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Author Topic: Lake Erie Swing  (Read 7643 times)
WB2JJV
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« on: June 14, 2012, 06:35:39 AM »

The recent thread on "Vibroplex and Obsolescence" and the ensuing discussion about sending perfect code reminded me of when I first heard the term "Lake Erie Swing" from Jean Shepherd, a radio personality and raconteur who became famous for his short story which subsequently became the beloved movie "A Christmas Story".  Shep was also a ham and references to radio and his time in the signal corps often highlighted his stories. 

Sure enough a Google search brough up the following courtesy of "CW Notes With Character", by George F. Franklin, W0AV, posted at telegraph-office.com. George writes:

 "Back in the thirties, when I got started in ham radio, every CW signal had at least two, sometimes three, characteristics, not all of which could be described by using the RST system. Incidentally, RST then maxed out at 559, not 599 as now; easier to manage in those days.

First of all, there was the "fist", i.e. the operator's manner of sending. The old pump handle straight key was pretty much the standard, and predominated on the bands. Next in popularity was the Vibroplex, commonly known as the "bug", with manual dashes and "automatic" dots. Here was where the individual sending style really came into play. There was the sea-going sparks sporting his "banana boat roll", with the exaggerated dash length. you could easily visualize "sparks" holding on for deal life in his shipboard shack as the vessel slowly listed from port or starboard. Once acquired, the BBR was usually retained even after sparks returned to dry land; it was a badge of distinction, so to speak.

Of lesser popularity, but even more distinctive, was the style of an operator using a classic "sideswiper" key. The dots and dashes were both made manually by horizontal movement of the blade to which the finger grips were attached. The resulting CW, though eminently copyable, has to be heard to be appreciated as it defies word description. Yes, there are still a very few OT's on the bands using sideswipers, but they are most certainly a vanishing breed.

No discussion of fists would be complete without mention of the so called "Lake Erie Swing", which originated with bug using marine ops on ships plying the Great lakes. The LES was characterized by the very generous use of dots, usually much faster (relatively) than the dashes. It made for a somewhat fluttery, whimsical style of sending, not unpleasant to copy once one got the hang of it. This style was later adopted by many airline and police CW operators, with equal success."

When I first was licensed in the early sixties most of us were still depending on straight keys and bugs.  A few were using keyers, but they were in the minority, so variations in fists were anticipated and expected.  Apparently, nowadays, these are considered less than desirable characteristics but back then it made code transmissions even more interesting and challenging---

Just thought I would add some perspective.

73
David

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AE4RV
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2012, 07:49:32 AM »

Interesting, thanks for posting.

73, Geoff
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AB2CF
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2012, 06:01:07 AM »

I grew up listening to Shep and was never sure if the Lake Erie Swing was myth, exaggeration or fantasy.  I think Shep was many a young boy's intro to ham radio (and philosophy, and questioning authority and so much more).  Until acquiring a few hundred hours of Shep's shows did i realize his influences on me,  becoming a ham and love of CW (and bug op).
thanks,
   Bob AB2CF
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AE4RV
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2012, 09:12:22 AM »

Those interested in listening to Shep's old broadcasts should subscribe to the Brass Figlagee podcast. You can start by looking through the show descriptions for radio/ham/DX/CW keywords if you only want to hear the relatively few shows that deal primarily with radio. A couple of years ago I ended up listening to almost all of the archive. He retired from broadcasting about the same time as I was starting to listen to MW DX as a child, what a pity.

http://shepcast.blogspot.com/
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NK6Q
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« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2012, 03:12:11 PM »

Buuhh-yeah...

Definition of "Lake Erie Swing": justification for crappy bug-sending.  As in "yeah, I'm throwing lots of extra dits in there.  It's my personal Lake Erie Swing". 

OK guys, bring on the flames!!

I grew up in Northern New Jersey, listening to Jean Shepherd every night on WOR at 10:15 (what a whacky time to have a radio show; never could figure out why it just couldn't start at 10).  Listened to his Saturday Night live broadcast from the Limelight in NYC.  Even had a copy of "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" personally signed by Shep. I saw him in concert at Fairleigh Dickenson College in Rutherford.  What a trip!

