KE6EE W3TTT others
I'm not sure if this is going to be understood what I say but I put it out there in the hope it will be...
First let me say that there is nothing wrong with someone going at 5WPM, 12WPM whatever... no issue with that...
I strongly disagree that those of us who are QRQ at say 50WPM are doing so in some quest for speed -- I am not a follower of crowds nor am I trying to prove any points... so let me help you and others to understand why NON-CONTESTERS who enjoy "rag chewing" often end up at high speeds -- and just now I have come off a HALF HOUR QSO with a VK3 who I am honored told me it is HIS FIRST EVER CW QSO -- I heard him calling CQ and ending with QRS PSE K. So you can see I am very patient, and the speed I guess was under 5WPM in total, as I repeated each word three times at QRS, and I think he was QRP. Even after 30 minutes, all we got through was call signs, RST, and Name. So that was certainly less than 1WPM -- how many of YOU reading this, would have the patience, honestly speaking, to spend half hour at such slow speed, but to me it was an honour to be someone's first ever CW QSO and I hope he will stick with it. So, I say all this so that what follows, you will understand a little about WHO it is coming from: someone who loves CW, is patient with beginners...
When we are children we learn to talk. We say our first word, world wide in all languages: MAMA. This is the "Dah". But its not a dit or a dah, as it is the only one, nothing to compare it to, and it is not said like: MAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHMAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH very slowly, no sir, it is said as MAHHMAHH (slowly, but not too slow, and not very fast like Mama). That is equivalent to CW at say 7WPM or whatever. Sucking at the breast, the Mother is the baby's world. Hence Mmmmmammma. The next word the baby learns is the funny face that is often there, "Dada" at first "dah-dah" not DAHHHHHHHHHHH-DAHHHHHHHHHHH. Later, daddy. That is the dit in the baby's language. Then follows slowly at first other sounds and words (letters of CW if you like). But these are when the child is able to talk, and from the beginning, not learned as TTTTRRRRRYYYYYAAAAAAANNNNNNGGGGGGLLLLLLLEEEEEEE at super slow speed, no sir. It is learned as "Tri-Ang-Le". A REASONABLE normal speed, not overly fast. So learning CW is the same when done correctly. The 5WPM way of learning CW was designed by some idiot to get people through and exam by any means, but with the hindrance of learning CW.
Now to the issue of once we can talk... Some of us talk slow, maybe our brains are slow, maybe we are very laid back and don't have much to say. Others can talk faster, and when they have a lot of information to convey, they speak faster. Same on CW only let me explain it more accurately this way: Say you learned CW starting with farnsworth spacing at 18WPM from the very start, a sensible way to do things. You end up with 18WPM with no long spacing. Then you hear a station sending at 20WPM. You thus adjust and a little outside your comfort zone but soon you notice you can copy 20WPM with ease, and struggle with 23WPM. And you find now your comfort sending speed, which was 16WPM (below that which you learned), and effort speed which was 18WPM, and high error rate speed which was say 20WPM, have now moved up without you noticing: you best COMFORT speed is now 18WPM and your pain barrier is 23WPM. Time goes on, and you find that now you can copy 30WPM without much problem, but send only 26WPM with effort, and your most comfortable effortless speed is 23WPM. And so no. For myself, and everyone is different, my maximum sending speed on a good part of a good day is 50WPM, receiving 70WPM plain text English or maybe German, and my COMFORT SPEED is 25-30WPM where I can send for hours and hours in rag chew without any effort whatsoever. No thinking, no concentration, no errors. Or I can do 40WPM for hours on end but with a little effort and concentration at times. So, what is wrong with this? Surely nothing!
* We adapt to the speed of the slowest operator, that is good manners
* We have a right to send at ANY speed
* We have a right to increase our speed, it's fun to push your boundary a little, when walking, exercising, don't we do the same?
* It is good for your brain and in old age it helps delay decay
* It allows you to have conversational QSK CW chats, something you really cannot do at 12WPM just as you can't if you were to try a conversation in English using your voice and not your fingers, and spell out each word letter by letter:
T.I.M. H.O.W. A.R.E. U. 2.D.A.Y. When you can say Tim how are you today? Why would you spell out letters, tedious, boring, stupid. Again, if that is ALL you can do, 12WPM then good on you, no issues with that! But if you are doing less than 18WPM on CW you are going to miss out on stuff like chats. I often chat with friends on CW non stop for 3 hours, sometimes it's even been for over 6 hours with breaks for cups of tea, coffee, toilet, etc. All sorts of topics, to and fro, having a good time. Sure, you need to be chatting to a friend about subjects that interest you both. These included in our recent chats: food, travel, environment, long delayed echo phenomena, antarctic propagation, antennas, building of qrp kit, police fines and motoring, etc, and probably at speed that is similar to having a voice real time conversation. In voice, at a normal speed, there are many pauses, where you think, collect your thoughts, and it's normally on SSB not full break in. On CW at higher speed, you don't need to collect your thoughts as much as you are still sending them slightly behind, you thought of what you want to say, now you are sending it, and while sending it you are thinking of what you want to say next and how not to make it too long :-) result an easy and fun flow of chat, with full break in, a little QSB a word missed, no problem, the trained CW op, especially if ex commercial, knows to tap the key and repeat the last word s/he copied correctly, and you repeat and carry on from there, all very natural, efficient, fast, relaxing.
So please, don't tell me that it is some race, or we are following the trash culture of the world of speed and consumption, no way is that true We're having a chat at the highest COMFORTABLE speed for us, because to send slower would be wasting time! Doesn't matter if you comfort speed is 12, 20, 40WPM, why send slower when the other station has a similar comfort speed? And comfort speed varies according to your key, and could differ between receive and sending. For receiving, my comfort speed would be 25-50WPM. Lower than that, my mind will wander elsewhere, as it is to me, so slow, I'm left idle between each letter or word. Higher than that, I will need to be listening, cannot let my mind wander or do more than one things at the same time, or I'll miss a word. For sending my comfort speed on keyer would be 22-35WPM, less than that I make too many mistakes, higher than that, I have to concentrate, but depends on how focused I am and how interesting the chat is, if it is with a friend and lots to say, then 40WPM is comfortable. On a straight key my comfort speed is 15-20WPM sending, and on the mechanical bug comfort speed would be probably 20-30WPM.
There IS NO one size fits all, but I'd like to dispell some erroneous thinking among those who haven't mastered higher speeds whether as a natural progression over the years, or as a conentrated effort to learn high speed CW. Let me say, high(er) speed CW is fun, is relaxing, and NO MATTER what your speed is there is an UPPER limit of capability at any given time, and an UPPER COMFORT speed, and that all depends upon where you are in your use of CW. There is not some competition, it does NOT mean that someone who can't get past 30WPM is inferior in their brain to someone who can, as little as somone being able to do acrobatics on a bicycle is more intelligent than someone who cannot. But let's please get our facts straight, there IS A NEED to not send 12WPM for those of us who have comfort zones on keyers or bugs that are way higher, and there IS A NEED to slow down for those who can only receive at 12WPM.