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eHam Forums => CW => Topic started by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 06:10:55 AM



Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 06:10:55 AM
Hello all,

This post is kind of an extension of my other post here on starting up with CW and ham radios.  The thing is that post got very lengthy in regards to the choice of radio I would need that I decided not to muddle that post up and start a new post in regards to what key should I select to learn code on.

For learning code I have selected the Koch method and I have a couple of different programs I am trying out, including the one what is on the website lcwo.net (CW on-line).

At any rate, while learning the Koch method I got to thinking that I should get a key and a code practice oscillator NOW.

I do already own a couple straight keys (one being a nice key from the Navy).  However, after doing much reading on ham radio CW, I found out that the straight key causes more fatigue and there is a limit to how fast you can send characters/words.

Thus I am making the choice to go with another key such as a bug or iambic paddle.  I will say that did some initial research on the iambic paddle and I came across this on the web:

http://www.morsex.com/pubs/iambicmyth.pdf

I will say that since I am learning morse code, I do agree with most what is said here.  I DO want to learn to send the code properly MYSELF and not rely on electronic or the Iambic method.

With that in mind it would seem that the bug would be a good first choice.

I know that the style of key will probably bring much debate here, but understand that my goal is to learn the code the proper way so I can follow (and perhaps later transmit) at the correct speed that is used on the airwaves today.

I do have a limited budget and I am not looking to spend more than $100 on a key.

So now I would like to know what my choices would be for a first time key.  Should I go with an older style bug?  Should I go with an iambic paddle (but just not use the squeeze key function)?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thank You,

Geo





Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: N3QE on March 25, 2009, 06:25:02 AM
By FAR, the WORST CW I hear on the air are hams trying to use bugs who don't know how to use bugs. They're really easy to spot: way too many dits or the wrong number of dits. Most of the time they also have very very poor intercharacter and interword spacing.

Don't take this as a slam against bugs. But using them properly is not trivial. Most of the hams trying to use them but failing are not newbies (although some are).

I see no reason to not start using a straight key... that's what I did an increasing chunk of a century ago. Your code with a straight key won't be perfect at first, and everyone you have a QSO with will bend over backwards to accomodate you. Get on the air with a bug but not knowing how to use it... this is far far far harder to accomodate. Not that I don't try, but it's damn hard to copy those folks. At the speeds you'll be able to copy at first - say 5 to 10 WPM - there's no big problem for a physically able to person to use a straight key.

Some of the same difficulties with a bug will be there with an iambic keyer. But I see no reason to not go to an iambic keyer when you think you're ready.

It is possible to use a bug as a straight key, and I think there are advantages to side-to-side keying as opposed to up-down keying. But you could also take your old straight key and screw it to a chunk of wood so it's sideways and get the same advantage.

If you're not physically able to use a straight key, you probably will do even worse with a bug. In these cases I think it's fine to use a computer keyboard.


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: N2EY on March 25, 2009, 06:28:01 AM
My advice is to start with a straight key. While it is more work than a bug or paddle, and most people can't do more than 25 wpm on a straight key, it will teach you proper spacing and other skills.

Plus you already have one.

73 de Jim, N2EY


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: N9GXA on March 25, 2009, 06:33:38 AM
  You'll probably get another lengthy set of replies, but it's all subjective as can be found in earlier posts.

  I re-started with a dual paddle, iambic Bencher BY-1 for ~$55 off of eBay. Worked fine. Didn't use the iambic squeeze option at first. I use that feature now when calm. If I mess up too much or try sending faster than I normally send, I tend to not squeeze as much. I have since bought a Vibroplex Brass Racer (Iambic, also) which uses magnetic return. I now prefer the magnetic return, but this is yet another area you can get different views depending on the posters preference.

  I wonder why your aim is a bug? Although I have never used one on the air, I have "worked" a few to  see how the repeating dit feature actually happens. Even though a bug isn't electronic, it uses mechanical parts to make the repeating dits. If you want to learn to form the characters yourself, I'd say stay with the straight key. Otherwise, make it easy on yourself and get an iambic paddle of some sort.

  I can turn off my keyer and use my paddle as a straight key in a side-swiper fashion. I haven't attempted that on the air, but it shows me how much the keyer works for me. I guess I want to make it as easy as possible for the receiving op to understand what I am trying to send.

73 - Paul - N9GXA


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: W5ESE on March 25, 2009, 07:40:50 AM
I agree with Jim.

I would use one of the straight keys you already
have. They'll keep you suitably entertained for
a year (or more).

Honestly, with a bug, it's difficult to send
slower than 20-25 wpm and have it sound right.

73
Scott
W5ESE


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: AA4N on March 25, 2009, 09:07:34 AM
Hi,

I'm a fairly new ham, I got started about a year ago.  I've concentrated almost exclusively on CW, and have now used all three of the key types that you mentioned.  Here's my take.

Straight Key:  Start there, you shouldn't be sending code faster than you can copy it, and it will be a while before you are going so fast that sending with a straight key is slowing you down or causing fatigue.  It's the best way to learn code and develope a proper feel for how to form the characters.

Bug:  I love bugs, I got mine after about 3 months.  You'll need a bug tamer (and extra weight that you attach to the arm) to slow it down.  They don't go much slower than 20-25 wpm in stock form.  They require a good bit of skill (a lot of practice) to get clean code out of them, but once you've got the touch they are very satisfying and a lot less work than a straight key.  They say that if you play music it's a great help when learning a bug.  As it turns out I play lots of instruments (including banjo).  I agree, the timing used with a bug is a lot like playing piano, or banjo, or fingerpicking a guitar.  I picked it up quicker than most but I'm still only good for about 15wpm.

Paddles:  Wow, I got my first keyer and paddles about a month ago.  These things really feel like cheating after using a bug for 9 months.  They clean up all kinds of sloppy sending and make sending squeaky clean code a breeze.  A memory keyer makes contesting ridiculously easy (I'm talking world-class cheating).  When I reach the point that I'm doing hour long rag-chews at 40wpm, I'm definitely going for the paddles.  However, I've noticed that if I use the paddles for a few days, my bug fist really suffers and it takes a few hours to get the timing sorted out again.  The keyer almost encourages sloppy sending.

Conclusion:  I love old retro gear.  So, the bug is my first choice.  It makes me really happy when folks compliment my bug fist.  But, you should spend your first few months with a straight key, just to get the basics down.  When you are ready to graduate, either the bug or paddles are a great choice.  Paddles are really easy and effortless and a good keyer makes contesting an exercise in pushing buttons.  The bugs are a big improvement in ergonomics, and go much faster than a straight key, but they take lots of practice and skill.  The choice is yours.

I got both :)

73 de AA4N
mike

PS.  Just don't go the keyboard route...  


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 09:11:32 AM
<<By FAR, the WORST CW I hear on the air are hams trying to use bugs who don't know how to use bugs. They're really easy to spot: way too many dits or the wrong number of dits. Most of the time they also have very very poor intercharacter and interword spacing.

