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Author Topic: 30 wpm Minimum, C'mon, Really?  (Read 5702 times)

Posts: 74

« on: July 08, 2008, 05:06:49 PM »


Background: A long time ago, I had a NON-RENEWABLE novice and spent a few months doing CW and enjoyed it then.  I passed the Gen class code test 3 weeks before CW went away.  My CW speed is disgracefully and shamefully slow.  As a gen class, I haven't been CW on the air yet.  My priority is to pass the extra test and other things, then work on my code speed.

An Extra-Class licensee told me a few days ago, that unless I can send and receive at least 30 wpm, I can forget about DX contacts.  He insisted that he was serious and not joking.  

He also told me that unless I understand the meaning of "5 N N," that I'll get no contacts.  

Well, I like CW.  My speed sucks, but I still like it.  Is this Extra for real?  If I send out a 5 to 10 wpm CQ, will I be ignored, shunned, kicked off the band, or what?

Dumb question time:  What is "5NN?"


Posts: 120

« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2008, 05:14:01 PM »

5NN uses to 'cut numbers' or abbreviation for the number 9, used to shorten the sending time of 9. Whoever told you that 30 WPM is a must for working DX is an idiot.
You should prob. be able to do 10 WPM and practice upping your speed by copying CW on the radio, or by using one of the many free CW training programs.

Posts: 4283


« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2008, 06:50:06 PM »

Did you receive your copy of the ARRL Operating Manual yet?

Posts: 74

« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2008, 08:42:33 PM »


Yeah, I have it right here.  I can't fine anything to substantiate or refute what he told me about 30 wpm to get replies.  

One the one hand, things said by an experienced Extra class licensee must be taken seriously (or seriously enough to be investigated further as I'm doing by posting this query).  

On the other hand, the fact that the FCC required 5 wpm seems to imply that 5 wpm is "an acceptable speed."  

Well, when I rearrange a few things and get my straight key connected, I'll listen for someone I can copy, answer and see how it goes.  If the distant station speeds up beyond what I can copy or if he requires that I speed up beyond what I can copy, then the QSO will fail.  Nonetheless, I'll do my best and see what happens.

But, before plugging the key in, I'll do a lot of copying of other's QSOs.

Maybe I'm reading in too much from what you posted; thanks for indulging all this.

Posts: 2808

« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2008, 12:20:52 AM »

>  On the other hand, the fact that the FCC required 5 wpm seems to imply that 5 wpm is "an acceptable speed."

When you start listening, you'll find that 5 wpm is _not_ going to cut it.  

> Well, when I rearrange a few things and get my straight key connected, I'll listen for someone I can copy, answer and see how it goes. If the distant station speeds up beyond what I can copy or if he requires that I speed up beyond what I can copy, then the QSO will fail. Nonetheless, I'll do my best and see what happens.

> But, before plugging the key in, I'll do a lot of copying of other's QSOs.

Now, _that's_ a sensible plan!

"30 wpm" for DX QSO's ?  If the DX hears you, and replies, you'll have to _recognize your own call sign_ at his speed -- and it could be 30 wpm.  That's not too hard to do, _if_ you're used to the sound of letters sent really fast.

Two more notes:

1.  The best program I've found for improving "copy speed" is RufZXP.  It's free, and fun if you don't take it too seriously.  

2.  It's a bitch to send at 30 wpm with a straight key, and it's a developed skill with a paddle.  But it's dead simple with a keyboard.  


Posts: 182

« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2008, 07:01:21 AM »

I work DX in the low end of the bands and I can tell you that you do not need 30 wpm to make contacts;  on the other hand, 5 wpm will get you nowhere either.  A DX station interested in just cranking out qso's will send the usual 599 and go on to the next one.  I prefer to send them a true report and my qth if appropriate.  I use a paddle and the aging computer between my ears and am quite comfortable with 13 to 30 wpm.  Too slow and it becomes difficult as well.  Get on the air and you will be surprised how quickly your copying and sending speed increases.

Good DX,  Mike

Posts: 5210

« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2008, 01:24:26 PM »

He's right, but you two guys may be talking about different things.

If you're operating in a contest (esp a DX contest) or a DX pileup, you'll find a lot of stuff out of reach unless you can copy 30WPM in difficult environments, and he's also right that there's very little to the exchanges other than "5NN". Heck, some of the robo-stations in contests send their call no slower than 50WPM for some bizarre mentation only clear to the robo-operators running those stations.

But... on all the bands there is much more leisurely stuff going on, including DX'ing, from 10-20 WPM. In the 5-10 WPM category you'll find opportunities to (just not a lot of DX'ing... certainly some, though! not all those DX ops are proficient CW'ers!)

Even in a contest you'll find that way up from the bottom band edges, there's stuff going on at 10, 15 WPM.

For leisurely DX'ing, there's plenty of opportunity for both basic exchanges and ragchewing at the 10-15WPM range.

Posts: 4283


« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2008, 05:12:05 AM »

My CW speed is disgracefully and shamefully slow.

Your path forward is clear then, right?

We all did it and you can too.  Yes 5 wpm will not cut it as you will find out; practicing everyday in multiple short increments is best.

Posts: 4709

« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2008, 06:23:06 AM »

In a word: NO.

