opened. Figure 1, Cases 1, 2 and 3, illustrate roughly some different
When no "lag" circuit is used upon closing the
key, the current suddenly rises to its maximum value and quickly drops
to zero when the key is released. This condition is represented in Case
1 of Figure 1. When suitable inductance is inserted in series with the
key, upon opening and closing the circuit the "lag" effect is produced
and Case 2 is the pictorial illustration. If it becomes necessary to
suppress arcing between the key contact points by means of a condenser
and a resistance in series and shunting the key or both the key and
inductance, the arrangement will give an exponential decrease of current
when the key is opened. This is also a time "lag" effect and is shown
in Case 3.
By placing a choke coil on each side of the key, a tapering effect
at each end of the signal is produced as shown at g and m in Figure
2. In the wave, hg, the beginning shows a spurious oscillation, but
this is due to the relay which did the keying. Its spring was not adjusted
properly and therefore relay "chatter" resulted. The choke coil effect,
however, can be seen from the line drawn at h, The "chatter" again appeared
at cc, and by comparing it with that at the beginning of the signal
hg, we see that both are alike.
The dotted line b also shows
effect of the choke coil. Note the constancy of the wave's amplitude
and frequency at f. The "lag" effect at g is good, but it would be better
if its duration were, say, about .008 second instead of .014 second.
Figure 3 shows an oscillogram of a series of dots sent at a
high rate of speed. Circuit conditions are a little different from those
just discussed. That is, the resistance in series with the condenser
shunting the key is now replaced by an inductance. Note in wave f the
tapering effect produced at d, the end of the dot. The beginning is
affected by relay "chatter" and also by a chirp. These dots were of
very short duration and are shown to be about .02 second in length (not
counting the time of building up and dying out).
The relay "chatter."
as represented by g and e, is lasting .005 second. It occurs about .004
second previous to the beginning of the signal.
Waves A and
B of Figure 4 show very nicely the effect of fair keying conditions,
very good voltage regulation, and an excellent plate supply filter.
The choke in the key circuit smooths out the power supply and also gives
a time "lag" effect as may be seen by c and e. There is, however, a
slight modulation at the beginning of the signal, but no chirp or key
thump was present in the note. The effect at c (lower wave) appears
because the oscillographic shutter opened and closed at this point.
The end of signal which starts at g is not shown. Also the complete
beginning of signal whose end is f is not shown.
The choke in
the keying circuit of Figure 4 was transferred to the left of the key
and another oscillogram was made. This oscillogram is not shown for
lack of space, but the negative showed a gradual building up - thus
proving that the position of the choke actually makes a difference in
the time "lag" effect.
Figure 5 illustrates the bad effects
one may get by using extra chokes, condensers and resistances indiscriminately.
The key circuit as shown in the accompanying diagram has produced an
unevenly modulated wave, as may be seen by looking at N. The note of
the signal was "chirpy" with changeable frequency. At K and P there
is a pronounced change of frequency more than that of the general drift
shown throughout the wave. This can safely be blamed on the oscillator's
instability. There is a possibility that the a.c. voltage feeding the
transmitter was varying by a large amount. The interruption between
g and f of wave m, also between j and k of wave N cannot definitely
be accounted for; however. there is a possibility that the power feeding
the transmitter was off for that .007 second.
The circuit of
Figure 6 is responsible for the long-drawn-out ends of the signals which
are entirely too long. The beginnings of the dots build up nicely, but
are a little too slow in reaching their maximum amplitude. A total of
.012 second is consumed for the beginning of the dot and .03 second
is used up for the decay, while the dot's maximum average amplitude
consumes .043 second.
Looking at M, it can be seen that the
wave has a 60-cycle modulation; however, its frequency from the very
beginning to the end of the decay is constant. This type of wave would
not cause any chirps, key thumps or clicks, but it may cause the note
to have a slight "swing."
Keying the transmitter in the positive "lead" with only one choke
in this same line, the "lag" effect was again produced as shown in the
oscillogram of Figure 7.
Wave C is that of a dot. The time "lag"
is shown at d, which is affected by a change of frequency, thus causing
a slight chirp at the end of the signal. Wave D is the same except that
the key was held down a longer length of time and the film was turning
at a much greater speed; thus spreading out of the wave resulted. As
can be seen, its frequency is steady, but the lower part of this wave
is somewhat modulated. No definite reason for this can be given.
The filter combination of Figure 8 is not very good, as can be seen
from the record of the wave.
In wave B, the cut-off at c is
much too long. If a smaller condenser were used, it would be shortened.
The wave has a 40-cycle modulation which is undoubtedly due to causes
at the receiving end and not at the transmitter. The waves on the second
line were made as a continuation of the same signals (first line) ,
and these show hardly any modulation effects. They do show very much
better building up, as at o, in comparison with the poor beginning a
of wave B. It ought to be mentioned that there would be no chirp in
either wave, but a slight key click will be heard.
Figure 9 is a very interesting oscillogram, for it shows the effect
of the "decay" with two different values of resistance shunting an inductance
in series with the key. In wave M, the "decay" d is due to a 55-ohm
resistance in shunt with the 16-henry choke coil while the "decay" z
of lower wave is due to a 25-ohm resistance. The better of the two is,
of course, that of wave M, and even this consumes too much time for
Figure 10 exhibits a very good building up of the wave, but the
key circuit resistance is too low and thus a long-drawn-out "decay"
resulted. *Owner and operator of short-wave
amateur station W9FOK.
Posted February 25,