Don't take this as a slam against bugs. But using them properly is not trivial. Most of the hams trying to use them but failing are not newbies (although some are).>>

So would I be better off with paddles then?

<<I see no reason to not start using a straight key... that's what I did an increasing chunk of a century ago. Your code with a straight key won't be perfect at first, and everyone you have a QSO with will bend over backwards to accomodate you. Get on the air with a bug but not knowing how to use it... this is far far far harder to accomodate. Not that I don't try, but it's damn hard to copy those folks. At the speeds you'll be able to copy at first - say 5 to 10 WPM - there's no big problem for a physically able to person to use a straight key.>>

Ok, I was just trying to avoid any plateaus and then have to learn all over again with a different key.

<<Some of the same difficulties with a bug will be there with an iambic keyer. But I see no reason to not go to an iambic keyer when you think you're ready.>>

Well, after I read that one document I put in my initial post, I did try the movements of a straight key versus the wrist rocking motion uses for bug or paddle operation.  The wrist rocking motion seems more natural because you set your fingers at a set spacing.  So in a way I can see how that can produce less fatigue than using a straight key.

<<It is possible to use a bug as a straight key, and I think there are advantages to side-to-side keying as opposed to up-down keying. But you could also take your old straight key and screw it to a chunk of wood so it's sideways and get the same advantage.>>

Hmmm, that wouldn't quite be the same. A straight key normally opposes gravity from the bottom, if you turn that now on it's side, wouldn't it be thrown out of balance?

<<If you're not physically able to use a straight key, you probably will do even worse with a bug.>>

No, I am physically able.  Like I said, I WAS going to go with a straight key because I already have a couple.  But it was the recent research I was doing on CW that seem to have many people favoring a paddle or bug type key.  After seeing that document and having it show me how much more movement you need to operate a straight key, it did get me to rethink the idea of using a straight key to learn on.

 <<In these cases I think it's fine to use a computer keyboard.>>

That would kind of kill the ham radio 'experience' for me. The whole point of this project is to experience 'older' forms of communication in the form of morse code and to learn to send it the proper way and not use all these keyer devices or programs.  If I were to resort to a computer, then I just may as well stick to what I am doing now...posting in forums on-line.

Thanx,

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: N3QE on March 25, 2009, 09:17:37 AM
Oh, and don't get too wrapped up in the "iambic myth" theory.

90%+ of the hams you hear on the air using a keyer are using an iambic keyer and don't worry about it one bit. It may not be natural to those who've never done it, but for those who have done it, it is perfectly natural.

Yes, I use an iambic keyer when I'm not using a straight key.


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 09:20:47 AM
<<My advice is to start with a straight key. While it is more work than a bug or paddle, and most people can't do more than 25 wpm on a straight key, it will teach you proper spacing and other skills.

Plus you already have one.>>

Ok, this is one of my keys:

http://www.w1tp.com/8280a.jpg

It is a brand new Navy surplus key.

I also have a Bunnell key, but that is in storage.  It isn't in as nice shape as the Navy key is.

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 09:29:21 AM
<<I re-started with a dual paddle, iambic Bencher BY-1 for ~$55 off of eBay. Worked fine. Didn't use the iambic squeeze option at first.

I wonder why your aim is a bug? Although I have never used one on the air, I have "worked" a few to see how the repeating dit feature actually happens. Even though a bug isn't electronic, it uses mechanical parts to make the repeating dits. If you want to learn to form the characters yourself, I'd say stay with the straight key. Otherwise, make it easy on yourself and get an iambic paddle of some sort.>>

Well, one of the reasons I aimed for the bug was because it wasn't electronic and would require a normal two terminal connection.  Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't an Iambic paddle need something else. I see three terminals on them.  Thus this may not be compatible with an older transmitter/transceiver.  Since the bug works mechanically and is a standard two terminal key, that is what I homed in on.

<<I can turn off my keyer and use my paddle as a straight key in a side-swiper fashion.>>

I didn't know you can do this.  I thought with a paddle you must use some kind of electronic keying circuit.

<< I haven't attempted that on the air, but it shows me how much the keyer works for me. I guess I want to make it as easy as possible for the receiving op to understand what I am trying to send.>>

I do want to learn the proper way and not let an electronic device 'form' anything for me.  I will be totally honest with you that considering I am a 'nostalgia' buff, I wasn't considering anything BUT a straight key.  BUT when I saw that there is less fatigue and increased speed using a bug or paddle, well, that caught my attention.

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 09:32:22 AM
I agree with Jim.

I would use one of the straight keys you already
have. They'll keep you suitably entertained for
a year (or more).

Honestly, with a bug, it's difficult to send
slower than 20-25 wpm and have it sound right.

Wouldn't it be then difficult to change over?  I have heard many say they wish they started with paddles (or a bug) than a straight key.

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 09:47:17 AM
Hello Mike

<<Straight Key: Start there... It's the best way to learn code and develope a proper feel for how to form the characters.>>

Wow, seems like the consensus is favoring the straight key for learning.  

<<Bug: I love bugs, I got mine after about 3 months. You'll need a bug tamer (and extra weight that you attach to the arm) to slow it down. They don't go much slower than 20-25 wpm in stock form. They require a good bit of skill (a lot of practice) to get clean code out of them, but once you've got the touch they are very satisfying and a lot less work than a straight key.>>

I saw a few operators use a bug on YouTube and was immediately fascinated with it. Sure the unit mechanically forms the dots for you, but overall it still has a nice 'antique' look to it and since it is a standard two wire hookup, it could attach to most older rigs and CPO's as well as newer ones.

<<Paddles: Wow, I got my first keyer and paddles about a month ago. These things really feel like cheating after using a bug for 9 months. They clean up all kinds of sloppy sending and make sending squeaky clean code a breeze. A memory keyer makes contesting ridiculously easy (I'm talking world-class cheating). ...However, I've noticed that if I use the paddles for a few days, my bug fist really suffers and it takes a few hours to get the timing sorted out again. The keyer almost encourages sloppy sending.>>

Wow! You said it right there.  This is what I was talking about.  That is why I mentioned I don't want to get into the habit of using the Iambic squeeze style.  I don't want to get into a 'cheating' habit or develop bad manual keying techniques.  I don't want to rely on keyers to do it for me.  Now I don't know if Iambic paddles can be hooked up to standard two terminal rigs.  I have a two terminal CPO design I want to use and I am not sure if I can use an Iambic paddle on such a unit.

<<Conclusion: I love old retro gear. So, the bug is my first choice. It makes me really happy when folks compliment my bug fist. But, you should spend your first few months with a straight key, just to get the basics down. When you are ready to graduate, either the bug or paddles are a great choice. Paddles are really easy and effortless and a good keyer makes contesting an exercise in pushing buttons.>>

Can you use Paddles 'manually' without a keyer?

<<The bugs are a big improvement in ergonomics, and go much faster than a straight key, but they take lots of practice and skill. The choice is yours.

I got both :)>>

Ok. Well, if I am not hampering my future ability by going first with the straight key, then I will do that.  But after your description of the bug AND coupling that with what I saw on You Tube, I think I still would like to go that route.

