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Author Topic: Need advice learning code.  (Read 10427 times)
AC2GW
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Posts: 6




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« on: September 03, 2011, 07:42:15 AM »

I am ready to take my license exams, but even though Morse code is not required, I want to learn code. One of the first things I want to do with my license is to build a QRP CW kit and see what I can do with it.

I've started learning Morse with AA9PW's Ham Morse app, using the Koch method.   The problem right off the bat is that at 15wpm I just can not keep up writing the letters by hand.   I definitely know the letters  M,K,R (and also S and O of course) but at that speed I just get behind writing them down.    To some extent I can keep in my memory the letters that went by and catch up in the spaces between groups, but eventually I just get too far behind and it all falls apart.

I've also tried typing, and the situation is a little better there, but I do not really want to be a Morse touch typist.   I think, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that if I touch type I will not learn the meaning of the letters, it will be automatic, and if my ultimate goal is to be able to copy Morse in my head, typing is not going to help.

If I drop to 10 wpm, I'm pretty good writing.   So my question is, if I do that, and learn the code at 10wpm, how hard will it be to increase my copying speed?  Should I tough it out at 15 wpm until things click for me? (or a higher speed for that matter?)

So basically I hope someone here can give a bit of advice.  I am not the kind of person to give up on a challenge, but its a bit frustrating right now and I do not want to be going at this the wrong way and have to un-learn a bad approach.

Thanks
Stephen
(I take the exams on Sept 7--- can't wait!)
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PA0BLAH
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Posts: 0




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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2011, 08:37:19 AM »

Stephen,

Take an easy writing pencil and write as fast as you can during 1 minute repeatedly the word PARIS, not in capitals but in cursive handwriting and tell here how many times you could do that in one minute.

That is your writing speed.

Of course copying Morse code it takes time to decode the received character and hence you have less time to write.

Best thing to do is register at www.lcwo.net and start Koch Morse code there.

It requires typing in order to check your results, but write and do  so  5 exercises of 5 minutes each with writing and copy the fifth on your keyboard in order to get a grade of your results. KEEP THE SPEED AT 20/10 don't temper with that.
ONLY proceed to the next lesson when you claim over 90% correct.

Report your results after a week exercising each EACH day 15 minutes, HERE please.

73
Bob
« Last Edit: September 03, 2011, 09:13:53 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged
K8AXW
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Posts: 3996




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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2011, 09:41:59 AM »

Stephen:  First of all if you get 10 responses to your question/problem, you're going to get 10 different opinions.  Don't let this upset or discourage you.  Simply evaluate each one and  try one and then another until you find one that seems to produce results for you.  You must understand that one method does not apply to all.

Now with that being said, I'll give you my two-cents worth.  I was force fed CW over 50 years ago by the military.  It was 44 hours a week for six months!  I don't recommend this.

I can't agree with the Koch method even though many have used it successfully.  I would simply start learning the code at 7 WPM and write with a pencil. (Print or cursive-Your choice) Once you have learned the alphabet and the numbers, perhaps even the special characters... then increase your speed to 10WPM.  Practice no more than 30 minutes a day... once or twice a day.

If you have a radio, start listening to CW on the air.  Of course you won't understand much but search around for the slowest you can find and listen.  You'll be surprised at how much you will pick up.

One variation of this is another method, the Farnsworth I think its called, whereas you start out learning at a slow speed, again 7 WPM but the character is sent at a faster rate.  The purpose of this is to encourage you to learn each character by its SOUND rather than unlearning character COMPONENT counting later, which there is a tendency to do. The extended spacing with the fast character give s you time to write it down and still maintain the 7 or 10WPM speed.

Finally, please try to take your time.  Nothing will discourage you more than trying to learn CW fast!  This is similar to learning a language or losing weight.  It takes time and there is no EASY way!

Good luck with the test and AFTER that, good luck with learning CW.  You will never regret it.

73

AL
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AC2GW
Member

Posts: 6




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« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2011, 09:47:50 AM »

Stephen,

Take an easy writing pencil and write as fast as you can during 1 minute repeatedly the word PARIS, not in capitals but in cursive handwriting and tell here how many times you could do that in one minute.

That is your writing speed.

Of course copying Morse code it takes time to decode the received character and hence you have less time to write.

Best thing to do is register at www.lcwo.net and start Koch Morse code there.

It requires typing in order to check your results, but write and do  so  5 exercises of 5 minutes each with writing and copy the fifth on your keyboard in order to get a grade of your results. KEEP THE SPEED AT 20/10 don't temper with that.
ONLY proceed to the next lesson when you claim over 90% correct.

Report your results after a week exercising each EACH day 15 minutes, HERE please.

73
Bob

Great.   It looks like I can write paris at 23 WPM, so not so fast.   I can see where 15 WPM is pushing it since I also have to decode the letters as you said.