Sure there are situations where 30 wpm will make-or-break the DX QSO. But there are plenty of other situations too.


Don't worry too much about speed. Get on the air, have QSOs, get in a contest, copy W1AW, do computer practice. Try different things. Enjoy Morse Code at whatever speed you can do. Write it down, copy in your head, send, receive, etc.

If you spend at least 20-30 minutes a day doing that, every day, you will soon find that you're going a lot faster than 5 wpm.

And now the Big Secret:

Most people can do 30+ wpm Morse Code. Think about how fast people talk, and how fast you can read - for most folks that's a lot more than 30 wpm, right?

The first step is believing you can. The second step is not worrying about it.

73 de Jim, N2EY

Posts: 21764

« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2008, 09:16:47 AM »

Also there's a big difference between rag chewing with DX stations, which I do quite a bit, and "hit and run" DXing where you make a 2-second contact and log it, then go look for another one.  I do that, too.

For rag chewing, a lot of it occurs at about 22-24 wpm which is actually not very fast at all.  After a weekend of CW contesting, it sounds painfully slow, like "damn, there sure are big spaces in this code."  But then, compared with 5 wpm of course it sounds fast.  It just isn't.  22-24 wpm or so is about the minimum speed that will keep one fairly focused without your mind wandering too far.  The reason it's difficult to work code at 5 wpm and increase slowly from there is there's so much dead space between activity it's possible for you to be thinking big, wonderful thoughts between characters, or even between dits and dahs.  Kind of like a very interrupted conversation.

When you ramp up into the 20's, stuff starts to make more sense and sound a bit more like conversation.  In the 30s and 40s, it gets better and starts to really flow.  At the higher speeds, almost nobody does the "okay, so back to you" type's mostly break-in stuff, with rapid exchanges and space for the other guy to break in with a thought, a question or new info -- just like in real life!  That's when code becomes fun.

However, you don't have to be there at all to make fast "hit & run" DX contacts.  Using a memory keyer, program it for all your exchanges and just push buttons to send everything you need to complete a contact at any speed you want, even 50 wpm.  The only thing you might need to manually send, just once, is the DX station's callsign.  Then, when "copying," the only important thing to copy is the DX station's callsign, which you'll likely hear sent many times so you can have that nailed down before you even call him; the report is probably "599" by default, but if it's not, be prepared to copy what it is; and the only other stuff he's likely to send is 73 and QRZ?  So, to make 30-40 even 50 wpm "contacts" you need to copy just about nothing.



Posts: 87

« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2008, 09:32:51 AM »

5NN is 599 in cut numbers.  Other cut numbers are T for 0, and A for 1. The others are not used very frequently except in very specific net circumstances, mostly.

And yes, they are used mostly in contests.  I would say that in a DX contest, or for rare DX where pileups are continuous, it would be a good idea to learn to recognize your own call sign and 5NN at very high speed--30WPM might even be slow in some circumstances.
And since most contest exchanges involve either number or letter/number geographical indentifiers. For example, my own CQWW exchange is 5NNT4--for 59904.  So learn to recognize the numbers at high speeds.

And be aware that contest speed and ragchew speed are different skill sets. I can go up to 40WPM in a contest, because I more or less know what I'm listening for. But I'm embarrassed to admit my conversatioanl speed. So don't worry about how fast you are during your first QSO.  The other op will likely slow down to your speed.  And you can always hunt and pounce in a contest and listen to a station until you figure out his exchange before you call him (or her).

Posts: 1

« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2008, 10:46:22 AM »

sure contest / flyspeck island pile up
will be running 30 wpm or faster

most of the dx ive worked
has been in the 16 to 25 wpm speed range

have worked a few new op dx stations
that were running the mind bending
speed of oh 8 wpm

remember high speed DX ops were
not born that way
at some time they were also slow speed ops

there are many dx ops
that do not enjoy
hello goodby high speed contacts
would rather spend a few min
with you at 18 wpm

then 5nn tu 40 wpm contact

hint for slow ops
for working high speed dx contest stations
till the last few hours of a contest
their contact rate has dropped
like a rock
call them at what ever speed you can handle

some of them
will QRS
to make
one more point



Posts: 2086

« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2008, 12:48:52 PM »

I have never been able to rag chew at 30 WPM. 20 WPM is about it. That being said, I can Listen to the DX long enough to catch the call and split at up to 35/40 WPM. After a short time you will find that you can send a whole lot faster than you can copy. Listening is the important thing as usual. Good DX!

73 de Lindy

Posts: 2527

« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2008, 06:05:44 PM »

To work rare Dxpedetions you need to be able to copy, at the very least, your call, if not the entire call of whomever the DX is calling.

You should be able to send, at the very least, your call and a sig report around the same speed as the DX.

You'll discover that some DX ops live in the DX country and are just having fun, working the pile at whatever speed is comfortable for them, and don't mind receiving CW slower than their speed, but they don;t want to have to change the speed of their keyers or computers.


Posts: 105

« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2008, 07:40:32 PM »

Don't worry about the speed. Just get on the air and have fun. Like the some others have said, your speed will increase to the point that you don't even realize it. You will also find that your mind can wonder and still cpy code.
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