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Author Topic: Morse code and the brain  (Read 15648 times)
N2EY
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« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2011, 02:39:54 PM »

Quote
That is, they can learn it if they want to, and if they use the right methods.
I don't think anyone is saying "impossible to learn code", but are saying it's harder for some folks than others. 

Of course it's harder for some folks than others. That's true of anything.

And I have encountered some folks who claim that they simply could not learn it at all. Or not well enough to pass even the 5 wpm test.

In my limited experience, the problem was always the learning method used, the attitude, or both.

For example, I've encountered folks who thought that they could learn code by practicing an hour a week, all at once. Or by memorizing charts of dots and dashes. Or while doing other things at the same time. Etc.



Saying "Anyone can learn" is the same as saying "Anyone can ride a bicycle like Lance Armstrong if they only practice" and we know that isn't true.


No, it's not the same thing at all.

Lance Armstrong rode at the world-class level, winning the Tour de France and many other races.

No such level of skill has ever been required of hams. Not even close to it.

No one is saying that *anyone* can reach that level of bike-riding ability, or Morse Code skill.

73 de Jim, N2EY

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VE3LYX
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Posts: 156




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« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2011, 06:46:44 AM »

Like most good ideas I discovered this by accident after teaching myself the fiddle. The best learning for most of us is incidental or subconcious. Needing to brush up on my CW after 20 years of sleeping I took a piece of paper and wrote the numbers and letters in two columns. With a chart on my vintage keyer in front of me I wrote the dots and dashes (or dits and dahs  if you like) after the appropriate letter. I realized because was writing on a hollw surface that the pencil (NOT PEN) I was using was sending CW perfectly to my ear: as in
A .__
1.__ __ __ __
CQ __.__ __   __ __.__

So I use a cardboard box or sound box like a piece of thin plywood on a 3/4 inch wood frame.  As I write I hear the sounds and wether I like it or not my subconcious part of my brain is learning . Since it is the unopinionated area of the brain it does not analyse each sound but just accepts and files it with the letter I see  or think. I dont have to think about it, just trust the fact that it IS happening. I had trouble with the CW numbers and always did so I was sharpening up on them to run my QRP glowbug CW rig. I went from stumbling to functional in a day (about 6 practices.) I still do it now with the numbers everyday. No oscillator , no buzzer , no key, just a hollow surface some paper and a pencil.
I have just one question. Why didnt I know this 45 years ago? I fought code for years (9 to 30years old) and then finally got angry and mastered it enuf to get my ticket and then my advanced. I could have saved myself a lot of aggravation of I had discovered this back then.
Might I respectfully suggest before critiquing this seemly over simple technique you take a moment and try it. You may be surprised. I know I was!
Don VE3LYX

If you exagerate the dahs slightly it is even better.
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K8AXW
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« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2011, 08:15:38 AM »

VE3LYX:  I think you've probably pointed out a quirk of the human brain.

I would think the sound of your pencil on an empty box is the same as the conscious closure of a key for specific periods of time are one and the same.  However, to you, the sound of the pencil on the box creates a sound/movement (the pencil) combination that allows your brain to register and retain that sound for that particular character.  This is great! This shows your persistence and innovation in wanting to do something that you find difficult.  This trait is disappearing along with common sense.

But, I doubt seriously if this method could be used as a training tool any more than "learning the code while you sleep."

The bottom line is if you find learning code either difficult or impossible using conventional methods, then by all means try something, anything, which just might work.  Even a pencil on an empty box or a tape player while sleeping.

It would be interesting to hear from others who have used unique methods of learning the code, although this will no doubt open the gates for some bizarre posts! Please don't.  This is serious stuff folks!!

