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Author Topic: CW Skimmer  (Read 4286 times)
K4CEH
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Posts: 8




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« on: February 26, 2014, 10:09:20 AM »

I'm an old geezer (76) and have really bad hearing due to an Air Force jet accident many years ago.  Operating SSB is really a problem due to my hearing and I rarely get on these days.  I have found that I can copy CW pretty well by tuning the tone to a point within the (limited) range where I still have some hearing left.  Question -- and any responses would be greatly appreciated:  would a CW Skimmer to use with a laptop and my HB-1A be a justificatory aid to relearn CW?  I have been told that a computer controlled rig would be a good investment but I just sold most of my equipment at a swap meet and want to be very selective in what I replace it with.  Any advice in this regard would also be greatly appreciated.  Thanks much in advance -- and regards,

Chuck Whittington, K4CEH
Ellenton (near Sarasota) FL
 
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N3QE
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Posts: 2289




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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2014, 12:20:11 PM »

Most modernish "full feature" rigs have a way to adjust the beat note on receive (RIT plus passband shift, if nothing else) and the sidetone on transmit.

Not sure if the HB-1A has these abilities. If your "good range" includes 700-800Hz you might not need any such adjustment.

CW Skimmer is a powerful tool for many things, but not really sure if it's a way to re-learn CW. I might recommend RufZXP which can be adjusted for tone frequency and quality.
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K4CEH
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2014, 03:37:02 PM »

Thanks for the response.  I was really looking for a reasonably priced CW decoder to keep check on my handwritten copy.  I used to be OK (many years ago) at 10-wpm or so but now I'm having trouble with the W1AW practice sessions at five wpm.  I'd feel better if I had the incoming text on a screen as a backup.

Chuck, K4CEH
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K8AXW
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2014, 07:09:27 PM »

Chuck:  I'm 78 years old and have had a hearing problem for decades, initially from copying code 40 hours a week for almost 3 years and then working in a power plant for 40 years.  Additionally, my left ear suffered severe damage from the muzzle blast of a deer rifle about 3ft away.

I too found it necessary to quite using SSB and my CW ability was also somewhat compromised but not enough to force me to give up ham radio.  Since you can adjust the volume and frequency of the CW signal, using CW shouldn't be a total loss.  (Back when CW was part of the tests, several got wavers from a Dr. saying their hearing loss prevented them from copying code.  This was totally BS!)

However, with all of this in mind, I solved both the SSB and the CW problem by building 3 "Audio Enhancers" that was published in the January 2005 QST magazine.  I use one for my ham transceiver and one for my laptop computer.  The third I gave to my brother who also has a severe hearing problem.  This gizmo has completely turned my ham career completely around. 

The Audio Enhancer is a small unit that takes the monaural output of the transceiver and splits it into a left and right channel.  Each channel has a 3db and 6db roofing filter selected by a toggle switch and audio amplifier which is controlled by a volume control.  The output is fed into stereo headphones.  These headphones can be the small computer type devices or as in my case a set of modified headphones for the transceiver.  I bought a $30.00 set of headphones for the laptop.

Far Circuits presently makes a PCB for this Audio Enhancer and is just necessary to stuff the board and mount the PCB, switches and jacks.  I have mine mounted in a 3 X 5" plastic box with an aluminum cover available at Radio Shack.  Total cost is less than $50 including all of the shipping charges.

If you're interested or need more information, please contact me and I'd be happy to answer your questions.

Al - K8AXW
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N3HEE
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Posts: 120




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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2014, 04:18:01 AM »

Chuck, Here is a good cw decoder that I have used for a while.  Simple to use and really works well.  It's free.  http://www.dxzone.com/cgi-bin/dir/jump2.cgi?ID=11874  -Joe n3hee
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2393




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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2014, 10:52:49 PM »

Several things:

1.  My favorite CW decoder is "CWGet" :

http://www.dxsoft.com/en/products/cwget/

The download is free.  Set it up on your computer, use the computer's microphone to "listen" to the rig's loudspeaker.  Registration (which is optional) is around $30.

2. "Computer control" has nothing to do with machine-reading CW, or with keyboard-generated CW.  You can do them with _any_ rig.   [Discussion of keyboard-generated CW is a different topic -- take a look through the old posts, here.]

.              Charles

PS -- a warning:

. . . Computer-based CW decoders work well with strong, paddle-sent CW.  They don't work
. . . very well with weak, hand-key-sent CW.


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N3QE
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Posts: 2289




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« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2014, 06:48:03 AM »

PS -- a warning:

. . . Computer-based CW decoders work well with strong, paddle-sent CW.  They don't work
. . . very well with weak, hand-key-sent CW.

I have been very impressed with CW Skimmer decoding my hand-sent straight key code as well as that of others.

I do agree, some of the computer based CW decoders are completely thrown off by the random and systematic element length changes that frequently occur in hand-sent straight key code. But CW Skimmer seems to do great.
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WB5JWI
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Posts: 10




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« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2014, 11:45:01 AM »

k4ceh,
I sympathize, sir. My hearing loss is do to UH-1 engines and transmissions and the sound of BIG guns. (8 in howitzer big) That said, the solutions above work well. I was on a field site doing radar work for NASA and we had a ham with us. He used noise canceling headsets with the volume set so high we could hear it out side his house. Since he was already legally deaf, the sound didn't seem to hurt him. We could even communicate over a telephone in code once I found the right tone to use.
I am totally a cw op by choice but I find that with headphones I can lower the gain, reduce QRN and still have comfortable QSOs.
Good luck sir.
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