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Author Topic: Best CW decode option (besides brain)  (Read 875 times)
LID2LID
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« on: January 26, 2005, 08:23:21 AM »

Before anyone flames the heck out of me (aren't fellow hams the greatest?), I'll state that I'm fully aware the best CW decoder lies between your ears, the best way to learn CW is to use it, etc.

That being said, I'd like to ask your opinion of the best way to help out CW decoding.  Specifically, I'd like to know how the hardware methods (TNC's, MFJ pocket reader, etc) stack up to computer sound card methods (MixW, Hamscope, CWget, etc).  What have you had the best results with?  I've never used a TNC before, but have played with a few of the sound card decoders.  Most of them have worked fine with code bulletins sent perfectly by a computer, but I'd like comments on how these things perform under weaker signals, especially.  No need to comment on sending CW via a computer/TNC, I'll do that myself.
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KR5N
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2005, 01:01:19 PM »

I tried CWGet.  Good on loud signals.  Worth a try if you have a PC Sound Card and interface.
Marcus KR5N
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K3ESE
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« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2005, 06:38:03 AM »

No flame here, just a thought or two from an op who's used only CW since getting that first ticket in 1968:
CW is an immense amount of fun...you can communicate using simple rigs that you build yourself, and get info through some tough conditions, and with low power. I just can't imagine why anyone would want to use a CW reader, unless they absolutely needed to get some info that was only available in CW, wasn't a ham, and didn't intend to use CW as a form of two-way communication. Learning to copy CW takes interest, time, and determination, but the resultant enjoyment is well worth it, in my opinion.
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N0IU
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2005, 10:06:59 AM »

No flame here either...

I have used CWGet and have found it to do a pretty credible job, but as you know, it won't correct for a sloppy fist.

NØIU
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KE4MOB
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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2005, 02:04:52 PM »

I saw MFJ's pocket reader used a couple of times with varying levels of success.  I really wasn't impressed. My TNC (MFJ 1278B) does a better job, but still has problems sometimes.

It all depends on speed, S/N and uniformity of sending.  On a quiet band, the 1278 does a pretty good job up until about 20-25 wpm on a quiet band and machine sent code.  QRM or QRN on the band, faster speeds, and/or sloppy code drops the performance considerably.
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KE4MOB
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2005, 02:09:05 PM »

Oh yeah, I forgot.  Even though you may use a decoder, it's still nice to know what is being sent by using the decoder between the ears.  It impresses the heck outta someone when the computer starts throwing gibberish and you say "Hey, that's not what he's sending...he just said blah blah blah".

In short, IMHO, the computer should be used to supplant what's going on in your head, not the other way around.
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LID2LID
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2005, 02:26:26 PM »

This is to help me out, plus show other club members and non-hams what's really going on instead of just some strange sounds coming out of the radio.
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K3ESE
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« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2005, 07:55:09 AM »

Well, if you'd like a lot of credibility, you can tune in a nice CW sig that all can hear, and sit there and write down what they're saying. This is impressive, shows how easy and fun CW is, and is a demonstration of an actual, learned, useful skill.

  Any random member of any audience could switch on a CW reader and gaze, drooling, at it as it spews. A bit less credibility there.
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K7NHB
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2005, 07:24:46 AM »

My spelling was really bad and my parents thought using a word processor's spell checker wouldn't help. But in fact, that extra aid actually improved my spelling because I could quickly see the error and correction.

That said, I've found using CWGet has improved my "head" code copying speed a lot. First, it gets me engaged. I spend more time listening/seeing the code - code that would usually be so fast I wouldn't bother just listening too.

But CWGet isn't perfect - or rather sent code isn't perfect so I have to listen and correct. But because it is a partnership between CWGet and my head, the work load is balanced. I don't have to copy it all, but I do have to pay attention and correct 50% or more when copy is really bad - I like to dig out the weak ones.

As time goes on I'm sure my reliance on CWGet will diminish as I will do it more in my head. But it does keep me engaged in the CW activity and that's what counts.

73,
Paul
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K1RDD
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« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2005, 11:44:53 AM »

My vote goes to CWGet. I have found it a valuable tool in headcopying higher speed CW. At the beginning it took the *anxiety* away from trying to follow higher speeds. Eventually, you get in tune with the code and don't need to look at the screen. Maybe that's not the *right* way to learn, but for some, like me, it may work.

--... ...--
Doug K1RDD
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K0RGR
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2005, 07:18:24 AM »

I've never tried CWGet, but I use MixW for other things, so I've tried it quite a few times on CW, too, and I find that it does a marvelous job on machine sent CW, and a reasonable job on hand sent CW if it isn't too sloppy.

I'm a pretty good CW man without any help, but if I'm working someone who is sending machine sent code, I let MixW do the work for me, even though machine sent code is also much easier for me to copy in my head. That way, I can look back at what was sent if I miss something, and I can 'multitask'.

If we could encourage more code-a-phobes to try doing CW this way, we would increase the level of activity on the CW bands, and they'd eventually get the idea that it's much easier to do it in their heads.
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W4GRY
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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2005, 04:25:08 AM »

I'm about to test a "stand-alone" system that will both encode & decode CW that does not use a soundcard. My two PC's soundcards are already dedicated to other functions and I don't want the inconvenience of unplugging/replugging behind the computers. I'm just lazy that way. I'm acquiring a combination of the Curtis KB-4900 keyboard for encoding and the ERA Microreader for decoding. The connections are simple and direct to the transceiver key jack and external speaker jack, thus avoiding the soundcard. There are obvious disadvantages to the small scrolling L.E.D. readout of the Microreader. For example, the decode is "there" then it's "gone"......no residual text to reread and verify. Can't have everything. These units are difficult to find as they are about 2 decades old......but I have found them on Ebay....and not cheap for their ages. Hope they're not DOA. Wish me luck! At least it's something for an 'ol retiree to play with. 73, Jerry
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K7VO
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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2005, 08:05:41 PM »

First off, I agree with the comment about the best decoder being between the ears Smiley

I do find readers useful for CW demonstrations.  You will need to find clean code (machine sent or someone with a really clean fist) for them to work well.  The old Kantronics Field Day 2 is a good one if you can find a used one that works.  A single line with a big display is great for people to be able to follow along with what you are copying and/or sending.

The worst possible choice:  the MFJ pocket code reader.  Most of the time it just doesn't work.  

72/73,
Caity
K7VO/8
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