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Author Topic: Copying CW for newbies?  (Read 9239 times)
WB2WIK
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« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2015, 02:06:13 PM »



I also found that when I missed one, it tends to cascade - as I try to figure the last one out, I miss the next one, and so on.

Don't do that.

That would hold anyone back.

If you miss one forget it and keep listening, don't even attempt to "go back" and figure out what you missed.  It doesn't matter.

What does matter is not stopping to figure anything out. 
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AC2EU
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« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2015, 02:09:11 PM »

I'm trying to do the Koch method to learn CW, and am having a horrid time keeping up.  So I'm wondering - do most newbies copy code with a keyboard or a pen/pencil?  I'm generally much faster typing than writing, but trying to follow code it seems that writing might be easier.  Thoughts?

It's funny, but as you progress, the code seems to slow down!
It is very hard to keep up. Don't stop and think if the letter doesn't come to you immediately ( you'll loose 4 more) just move on.
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K8AXW
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« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2015, 03:19:11 PM »

JPF:  You might find this hard to digest but intercept operators are usually 5 characters behind at speeds over 18wpm.  When you get used to it, you will also find yourself at least one character behind. 
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K8PRG
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« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2015, 04:34:39 PM »

I don't write or type anything down, I just "listen" to code, as if listening to someone speaking.  I jot down the station's callsign and maybe name so I don't forget them, and do keep a log with date, time and band.  But otherwise I never write anything down.  It's conversation.

I don't write down what the other person says when I'm speaking with them (voice), either. Wink

Maybe you should revisit the op's title...but thanks for letting us know how good you are after 50 years.
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K7KBN
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« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2015, 04:36:55 PM »

On the very first day of USN Radioman "A" school in 1963, I copied 26 WPM solid, thereby meeting the code requirements for graduation.  However, I couldn't type that fast; my copying was with a piece of paper and a Navy-issue mechanical pencil.  From the second day of school, any time Class 16-C had a code session, I reported to Code Control to help the Chief in charge run the Boehme keyers, sending code to the various classes at the correct speeds.  AND to concentrate on my typing skills.

I should add that there were several other trainees in exactly the same predicament.  And we were all hams!  There were generally 4 or 5 of us in Code Control at any given time, plus the Chief, who knew ABOUT ham radio, but he wasn't one of "our" little group.

Haven't tried copying with a mill since about 1968.  I just copy in my head now, and take notes for the log.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2015, 04:40:10 PM by K7KBN » Logged

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Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
KE6EE
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« Reply #20 on: October 30, 2015, 09:45:05 AM »

On the very first day of USN Radioman "A" school in 1963, I copied 26 WPM solid, thereby meeting the code requirements for graduation.

I should add that there were several other trainees in exactly the same predicament.  And we were all hams!

Haven't tried copying with a mill since about 1968.  I just copy in my head now, and take notes for the log.

Your story brought to mind my own very similar tale. I was fresh out of infantry ("grunt" in USMC-talk) training in mid-1964 and assigned to a regular USMC unit as a radio operator. When my sergeant heard that I was a ham, he immediately assigned me to work the CW net and arranged for me to get the official MOS (military specialty designation) as a radiotelegraph op. I was never sent to any school but remember well having to troubleshoot a transmitter when it went down.

Although I could type at 60WPM (learned in public school) there were no mills, just pencil and paper. In fact in those days it was more likely for a USMC op to copy using a stick in the dirt.  Grin
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2015, 09:48:25 AM »

I don't write or type anything down, I just "listen" to code, as if listening to someone speaking.  I jot down the station's callsign and maybe name so I don't forget them, and do keep a log with date, time and band.  But otherwise I never write anything down.  It's conversation.

I don't write down what the other person says when I'm speaking with them (voice), either. Wink

Maybe you should revisit the op's title...but thanks for letting us know how good you are after 50 years.

It's not about "50 years," it's about making code pleasurable and not a chore or even a challenge.

I started out from scratch not writing anything down, and IMO that's a really good way to start out.  I "practiced" the code with a buddy of mine, David, who became WN2WND when I became WN2WIK.  (Not sure why the calls are so separated, we took the Novice tests at the same time.)  We did that without any code practice oscillators, or records, or CDs (which didn't exist) or computers (which also didn't exist), but by "voicing" the code to each other, like "DI-DAH' for "A."  We learned and practiced each letter by its sound, when "voicing" that letter to one another.

So, then we'd walk to school (8th grade) together each day, and also walk home after school each day, "di-dahing" each other words and sentences as we walked.  No regular chat allowed, just code.  I'd see a street sign "MAIN ST." and "mouth" that in code, etc.  

After a few weeks, we both knew the code...all the letters, all the numbers, all the punctuations and prosigns.