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K8KAS
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« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2011, 12:06:57 PM »

Hi Joe K8AXW, I agree 100% with you about the code and learning it. I was one of the instructors at the Ft Knox Army 05C and B schools 1965 & 1966 and worked in the code school. Out of 100's of troops that learned code, very very few could not make it out and thru the classes. When I hear new Ham's cry about the code it makes me sick, they are just LAZY and do not put the time into the study it takes.
The school as you might remember turned troops out in 2 or 3 weeks copying and sending 15 WPM.
You don't learn the code listening to it 10 min a day or a week, the troops copied code 2 to 3 hours a day at least and more if you did not pass your tests. Being an O5C20 back at the HQ comm center was a GOOD job much better than getting shot at or cleaning Tanks
or working as a Cook. Ha the good old days...Denny K8KAS 73
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VE3LYX
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« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2011, 03:41:27 PM »

"But, I doubt seriously if this method could be used as a training tool"
Well I certainly wouldnt put it in the catagory of Code while you sleep.(because there is no connection made between the sound and the letter.especially no visual connection although I suppose you could say the letter then send it for a sound connection) Obviously you didnt try it. I have done quite a bit of looking into how we learn and why we dont when I was teaching. Mostly we refuse to learn. Holding the doors of our minds closed with both feet. I was as a jungen a prime example. Sometimes the reasons why defy logic. I spent years as a SWL when I could have been building and operating. All for 26 letters and ten numbers. It was when I took up the fiddle though at 50 years old I began to really understand the value of incidental learning. When the conscious or rational mind is not involved the learning rate is much faster. Just that soft sound when you look at the letter K on the page and here the pencil softly singing "Daaaah dit daaaah" You dont even know it is happening but it is recorded in your head . Generally anything repeated 6 times attains some level of retention. 100 times or say 90 times which is three times a day for a month is drilled into your head.
Here is my story. I was given my Moms violin after she passed away. I had never played the violin and maybe had one in my hand twice in my life. I dont like lessons. Too shy I guess. I sat down and thought about it. I do play guitar so I have a bit of music experience but a violin is a different kind of animal. I knew about how the subconscious absorbs info we dont even know is being absorbed. I surmised if I played the scales 100 times , you know Do re mi fa  usw I would have the location of the notes automatically registered in my head and so I began. I kept track to like you do in bowling with four IIIIs and a stroke through for each five. No cheating. Discipline ! I did nothing else. I was at #43 and for some dumb reason decided to try to play Swanee River. Now I have not palyed anything other than Do re mi remember. First time through although not perfect I could play it. Why? because i had trained my subconcious to associate the notes with where I had my hand but without any conscious thought. It was totally automatic. I have since helped a couple of others do the same. I was explaining it to someone else last year and they were po-poing my idea. The last guy I had told this to, a man in his 70s who had learned to play in a couple of months after I told him this stood up and came over. He said to the doubter "As simple and silly as it sounds I have to tell you it actually works."
The Cw is very similar as far as the brain goes we need to establish a connection beween a letter and the sound. The sound board does that instantly.  Nothing wrong with a code practice osc or buzzer except it wont be popular with the rest of the household but the sound box works easily quickly and probably just as well. I would say if some disciplined individual who didnt know Cw undertook to try it for a month he would be shocked at how much he could copy (or send) by the end of that period. If the current methods worked well for everyone we would not even be having this discussion.    

As My dad (a P Eng aircraft radio designer for Collins) would say to me as a kid when I sumised something wouldn't work. He would say. "Well one thing is for sure Don , If you dont try it, it wont work." It used to make me so mad but I have found over my lifetime that was probably why he was successful.
So I will leave the suggestion for those who want to try it. What if it works?!
(I just did mine again before supper.)
Don VE3LYX  
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 06:57:55 PM by VE3LYX » Logged
K8AXW
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Posts: 3956




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« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2011, 04:35:08 PM »

Denny: "Being an O5C20 back at the HQ comm center was a GOOD job much better than getting shot at or cleaning Tanks
or working as a Cook. Ha the good old days...Denny K8KAS 73"

I have no idea what an O5C20 is these days but back in 1956 I was an O58.20.  This is why I know whereof I speak! LOL.

And I agree with your assessment.  I think LYX was able to teach himself the violin was because he WANTED to learn.  Desire makes all the difference when it comes to DOING!

