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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Space, the Final Frontier in CW

Richard Carpenter (AA4OO) on June 16, 2017
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I was listening to CW stations tonight through my SDR having extended QSOs on 40m between 7015 and 7035. There seemed to be a good number of stations sending between 24 wpm and 28 wpm, maybe a bit faster. The signals were strong and I had good signal to noise on most of the conversations. 24- 28wpm is generally faster than I'm able to comfortably copy but I use these listening sessions to improve my head copy skills.

As I listened I realized that I could copy some stations nearly 100% while with others sending at about the same speed I just could not head copy no matter how hard I concentrated. One particular QSO had two stations operating at the same speed and about the same SNR. I'd guess they were operating about 25wpm. One of the stations I copied easily without thinking much about it while the other I just caught a word here or there. The difference was their space between words. Not necessarily space between characters but between the words. I started paying closer attention to the station I could copy clearly and I could count about a one second pause between each of his words. The other station was running one word into the next.

Then I started switching back and forth between a number of QSOs and I recognized that my comprehension was very dependent on word spacing. I could even copy bug operators who had their DITS flying over 30wpm with 20wpm spaces clearly as long as they paused between words.

Silence is golden

The artist Sting is a famous bass player. I am also a bass player, certainly not a famous one, but I follow bass players and enjoy their different styles.

In an interview in 2000 Sting said:

For me, the sound is only half of music - the space between the notes is also vitally important...

Is space the final frontier in being able to copy CW? Why is it that some CW operators, and I'll venture to say most CW operators don't put adequate space between their words. CW is not a fast mode of communication so why not give each word the importance it deserves? Why be in a rush?

I'm going to strive to put more space between my words in my next QSOs. It may just make copy for the other operator a bit easier and rather than them bailing on you after an exchange or two you may just chat away for an hour because they enjoy the solid comprehension of every word you send. If you work me and don't hear me putting an adequate pause between my words, call me out on it.

That's all for now

So lower your power, and pause before your next word, then raise your expectations

72/73
Richard AA4OO

http://hamradioqrp.com

Member Comments:
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Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by K5UJ on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
<<<Why is it that some CW operators, and I'll venture to say most CW operators don't put adequate space between their words.>>>

It keeps out the fakers using computers to copy, and back on phone where they belong.
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by N2UJN on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Absolutely excellent, short post on an interesting observation around CW and signal source variability, one of the true banes of that mode. As a fairly new Amateur Op, I am learning CW at this time, and, even with the practice sessions, I also experience what you are observing. Spacing between words makes quite a bit of difference in how well I can copy the practice sessions.

In fact, one of the reasons I use and enjoy PSK-31 so much is the absence of the (quite large) variability in signal source signature that occurs with CW. The SNR benefits for PSK-31 and CW are similar, and, the propagation in the low sunspot cycle region we are now in is similar to CW. Plus, software enables observing multiple qso at once. Really a great mode!

 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by VE3TMT on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
K5UJ,

Many of us use the computer for CW in contest situations. Personally, I'm good for about 13wpm copying and 20wpm sending. Does that mean I should stay on the phone bands where I belong?
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by KB2DHG on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
YES! you hit the nail on the head! Spacing between words makes a BIG difference in arm chair copying. I have no problem copying as long as there is enough space between words...
Nice article.
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by OZ8AGB on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, I had did the same observation a few weeks ago when I was listening to the bands and a an OP had a QSO with another station and he was sending at 28 wpm which for me is just way too fast to make any sense of. But his word spacing was just a bit longer than the standard and I started to pick up words here and there.
 
Space: The Final Frontier... Reply
by VE3CUI on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Spacing IS the key to relaxed, laid-back CW copying, as compared to that pensive, nail-biting feeling one gets when flying forcibly along in long-hand script, trying to mentally anticipate what the sender might transmit next…

Here's a tip to anyone who might be an otherwise "…spacing challenged" sender: TURN OFF THE BREAK-IN CW ON YOUR RIG, AND GO TO SEMI-VOX KEYING. Adjust the timing on your VOX to drop into receive mode just at that moment that appropriate spacing is achieved between words.

That way you can commence your sending of the next word in your sentence the very second that the VOX drops off, & reminds you to do so. Besides, you will be able to hear a snippet of the frequency you are on, & still know if it is clear, or not.

Despite what the proponents might say, I have never, ever liked full break-in CW: I have tried to like it --- and on several occasions, too --- but to me it is just far too distracting & intrusive, and takes away from the otherwise "…peace & quiet" of a good, relaxing QSO. But the semi-VOX trick seems to work well enough for me here --- probably will for you, too, if you give it a chance...
 
RE: Space: The Final Frontier... Reply
by AA4PB on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The standard word spacing for CW is 5 "dit times". Are you saying that is not long enough, or are you saying that many stations are not leaving that much space?

 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by K0FL on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Obviously there are cw ops that could improve their sending. That being said I remember as a 5wpm novice listening to cw at 20wpm and wondering how anyone could copy this. I couldn't tell where the letters ended much less the words. The cw op you refer to was being copied by the person he was in qso with. Usually that speed in that part of the band would suggest a repetitive contact for both ops. Bottom line...

