I always wanted to try sending with a sideswiper or “cootie”, and last weekend the “Cootie Conclave” of the SKCC provided the perfect opportunity.  I decided to put to use the American Morse Bushwacker single-paddle, which I rigged as a sideswiper by shorting its two contacts with a small piece of wire with its ends inserted in the sockets of the “socket cap screws” that make the contacts. After some off the air practice with the “Quick Brown Fox” I felt ready for some S&P, hoping that the extra points for the QSO with a cootie operator would compensate for any inconsistence in my CW. But SKCC members were very kind, and several even complimented my “cootie fist”! I ended with 23 QSOs in my log, five with operators who also used cooties, whose fist I learn to detect by its peculiar rythm and “swing”.  Here is a picture of the Bushwacker with the short piece of wire shorting its two contacts:


There is something specially pleasing when one gets the “rythm of the cootie”, but it takes some effort to switch from “cortical sending” to “extra-pyramidal (automatic) swing”. One problem I had was whether using both fingers for dots and dashes would later confuse my sending with a paddle and keyer (i.e., with the dots in the thumb and the dashes in the fingers). I had read that the best way to use the cootie is to always start every character with the fingers and never with the thumb, but I am sure that others would insist that one should always alternate sides in consecutive strokes as to keep the cootie swinging evenly. I came to an alternate solution: to start each character on the same side that I would have started it with the paddle. I am sure that purists would have objections to this, but so far it seems not to have affected my return to the paddle/keyer. Or perhaps from now on I should concentrate on the sideswiper and think of the keyer as something of the past… :):)


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