Morse code, known as telegraphy or CW, is the oldest and simplest form of radio communications. It has a number of advantages over other modes of communication, most notably the very narrow bandwidth, and the readability of very low level signals. It is much less affected by interference than other modes. Signal levels of S4+ are usually required to maintain good voice communications on the HF bands, but CW can be coped right down to S1 or below!
In telegraphy the use of abbreviations is common. Over time these have become standard and allow the sender to communicate a large amount of information with relatively few characters. Most common amongst these are the Q-codes. A secondary advantage of these abbreviations is that people may communicate basic information without speaking a common language.
Q-codes and similar abbreviations DO NOT form part of the Morse Assessment.
Until recently Morse was often the only common mode of communication between radio amateurs and the other radio service users, such as the military and marine users. If the situation arose where these services needed an amateur to cease transmission or move to another frequency, they would have sent the message in Morse code. For this reason all countries were obliged to set a Morse code test for those radio amateurs wishing to use the bands below 30MHz where radio signals may travel world-wide even at low power.
In recent years the Morse code has ceased to be used by the public services and the requirement to pass a test in Morse code proficiency is no longer laid down by the International Telecommunications Union. The requirement was dropped from international regulations in July 2003, but has been retained by some countries' administrations. The Morse test at full license level is no longer provided as a service by the RSGB or any other agency within the UK. This decision follows the removal of the Morse code testing requirement from UK amateur radio licensing conditions in August 2003, and a general anticipation that all other world amateur radio licensing authorities will soon follow suit.
It has however, been decided that the Morse code assessment at the Foundation level will be retained so that students will receive a taste of what this mode has to offer. Although not tested, the use of the Morse code continues unabated and the CW sections of the amateur bands is still always very busy. Indeed, there are many who believe that it's use may even increase in coming years as it is no longer seen as a hurdle to be overcome.