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Author Topic: CW question from a new no code Extra  (Read 498 times)
SWL377
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« on: July 14, 2008, 05:15:08 PM »

I just got licensed in April 08. No code doesn't mean never code. I'd like to become a competent CW op. Can you experienced CW ops give me some advice on keys? I am already studying Morse and progressing.

I studied Morse Code as a Scout. We used straight keys and buzzers. That was nearly half a century ago. I doubt if I ever topped 3 or 4 wpm, but I did learn the letters and numbers. Surprisingly it is coming back with a little study.

Some tell me to start with an iambic key, others say straight key, others say bug. I'd like to start with something I can stay with even if it has a tough learning curve... but maybe that is like a student pilot wanting to get primary instruction in an F 18. I just don't know enough to make the right choices.

I don't mind spending some bucks to get a key that I can stay with. I know what a straight key is but I don't know much more than that. Do iambic keys need keyers? Are bugs a good choice?

I will never become a high speed CW whiz, but I'd like to be able to have enjoyable QSOs on HF. It is a great radio tradition and I really want to be part of it.

Any and all suggestions appreciated.

73,
AF6IM



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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2386




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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2008, 06:08:35 PM »

This has been asked (and answered) again, and again, and again in this forum.  Check the "back pages" of the CW forum.

The problem (for most people) is _reading_ code, not _sending_ code.  For that, too, see the "back pages" of the CW forum.

My suggestion, FWIW:

Forget the bug (_way_ too hard to master).  Forget the straight key (too hard to master).  Either of those will work without a keyer.

If your rig doesn't have a built-in keyer, get a PicoKeyer kit(or an inexpensive keyer from MFJ or anyone else) on eBay.

Then get an iambic paddle (or a non-iambic "single paddle" if you want to be different).   Use it with the built-in, or add-on, keyer.

That way, your "dahs" will be three times as long as your "dits", and your dit-to-space ratio will be right.  

You can have a "bad fist" with a paddle.  But it's a darn sight easier to have a "good fist" with a paddle, than with anything else (except a keyboard).

As you see, I'm biased.<g>  And many more-experienced hams disagree with me.  

       Charles
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K5END
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Posts: 1309




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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2008, 06:11:53 PM »

Mark,

I'm glad to see someone else at the same level. In fact, your post sounds as if I could have written it.

Hopefully we can get CW going and QSO soon between 6-land and here in Houston.

FWIW, I also learned as a Scout and am learning to copy on the fast track.

As far as sending...well...I now know what the term "ham-fisted" means. It will take practice.

I was advised locally to start with true Iambic technique.

Some say iambic is over rated. But as far as I'm concerned, it's either faster or it isn't. I bought a Kent iambic on ebay. I'm looking seriously at keyers now. See my OP  on keyer choices one or two entries before yours. The one I choose will also key tube powered anchors.

I should let the real elmers answer your other question, but some radios require a keyer and some do not. I was told, again by a local elmer, that an external keyer also provides a lot of convenience when changing rigs as opposed to using internal keyers on the various rigs you will undoubtedly accumulate.

73
K5END
Larry
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K5END
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2008, 06:15:53 PM »

Mark,

You may be doing this already, but software helps for learning to copy and developing good habits.

I settled on G4FON, but also intend to try RufZ and Justlearnmorsecode and anything else I can find time to work on.
LK
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N2EY
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Posts: 3879




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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2008, 06:17:29 PM »

I suggest you start with a straight key. It will help you learn timing and the actual characters.

Once you have the straight key mastered, try either a bug or a keyer. Neither is hard to learn once you can do straight-key sending.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K0ACP
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Posts: 23




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« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2008, 06:46:48 PM »

Mark,

I too echo your story.  I got my license last December and wanted to become proficient in cw.  I tried the morse senders and find that justlearnmorsecode works best for me for practice.  I also invested in the Codequick cd's.  

This is the third time that I've learned cw, first Boy Scouts -- 35 years ago, second to get a novice ticket 25 years ago and now to use.  I have found that the combo of codequick cd with justlearnmorsecode got me on the air at a conversant rate within 10 days.  

For sending, I use a Vibroplex code warrior jr connected to the internal keyer of my iCom 746Pro.

hope to chat with you in cw on the air.

73,

Art
K0ACP
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W5ESE
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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2008, 06:39:00 AM »

I agree with Jim, N2EY's advice.