Keep this in mind- Shep always had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.  I doubt it if he was ever a fan of Lake Erie Swingers.

Excelsior, Man!

Bill in Pasadena, NK6Q
(the camel ate my jacket)
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N1EA
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2012, 10:17:26 AM »

David - and other readers,

You can hear some of W0BMU's Lake Erie swing here:

http://archive.org/details/W0bmuHowardtexHarveyW0bmu

I have a very few longer recordings which I may find yet.

73

David N1EA

-30-
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PA0BLAH
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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2012, 11:07:16 AM »


He was pounding brass for 75 years, but that is not a pounding fist, that is a handicap, that is telegraph distortion at the utmost, as a result of lack of correction of "personalities" by subordinates.

Bob 30
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N1EA
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« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2012, 11:30:38 AM »

This style - and you will note that W0BMU never adds or subtracts a dot or dash - was typical of radio on the Lakes, also Flight Radio Officers and many South American marine and aviation Morse stations and operators.

It allowed faster transmission of messages as the dots were sped up but most operators could not send 40 wpm dashes, so slower dashes became the accepted norm.

There were also distortions of code that were stylish but horrific in my opinion like the elongation of the last dot so that it nearly becomes a dash but which the receiving operator had to remember that it was not a dash.  Such code was very tiring to copy.  Lake Erie swing - when well done like W0BMU did it was not difficult to copy and was easier to copy than if it were sent with correctly formed dashes because the slow dashes gave the receiving operator more time to type!

73

DR
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ZL1BBW
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« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2012, 04:54:26 PM »

I have heard a heck of a lot worse sending than that example.
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2012, 04:59:52 AM »

It actually sounded very readable.
It was no strain to receive, and was sort of relaxing in a weird way.
Perhaps it gives one a sense of rolling motion, or perhaps it is just late here, but I actually like it.
The main thing is that it has the correct number of elements, so it sounds fine.

I never was a fan of bug's, and used the hand key, or a Katsumi keyer in which I upgraded the relay to take the extra current.
But I can still appreciate morse, sent in all it's dialects.

73 - Rob
« Last Edit: August 27, 2012, 05:10:12 AM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
PA0BLAH
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« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2012, 11:03:36 AM »

It actually sounded very readable.
It was no strain to receive, and was sort of relaxing in a weird way.


Rob, it is not. As far as I know guys in telegraph schools were measured by a ruler on a recording tape. That was good. However it seems that is was some honor to make exceptional sending.  It is really terrible. Just as one guy in that tea party on 500 kHz, that was obviously slapping his straight key, otherwise you can't make that sound.

This lake Erie guy starts with dahdahditditdah unknown character.
The first two dashes are half the length of the fourth one.

Is that next  dit daaahdidi dit meant as ede or as le ?

Most likely he starts with 'mule metn'

that next dahdah di dah  dahdit is that metn or ttetn or qn?

In 75 he generates 9 dots, and that are 4 to much I suppose, so the 75 is ambiguous

The first dash of the Y is double the length of the second one, so can't be time saving. and the e of year is with insufficient letter space which has to be at least the length of the shortest dash.

So I am convinced those guys were some CW God by being ancient, want to be recognised, their proud, and generate that kind of rubbish.
There are others some W?AAA proficient with left and right hand 60 wpm, that sounds as it ought to sound.

That lake Erie msg was over 19 second so the equivalent speed of the whole message is about 22 wpm. A lot easier to copy when sent in standard international Morse code.

Bob
Translated dutch proverb: Behave yourself normal then you behave yourself mad enough
« Last Edit: August 27, 2012, 11:06:23 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged
STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2012, 02:21:04 PM »

Bob,

You have too much time on your hands if you count the dots, but not connect them.
You know how ham radio has really good fists and the "quirky" fists.
It is possible to qso with both, but one takes a few moments to "bed in" to your brain.