The bug just seems like a nice way to transmit code fast, and yet do it mechanically without resorting to using 'cheating' electronics.

<<73 de AA4N
mike

PS. Just don't go the keyboard route...>>

No way! THAT is out of the question.

Thanx for the insite

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 09:55:57 AM
Hello again guys...

I had a thought that came to me and it is slightly off topic, but related.  I was wondering if there was a way to hook up a key to a computer and then get a program that can evaluate if I am sending characters correctly?  Is there such a thing?


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: W5ESE on March 25, 2009, 12:06:45 PM
>> Honestly, with a bug, it's difficult to send
>> slower than 20-25 wpm and have it sound right.

> Wouldn't it be then difficult to change over?
> I have heard many say they wish they started
> with paddles (or a bug) than a straight key.

There is a certain amount of starting over.

But at that point -

o you will be proficient at copying morse code
at a speed of 16 wpm or higher

o you will know how good code is supposed to
sound

o you will be familiar with on-the-air cw
prosigns and operating procedures

At that point, you can concentrate -only-
on sending properly with paddles + electronic
keyer or a bug.

Where a lot of new ops get into trouble is
taking on too much at one time (which makes
it tough on the poor slob trying to copy
them).

I've heard some hams say they wished they'd
started with paddles + electronic keyer,
but I've never heard anyone say they wished
they had started with a bug. It is the most
difficult of the keying instruments to send
with and sound really good.

In truth, there is a lot of sloppy,
difficult-to-copy bug sending on the ham
bands. (I've probably been guilty of
generating some of it myself).

The *best* bug sending I've ever heard came
from the old maritime station KPH, on the
west coast during their annual 'Night of
Nights'.

http://www.radiomarine.org/night-1.html

I could tell the operator was sending with
a bug - but I had to listen carefully to be
able to tell! I was truly in awe! I'm sure
it must have been a retired maritime
operator.

73
Scott
W5ESE


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 25, 2009, 03:24:57 PM
Hello Scott

<<There is a certain amount of starting over.>>

Yes, I read about that a few times.

<<But at that point -

o you will be proficient at copying morse code
at a speed of 16 wpm or higher>>

And that speed CAN be attained with a straight key, correct?

<<o you will know how good code is supposed to
sound

o you will be familiar with on-the-air cw
prosigns and operating procedures

At that point, you can concentrate -only-
on sending properly with paddles + electronic
keyer or a bug.>>

Ok, then...that sounds good to me. Saves me the purchase of another item when I can use what I have.

<<Where a lot of new ops get into trouble is
taking on too much at one time (which makes
it tough on the poor slob trying to copy
them).>>

LOL!  Yes, someone mention something similar to me when I first mentioned I was going to just learn morse code using a program and a key with a CPO. Then that person told me that I would only be learning half of what I need and he suggested for me to get a ham radio as well.  I immediately agreed.  This way I could learn to read the code and listen to live examples.

<<I've heard some hams say they wished they'd
started with paddles + electronic keyer,
but I've never heard anyone say they wished
they had started with a bug. It is the most
difficult of the keying instruments to send
with and sound really good.>>

I am just starting out, so I really don't know better.  I am mostly working from advice through this site as well as through a couple of other sources.  So if you say it is hard, I am not in a position to argue that point.  I picked the bug solely on the fact that it was faster, easier on the hand, and in the YouTube videos I seen, it just looked WAY cool.  Furthermore, it didn't need any special keyers.  It struck me as a simple device, but yet had an air of elegance to it.  That is the only reason why I selected it.  I never actually played around with a bug or Iambic paddle before.

<<In truth, there is a lot of sloppy,
difficult-to-copy bug sending on the ham
bands. (I've probably been guilty of
generating some of it myself).>>

Ok, then I guess I will stick with the straight key for now.

<<The *best* bug sending I've ever heard came
from the old maritime station KPH, on the
west coast during their annual 'Night of
Nights'.

http://www.radiomarine.org/night-1.html

I could tell the operator was sending with
a bug - but I had to listen carefully to be
able to tell! I was truly in awe! I'm sure
it must have been a retired maritime
operator.>>

Wow!  That is SOME rig that place has!

Well, I guess I will look into a bug when the time comes.  But for now it looks like it is unanimous from everyone's opinion that I should stick with the straight key first.  So that is what I will do then.

So now it is on to looking for a CPO.

Thanx for the info.

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: AD7WN on March 25, 2009, 08:59:55 PM
I would recommend starting out with a straight key, rather than with a bug.  If you don't have professional instruction, it's far to easy to develop a "bug swing," which sounds awful.  Most folks can work up to 20 wpm, using a straight key, without much fatigue.  Some can go to 25 wpm.  A very few can get to 35 wpm, but those people are exceptional.

Once you get to 20 wpm and can make it sound good, certainly you can then consider a bug or a keyer.  A bug can sound excellent in the hands of someone who is well coached and well practiced.  The downside of a bug is that, when bought new, they are unreasonably expensive.  A good place to buy a good used one is from members of a local ham club, where they can demonstrate its condition before you buy it.

There is nothing wrong with going to a keyer for higher speed operation.  If you have an aversion to iambic operation, you can use a single-lever paddle.  Speeds of 35-40 wpm are not hard to get to with a single lever, a lot like comfortable speeds with a bug.  And, there is nothing inherently evil in using a keyboard keyer either.  It makes perfect code effortlessly at any speed (except for the typos), and it gives one some further electronics experience in troubleshooting RFI problems.

Hope this helps, 73 de John/AD7WN


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 26, 2009, 04:46:36 AM
Hello John

<<I would recommend starting out with a straight key, rather than with a bug. If you don't have professional instruction, it's far to easy to develop a "bug swing," which sounds awful. Most folks can work up to 20 wpm, using a straight key, without much fatigue. Some can go to 25 wpm. A very few can get to 35 wpm, but those people are exceptional.>>

Well, it looks like a straight is it!  Anyway, what is the average speed used "on the air"?

<<Once you get to 20 wpm and can make it sound good, certainly you can then consider a bug or a keyer. A bug can sound excellent in the hands of someone who is well coached and well practiced. The downside of a bug is that, when bought new, they are unreasonably expensive. A good place to buy a good used one is from members of a local ham club, where they can demonstrate its condition before you buy it.>>

Ok, sounds good.

<<There is nothing wrong with going to a keyer for higher speed operation. If you have an aversion to iambic operation, you can use a single-lever paddle. Speeds of 35-40 wpm are not hard to get to with a single lever, a lot like comfortable speeds with a bug.>>

But you have to use a keyer though, correct?

<< And, there is nothing inherently evil in using a keyboard keyer either. It makes perfect code effortlessly at any speed (except for the typos), and it gives one some further electronics experience in troubleshooting RFI problems.>>

Naw, as I said before, I'll pass.  If am going to resort to typing then I just may as well forget the whole ham thing and just continue to write emails.

