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Author Topic: Is learning Morse code difficult?  (Read 13697 times)
AA8TA
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Posts: 33




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« on: August 10, 2016, 10:37:39 AM »

My contention is that learning Morse code - going from nothing to knowing 40 characters - is not hard, in fact, it's easy.

There was a comment in another thread that seemed to imply that learning Morse code is hard.  In the famous "Zen and the Art of Radiotelegraphy" it is also implied that learning Morse code is tough.

I disagree.  What might be hard include:

  • Keeping a positive attitude.
  • Committing to wanting to learn it.
  • Committing to making time to learn; probably no more than 45 minutes a day.
  • Committing to consistency.  Regular practice every day of the week instead of 3 hours every 3rd day, for example.
  • Ignoring the sayers of nay who claim that it is a frightful endeavor.

I think anybody who keeps a positive attitude and makes an effort can learn Morse code.  Nobody's getting paid to know Morse code and we (in the USA) don't need it for a license so there is no pressure.

Getting proficient (whatever that might be) might be a different thing but once the code code is learned, one can keep at it and it will improve - as long as the attitude stays positive.

Personally, I think it is a disservice to someone who is thinking about entering the CW world to hear how hard it is to learn Morse code.  It's not.  In fact, it's fun.
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TU es 73 de Joe AA8TA
KI4ODO
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Posts: 25




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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2016, 01:03:55 PM »

I think the hard part can be what we impose on ourselves after we learn characters, and begin to use CW. In the desire to improve our speed, it can be easy to forget why we wanted to learn it in the first place if we intend to do it for the enjoyment.

 One obstical we can sometimes impose on ourselves as we learn is the drive for speed. It is easy to fall into the trap of being obsessed with getting faster and faster to the point that it becomes work instead of fun. I fell into that trap more than once. Always thinking that when I reach this speed or that, I will "really" enjoy CW. Well I was missing the fun of here and now.

What I did recently was put the paddles away for a while and start working more SKCC members with my bug. I have a vari-speed arm, and have it set at about 18wpm (dits). And many of the guys I work who use straight keys send much slower than that. What I have found is that I have enjoyed CW more over these past couple of weeks than ever. Just by slowing down a little and enjoying the rag chew rather than always trying to push my speed. In other words I have learned to keep it fun.

Now I still listen and practice at higher speeds, I do want to improve. But not at the expense of the fun factor. And the bonus is that I'm on the air much more now. I'm always in the mood because it's fun again. And my copying has improved greatly.

« Last Edit: August 10, 2016, 01:06:14 PM by KI4ODO » Logged
KE6EE
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Posts: 1866




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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2016, 02:46:43 PM »

Excellent points made above.

Patience is the key quality for learning unless you are driven in ways that are no longer available to most, if any, learners: the military or getting licensed.

Take it easy and keep at it. Learn it slowly and learn it well. Once you start using code your speed will automatically increase over time.

It takes time. If you have expectations of doing 25 wpm in a few months, you will be disappointed. If you enjoy the journey, it make take you a couple of years to become proficient. But those years need to be enjoyable in themselves.
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VK5EEE
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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2016, 05:04:59 PM »

All excellent points above. Anyone wanting to have fun with Morse Code and know more about it may find printing off these popular well received PDFs for a read between times or at bed time may provide lots of incentive and interesting reading:

http://www.vkcw.net/CWToday
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Long Live Real Human CW and wishing you many happy CW QSO - 77 - CW Forever

Support CW and join CW clubs. QTT: FIST#1124, HSC#1437, UFT#728, RCWC#982, SKCC#15007, CWOPS#1714, 30CW#1,
K8AXW
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Posts: 6363




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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2016, 08:50:25 AM »

Quote
It takes time. If you have expectations of doing 25 wpm in a few months, you will be disappointed. If you enjoy the journey, it make take you a couple of years to become proficient. But those years need to be enjoyable in themselves.

Learning Morse code hard?  You bet......if you think you're going to learn it in a few days or even a couple of weeks!  You can make it as hard as you want or do it as something to have fun with and have the reward of it opening a whole new world of radio communications.

JPF  laid it out as plain as it can be made.  Learning code is the same as learning anything else.  It isn't black magic or some mysterious thing that requires a special ability. 

