The morse keys have been the most important tool for radio operators onboard ships. With the morse key they “produced” out of dashs and dots words and last not least sentences, which have been transmitted with the ships transmitters and the antennas around the world. About their development history are written a lot of books and therefore I will not tell about it.
During our education and especially for the examination – high postal officers had been the examiners – we had a hard training to fulfil the high demands and we had to use only hand keys, in standard the key K40 from RFT, listen as DitDitDitDaaa.
A real highlight has been an wonderful hand key with marble plate and high score mechanics and of course when our honoured teacher Mr. Walter Wipper celebrated the high art of keying with it.
Later on board I switched immediately to a double-side-key, named paddle (or in german Schlackertaste). This kind of morse key you find in many different versions from very easy in technique and cheap up to high scored keys for about 300 $ and more. Exotic have been the paddles from Russian operators, listen like DrrrDaaa. I myself used every times a very simple one, built from an iron jigsaw blade with good results.
During a longer time keying with hand or paddle keys every operator get this own handwriting like a recognition mark.
Then came the first electronic morse keys, named elbug, on the market, but very expensive. I constructed one with electric valves – a big and heavy thing from about 3 kg. On my first trip to east asia I bought in Japan the EK9X-model from Katsumi, fully transistorized and completed she with a sound generator by myself. The dashes and dots with this electronic morse keys are every times in correct length, but to perform letters and words was the skill. Especially in heavy seas there were some times problems to keep the morse keys with horizontal moving in place. Therefore a had the idea with a keyer using sensors for two fingers and the hand laying down on the table, it worked also fine.