Thanx

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: W9OY on March 26, 2009, 04:48:31 AM
In my opinion a strait key is a waste of time.  It is limited in its speed, and it tends to reinforce the dit dah nature of the letter A insead of just A.  When people learn slow code they tend to have a mental look up table they hear dit dah and then go through their mental list and go aaaah  A.  when you have a stait key it reinforces this experience with a physical action.  You will never get above 15 wpm with this kind of technique.

Another problem is that CW does not become truly fun until you get to around 20 wpm.  At 20 wpm you start to copy code in your head instead of writing it down.  This means you spend your time having a conversation instead of copying a conversation onto paper.  You will not do this very well if at all with a strait key.

Another reason is any rig you buy will have a keyer built in, so you would be foolish not to use it.

Finally I would  choose a single lever paddle.  Iambic keying has the opportunity to make more mistakes, since your hand can make more movements.  Single lever has less degrees of freedom and less opportunity for such mistakes.  People say it is less tiring.  That is a bunch of nonsense.  

For a paddle choice I would get the Kent SP-1

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/1056

it is heavy, it has massive bearings that will never wear out and it sends good code.  Its a little more than $100 but you won't get any paddle that's worth a darn for less new.  If you keep your eye open on the for sale lists you can get this for about 100 used

73  W9OY


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: W8ZNX on March 26, 2009, 12:09:42 PM
Hello Geo

  learn using a straight key
in the end you will have a better fist
its a worthy skill having a good straigh key fist

something you can use for the rest of your life
starting out with a straight key
is
kinda like learning to drive using a stick shift
and a clutch
sure its more work
but you will never forget
how to drive a car with manual transmission

a good straight key op
can easly do 18/20 or more wpm

some ops never use a bug or paddles
stick with straigh keys

work ot ops all the time that are
still using that McElroy stream key
they bought in 1948

you will know when its time to move up

to a bug or paddles
re Vibroplex bugs
the Champ and Lightning bug are easier to master
read slower than the Orignal and Blue Racer

learning to handle a bug is not hard
hard part is learning to set it up right
from that point
it only takes a good straight key op
about 20 / 25 hours off the air practice

once you get the hang of sending F, X, L

you can realy
slow
slow
slow
down
down
down a GHD bug

the hardest key to master is not the bug
but the manual sideswipe / cooty key

worst sending ive ever heard
did not come from ops using bugs
was
ops using electronic keyers and paddles

been a ham for about 45 years
still enjoy using a straigh key
and hearing a good straigh key fist

most use keys here
German Junker, Soviet TK and TKF Cherkassy,
Hi Mound Swedish straigh keys
Vibroplex Lighning bug, Champ,
GHD optoelectric bug

have very nice expensive Schurr and GHD paddles
almost never use them
oh they are easy to use
but they got no jazz

Geo
you will find a key and sending style
that will fit you

remember this
what works for me or other ops

may not work for you
using a telegraph key
is a very personal and subjective thing

it took me years to relise
American style low profile straight keys
using American style sending
was not for me

when i discovered European style straight keys
and sending style
it was like another world for me

yours truly
mac















Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: W9OY on March 26, 2009, 12:16:55 PM
Also here is a free ware program that will let you send either from the keyboard OR you can use a paddle on a serial or a parallel port.  Instructions for hooking up the paddle are in the help section

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

Also if you want a good little keyer to play with I suggest K1EL's keyers

http://k1el.tripod.com/K12.html

This one is 17 bux easy to build and you can beep your little brains out until you get a radio.

73  W9OY


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: AD7WN on March 26, 2009, 07:52:22 PM
Keying speeds used on the air vary all over the map.  There are some plugging along at 5-10 wpm, quite a few OTRs batting along at about 25 wpm, a few speed demons at 35-40 wpm, some keyboard users even faster.  I would say a typical speed used on the air would be in the range of 15-20 wpm.

I can understand your aversion to keyboards.  I've used straight key, bug, single lever paddle, iambic paddle, and keyboard.  My own preference is a single lever paddle, just because it feels good.

Whatever choice you make, I wish you the best of luck with it.

73 de John/AD7WN


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 26, 2009, 09:16:26 PM
<<Also here is a free ware program that will let you send either from the keyboard OR you can use a paddle on a serial or a parallel port. Instructions for hooking up the paddle are in the help section

http://www.dxsoft.com/en/products/cwtype/>>

Thanx for the link, I got it up on my browser now and will check it out after I am done here.

<<Also if you want a good little keyer to play with I suggest K1EL's keyers

http://k1el.tripod.com/K12.html

This one is 17 bux easy to build and you can beep your little brains out until you get a radio.

73 W9OY>>

I would like a tube based CPO.  I am just 'built' that way.  I want something glowing on my desk when I practice code.  I probably will build something myself since I am a tech anyway.

Thanx,
Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 26, 2009, 09:23:41 PM
<< I would say a typical speed used on the air would be in the range of 15-20 wpm. >>

So then 'standard' CW over the air is within the realm of a straight key.

It does seem that the fellow I replied to above was the only one that didn't recommend using a straight key.  But everyone else recommends that I should go with that first.

<<I can understand your aversion to keyboards.>>

Yeah...simply put, that is "cheating."

<<I've used straight key, bug, single lever paddle, iambic paddle, and keyboard. My own preference is a single lever paddle, just because it feels good.>>

Do you need a keyer for a single paddle or is it a standard two terminal connection to the rig?

<<Whatever choice you make, I wish you the best of luck with it.

73 de John/AD7WN>>

Well, I have the straight key already, so I may as well run with that first.

Question:  Would it make sense to get a paddle now and try it while also using a straight key, so this way I can do a direct comparison?  Or for learning purposes that isn't such a good idea?

Thanx,

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: W8ZNX on March 27, 2009, 01:51:35 AM
Geo

re
so standard cw over the air is  within the realm of a straight key

hell yes

you got a key
get on the air and use it
don't worry

you will make mistakes
lots of mistakes

it does not matter
don't worry

at first it scary
but it gets easier

you can do it
far too many new ops simply worry too much

that high speed qsk op blasting away at 40 wpm
was once a new op
with a straight key doing all of 8 wpm
and making all kinds of mistakes

get on
you will have  lots of fun

MOST OF ALL DON'T WORRY

yours truly
mac


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: N2EY on March 27, 2009, 06:28:58 AM
For the first 7 years I was a ham, all I had was a WW2 surplus J-37 straight key. (42 years licensed now). Then I got a Vibroplex Original bug (standard model) which has been my main key ever since. The straight key experience really helped me learn to use the bug correctly. Nobody knows I'm using a semiautomatic key until I tell them.

IMHO the main problems people have with bugs are:

1) Not all bugs are worth using. In the 1960s-70s there were some cheap imported models that were absolutely terrible.

2) Improper adjustment. Unlike paddles, there's a whole sequence of adjustments that have to be made in order. And unlike paddles, the lever has to travel a certain amount to make dots. I can't tell you how many bugs I've seen that were woefully out of adjustment.