73
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N0EQ
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« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2011, 11:46:00 AM »

I always hear some hams "assume" that musicians will have an easier time at learning code than non-musicians. I don't believe that to be the case. I've been a professional musician for 50 years and hold two degrees in music. The rhythm of music is nothing at all like the rhythm of code. Musical rhythm is always subdivided into halves or quarters. Songs are divided into 4 sections. Each section has 8 or 12 or 16 bars. Each bar typically has 4 beats.

Morse code doesn't have the same kind of intuitive subdivisions. A musician can always tell where he's at by sensing the subdivision (the chorus, verse etc). Code doesn't subdivide like that. There's no "4s" in code.

If musicians made good code learners then I think we'd see lots of musicians that were good at code and lots of coders that were good musicians.

As a musician and a ham, I believe that my musical thought process HINDERS learning code.


Craig 'Lumpy' Lemke

www.n0eq.com
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2011, 01:52:15 PM »

I never had any problem with code, but then learned as a kid and nobody ever told me it would be difficult, so the presumption was it wouldn't be.

Then I tried skiing.  It took me about eight 1-hour lessons before I could go down a 100' hill without falling down.  I eventually got pretty good...that took several years.

And no matter what I try, I can't slam dunk a basketball. 

Well, maybe if somebody lowered the basket a lot. Cheesy

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K7KBN
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« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2011, 05:22:26 PM »

I always hear some hams "assume" that musicians will have an easier time at learning code than non-musicians. I don't believe that to be the case. I've been a professional musician for 50 years and hold two degrees in music. The rhythm of music is nothing at all like the rhythm of code. Musical rhythm is always subdivided into halves or quarters. Songs are divided into 4 sections. Each section has 8 or 12 or 16 bars. Each bar typically has 4 beats.

Morse code doesn't have the same kind of intuitive subdivisions. A musician can always tell where he's at by sensing the subdivision (the chorus, verse etc). Code doesn't subdivide like that. There's no "4s" in code.

If musicians made good code learners then I think we'd see lots of musicians that were good at code and lots of coders that were good musicians.

As a musician and a ham, I believe that my musical thought process HINDERS learning code.


Craig 'Lumpy' Lemke

www.n0eq.com


I agree.  Several years ago, for this city's (Bremerton WA) 100th anniversary, a former music teacher composed a nice overture for the Bremerton Symphony.  Right at the middle of the work, with the strings playing very softly, tremolando, the principal oboist was to play "BREMERTON 100" in Morse code.  Unfortunately, the composer - a personal friend - didn't have any Morse training whatsoever.  Nor did the soloist, who couldn't make any musical sense of the part.

So I stepped in from the percussion section.  Yes, the principal oboist had a few good spare oboes that her students used (supplying their own reeds).  Yes, she'd teach me how to finger a high "D" and give me the necessary embouchure training.  So at the performance, I was featured as "solo oboe".  I'm pleased to be able to say that my oboe days are well and truly over, although the solo was flawless!
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 05:25:52 PM by K7KBN » Logged

73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
K9MRD
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« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2011, 08:12:27 AM »

Great story Pat!
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W6REH
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« Reply #25 on: July 07, 2011, 08:33:32 PM »

Love that oboe story!

One of my brothers went through Devins in the late 50s. Told me a story of how one day while pounding away on the "mill",
one of the guys nearby, got up, picked up his, walked over to a window & tossed it out. The instructor took the guy, sat him down, talked to him for a while, them put him at another machine. He turned out to be a good operator.

Sounds like that sort of thing may have appended there from time to time. ;-)
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K8AXW
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« Reply #26 on: July 08, 2011, 08:46:39 PM »


One of my brothers went through Devins in the late 50s. Told me a story of how one day while pounding away on the "mill",
one of the guys nearby, got up, picked up his, walked over to a window & tossed it out. The instructor took the guy, sat him down, talked to him for a while, them put him at another machine. He turned out to be a good operator.

