On being a ham experimenter, a builder of radio kits and a QRPer (with a Guide to First Steps in CW)
Yeah, CW is no longer a requirement for getting one's ham radio license.
And yeah, you can have fun on both HF and VHF using phone or digital modes.
BUT ... if this describes you, you are missing out on a HUGE part of being a ham! Using CW (i.e., Morse code) enables you to get more into the field of experimentation, building simple, low-power transmitter and receiver kits, and using them on your home station or out in the field. Radios are simpler, smaller and more efficient in use, There are "on-air group activities" like sprints, contests and fox hunts with others just like you with a 5-watt radio tapping DAH DIT DAH DIT - DAH DAH DIT DAH ("CQ") into the ether.
I can't express how much fun this is! ... And it happens to have dominated my 50 years of being a ham. Throughout this time I've been a low-power "QRP" operator, experimenter and builder of little $30 single-band 2-watt transceiver boards. With nothing more than such a small 2-watt radio (that I built), my iPhone earbuds plugged into that board, and a 9V battery powering it from my pocket, I've thrown wires up into trees and used a small pushbutton in my hand as key to send Morse code to talk 'round the world. **THERE IS NO THRILL GREATER THAN BUILDING A RADIO KIT AND MAKING A CONTACT WITH IT ** I'm shouting because this is so true.
Now, if you already have a bit of a handle on using CW, but may be a bit unsure about how to proceed on-air with your first contact ... here is a short short guide to how to have a CW QSO, which covers the use of Q-codes, abbreviations and a sample QSO format. It isn't intended to be exhaustively complete or correct, but provides some practical advice on getting that first QSO done so you're a real CW operator. Again, the THRILL of making your first contact ... and perhaps using a radio built by YOU! ... http://www.qrp-labs.com/qcx/cwqso.html
For more information online, there are so many different references that I could point you: QRP clubs, groups that design and sell small inexpensive radio kits and informational links for any aspect of the CQ and QRP operation, and more. Perhaps just as a starting point, I could point you to my own personal collection of Reference Links that opens each time I open my browser. Again these are MY reference links ... but you too might find some of them to be helpful in being a "QRP and experimenting ham" ... http://midnightdesignsolutions.com/misc/links.html
If ANYONE here in TLARC wants to learn a little more about what I'm describing here, by all means please contact me and we can have a call or shack visit here to show & tell all the points I'm talking about.
73, George N2APB
TLARC Home Page ... http://www.tlarc.org/