When sending with a keyer, it's very easy for new
operators to let extra dits slip through. I've
endured so many QSOs with new morse operators
struggling with paddles and a keyer, slipping up
on every other word.

Had they been using straight keys, they could have
concentrated instead on learning the code more
thoroughly and about CW operating procedures, which
take some getting used to.

"The Radio Amateur's Operating Manual" suggests
beginning with a straight key, and switching to
a speed key when you become proficient at about
16 wpm. I still think that's great advice.

A perfectly usable straight key doesn't have to
be expensive. The Ameco AM-K4 is perfectly usable
(I have one I bought 32 years ago), and is 17.95.
I still use it frequently.

http://www.mtechnologies.com/ameco/keyosc.htm

Also check out the Straight Key Century Club at

http://www.skccgroup.com/

to have some more fun with your straight key.

73
Scott
W5ESE

 
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K5END
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Posts: 1309




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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2008, 08:04:04 AM »


Scott,

I'm glad you mentioned that about starting with a straight key.

Getting on the air will come sooner for me with a straight key, like next weekend.

At this point in iambic mode an extra dit or dah wants to sneak in like a hockey puck, meaning more practice for me in iambic before revealing to the bands how ham-fisted I am. :-0


73Larry
K5END
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KB9CRY
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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2008, 07:15:02 PM »

Iambic keys are easiest to learn and to use.  Period.
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N9ESH
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Posts: 27




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« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2008, 10:38:58 PM »

The time you spent in the scouts learning slow code is, sorry to say, time wasted. Code is not the easiest thing to learn, properly. The key is learning it properly. My recommendation is to faithfully use one of the software programs by G4FON or K7QO. You can find them at no cost on the Internet.

First start here:
http://www.qsl.net/n1irz/finley.morse.html

Use one of the courses here:
http://www.athm.net/andreas/K7QO_codecourse/  

http://www.g4fon.net/CW%20Trainer.htm

When you get a little comfortable with code check out the new FISTS code buddy program. They will match you up to someone on the air to learn or improve your CW skills. You don’t have to be a member, but you may want to join.
http://www.codebuddy.org/

As to the type of “key” to use, I would recommend a plane, simple, straight key for starters. You can always move up to keyers later.

72,73,
Jim/N9ESH
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K5END
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Posts: 1309




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« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2008, 06:55:06 AM »

quote, "The time you spent in the scouts learning slow code is, sorry to say, time wasted"

For copy or send, or both?

That is likely true in most cases, unfortunately.

In the exceptions-to-every-rule category, we were lucky enough to have a Scoutmaster who had been signal trained in the military, and now 40 years later it is paying off me. Progress in copy rate is surprisingly easy for me. I feel lucky about that. The time I wasted was from having not taken advantage of the training between then and now.

Now for sending, on the other hand. No. It stinks. You are absolutely right. I didn't learn squat on how to send very well, and maybe that is my fault. Back in the day the thinking was that "sending is the easy part. Copy is the hard part." I think they were wrong. To quote Pink, my hands feel "just like two balloons."
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KU2US
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Posts: 74




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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2008, 08:56:33 PM »

No question about it-a STRAIGHT KEY. It developes your fist technique, concentration and is down right FUN. Hey, another key can come later after you develope confidence and proficiency. You can get a straight key for $15.00 or the cadillac of straight keys-the Kent for about $125.00.. I have been a coder for about 28 years now, and still get the "Willies" when I start to tap. Any way you do it, you will not be suprised at how other code ops want to help, or slow down for you. Remember, its not your speed that counts, but how accurate and readable you are.. Best of luck with CW & hope to work you soon..Ken..KU2US...
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N4KXG
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Posts: 31




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« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2008, 03:47:04 PM »

All very good info on cw and keys etc.
I would add that I was around 20 wpm and decided to up my speed at age 73. I found that tough at first but after listening to faster code, and only grabbing a letter or two at a time eventually brought me up around 35 wpm.
So, I think in my opinion, you have to push yourself and listen to cw as much as you can at somewhat faster speeds than you can copy. That forces your brainn to work some and pick up speed. That has been my experience.
 Of course you want to get your control down well first,ie;spacing letters and words for good copy.
Very happy that you are choosing to go cw, we need more operators that I know will come to love that cw method of communicating!
 Best to you..hope to hear you on the air soon. And as someone else mentioned, you will find most operators happy to slow down to the speed you are sending.(we all remember those first cw days and really like to help!).
 73' Pete N4KXG- Florida
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