A Straight Key from a Friend

I recently saw my friend Meg. I began paying her to drive me shortly before the pandemic began. I like not needing to deal with a stranger for my transportation during these times. When I got in her car, she said that she had something to give me, and placed an object in my hand.

I turned the mystery object over in my hands, and felt a straight key! Ham radio operators use a Key to send Morse Code. Straight keys date back to the beginning of telegraphy. This one had a wooden base and a plastic arm. It had some adjustment screws and a headphone cable to connect to the radio.

I felt stunned. I had begun thinking about buying a portable straight key to bring up to the roof deck. I imagined something light weight, maybe with a wood base. I now held the object I had visualized in my hand.

“It’s a straight key!” I exclaimed.

“Do you like straight keys?” asked Meg.

“I love straight keys!”

“Do you have one?”

“I have two!”

“Do you want this one?”

Of course I said yes.

I need to tell a quick aside. Last year Meg had a science fair, and asked me to have a ham radio table. At first we set up in the basement, but my KX3 emitted a sad whine, so we moved up to the parking lot near the pizza truck. Donna made pizza which i couldn’t eat, but she remembered that her science teacher taught them ham radio. She sounded delighted when I found him on QRZ, KC2JJ, silent key.

Our friend Becky helped me the whole time. Meg and Becky with a few others have what they call a science band named Mystery Lab Bag. At some point they bought the straight key, but didn’t know what to do with it. This explains how I ended up with it.

Later Meg sent me more information about the key. She identified it as an MFJ-553 Deluxe wood base Telegraph Key. It makes a fine portable key. I just need to get an adapter to make it fully connect to the Elecraft KX3, which requires a stereo plug. For now I can put it half way in, but I prefer firm connections.

I told Meg that the Straight Key Century Club would have their Weekend Sprint, and that I intended to use her key. I headed up to the roof deck on Saturday to do just that. I decided to try my Buddistick with a shorter length of coax. It tuned to an SWR of 1.6:1, but I didn’t make any contacts. I came down for dinner and came back up. I tried again and this time it would not tune at all. I felt annoyed and switched to my trusty AX1. I made 3 QSOs and had a great evening.

I went back up on Sunday and decided to use my AX1. I made two more QSOs, including Randy, KB4QQJ. He made me a cable for my KX3, so I like to work him when I hear him. To my delight he gave me a 579, and I had the AX1 resting against my canteen’s plastic cap. I still need to find something for the wind.

I came down for a snack, and when I returned my trusty AX1 would not tune. I appeared to have the same problem I had on the previous day with a different antenna. I could not figure it out and decided to call it a night. Clearly I have some testing to do.

In all I made five fun QSOs with my new straight key. It performed as expected, and it survived its first trip up to the roof deck. Thanks Meg! Imagination becomes reality.