Hell Freezes Over

The lake of fire flash-frozen on the news that KE9V bought a bug

I’ve stared into the screen for the last fifteen minutes trying to come up with a clever opening line to explain what I did this week. But words have failed me, so I’ll just say it — after forty years of pounding brass, much of that time spent in condemnation of the wretched device, I bought a bug.

My longstanding disdain for the contraption was forged by its frequent abuse through misuse. There’s not another mechanical device on the planet capable of slandering Morse code the way a bug can. You ask it for three dits and it will give you six lickety-split and think it’s doing you a favor.


Old men like me often take up the bug late in life, usually without sufficient practice, the result being a sacrilegious butchering of Morse. Most of the affection it receives comes from the fact that us old guys wax nostalgic and love shiny things from the Land of Ago.

That, and on those rare occasions when you happen to tune across a fellow who has truly mastered the art and skill of the bug, what pours forth is as pleasing to the ear and soothing to the soul as an evening sipping good bourbon at a hot little jazz club.

I was smitten by this 1962 Vibroplex Blue Racer that’s been restored by a friend who happens to be a master craftsman – and a maestro at the bug.

We had breakfast one day this week and he explained the basics of bug operation and even lent me a code practice oscillator, to keep it off the air until I’m ready. I’ve spent about an hour or so in practice so far and can honestly say that I probably won’t put it into use for at least six months. Practice, practice, practice…

So fellows, if you caught an unnatural chill in the air one day last week have no fear, it likely wasn’t a sign of more winter weather ahead. It was just a breeze off the lake of fire flash-frozen on the news that KE9V bought a bug.

Author: Jeff Davis


2 thoughts on “Hell Freezes Over”

  1. Jeff, when I first got a bug a couple of years ago I spent weeks practicing before I was brave enough to put it on the air. I recall I sent the entire “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” and other literary stuff. The Begali CW Machine and other code readers were helpful for me, too. I figured if one of these programs could copy me then maybe a human could, too! You also might check out Frank’s (W7IS) Extendadot bug tamer, too. Slowed my 1934 SpeedX down to reasonable speeds for SKCC (10-18 WPM).
    Good luck and have fun, Mike W5RST

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