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Author Topic: Sticky Thread for "How To Learn CW"?  (Read 3009 times)
KB1WSY
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« on: August 08, 2013, 10:57:07 AM »

Hi all,

The question, "How do I learn CW" (or more correctly, how to learn Morse Code) ranks very near the top of those asked on this forum (and over on QRZ as well). Would the moderators consider putting a "sticky" thread here, to help newbies? Admittedly, newbies could can get the same result by doing a careful text search of this forum, or simply by trawling back a few pages, but wouldn't it be great to make it as easy as possible?

The only objection I can think of is that, like almost any subject in ham radio, there is a wide spectrum of opinion on the subject. I like the list of a dozen points that N2EY often posts on the subject, but that's just me and I've seen people disagree. So perhaps it would be a little tricky to get right? (Or perhaps a modicum of disagreement is a healthy thing, even within a sticky thread.)

I just figure that anything we can do to increase the number of happy CW operators is worth it. I am not one yet! I'm still stuck at around 22 characters in Koch at 20wpm, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Also (putting on my curmudgeon hat) it gets a little wearying to see that one question come up, over and over again, and receive essentially the same (usually very good) set of answers every time!!!

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 11:05:09 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
W4KYR
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Posts: 469




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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2013, 05:23:57 PM »

Because everyone has their preferred methods. I will give some generic advice.

#1 Find someone else who is also interested in learning CW through your radio club or just ask here at eham. Arrange an on air schedule on a band that is not used that much on CW. The 10 meter cw band (away from the beacons) would be a good place as well as the 6 mtr, 2 mtr and 440 CW sub bands.

Back in the day, I had my 5 wpm but wanted to go to 13 to get to General class. Someone from the radio club was in a similar situation. We both met on 10 meters and practiced several times a week until we both passed the 13 wpm. This works good if you and the other person is within reliable reception range.

#2 W1AW is a great place to learn code. I used to used a cassette tape recorder and taped every nightly transmission until I got a lot of the code down. I just hit rewind if I missed some words and replayed it.

I'm sure these days there are Morse Code Practice practice transmissions that you could download as an MP3 and play it through a portable MP3 player or your cell phone. Or just capture W1AW and play it back on your mobile device.

#3 There are probably some good Morse code learning programs on the net, perhaps for free. Maybe others can recommend some.

What do I recommend? Learn fast code,  words and phrases at 25 or 30 wpm are distinct. For instance.... 73, QTH, CQ DE, WX is, tnx fer call, ur 5NN, So hw cpy? BK 2 U.....are all repetitive and easily picked out after awhile even at fast speed...almost like a musical note.

I'm sure others have ideas as well. Good Luck





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K8AXW
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« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2013, 09:15:40 AM »

Martin:  I think a "sticky thread" might be a good idea but I have serious doubts if if will happen.  In the meantime, I've found that "trawling" is the best way to get the information I want.  Especially since you don't have to do a Google search and wade through thousands of possible posts.

On this CW forum, trawling back through previous posts is quite easy and you can read until you're ready to quit; mark your spot and then pick it up later. 

I might add that there is a great deal of information on learning code on this forum and many different opinions on how to do it.  While this might be confusing at first, it usually shakes down to about a half-dozen methods and opinions.  They might be phrased somewhat different but it will become apparent after a bit that they are quite similar.

Martin, as far as "your being stuck" I've found that breaking from what is the norm for you might be the best way to break through to the next character or next speed level.  Whenever you feel you're beating your head against a wall, it's time to look for a door!   Grin  That means looking around.....

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KB1WSY
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« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2013, 09:53:50 AM »

...as far as "your being stuck" I've found that breaking from what is the norm for you might be the best way to break through to the next character or next speed level....

Thanks Allen. Actually, "stuck" was the wrong word. When I do it regularly, the code learning goes well and I am able to notch up new characters steadily. What I should have said was: "Learning the code keeps getting interrupted by other commitments." It is within my grasp, I just have to make the time for it. *This* is possibly the top issue for many code-learners: it's like learning a new language, you really have to build a routine and try not to break it.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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K8AXW
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« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2013, 08:02:25 PM »

Martin:  Almost everyone has problems with learning Morse code.  If it isn't one thing, it's another.  But most have one thing in common.  That is finding time to do it.  It's extremely difficult to shake out uninterrupted time between dealing with work, family and even walking the family dog.

Unlike the military which has your undivided attention for as long as they want it, a family man has different priorities. 

Whenever you can find a few minutes, go back and keep at the Morse thing.  While it takes longer, eventually you'll get there.

Good luck.
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AC6CV
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« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2013, 05:29:24 AM »

Increasing CW speed just takes time and practice. I could pass my general just barely in high school. In the military I was typing code on a typewriter a couple hours a day. It is amazing how much time there is between each character. You can sip coffee between words. Since they don't use CW in the military anymore or in commercial radio I suspect it is a dying skill except on the low end of the ham bands.
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2013, 08:17:11 AM »

Concerning the above: It's all good advice, and many thanks. But my intention in starting this thread was to suggest a sticky thread at the top of the forum, with a compendium of the advice that is liberally available in the numerous "how do I learn CW" threads. When I first started learning CW last year, I never felt the need to start a "How do I...." thread because there was already so much available in this place and in the books and software that I purchased/downloaded. Yet, almost weekly, someone starts yet another thread on the topic and gets the same (good) advice all over again. So, experience shows that the scattershot information is often not seen (or searched for): people start yet another new and duplicative thread instead.

I have seen some fellow hams react by saying: "These people are lazy and should do some research before posting the question." On my more curmugeonly  Angry days, I tend to agree with that. But the posters all seem well-intentioned and eager to learn, so it seems a little self-defeating (for the hobby) to express such criticism. After all, many of them are newbies and over time they presumably will acquire at least some of the research skills when they become familiar witch how eHam and other forums work. It also must be said that both here and on QRZ, the search tools leave something to be desired. So it may be that people *are* trying to find stuff before posting questions, but are being let down by limitations in the search tools. The alternative is to scroll through weeks and weeks of posts until you find what you're looking for -- and some people don't have the patience for that.

An example of good "sticky threads" can be seen over on QRZ. If you visit their Technical Forums => Boat Anchors you will see four sticky threads at the top of the forum, including, for instance, "Restoring Your Vintage Radios." Some of the advantages of this format are:

--It saves a lot of time for newbies (find info quickly) and OTs (fewer duplicative posts to read, less of the duplicative Elmering to do).
--Because the advice has been distilled and refined, it is often structured better than a rambling thread that answers one question.
--It is all in one place, if the subject is multi-facet.
--Factually inaccurate statements are more likely to have been edited out.

To reiterate: thank you for the advice and the kind encouragement, but seeking advice learning CW was *not* my intention when starting this thread. Rather, I was asking whether people felt that having a "sticky" "How to learn CW" thread was a good idea. What do people think? (Also, I wonder how such a thing is organized?? Who does the gruntwork and who maintains the thread?? Is it more trouble than it's worth??)

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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