When we went to W2NR (who was then W2NVA) to take our Novice tests, which he agreed to proctor and had ordered them from the FCC, we sat down and "wrote" the code on paper for the very first time.  Frank sent at 5 wpm, and David and I looked at each other and broke out laughing because we didn't know 5 wpm was so slow -- we had been practicing at about 10-15 wpm, and 5 wpm sounded painfully slow to both of us.

Then, we had to "SEND!"  Neither of us had practiced sending, but we got through it and passed. Wink

I think learning "by sound" and not by "dits and dahs" has a lot going for it.  For one, code becomes just another language and it's like listening to someone speak.  No need to write anything down at all, unless you want to.  It's pretty easy to learn that way, and requires no tools.
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K7MEM
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« Reply #22 on: October 30, 2015, 02:30:27 PM »

I'm still here Smiley

The info is very valuable, thanks.  I've tried the Koch method at LCWO.net and am finding it hard to keep up with their default.  So I slowed it down a bit, I think that helps.  May try pen and paper next, even though I'm probably more comfortable with a keyboard than with a pen....

Being that computers have been around for quite some time, typewriters even longer, many hams are more comfortable with a keyboard than a pen. But that isn't necesarily a good reason for using a keyboard while trying to learn Morse code.

Normally, when you are using a keyboard, you are looking at a printed word or thinking of a particular word. Either way, you mind is seeing the whole word and then translating that into a series of finger movements. You watch the screen as feedback to your typing. All the time, the word you are typing is already understood.

But when you are learning Morse code, you do not have a grasp of the word being sent. You only know which character is being sent and recognition of the word doesn't happen until the whole word is received (that's assuming that word spacing is done correctly). Although sometimes you make an educated guess at the word. However, the rest of the characters for that word, will still be on the way.

This leads into the second part of your post.

I also found that when I missed one, it tends to cascade - as I try to figure the last one out, I miss the next one, and so on.

That's normal when you are learning. It is difficult, but you have to let the character you didn't understand drift away and refocus on the next character. You mind will still work on the missed characters in the background. Even when there are several in a row that you don't recognize, just let them go.

But I wouldn't slow everything down, just because you are missing a few characters or are finding it hard to keep up. There is no requirement to copy to paper every single character that is sent. All that is required is that you understood what was sent. If you understand what was being sent, your good to go. Of course, if you are copying code groups, there is no understandings. But, at least for myself, I never studied code groups.

When I was working up my code speed, I created 10 simulated QSOs for each odd speed from 9 WPM to 25 WPM, using Morse Academy. As the speed increased, so did the content of the QSO. When I was copying 80-90% at one speed, I would increase the word speed by 2 WPM. When I did that, I felt like I was struck dumb. But after a few sessions with the new speed I would start getting comfortable with it. I followed that process until I was comfortable with the 25 WPM QSOs. And when I say comfortable, I mean I was casually copying everything down using a pencil and paper. Of course, that might be minus a character or two, but so what. I understood everything that was being sent.

After a while you will start recognizing word sounds rather than character sounds. It won't be big words at first. Words like RST, QTH, NAME, RIG, etc. will become readily recognizable. But like anything else, the more you use it the better it gets. Personally, I am a casual operator, so I can recognize some words, but my progress any further that that is slow. But, so what? After all, this is just a hobby and meant to be enjoyed.
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Martin - K7MEM
http://www.k7mem.com
VK3MEG
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« Reply #23 on: October 30, 2015, 06:07:17 PM »

 i use lcwo callsign trainer it helps. I repeat the call a few times till i get it right it got my head wired to copy random ish letters and numbers rather than words which is good i do have my cheat sheet there but mainly i'm repeating the sound of the letter I find it helps alot cause if you cant copy someones callsign you are in trouble. Smiley
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AC2EU
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« Reply #24 on: October 30, 2015, 06:19:31 PM »

i use lcwo callsign trainer it helps. I repeat the call a few times till i get it right it got my head wired to copy random ish letters and numbers rather than words which is good i do have my cheat sheet there but mainly i'm repeating the sound of the letter I find it helps alot cause if you cant copy someones callsign you are in trouble. Smiley


You are on the right track. All you need is to be able to identify the sounds. Ditch the written cheat sheet.
The "Just learn morse code" program had a feature where I could press the letter and it produce the code for it. That was great for repeating those letters I was having trouble with hearing correctly .
Remember, it's not dits and dahs, but rhythmic sounds that represent an alpha numeric character!
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K5LXP
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« Reply #25 on: October 30, 2015, 07:34:32 PM »


I'll use this comparison - do you use a keyboard to copy when someone is speaking to you, so you can read it back on a screen?  Or use a pencil for that matter? 