3) Lack of practice/experience with a straight key. Unlike most keyers, a bug won't force proper spacing, nor proper-length dashes. You have to do all that yourself.

The biggest problem with bugs today is that new ones and even good used ones are quite expensive. So you want to take your time making a decision.

Someone mentioned that every rig today has a keyer built in, so all you need are paddles. That's true of most current-production HF rigs, but completely untrue of the older stuff that you are most interested in such as the HW-16, SB-401, TS-520, etc. That's because putting an electronic keyer into a rig only became common when rigs became microprocessor-based.

So if you go the electronic-keyer-and-paddles route, you're likely to need a stand-alone electronic keyer.

Which brings up one more issue: Keying voltages and currents.

The keying circuits of current-production rigs put only a few volts/mills across the key. Almost anything will key them easily.

Older rigs, particularly tube rigs, usually had much higher energy keying circuits. A typical tube rig with blocked-grid keying might put 90-100 volts and a few milliamps across the key circuit. Older rigs that used cathode keying could put well over 100 volts and a couple hundred milliamps across the key. And the polarity could be negative or positive.

The first concern is safety; when you're using a rig like that it's important to connect the key so that most of the metal is on the grounded side of the keying circuit.

The second concern is that many electronic keyers, particularly modern ones, aren't set up for high voltage or current circuits. So you may need some sort of interface. Straight keys and bugs, OTOH, can key anything.

73 de Jim, N2EY


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: N3QE on March 27, 2009, 07:32:38 AM
It's not just that using a keyboard is "cheating"... but not knowing how to use a keyboard to send CW (but doing it anyway) is about as blatantly obvious as not knowing how to use a bug to send CW (but doing it anyway).

There are folks who know how to use a keyboard to send CW. But those who don't stick out like a sore thumb. Usually evidenced by a lack of prosigns, an excess of unnecessary punctuation, and typos as opposed to "sendos".

Not that any sending method is immune to mistakes, but the mistakes made by a newbie with a straight key at low WPM are very easy to forgive. It's far far harder to forgive someone generating perfectly formed gibberish with a computer keyboard or to forgive someone who doesn't know how to use a bug always having the wrong number of dits or to forgive someone who doesn't know how to work his iambic keyer.

Tim.


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 27, 2009, 12:00:23 PM
Hello Mac

<<so standard cw over the air is within the realm of a straight key

hell yes

you got a key
get on the air and use it
don't worry >>

Ok, that sounds good to me.  

<<you will make mistakes
lots of mistakes

it does not matter
don't worry

at first it scary
but it gets easier

you can do it
far too many new ops simply worry too much>>

Perhaps.  I guess I didn't now what you could be capable of doing with a straight key versus what is actually being sent and received on the air.  I have heard some example code on mp3's and also on YouTube posts and they seemed pretty fast to me.

<<that high speed qsk op blasting away at 40 wpm
was once a new op
with a straight key doing all of 8 wpm
and making all kinds of mistakes>>

That was a concern of mine.  I thought that most ops do send fast code over the CW stations.  But apparently there seems to be stations that send/receive 'slow code' too.

<<get on
you will have lots of fun

MOST OF ALL DON'T WORRY>>

Well, I first have to learn the code.  I am gathering parts to build my tube based CPO as we speak. So I should have something put together in a couple weeks.  In the meantime I have been looking into the various programs that were suggested to me for using the Koch method to learn code.  So we will see how I make out with that.

BTW, what are you using to type these messages?  It is coming out here in 'poem' format

Thanx,

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 27, 2009, 12:22:11 PM
Hello Jim,

I read through the first part of your post in regards to the 'problems' with bugs.  The past couple of days I have been reading this and it does seem that because of what you mentioned, there are many that prefer the paddles/keyer over a bug.  However, you DID fully illustrate what it is that I don't like about a keyer based rig.

So I will jump to that part of your post:

<<Someone mentioned that every rig today has a keyer built in, so all you need are paddles. That's true of most current-production HF rigs, but completely untrue of the older stuff that you are most interested in such as the HW-16, SB-401, TS-520, etc. That's because putting an electronic keyer into a rig only became common when rigs became microprocessor-based.>>

I kind of figured that the person who posted that was incorrect right off the bat.  I have seen what Iambic keys look like and right away the first thing that threw me off was the three wire connection.  Also I surmised that some kind of circuit (which I now know is called a keyer) must from the dits and dashes.  Of all the radios I expressed an interest in, they only have a two terminal physical "key" connection.  

<<So if you go the electronic-keyer-and-paddles route, you're likely to need a stand-alone electronic keyer.>>

Precisely what I was thinking.

<<Which brings up one more issue: Keying voltages and currents.

The keying circuits of current-production rigs put only a few volts/mills across the key. Almost anything will key them easily.

Older rigs, particularly tube rigs, usually had much higher energy keying circuits. A typical tube rig with blocked-grid keying might put 90-100 volts and a few milliamps across the key circuit. Older rigs that used cathode keying could put well over 100 volts and a couple hundred milliamps across the key. And the polarity could be negative or positive.>>

Yes, I have seen this on the Heath rigs which usually use about a -150volts to the key.

<<The first concern is safety; when you're using a rig like that it's important to connect the key so that most of the metal is on the grounded side of the keying circuit.>>

If I am to use the straight Navy key I have, this is not an issue.  This key is totally enclosed. However, I also have an open Bunnell key.  I am probably not going to use that one.

The thing though is that I have noticed that bugs have quite a bit of exposed metal. So I do hear what you are saying about making sure most of that metal is on the grounded side of things.

<<The second concern is that many electronic keyers, particularly modern ones, aren't set up for high voltage or current circuits. So you may need some sort of interface. Straight keys and bugs, OTOH, can key anything.>>

This what you mention right here is why I decided on the bug initially.  I don't have to worry about a keyer and it will work on all rigs.

But since it seems the best choice to start out with is going with a straight key, then so be it.  I will just use my Navy key and I should be good to go.

Thanx,

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 27, 2009, 12:27:15 PM
Hello Tim

<<Not that any sending method is immune to mistakes, but the mistakes made by a newbie with a straight key at low WPM are very easy to forgive. It's far far harder to forgive someone generating perfectly formed gibberish with a computer keyboard or to forgive someone who doesn't know how to use a bug always having the wrong number of dits or to forgive someone who doesn't know how to work his iambic keyer.>>

Ok, understood.

I guess then I will start off with the straight key first until I progress in speed to where I need something better.  From there I will then probably persue the bug or a paddle that doesn't need a keyer.  For the most part I know will probably stick with older rigs.  Just me, I guess.  I like tubes :).

Thanx again for the info!
Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: VA7CPC on March 28, 2009, 02:23:55 AM
>>>
I guess then I will start off with the straight key first until I progress in speed to where I need something better. From there I will then probably persue the bug or a paddle that doesn't need a keyer. For the most part I know will probably stick with older rigs. Just me, I guess. I like tubes :).
<<<

Each to his own.  I tried a straight key when learning CW, and immediately (at 7 wpm) switched to a paddle and keyer.  I didnt' see any reason to subject a listener to my poor straight-key sending, when I could send _perfectly_ with the paddle.