One mans dit is another mans dah.

73 to all
Tim
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by KK5JY on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
>> It keeps out the fakers using computers to copy, and back on phone where they belong. <<

...in favor of the fakers who think they can send proper CW by hand, but obviously cannot?

That's like saying people on phone should speak with a thick accent and lots of street slang, to prove that they are real people, and not a voice synthesizer.

The OP is correct. There is a standard for CW. Thankfully most people very carefully stick to it. Many people use keyers, and rightly so, because it helps make sure the sent text uses the proper spacing.

There's a reason K1EL sells out of his stock so often.

There's nothing wrong with using a decoder, particularly while you are learning CW. It can act as a second set of ears to catch things that you miss while listening. Using a decoder by itself is probably poor form, because there's no way to operate CW well without listening to the tones live. The turnovers just happen too fast to trust a computer readout alone.

The OP is correct. Many CW ops need to clean up their fist.
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by G4AON on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
A one second pause between words isn't correct for sending at 25wpm. The pause should be 7 "dits" long, and a "dit" at that speed is 48mS, the pause should therefore be one third of a second.

Pausing for one second between words isn't going to equate to anything like sending at 25wpm.

CW is second nature to me, having been a marine sparks originally and a ham operator using mostly CW for nearly 46 years. Even so, there are a few stations that are so hard to copy that I pass them by. It's not a question of sending speed or inter-word spacing, it's just sloppy sending with no appreciation of what is really going out.

Real operators send at a speed that is appropriate to both the other operators ability to copy, and band conditions. Sending an initial callsign carefully with a little extra spacing ensures it's copied first time too... it avoids: UR 599 599 pse repeat ur call

73 Dave
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by KH6AQ on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The 1 second spacing between words estimated by the author is too long at 25 WPM. One second is the spacing to be used at 8 WPM. At 25 WPM the correct spacing between words is 336 ms, or about 1/3 second.

Math:
The period of one element (a dit) is found by this formula:

PERIOD = 1200/WPM

At 25 WPM that is 1200/25 = 48 ms

The correct word spacing is seven elements and at 25 WPM that is 7 x 48 ms = 336 ms
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by AC7CW on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
There are some fists that I simply cannot copy. I hear them in qso's with other hams so somebody can copy them but it's not me. It's always about the spacing, whether between dits and dahs, letters, words, whatever, too short or just inconsistent, it's always about the spacing. Just before I hit the kill switch I'm always thinking "are you here to torture us?"

I don't actually think they are 1)here to torture us 2)aware of their shortcomings 3)talented musicians
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by WB4M on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
youmeanthatyouhavetroublecopyingcwwhenitissentlikethis?

Another nit for me is heavy use of abbreviations; some take a moment to figure out.
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by WB4M on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
There are some fists that I simply cannot copy. I hear them in qso's with other hams so somebody can copy them but it's not me. It's always about the spacing, whether between dits and dahs, letters, words, whatever, too short or just inconsistent, it's always about the spacing. Just before I hit the kill switch I'm always thinking "are you here to torture us?"

When I hear them mangle CQ, I don't even bother attempting an answer. It's CQ, not CAA.
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by K0UA on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Wow, back on phone where they belong. What an attitude. Kind of like your QRZ page.

*I do not reply to eQSLs. Due to work load, effective 21 June 2004, I am no longer reply QSLing contest-computer printout generated QSLs. By these I mean cards that have contact information automatically printed on them or on labels that are stuck to them and mailed out with no handwriting, or even a signature on them. I regard these as machine generated QSL junk mail. I also no longer reply to QSLs for QSOs that took place more than five years ago.


Like I said, what an attitude.
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by KH6AQ on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
With 1 second word spacing for 25 WPM words the speed becomes 20 WPM.
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by W3TTT on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It's like a voice mail telephone message where the caller leaves a long message, then at the end, rattles off the return phone number, sucking in a few digits.
As a ham who likes to communicate clearly, I always leave my number slowly and distinctly. And repeat it.

So, similarly, with CW, it is the spacing, or lack thereof.

Also irritating is lack of rhythm. Word spacing varies from short to very short to none at all, changing from word to word.

If I hear a station that I can't copy, I continue to keep turning the big knob in the middle of my radio.

 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by N9AOP on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I believe some CW ops do not realize that they are
runningalloftheirwordstogether. Makes it very difficult to copy but when asked to leave a little space between words, most will do that.
Art
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by W4HM on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes quite arrogant and rude but increasingly the norm on the air and social media sites.

I can copy 25 wpm in my head but have to send Morse code with a keyboard most of the time nowadays due to disability from my service in the U.S. military.

.....Wow, back on phone where they belong. What an attitude. Kind of like your QRZ page.

*I do not reply to eQSLs. Due to work load, effective 21 June 2004, I am no longer reply QSLing contest-computer printout generated QSLs. By these I mean cards that have contact information automatically printed on them or on labels that are stuck to them and mailed out with no handwriting, or even a signature on them. I regard these as machine generated QSL junk mail. I also no longer reply to QSLs for QSOs that took place more than five years ago.....
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by DL8OV on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
You may have hit upon a secret. My classes have ended now but I used to teach CW to some of the members of our radio club. One particular pupil had problems copying CW from the computer but when I sent CW using a straight key he was almost 100% copy. I probably add a bit more space between words as I send.

