I really love CW. When I was 11, I got SWL number and started to listen on HF. I was dreaming while listening that nice music and imagined how amazing could be to understand what they are sending.
A small look into CW world was when I was almost 15 years old and had been learning CW for a few months by listening letters from the computer. One day I found a CW station on 10m and started to listen. But I didn't understand anything. I took a pen and tried to copy directly onto paper, not into my head. I was surprised how easy it was and I got my first call on CW. I was very happy and started learning to improve my CW skills. The date of my amateur radio licence exam was coming but bad things happened, the exam session was postponed because of huge floods in Moravia region where I lived. I was so disappointed and stopped all my activities. But after few months I started again. A year was not too long, next date of my exam came. I passed and choosen my call, OK2CQR.
My first contact was on CW mode on 160m band with OK2SJI who lived in a small town about 5km from our village. We were talking for a while and everything what I got, I wrote down to a paper sheet, not directly into my head. After a few QSO I started to write down only name and QTH or information about weather or antennas. But if anyone asked me for something I was in serious trouble. I still used an old army straight key and my CW speed was quite low. After a year I passed without any problem another exam where a part was CW at 16 WPM, but in my home shack still used a straight key. I remember my attempts to build single lever paddle from a polarized relay contact set but withput any big success so I had to continue using this old key for next 6 years.
In 2003 my wife bought me a new double lever paddle from ZACH and I started to learn sending with it. I didn't know anything about iambic keying so I was sending with it like with single lever paddle. In 2005 I met Martin, OK1RR for the first time at a small hamradio meeting. I have heard somebody talking about FOC and also knew that Martin is a member but didn't know what FOC is. I was very shy and decided to ask Honza, OK1UU to tell what is FOC. He described me this club and told me a few words about it. Later, I learned to know Martin little more, I asked Martin what is FOC and got lot of information and link to the web page. I was dreaming again that it would be great to became a member.
In 2007 we started to develop logging program for Linux, we were talking over Internet almost every day. Martin showed me completely new look at hamradio and CW. Sometimes at the beginning of 2008 Martin told me about Bill Windle QSO Party (BWQP). I made a few QSO in this party but it was horrible. I was not able to copy what they are sending, if they asked me for something, I didn't get what it was. Terrible. I was ashamed too much and decided to learn CW again but now in different way - copying directly to my head an use iambic keying. It was very hard. Sometimes I told myself I can't handle it. I won't do it. But Martin always helped me and supported me in my efforts. Quite long time took get over my big problem - when I was listening CW I had a qualm. But finally I did it.
I started with 20 WPM, and listened it almost every day. I joined May BWQP in 2009 and made 49 QSO with FOC members and I can copy quite well. This visible progress helped me a lot and I stared to work more intensively. Not only copying plain text from MP3 player but also tried to rag chew on the bands with real people. It was very funny! I also joined November BWQP and made 142 QSO with FOC members. I was able to talk with them without any big problem and after BWQP I started to hunt them.
What a surprise when I got an email from G3NOH with information about my first nomination to FOC! I can't describe how happy I was. I like making QSO with FOCers, they are very friendly. I can talk with them and improve my skills. In May 2010 I became a member. My dream became truth. Again. Now, if somebody asks me what is FOC, I can say: "It is a group of people who love CW and friendship". It is a pleasure to be a member and thank you a lot. I learned from Martin a lot and still learning. He opened my eyes and showed me new our hobby in new prospective. Thank you Martin!