I think a major self limitation for aspiring morse operators is the idea that morse is a letter based stream to be copied in military fashion on a mill like a human teletype when in fact, when it is mastered, is a spoken form of the language you already know.  There is no requirement or need to have a hard copy of a conversation on the air.  No need to type or write anything, the magic happens when you start hearing words, like someone speaking to you.  I know that's a way off for someone still learning the alphabet but I'm here to tell you the real learning happens when you put the pencil down and turn the speed up. 

Additionally, you wouldn't want to be strapped to a keyboard any time you wanted to work CW.  It's just not a practical way to copy morse in the field, out on a SOTA peak, or driving down the interstate with a keyboard in your lap.  A pencil in hand to fill in the log is all you need.   Consider reaching speeds too fast to write as an achievement, and your invitation to put the pencil down.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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K8AXW
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« Reply #26 on: October 30, 2015, 08:59:57 PM »

Mark, I'm sorry that I can't agree with you at all.  Comparing writing down code characters to writing what one hears when spoken to is totally off the wall.

A more accurate example of what you're suggesting is perhaps memorizing a long parts list or grocery list instead of making a hard copy of it.

In other words, most people can't retain a series of code characters for more than 1 to 3 seconds!  However, once the code is mastered then comes the character retention ....actually becoming words to a sentence.

However, until it's mastered then it's almost imperative to write down what we hear as code characters.

There are a few individuals who have mastered the code and head copy simultaneously but these people are few and far between.  I've seen hundreds of men learn the code and have never seen one who was able to do it.


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K5LXP
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« Reply #27 on: October 30, 2015, 09:44:28 PM »

Comparing writing down code characters to writing what one hears when spoken to is totally off the wall.

Is it?  When someone says "the" you hear "the", not t - h - e.  When I hear "the" on CW I hear "the", not t - h - e.  A more familiar example would be "CQ".  Most any ham with any modicum of CW skill can probably recognize a CQ on the air no matter how fast it's being sent.  The same can even be said for baudot RTTY RY's - they make a sound one can recognize, even though there's no way you're actually decoding the individual bits of the characters.  You're hearing - not decoding - RY's.  Just as you would vocalized speech.

I would agree though that when you're learning you have no choice but to write it down.  You have to crawl before you walk but don't let the way you walk get in the way of running.  I believe by the time you can't keep up with a pencil anymore, you're well on you're way to putting the pencil down completely.  That was a turning point for my operating skill and was quite liberating - gone were the hand cramps, re-learning how to print, copying ahead and all the other impediments to copying fast code.  It actually gets easier once you're not struggling with the transcription anymore.  At least it was for me. 

So back to the OP's original question, my point was forget the keyboard - copying by hand is only an intermediate step and just having a different way to transcribe copy isn't the answer, dispensing with it altogether is.  Pencils are handy for keeping notes and doing log entry, so the natural progression starting out would be to go from rote copy to just notes and log entry.

As an aside, I learned CW wrong.  As a novice I started with the ARRL 5wpm code cassette and ground through each "plateau" on my way to 15-18wpm or so.  Thankfully I didn't give up on it.  It wasn't until I got a code tutor years ago pounding QRQ CW into my head that I broke through that final wall and discovered the magic of hearing words.  Not sure what the "best" learning method is to get to that point, but I know for a fact if you ever want to get beyond the 20wpm or so mark, dump the pencil, forget keyboards and sending with straight keys.  They will only hold you back.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

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M0LEP
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« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2015, 02:05:18 AM »

When I hear "the" on CW I hear "the", not t - h - e.
Don't put the cart before the horse. Learning Morse is very like learning to read (and write). If you jump straight in with reading whole words then you don't learn the letters so well. You must learn the characters first. If you don't then callsigns will be a problem. Recognising short words and abbreviations comes after you've learned the characters.

Quote
A more familiar example would be "CQ".  Most any ham with any modicum of CW skill can probably recognize a CQ on the air no matter how fast it's being sent.
"CQ" is a Morse pattern even many no-code-at-all amateurs will recognise, but if they hear a C or a Q in another word they don't recognise the letter. In fact, having learned "CQ" as a word first will probably make it more difficult to learn C and Q as individual letters. (I know this from personal experience.)
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K8AXW
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« Reply #29 on: October 31, 2015, 09:19:48 PM »

LEP:  Correct.  When someone says they hear a "word" when it is sent, is actually hearing a series of characters which make up the word and when it is finished the word is formed in the brain.

This has to be because if a word is sent one doesn't know most of the time what that word is until it is completed. For that matter when some characters of code are sent one doesn't know for sure what that character is until it is completed.  Of course this doesn't apply to characters like "E" or "T" but characters like "B" and "6". 

When the characters of a word are sent very fast it's easy to hear words because the brain has been trained to rapidly assemble these characters into a word and it's easy for the person to say, "I hear words." They really aren't.



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