Thanks for an interesting article!

Peter DL8OV
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by N6JSX on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Nice deceptively "pithy" title....

Wonder how many got suckered into reading this looking for a connection to "SPACE, the final frontier"?
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by N0MF on June 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Farnsworth keying method...look up Morse code on wiki.

The qrp guys(and gals) that are experienced know about

this and use it to enhance intelligibility routinely.

BTW...qrp guys often like to work weak signals because

it is fun for them, not frustrating...
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by NK8S on June 17, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I've also heard mention of the FarnsWORD method...leaving more space between word elements yet keeping character timing and inter-character spacing quicker.

G4FON's application has a setting to allow more time between words described as the "Sehorne" method, though I haven't found info regarding that name.

73, Mike NK8S
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by AA4PB on June 17, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It's the FarnsWORTH method because it was invented by Donald R. Farnsworth.

 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by NK8S on June 17, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I understand, but some folks have taken to calling longer inter-word spacing Farnsword, a play on Farnsworth.
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by K9CTB on June 17, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yep - K5UJ -- Here we go with the "I'm better than you" crap. We're HAMS. We oughtta be glad others use CW (or insert mode here) at all ... but keep that divisiveness going, eh? What are you, a newscaster? :)

73,
K9CTB


 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by N7BAV on June 17, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
A computer code reading program is a good tool for improving your own sending. I turn my "CW break-in settings" to off on my Icom, so that my rig is only sending tones (no RF). I then send text from a magazine article using my keyer so that the computer program displays my own sending. The first time I did this I could see a mistakes I was making. It allows you to see what others are hearing. A periodic brush up using this technique helps if you have been off the air for a while.
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by WB5UAA on June 17, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
If some folks had to try to copy what they send, they'd clean up their sending. Yes, I too, keep spinning the dial when I hear bad CW. The sender has responsibility too. I've also been known to send RST's such as 399.
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by K5ML on June 17, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent short article about the need to space between words on CW. Thank you.

Pehaps we need a new Q signal: QYW - Please space your words.
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by K2PI on June 18, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Clean and properly spaced CW is easier to copy. No question about that. I have heard word spacing that is just atrocious, even among those using keyers. Learning to send with a straight key is a powerful way to gain an ear for the correct spacings. I highly recommend it for beginners.

Not sure where code readers came in to the conversation. But, they strike me as a poor way to learn code, the aural learning needed for code mastery so different than the visual of characters scrolling across a screen. Every code learning expert I have heard of (and I don't represent myself as one) says it's a bad idea.

73
Harv
K2PI
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by N6CIC on June 18, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting thread and comments. There must be something to this because I constantly struggle to improve my CW speed by listening to on-the-air QSO's, yet when I listen to the ARRL code practice sessions I can copy at higher speeds. The ARRL practice sessions must be using proper spacing between words.
 
RE: Space: The Final Frontier... Reply
by AA4LR on June 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The proper spacing in morse between works is SEVEN dit times, not five.

See reference here:
http://www.kent-engineers.com/codespeed.htm
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by K8QV on June 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Probably most who use cw do know the right way to do it. I suspect they just get lazy and don't care, frequently blaming other ops for just being not proficient enough to keep up with their own amazing skills. The answer is simple; don't continue qso with people you must strain to copy due to their atrocious fist. Sign and leave. You wouldn't carry on a verbal conversation with someone who speaks gibberish.
 
RE: Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by K9PLG on June 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great Article --- have heard many fists who can't space properly making them hard to copy.. some also have no sense of rhythm, which I feel is a requirement (musicians make the best CW ops IMHO)..

From the 1881 book 'Modern Practice of the Electric Telegraph' by FL Pope (http://www.insulators.info/books/mpet/#cont09):

151. the duration of a dot is the unit of length in this alphabet.

1. The short dash is equal to three dots.

2. The long dash is equal to six dots.

3. The ordinary space between the elements of a letter is equal to one dot.

4. The space employed in the ``spaced letters'' is equal to two dots.

5. The space between the letters of a word is equal to three dots.

6. The space between two words is equal to six dots.
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by KB6NU on June 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
ITU Recommendation ITU-R M.1677-1, "International Morse code," dated 10/2009 (https://www.itu.int/dms_pubrec/itu-r/rec/m/R-REC-M.1677-1-200910-I!!PDF-E.pdf), says:

2 Spacing and length of the signals
2.1 A dash is equal to three dots.
2.2 The space between the signals forming the same letter is equal to one dot.
2.3 The space between two letters is equal to three dots.
2.4 The space between two words is equal to seven dots.
 
Space, the Final Frontier in CW Reply
by NU4R on June 23, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Good post Richard! I've always believed that IF I THOUGHT I was going to fast...I indeed was ! Slow it down and HAVE FUN has been my motto for decades! Have a great weekend Richard es 73 de NU4R!
 
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