I will go to www.lcwo.net.

Stephen

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PA0WV
Member

Posts: 141




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« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2011, 10:04:40 AM »

Right Steven

The reason you couldn't write fast enough was due to the time you needed to decode a received character.

The advice to go to lcwo.net is very good. The guy that started that net is world champion call sign copy. DJ1YFK copies call signs with the amazing speed of 200 words per minute. So he knows very very well what he is doing and he knows it the best what he is presenting.

I am sure he knows all about learning Morse code better then old timers that learned the code far before the scientific results of Farnbrough and Koch were established.

So your choice: learn at 7 wpm and get ceilings at 10 and 12 and spent a year of DISlearning wrong habits introduced by that slow speed learning process, OR go to www.lcwo.net .

There is a forum you can present your problems, there are 28000 hams registered there.

So, your choice , gd luck.

PAoWV
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Using an appliance without CW is just CB
AC2GW
Member

Posts: 6




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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2011, 11:08:01 AM »

Stephen:  First of all if you get 10 responses to your question/problem, you're going to get 10 different opinions.  Don't let this upset or discourage you.  Simply evaluate each one and  try one and then another until you find one that seems to produce results for you.  You must understand that one method does not apply to all.

Now with that being said, I'll give you my two-cents worth.  I was force fed CW over 50 years ago by the military.  It was 44 hours a week for six months!  I don't recommend this.

I can't agree with the Koch method even though many have used it successfully.  I would simply start learning the code at 7 WPM and write with a pencil. (Print or cursive-Your choice) Once you have learned the alphabet and the numbers, perhaps even the special characters... then increase your speed to 10WPM.  Practice no more than 30 minutes a day... once or twice a day.

If you have a radio, start listening to CW on the air.  Of course you won't understand much but search around for the slowest you can find and listen.  You'll be surprised at how much you will pick up.

One variation of this is another method, the Farnsworth I think its called, whereas you start out learning at a slow speed, again 7 WPM but the character is sent at a faster rate.  The purpose of this is to encourage you to learn each character by its SOUND rather than unlearning character COMPONENT counting later, which there is a tendency to do. The extended spacing with the fast character give s you time to write it down and still maintain the 7 or 10WPM speed.

Finally, please try to take your time.  Nothing will discourage you more than trying to learn CW fast!  This is similar to learning a language or losing weight.  It takes time and there is no EASY way!

Good luck with the test and AFTER that, good luck with learning CW.  You will never regret it.

73

AL

Thanks for the advice.   I do tend to be eager and try to learn things fast.   Unlike with the exams-- which I have a set deadline for (ie I want to pass as soon as possible and they do not give the exams very often), there is no deadline with CW -- no test to take....

I am trying to get my license, and get antennas up before the snow comes though. 

Right now I just have a shortwave radio with an indoor antenna -- so not so good, and I'm waiting for the license before I put money into a good radio.

As a kid, I did learn the sound of C - Q before I knew what it meant, just by listening to CW on the shortwave radio.  So I am all for learning the sound of a letter, and not the dots and dashes of a letter.

Stephen
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KE2EE
Member

Posts: 21




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« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2011, 05:27:23 PM »

Stephen-  If you can copy all the letters at 10 wpm then you are ready to
try some CW QSO's, when you get your ticket. Speed will come gradually with more QSO's. You may find slower operators on 40 meters from about 7.105 to 7.120 MHZ, where you can rag chew and have fun at 10 wpm. Your shortwave receiver may not be sensitive or selective enough to copy all these signals, however. QRP is alot of fun too. Good luck.

Mike  
« Last Edit: September 03, 2011, 05:34:49 PM by KE2EE » Logged
KB3TXH
Member

Posts: 46




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« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2011, 09:27:08 AM »

The reason I learned code, was so that I could have QSOs using it.
If you feel the same, then I suggest that you concentrate on gaining a working knowledge
of Morse code now, and worry about speed later.

I used G4FON at any speed that I could copy accurately ( with a pencil ), and also listened
to W1AW at 5 to 13 wpm.

That practice was enough to get me making QSOs, and enjoying this hobby.

Someday I may decide to become proficient at 20-25 wpm, and talk to the fast guys.
But right now, I would love to hear more 5-10wpm CQs on the 40-80 meter bands.

Hurricane Irene tore down my minimal antenna system (and removed the tree I needed for 80 meters),
so I don't know when I will be active again, but I hope to hear you, and other new hams getting on the air.
 Soon, I hope.
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AC2GW
Member

Posts: 6




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« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2011, 11:29:59 AM »

Stephen-  If you can copy all the letters at 10 wpm then you are ready to
try some CW QSO's, when you get your ticket. Speed will come gradually with more QSO's. You may find slower operators on 40 meters from about 7.105 to 7.120 MHZ, where you can rag chew and have fun at 10 wpm. Your shortwave receiver may not be sensitive or selective enough to copy all these signals, however. QRP is alot of fun too. Good luck.