_Every_ paddle needs a keyer, if it's used as a paddle (dits one side, dahs the other side).

For "pure vintage" CW (no electronic keyer), you have three choices:

. . . straight key

. . . bug

. . . sideswiper

Nobody has mentioned the sideswiper yet, but it has deep historical roots.  There's a good introduction on the Web:

www.mtechnologies.com/cootie.htm

It's simple, completely mechanical, faster than a straight key, and less likely to give you tendonitis.

If you want to, you can wire a paddle as a sideswiper by paralleling the dit and day contacts.  But it's easy to fashion a sideswiper out of a hacksaw blade and some small bolts.  There's a long tradition of that kind of improvisation.

If you haven't found "The Art and Skill of Radio Telegraphy", you'll enjoy it:

www.qsl.net/n9bor/n0hff.htm

If you want to check your sending, download a copy of "CWGet" (CW-reading software), and send the output of your code-practice oscillator to your computer sound card input.

If CWGet prints what you _think_ you're sending, with a straight key, you have an exceptionally good fist.

       Charles


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: K5LXP on March 28, 2009, 09:05:43 AM
OK, I'll join with W9OY as another one that doesn't recommend a straight key for learning.  In my opinion, either a single or dual lever keyer better reinforces correct timing in your mind.  With a hand key, timing is arbitrary and everything sounds "right" to you until you have much, much more experience.   To me, an electronic keyer is *the* primary CW generation tool, period.  You can send more accurately and conveniently at any speed and without one you are at a competitive disadvantage in a contest.  There's a reason iambic keyers are so pervasive these days.  What happens when you want to operate portable or mobile and you don't want to, or can't haul your bug along with you?  Are you going to work a (competitive) Field Day station with a hand key?  With keyers built into just about every rig made these days, you should be versed in operating one at some modicum of skill.  

Next difficult on my list would be the venerable hand key.  Once you've mastered a keyer, then hand key operation comes more naturally.  You know exactly what it should sound like, so it's a matter of perfecting the technique to mimic the timing you already have in your mind.  Anything above 15 WPM or so takes a lot of practice and is quite tiring, so I would reserve hand key operating to casual QSO's.  To me it's just a novelty to send with a hand key, something to do for fun or sport once in a while.  If you ever get proficient enough to receive 25+ WPM, you won't want to be limited by hand key speeds.  You'll be reaching for that keyer more and more.

Bugs are the hardest to master, but they are also the classiest way to operate CW.  In no way would I suggest a newcomer to start off with a bug, there's just too many variables to master all at once.  Even RR telegraphers and Navy CW ops had to earn the privilege of using a bug.  That's why as other posters have mentioned, you hear a lot of crappy sounding bug ops on CW.  *They* think they sound great, because they haven't heard and sent enough good code to know the difference.  That, or they think the "swing" they impart sounds clever or esoteric.  Swing can sound classy, but it's a fine line between swing and crappy.

There's no reason you can't have all of these in your shack and dabble with each of them interchangeably but the bottom line is to reinforce good timing in your sent code with something that generates good timing.  From there you can move onto the manually timed methods with more confidence.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: KN1W on March 28, 2009, 03:47:55 PM
In my very humble opinion, I think you have to make it fun.

Hams like gadgets and doohickyes. Some hams drop cw right away because it is not fun with a straight key, there is not enough toys for it. When you open the box of cool things, like keyers and different types of paddles then at that point you have their attention.

Start by getting an inexpensive By-1 Bencher iambic paddle or the MFJ equivalent. Decide either to use the internal keyer of your radio or an external keyer. Find one of those AEA electronic keyers with QSO simulation for practice, these items are very inexpensive on Ebay or check around in the Eham classifieds.

Later on you can get yourself some straight keys or bugs and join SKCC. Bugs are hard but their cool.

Learn the history of Vibroplex and check con McElroy's legacy.

Different keys are fun, make it fun.


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: VA7CPC on March 28, 2009, 04:46:43 PM
The April, 2009 issue of "CQ" has a long article on sideswipers, with lots of pictures.

Trying to get agreement among hams about "the best <anything> " is like herding cats.

        Charles


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 28, 2009, 08:56:01 PM
Hello Charles

<<Nobody has mentioned the sideswiper yet, but it has deep historical roots. There's a good introduction on the Web:

www.mtechnologies.com/cootie.htm

It's simple, completely mechanical, faster than a straight key, and less likely to give you tendonitis.>>

Hmmm, I didn't know about this one either.  So they call it a "cootie" key?  From the initial description, it sounds interesting  

<<If you want to, you can wire a paddle as a sideswiper by paralleling the dit and day contacts. But it's easy to fashion a sideswiper out of a hacksaw blade and some small bolts. There's a long tradition of that kind of improvisation. >>

I never thought of that either...just paralleling the contacts of a paddle

<<If you haven't found "The Art and Skill of Radio Telegraphy", you'll enjoy it:

www.qsl.net/n9bor/n0hff.htm

If you want to check your sending, download a copy of "CWGet" (CW-reading software), and send the output of your code-practice oscillator to your computer sound card input.

If CWGet prints what you _think_ you're sending, with a straight key, you have an exceptionally good fist.>>

Sounds great!  Thanx for the info!

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 28, 2009, 09:05:25 PM
<< To me, an electronic keyer is *the* primary CW generation tool, period. You can send more accurately and conveniently at any speed and without one you are at a competitive disadvantage in a contest. >>

As of the moment I am not interested in contests. But that might change.

<< With keyers built into just about every rig made these days, you should be versed in operating one at some modicum of skill. >>

I am also not interested in a modern rig. Right at the beginning of my post I did say I preferred something with vacuum tubes. I don't like the look of many of the modern sets.  I have looked at some hybrid (SS & tube) sets though by Drake and Kenwood.

<<Next difficult on my list would be the venerable hand key. Once you've mastered a keyer, then hand key operation comes more naturally. You know exactly what it should sound like, so it's a matter of perfecting the technique to mimic the timing you already have in your mind.>>

Couldn't I also get that timing from listening to code on the air?

<< Anything above 15 WPM or so takes a lot of practice and is quite tiring, so I would reserve hand key operating to casual QSO's. To me it's just a novelty to send with a hand key, something to do for fun or sport once in a while.>>

That is what I want to do, just have fun learning code.  But I would like to learn to do it myself and not rely on some 'automatic' device.

<<If you ever get proficient enough to receive 25+ WPM, you won't want to be limited by hand key speeds. You'll be reaching for that keyer more and more.>>

We will see.

<<Bugs are the hardest to master, but they are also the classiest way to operate CW.>>

So I been told.  Yes, I do agree about the 'classy' part.  I saw some YouTube videos with a guy using a bug and it does look very elegant. I guess that is why I gravitated towards it.

Thank You,

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: JUKINGEO on March 28, 2009, 09:10:43 PM
The April, 2009 issue of "CQ" has a long article on sideswipers, with lots of pictures.