Sounds like that sort of thing may have appended there from time to time. ;-)

I can appreciate this poor guy's frustration!  I too went through Devens and part of the training was learning to type.  I thought I had this one dicked because I had 2 1/2 years typing in HS and could type 80WPM!  This is when I learned the axiom about "The right way, the wrong way and the Army way!"

I had to take their training and had to do it their way, which was with music!  This causes me to choke everytime I hear someone compare music to Morse code.  Long story short, my final test speed was 25WPM!  It took me a very long time to get my speed back up, thanks to these idiots!

More than once I wanted to throw the mill on the floor and stomp it to hell!
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AK7V
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Posts: 251




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« Reply #27 on: July 09, 2011, 08:35:28 AM »

I don't think there's any point in considering what's "hindering" you from learning Morse, whether it be an analytic mind, music skill, lack of music skill, etc.  Your consideration of said hindrance hurts you more than whatever that "hindrance" is supposed to be.

Learning Morse is a rote procedure.  Even the most analytic among us are capable of learning 26 letters, 10 digits, and a handful of pro signs that way.  Repetition and usage are key.  And musicians are used to repetition in order to reach a performance goal.  But Morse isn't music, and thinking of it that way, while maybe helpful to some, is not necessary at all.  The skills one develops (practicing techniques, recording and listening, discipline, etc.) in becoming a musician help you learn Morse, not the supposed "musical quality."

And I think anyone with the brainpower and focus to succeed in math and physics has the ability and discipline to learn pretty much anything they want... if they want. Smiley

We walk without analysis, and regardless of our music skills.  Same with tying shoes, driving to work, jumping up a curb, feeding the dog, etc. etc.  Morse just takes practice.  Don't stress over it.  If you want to learn it, you'll put in the time.  And it's much more time than effort.  And as your capabilities increase, you'll feel rewarded and motivated to continue.

Signed,
AK7V
2 music degrees, 1 math degree, working engineer, and proficient CW op.
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3956




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« Reply #28 on: July 09, 2011, 08:38:14 AM »

I don't think there's any point in considering what's "hindering" you from learning Morse, whether it be an analytic mind, music skill, lack of music skill, etc.  Your consideration of said hindrance hurts you more than whatever that "hindrance" is supposed to be.

Learning Morse is a rote procedure.  Even the most analytic among us are capable of learning 26 letters, 10 digits, and a handful of pro signs that way.  Repetition and usage are key.  And musicians are used to repetition in order to reach a performance goal.  But Morse isn't music, and thinking of it that way, while maybe helpful to some, is not necessary at all.  The skills one develops (practicing techniques, recording and listening, discipline, etc.) in becoming a musician help you learn Morse, not the supposed "musical quality."

And I think anyone with the brainpower and focus to succeed in math and physics has the ability and discipline to learn pretty much anything they want... if they want. Smiley

We walk without analysis, and regardless of our music skills.  Same with tying shoes, driving to work, jumping up a curb, feeding the dog, etc. etc.  Morse just takes practice.  Don't stress over it.  If you want to learn it, you'll put in the time.  And it's much more time than effort.  And as your capabilities increase, you'll feel rewarded and motivated to continue.

Signed,
AK7V
2 music degrees, 1 math degree, working engineer, and proficient CW op.

That says it all!  'nuff said!
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KE6EE
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« Reply #29 on: July 09, 2011, 05:55:15 PM »

Saw a TV program the other night in which there was a border collie (a dog!) who learned 1000 English words. Each word corresponded to a toy (mostly stuffed animals) for which the owner provided a unique name. When the border collie was given the command "find 'toy'" he never failed to pull correct toy out of a pile.

When the dog was given the never-before-heard name of a new toy in the pile, it took a while, but he correctly found the new toy.

Remembering 36 alphabetical and numerical characters, each with separate sounds, plus a few additional characters, shouldn't be a very difficult task for a human.

Someday, no doubt, someone will teach his dog Morse code.
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