Side Swiper Page

Here is the side swiper (cootie) key made for me by Joe K8LKC. He did a beautiful job on it. The flat spring and dual positioning pillars were my idea, though Joe did all the experimentation and construction.

The side swiper key was a stopgap invention that showed up after the straight key and before the bug. Telegraph operators using straight keys for hours every day developed a "glass arm" which we now call Carpel Tunnel syndrome. Changing from the up-down pumping motion of the straight key to the back and forth sideways (swinging) motion of the side swiper relieved most of the operator fatigue and many a glass arm.

The use of a side swiper is very different from other keys. With a Bug, a single paddle keyer, or an iambic keyer, all dashes are made using the index finger and all of the dots are made using the thumb. The side swiper is a completely different beast. Dots and/or dashes are made with either the thumb or finger. The best way to explain it is you always move the swing arm in the other direction to make the next dot or dash. You can start a character from either direction. It doesn't matter. Just keep the critter swinging the other way. Therefore the motions you make to spell a word (like you name) can be different each time you do it. It depends where the paddle was when you entered the word. Like the straight key, neither dots nor dashes are automatically made. All of the timing is up to the operator.

If it all seems confusing, it is, and there in lies the challenge.

Here is a "You-Tube" video made by IK0YGI who gives an introduction to using the side swiper key:

My Side Swiper fist has a heavy "accent" (more pronounced the faster I go). I think this is typical for Side Swiper users and here is my theory to explain it:

The operator tries to keep momentum going in their wrist minimizing the energy lost and reducing operator fatigue. The operator moves the paddle in one direction until the electrical contacts on that side of the key close. The hand continues to compress placing increasing pressure on the closed contact for the duration of the code element  ("dit" or "dah"). The increasing pressure effectively converts the momentum of the moving hand into stored potential energy. When the element is completed, the hand starts to uncompress, moving the paddle in the opposite direction and converting the stored potential energy back into momentum. This process is repeated in both directions to send the morse code. The closer this motion resembles an uninterrupted pendulum rhythm, the more energy efficient it becomes resulting in less operator fatigue. Unfortunately, morse code does not follow this rhythm. What results is the spacing between letters and words get shortened (pushed together) and dits and dahs get closer to having the same duration (instead of 3:1 weighting) . In fact both dits and dahs get longer due to the unconscious desire of the operator to gather up as much of the momentum into stored potential energy, there by  reducing the physical effort of sending the code. To avoid sending with this "accent", the operator has to consciously focus on what they are sending and fight the natural tendency to break into the pendulum rhythm. This is easier to accomplish when QRS than when QRQ.

I hope you like my side swiper fist.  If you find it uncomfortable to copy, let me know. I will be happy to switch over the my bug or keyer.

I learned to use the swiper with my weak hand (left hand). I did this to avoid "training" my right hand/brain to key in this manner, thinking it would ruin my ability to use my Bug and my Iambic keyer. I figure using the other half of my brain won't screw up what I've already learned to do with the bug and keyer. I wonder if my conversations are different on the swiper since they are coming from the opposite brain hemisphere than when I use the bug and keyer?

Only you can decide that.

73s - Jeff

Jerry Bartachek - KD0CA - has a great web page "The Art of Side-Swiper". You can learn more about Cootie keys there.

The definitive work on using morse code over the radio is "The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy" written by William Pierpont - N0HFF