Trying to get agreement among hams about "the best <anything> " is like herding cats.

Well, perhaps you are right, but thusfar it looks like most are leaning towards the straight key and since I have that already, I may as well give it a shot.

While my opinion on keyers may change in the future, I am against it right now.

I do like the bug and eventually that is where I would like to end up.  But given the difficulty to learn it properly I will hold off on it.

I am going to do more research on the "cootie" or sideswiper key as this was something I didn't know about.

Again, thanx for the info.

Geo


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: QRZDXR2 on April 25, 2009, 11:03:33 PM
I use both... J-38 and vibroplex paddle...

so my advise is use what you have.. be happy... and buy what you think you want.  Ebay has lots of people who found the bug didn't work for them...

Most ops don't mind you using a keyboard or electronic keyer.. (problem is then they can't tell who you are...as you don't have your personal signature on the way you send CW... ) so long as you don't copy using the computer.  Its a tradition thing.    If you  find a key you like.. keep it and use it.

Now want to have some real fun... go fieldday with your cw rig out in the boonies. Lots of fun.  


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: CTHAM on April 28, 2009, 06:33:27 PM
I've been trying to learn on and off but I really have not taken the time to learn the right way.. I have a MFJ-557 keyer I have a problem with doing dah..they don't seem long enough.


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: K7KBN on April 28, 2009, 07:06:36 PM
The 557 shows on the MFJ site as simply an oscillator with a key attached -- no place for connecting another key or paddle as far as I can see.

So if the "dah" isn't long enough, hold the key down a bit longer.


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: WA2WMR on April 30, 2009, 08:14:13 AM
As for getting the timing by listening to CW on the air, only if it is being sent by machine that is set to send "perfect code".

I started out using a Navy "flameproof" (the black key pictured early on in this thread). I had the contact spaced so there was almost no movement of the key. Eventually this did become tiring and I got a Heathkit keyer with the built in paddle. The keyer worked great with my SB-102, but the paddle was impossible get any fine adjustment with. So I got a Vibroplex Vibro Keyer to use as a paddle with the Heathkit keyer. Again, the contact spacing was such that there was hardly any movement.

Then about a year and a half ago (I've been licensed since 1962) I decided that I couldn't call myself a ham unless I could use a bug. Got a Vibroplex Blue Racer (that's what my Elmer had back in the '60s). Can't do minimum contact spacing with a bug. It needs movement to get the arm swinging. This resulted in having to cross a big gap going from dit side to dah side. Also, controling it was difficult because it wants to run at 20+ WPM. Bought an extra weight. That slowed it down a little, but not enough. Added two 370 grain black powder bullets as well and got it to where it was just controlable, but not happy with it. Finally broke down and got the variable speed arm the Vibroplex sells, but instead of installing it up at an angle, I put it straight out through the damper. With just one weight on it, it runs about the same as they were sending from Descheco Island DXpedition. That weight is fixed in place. To go slower, I add the other standard weight but don't tighten it down. I just position it on the arm where it gives me the speed I want (I have great difficulty slowing down via the Koch method.) If I replace it with the heavier weight, it slows way down but sometimes I wonder if it will finish the character 5.

The big problem I had was with a string of dits followed by a dah, such as V or 4. There was either a big gap or I would clip the last dit. I've had the bug for about a year and a half now and that isn't much of a problem unless I try to send at a speed much slower than the key is set for.

Another problem with a bug is the length of the dahs. They tend to be too long for the dits being created. I found a good way to check myself with this was to go back to the paddle but try to form the dahs manually. When you are sending long dahs, the keyer will smack you in the head with a 2x4 and let you know you are dragging anchor.

So, bottom line, net net net, go with the straight key and don't worry about speed. Enjoy yourself. Get to be inimately familiar with CW, especially what "perfect" CW sound like. Make a little effort to match what that sound like. Then get whatever bug/keyer strikes your fancy and pocketbook (there's a real slick Japanese dual arm bug available for about $1500) and enjoy yourslf.

(By the way, I think that getting a code reader and sending to it is a great idea)


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: W9OY on April 30, 2009, 03:33:12 PM
well heck if you want tubes find yourself the original keyer, a W9TO keyer  It was MADE out of tubes, and use a single lever paddle

You will be a CW maven

73


Title: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: VA7CPC on May 01, 2009, 08:51:39 AM
>>
So would I be better off with paddles then?
<<

Yes, yes, yes.  If you want to send good code, at reasonable speeds, with a short learning curve, that's the way to go.

Get a used Bencher BY-1 iambic paddle  on eBay, learn to use it, and _get on the air_.

If you want to try a single paddle, the Bencher SP-1 and Autronic paddles (and other single-lever paddles) come up for auction from time to time.

If you decide to use a straight key, or a bug, more power to you!

You're trying to make sense out of a religious argument.  There _is no sense_, and there will never be agreement.  Decide on what you want to do, do it, and stop trying to justify it in the face of contrary opinions.

      Charles




Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: N5PHT on July 07, 2013, 06:44:47 AM
Amen on the bugs.  I CQ a lot and if a op with a bug comes back I don't even want to answer. It seems lately that bug ops are so different it is almost a subset of CW!  Oh well, the bugs are neat to look at but seems a lot of folks don't use them very well in my view.
Gary, N5PHT (currently portable in the Pacific Northwest in my 5th wheel RV with 100w and screwdriver antenna.


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: N3HFS on July 07, 2013, 09:47:33 AM
I enjoyed reading this great thread!

My only comment (and this doesn't disparage anyone or any sort of keying):

Bug = Steampunk    ;D


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: W4TRJ on July 07, 2013, 06:27:09 PM
Reading your original post, you sound like you want to be "genuine" and be able to really send Morse, like you'd be able to tap it out on a table somewhere with your pencil and have it understood across the room in a meeting.

I commend that, myself.

You've got the straight key, Use it. Follow the tradition. The tradition was that a man would start using a straight key and get good at it. Remember you have to be able to copy at the speed you send -- so unless you are some kind of prodigy a straight key will suit you fine for a while.

You won't suffer any kind of injuries using a straight key if you don't start suddenly sending for hours a day. Youtube has some military instruction videos. Watch them.

You can take an old unused mouse, gut the insides, wire a pair of small wires to the button contacts and connect to a key. You can practice your sending at lcwo.net at one of their pages, which is a reader. You just have to position the cursor over the button somehow, and use the key. I have a laptop with a trackpad so that's how I did it. A handy thing. Can be quite humbling.

Check out http://aa9pw.com/, they have a good practice page.

W1AW is gorgeous code to listen to.

In my experience, learning what good code sounded like by copying good code was the way to learn to send good code also. No different than learning to play a musical instrument.

I cannot agree with those who say "it's hard to send consistently with a straight key." It's hard if you don't practice it. It's hard if you say "screw it, I'm gettin  keyer." Or, we can say, yes, it's hard, and you sound like someone who wants to learn it and in part because it's hard to do. So learn it. Don't worry about what people say you CAN'T do. Worry about what you CAN do.