Mike  
Hi, What I mean to say was that I was doing good at 10wpm on the letters I've learned. KMRS,   still progressing through the letters. But great advice on listening to real live CW...

About 40 meters... I'm going to have to get creative for an antenna for 40 meters.  I'd like to put up a dipole in my attic, but, even though my house is a ranch, so its long,  I don't think I can quite make the 65 feet I'd need.   I was thinking of a magnetic loop, but it would be about 3 feet in diameter, which wont fit through the hatch to my attic, so I'd have to build it up there.

Stephen
« Last Edit: September 04, 2011, 11:36:38 AM by SCM2000 » Logged
KE2EE
Member

Posts: 21




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« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2011, 04:02:37 PM »

Ok on learning the code Stephen, as far as the dipole in your attic, to make it fit you could try to rig it on a diagonal.
If there is still not enough room lay out the ends to make a sort of elongated Z shape. Use insulators where needed to keep the wire away from wood and metal. Then adjust the final length for best SWR.
There are lots of ideas on fitting antennas to your property, try checking  the Antenna Restrictions forum on eham for more ideas.  

Mike  
« Last Edit: September 04, 2011, 04:17:02 PM by KE2EE » Logged
PA0BLAH
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Posts: 0




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« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2011, 04:26:36 PM »

You Stephen are doing fine on lcwo.net

When you click on that website with your mouse on home, you see your scores and the time spent on each lesson.
Keep the speed 20/10. Clicking on the little graph picture on the home page at the right side of your results list presents you a graphical representation of your progress.

Mag loops are very selective, only a few kHz in the 40 m band, so you have to re-tune at qsy, and the voltage over the capacitor is really high so it has to be a vacuum type. In order to keep the low yield and the Q factor as high as possible the shape has to be circular.
Best approach, is 8 pieces of copper 1" diameter tubing, soldered to each other with 135 degree knees. solder 4 together and another 4, carry them to the attic and make there the last connection. An antenna handbook will give you details.
Tuning of the capacitor has to be remote.
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N2EY
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Posts: 3925




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« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2011, 04:31:33 PM »

Here are 12 steps to learning Morse Code:

1) Realize that Morse Code is a set of skills, not just one or two, and they take a while to learn. They cannot be learned by reading a book, watching a video, or participating in online forums. They cannot be learned passively; they require your active involvement. They can only be learned by doing.

2) Set up a place to study code. A good solid desk or table with no distractions, lots of room to write, good lighting, good chair. Source(s) of code (computer, HF receiver, tapes, etc.), key and oscillator. Headphones are a good idea. I recommend starting out with a properly-adjusted straight key, with a good solid base.

3) Stay away from gimmicks like CodeQuick. Stay away from printed charts with dots and dashes on them. Morse Code as used in amateur radio is sounds, not printing on a chart or little phrases. Learning to receive consists of nothing more than learning to associate a certain sound pattern with a certain letter or number. There are only about 41 of them to learn.

4) Set aside at least a half-hour EVERY DAY for code practice. Can be a couple of ten- or fifteen minute sessions, but they should add up to at least a half hour every day. That means every single day, not just weekends, holidays, etc. If you can do more than a half-hour some days, great! Do it! But more on one day does not give you an excuse for the next day.

5) If you can enlist a buddy to learn the code with, or find a class, do it! But do NOT use the class or the buddy as an excuse to miss practice or slow down your learning.

6) Download and read "The Art And Skill of Radiotelegraphy". It's free and available from several websites. Search out other code-oriented websites, articles, etc. and read what they have to say. But always remember they're not a substitute for practice.

7) Practice both sending and receiving each and every day. A few minutes sending is plenty, most of the time should be spent receiving, but the two help each other. Practice receiving by writing it down. Copying "in your head" comes later. I find a pencil and block printing works best for me. But you have to figure out what works best for you.

8 ) A combination of the Koch method [1] and Farnsworth spacing [2] is probably optimum for most people. Read up on them, understand and use them – but remember they are tools, not magic.

9) Discontinue ANYTHING that impairs your ability to concentrate, focus, and learn new stuff. Only doctor-prescribed medications are exempt from this rule. Eat right, get enough sleep and enough physical exercise.

10) Put away your microphones, stay off the voice radios - all of them. Besides the automated code generators, listen to hams actually using code on the air. Copy down what they send. Learn how hams actually use code. When you get to the point where you can send and receive code, even slowly, get on the air and start making QSOs. Remember that you are learning code to be a Radio Operator, not just to pass a test.