The mind is wonderfully adaptive, and can adjust to make the imperfect, perfect.
I am sure you have had the experience, when communicating by CW, of feeling like you are having a voice qso.
Communication is the art of transferring your thoughts to those of others, and the medium is secondary to this purpose.

It is like a stage play, where the lights are used to illustrate the players.
If they are used correctly, the audience does not even register the lights are there, but rather gathers the meaning they illuminate.
But if the lights are shone in the faces of the audience, they distract from the communication, and attract attention to themselves.

This is similar to very poor morse sending - it detracts from the communications and attracts attention to itself.
But as humans, we are equipped to deal with variations in patterns and still recognise them.
This is the whole reason we have neural network structures with adaptive synapses in our brain.

For example, I cannot speak Dutch.
But your English is mostly readable, so we can still communicate.
I ignore the parts of your text which I cannot understand, and gain the overall meaning - so we communicate.
This is an everyday event all over the world, and enables people to communicate in the absence of perfection.

We do agree on the point that we both are proponents of sending perfect code.
I use a hand key with the express purpose of making it sound like a keyer or computer sent code.
This is a personal goal, and quirk.

But I also recognise that the world is full of different people, and I cannot impose my will on them - nor should I.
I have learned a number of languages, since this is one of my interests.
When I speak in them (Japanese and German), the native speakers listen politely while I butcher their language.
It is only fitting that we can be as tolerant in the morse speaking community.

By the way, I cannot understand that Dutch proverb.
My best guess is that it implies being normal is crazy.
But it is like one of the Zen koan's (riddles) in that at least it makes me think - but I have not reached enlightenment yet.

73 - Rob



« Last Edit: August 27, 2012, 02:44:19 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
PA0BLAH
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« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2012, 04:13:57 PM »

Bob,

You have too much time on your hands if you count the dots, but not connect them.
You know how ham radio has really good fists and the "quirky" fists.
It is possible to qso with both, but one takes a few moments to "bed in" to your brain.
t is like a stage play, where the lights are used to illustrate the players.
If they are us

I agree with your writing. But I have to emphasize that just as reading bad handwriting compared with printed matter, it delays understanding and limits my comfort copy speed sincerely. Of course when a guy does the best he can, no problem, but deliberately sending lake  Erie , in order to show you are something special, like ape hanger handlebars on bikes, is not my thing.

And the ratification David Ring gave, that you increase speed by shortening the dots, does not hold when the speed is 22 wpm and the dashes are sometimes differing a factor 4 in length.

I guess that when you sent such a way in a coding course, they sent you away and no examination can be passed successful.

So the Dutch proverb in this case means: Don't behave yourself deliberately strange (sent lake Erie when you can do a better job), when you think you behave yourself normal (pounding a straight key as good as you can) that is already noticeable as your personally coupled fist.

Going asleep Rob, it is past midnight hr
73 gn Bob
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KC9QQ
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« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2012, 05:11:24 PM »

I grew up listening to Shep and was never sure if the Lake Erie Swing was myth, exaggeration or fantasy.  I think Shep was many a young boy's intro to ham radio (and philosophy, and questioning authority and so much more).  Until acquiring a few hundred hours of Shep's shows did i realize his influences on me,  becoming a ham and love of CW (and bug op).
thanks,
   Bob AB2CF

Are his shows still available somewhere on CD or download?

Fred, KC9QQ
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N1EA
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« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2012, 02:17:56 PM »

WB2JJV mentioned: 

Quote
Of lesser popularity, but even more distinctive, was the style of an operator using a classic "sideswiper" key. The dots and dashes were both made manually by horizontal movement of the blade to which the finger grips were attached. The resulting CW, though eminently copyable, has to be heard to be appreciated as it defies word description. Yes, there are still a very few OT's on the bands using sideswipers, but they are most certainly a vanishing breed.

I made a recording of Finn who was operating HS0AC this morning.  I was sending on such a side swiper and also a Mc Elroy 1939 Deluxe semi automatic key.

Here is the recording of HS0AC and N1EA with sideswiper and bug:
http://archive.org/details/FinnJensenOz1hetOperatingHs0acRadioAmateurSocietyOfThailandStation

73

David N1EA
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