If you feel like a computer keyboard is cheating, it would seem that you would find using a keyer is the same thing.

I have no experience with keyers and anything electronic. Not interested in it. I want to make my code myself. No disprespect to those who choose to have gizmo do it for them.

Later on, you can pick up a bug. I was given a Lightning Bug by a friend. Very odd motion and operation at first. Once it's well adjusted, and with an extra weight, it is really fun to use. I practiced a pretty good while before I dared to put it on the air. I have my straight key (vizkey camelback) and the bug hooked together, and will often go back and forth in a qso or swap between them every other qso or so.

It is correct that there are some ops on the air whose bug work (and straight key work, too) sounds terrible -- jerky etc. The simple answer to that is don't work them. Some of the keyer guys dont know how to slow down for a newcomer either, so even though their code is perfect, so what? You'll find plenty of people you can work. The main thing is to get on the air. Fiddling around on a computer ain't gonna teach you how to send code.

Just get your straight key, learn how to adjust it, start sending. You dont need whizbang. You just need to practice. Get a letter from your church or insurance agency or some similar gov't type paper, send it every morning while you're drinking coffee. After a while you will get good at it. It's boring but it will have long words and punctuation in it. Be critical of yourself and your sending and you will get good.

Join SKCC. Through that group you will meet some older guys who will be very helpful.

Pay close attention to character spacing and word spacing. Strive to send code that is easy to copy. Speed is irrelevant if it's hard to copy and innaccurate. You will hear many ops who just send one long stream of characters with no spacing whatsoever. If Morse is another language (which I agree that it is), one would no more talk a stream of words without spacing between them than they would fly to Jupiter. But people send code that way. Beautifully formed, I'm sure with a keyer. But unintelligible.

Start with a straight key. Get a bug later. Don't start with one. Start at the beginning. Don't sacrifice the fundamentals of an old art for modern thingamabobs.

And like several guys said, have fun.

DC






















Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: K7KBN on July 07, 2013, 09:46:00 PM
I always recommend starting with a straight key, moving to something else only when you can make the precise sounds AND PERIODS OF NO SOUND exactly correctly.

That said, I just got home from watching The Lone Ranger.  If you haven't yet (or if you plan to see it again), right at the beginning of the dialogue there's a scene at a railroad telegraph station.  Take a look at the contact alignment on that guy's key!  Makes me shudder... :o


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: M0LEP on July 08, 2013, 02:32:50 AM
You won't suffer any kind of injuries using a straight key if you don't start suddenly sending for hours a day.

...assuming you're not one of those who already suffer from RSI. (Ah, hindsight...I wonder how much less RSI there'd be among computer-using folk if the designers of computer mice had learned a bit from the design and use of Morse keys?)


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: K8AXW on July 08, 2013, 09:13:26 AM
JUNKINGEO:

No offense meant OM but you've asked "what kind of radio should I buy" and now "what kind of key should I use?"  What next?  What kind of antenna should I use?

The reason for this smartass response to your question is that you're setting right here on eHam.com which is without a doubt the most incredible source of information that can be found on ANY one website!

These questions you ask have been asked and answered hundreds of times.  All that is necessary is to scroll back through a particular forum and read what has been posted before.

I know whereof I speak because I always have more questions than answers and these forums provide many hours of information from hams who have been there; done that. 

The name of this game is "Research" and THIS is the place to do it.  No need to go anywhere else.



Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: ZL1BBW on July 08, 2013, 04:37:24 PM
A good quality straight key is fine for up to 30wpm and 3 - 4 hours at a time.  This one upmanship with keys and paddles is incredible.  I have seen people send faultless morse with clapped out old vibroplex bugs and all sorts.

It is not the key that sends the morse it is the hand on the key, and until the hand and the ears can recognise and send good morse nobody should be let loose with a bug or elkeyer.

We used to have to pass a test before we were allowed a bug or elkeyer on the air.

JMTCW. 


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: K7KBN on July 09, 2013, 07:27:44 AM
A good quality straight key is fine for up to 30wpm and 3 - 4 hours at a time.  This one upmanship with keys and paddles is incredible.  I have seen people send faultless morse with clapped out old vibroplex bugs and all sorts.

It is not the key that sends the morse it is the hand on the key, and until the hand and the ears can recognise and send good morse nobody should be let loose with a bug or elkeyer.

We used to have to pass a test before we were allowed a bug or elkeyer on the air.

JMTCW. 

ZBM1.


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: ZL1BBW on July 09, 2013, 01:02:46 PM
..--.. never used Z codes


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: ZL1BBW on July 09, 2013, 01:04:08 PM
Got it, ours was


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: ZL1BBW on July 09, 2013, 01:06:43 PM
QSD QRL VA Especially if running a QRY on 22Mhz of 30 plus, then a whole load of ops would switch over to 22, no time for dilly dallying with multi multi ops all sharing one tx.


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: K7KBN on July 09, 2013, 04:58:35 PM
Got my "Speed Key Certificate" (aka "Bug Ticket") in 1963, right after Radioman school in San Diego and reporting to my ship (which was pierside, adjacent to the office where I took the test).  Had my six-month old Vibroplex Presentation (high school graduation present from relatives) and the Chief was more impressed with it than with my sending!  "Okay, Bailey; you passed and we're getting the paperwork processed right now...mind if I try your bug??"

The ZBM1 referred to a "qualified speed-key operator".  That was fine.  However, ZBM2 means/meant "Place a competent operator on this circuit."  The ultimate insult to a Radioman in those days.


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: ZL1BBW on July 09, 2013, 08:05:36 PM
In the majority of cases, there was only one op on the ships we were working, so not a lot of choice.  But  I am often reminded by my ex colleagues of telling a ship QSD, the reply was I have a broken arm, so it turned into a medico :)

But back to the original post, a nice solid hand key, Kent used to make one, or ex Marconi key if you can get one still sends nice solid morse. My own favourite is the RAF Type D with its very slightly sprung front contact.
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/4904


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: GW3OQK on July 10, 2013, 02:47:33 AM
I aggree with ZL1BBN. IMHO Straight key at least until you can copy 25 wpm error free and send at 20s error free. Try this http://www.smrcc.org.uk/morse/morse.htm (http://www.smrcc.org.uk/morse/morse.htm)
Fix the key to the edge of the bench for it should not have the slightest ability to move no matter how hard you try. At least that's how I like it and passed my 1st class at 25 wpm using the WT8Amp key. Check there is no wear whatever in the bearing.

73
Andrew


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: K7RNO on July 25, 2013, 09:05:09 PM
Your moniker being what it is, there is only one key that fits you: the Junker straight key (http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/1972). Check it out, all the details are here (http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/1972).


Title: RE: New to CW, what key should I use?
Post by: ZL1BBW on July 25, 2013, 11:04:59 PM
How about this 25 quid....

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/WW2-Morse-Key-Type-D-/271241157798?pt=UK_Collectables_Militaria_LE&hash=item3f273b9ca6