11) If your HF rig doesn't have a sharp filter (400-500 Hz), get one and install it. Read the manual about how to use the rig on CW. Best operation usually requires turning off the AGC, turning the RF gain down and the AF gain up. The S-meter and AGC won't work under those conditions but that's no big loss; they’re not essentials.

12) Keep at it. There may be times when it seems as if you are making no progress, and times when you make rapid progress. What matters is that you keep practicing every day.

---

A bit of work? Sure it is, but well worth it, because all those steps make learning the code easier. And the work is trivial compared to what you can do with the skills once they're learned.

But a person has to be willing to do what's required. And they have to actually do those things.


73 es GL de Jim, N2EY

[1] The "Koch Method":
First, the student listens to code in which just two different letters are sent - say, B and R (the actual letters chosen don't matter much). The student practices with just those two letters until accuracy of 90-95% is reached. At that point, a third letter is added, and practice continues with just those three letters until 90-95% accuracy is reached. Then a fourth letter is added, etc. The process continues until all 41 letters, numbers and prosigns are learned.  

[2] "Farnsworth Spacing" is simply sending a letter or number fast (say, 15 wpm) but then leaving lots of time before the next letter or number, so that the effective speed (say, 7 wpm) is slower.
This spacing method has two benefits: First, you don't learn the bad habit of "counting the characters" - for example, an H sounds like a single sound (didididit), not like "four dits". The bad habit of "counting" is what causes many to develop a plateau around 10 wpm. Second, the exaggerated spacing gives you time to thing and write or type between each letter.  
Once you get solid at , say, 7 WPM, the Farnsworth spacing is gradually reduced.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2011, 05:10:26 PM by N2EY » Logged
KC2VDM
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Posts: 145




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« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2011, 06:01:05 PM »

Try this:

http://c2.com/ward/morse/morse.html

The " Morse Code Teaching Machine"

so far I've been learning quit well with it. It works with DOS (never upgraded that shack computer, did you?) or windows XP and 7. I haven't tested on any other platforms. Both programs are free, very small in size, and work well.

73, and good luck!
-Alex
KC2VDM
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AB2T
Member

Posts: 246




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« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2011, 05:30:43 PM »

Don't forget that the League (ARRL) archives five years' worth of code practice mp3 files on their website.  Members only, though.  You can save these mp3 files to your computer or music player and play the samples at random.

Remember, as a Tech you can use what used to be the Novice bands on HF.  Download a frequency chart from the ARRL and keep it at your desk.  Most of the privileges for Techs (except 28000 -- 28500 kHz 10m SSB) are CW.  When you're ready, jump right in!  If you're going for the General or even the Extra all at the same time, you'll gain even more room.  Jim N2EY is right -- just hide the mic, get yourself a good key and practice your fist, and never go on phone.

Don't worry if you can't make sense of CW contests even if you can copy.  There's an "exchange" or specific type of protocol for each contest QSO.  This will be listed in QST, CQ or online.  These contest exchanges are designed for the utmost brevity.

During CW DX pileups, it's also common (but perhaps bad operating procedure) for hams in a pileup to send only part of their callsign as a time saver.  On the other hand, a DX station might send for a certain prefix, such as "P5 AGN?", or a suffix, such as "YYX? YYX?". This method helps to keep order in a pileup (in theory), and allow the DX station some room to navigate the pileup.

« Last Edit: September 06, 2011, 05:32:55 PM by AB2T » Logged
KF7IPW
Member

Posts: 47




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« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2011, 10:45:26 AM »

Just my experience as a very new ham trying to learn CW myself.

I use the  www.lcwo.net at 20/10 and have gotten up to 20 characters at +90%.... it just took 4 months.
The problem is I'm not always connected to the net and I actually prefer "Just Learn Morse Code".
That is a program you can load on your computer and does about the same thing as LCWO. 
Again I run it at 20/10 and am at 20 characters with +90%.
I am also using an ipad program DahDit.  This throws actual WORDS at you at a given speed instead of random letters.
I turned this down to 10 WPM and can copy the words (entire alphabet) without a problem.
Now I can copy 85% of what I hear on the radio.
It also has a send function to practice sending.
On my Droid I'm using "Morse code trainer" and it's ok... wish they had DahDit on the droid.

OK so now for the strange thing.  It's like two different worlds with the 10 and 20 WPM.
In my mind it's like learning 2 different codes.  The main reason I slowed down to 10 WPM is I was listening to "slow"
code on 20/40/80 mtrs and couldn't copy it at all.  I had to learn the slow code because it was just so different
than the fast code.  But learning both fast and slow and been amazing in that they have a synergistic effect.
My learning with LCWO and JLMC has come much easier since I've been doing the "slow" code.

Hope that makes sense.
Planning on buying a Key and firing up next month.

Stan
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