Just think of it the same as everything else you've learned to do.  Drive a car is a good example.  Was that accomplished in 24 hours?  Of course not and neither is learning code. Like learning to drive, it can be exciting and fun. Once you learn to drive you have the fantastic reward of being able to jump into your car and GO!

With knowing the code, you're not limited to the voice bands, the better operating conditions necessary for voice communications nor the relatively higher power needed for reliable voice communications. 

Knowing the code even allows you to build simple inexpensive transceivers running low power with which you can communicate hundreds or even thousands of miles with simple antennas. 

Knowing code is definite WIN-WIN thing.

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ONAIR
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2016, 09:46:10 AM »

My friend had one of those Morse code tapes that you play while you sleep!  Only problem was that he played it too loud, and now his wife can do 20 WPM!!     Roll Eyes
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2016, 10:13:12 AM »

Is learning Morse code difficult?

It is if you think it is.
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K8PRG
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WWW

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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2016, 11:10:15 AM »

If it was easy, EVERYBODY could do it.
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AK4YH
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2016, 04:21:06 AM »

I don't know if I would say "hard." It does require a time commitment however. It also depends on how you learn. Start at 5wpm and it will be hard later, especially to pass the 15wpm plateau. Starting at 20wpm, will be more difficult in the beginning, but easier later and you will have decent speed. Better to not write things down also IMHO.

Gil.
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W3TTT
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Posts: 271




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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2016, 10:14:10 AM »

If it was easy, EVERYBODY could do it.

My point exactly.  Not everybody will be good at Morse code.  This has been scientifically studied by the US Army, and they concluded such.  They had a 50% washout rate for men in the radio courses. 

However, to answer the original question " Is learning Morse code difficult?"  - - I would say "no, not really".  But what IS DIFFICULT for many is to do Morse code FAST.  Most anyone can learn Morse code slow.  It is MORSE CODE FAST that is difficult. 

But who needs "fast" today on the Ham Bands?  If I wanted "fast" I would make a telephone call, or use SSB.  Or RTTY.  Or PK31.  But but but with CW, I am very happy at 12 wpm or slower. 

That is why I am calling for a national standard (like other standards) of 12 wpm on the ham bands.  The standard gentleman's speed should be 12.  Sure, you can go faster if you can and you want.  No law against that.  But polite people go 12. 

It's like meeting someone at a party, and he starts talking at an auctioneer's speed.  Highly impolite.  Normal people speak to each other at normal rates. 

73
W3TTT, Joe

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ONAIR
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Posts: 3536




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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2016, 10:25:32 AM »

If it was easy, EVERYBODY could do it.

My point exactly.  Not everybody will be good at Morse code.  This has been scientifically studied by the US Army, and they concluded such.  They had a 50% washout rate for men in the radio courses. 

However, to answer the original question " Is learning Morse code difficult?"  - - I would say "no, not really".  But what IS DIFFICULT for many is to do Morse code FAST.  Most anyone can learn Morse code slow.  It is MORSE CODE FAST that is difficult. 

But who needs "fast" today on the Ham Bands?  If I wanted "fast" I would make a telephone call, or use SSB.  Or RTTY.  Or PK31.  But but but with CW, I am very happy at 12 wpm or slower. 

That is why I am calling for a national standard (like other standards) of 12 wpm on the ham bands.  The standard gentleman's speed should be 12.  Sure, you can go faster if you can and you want.  No law against that.  But polite people go 12. 

It's like meeting someone at a party, and he starts talking at an auctioneer's speed.  Highly impolite.  Normal people speak to each other at normal rates. 

73
W3TTT, Joe


   Good points!  In today's society, everything seems to be speeded up.  For those who desire to have super high speed CW operation, computerized Morse code readers and translators are available!  Shocked
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KE6EE
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Posts: 1866




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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2016, 10:33:09 AM »

That is why I am calling for a national standard (like other standards) of 12 wpm on the ham bands.  The standard gentleman's speed should be 12. 

I think this is far from a bad idea. It would be a good thing for encouraging people who want to learn the code. It seems (from reading posts on this forum and from my personal experience) that many learners become discouraged because they cannot quickly and easily get to 20 wpm. If the expectation were much more reasonable there probably would be less frustration and discouragement.

The problem is how to establish an effective and informal national standard. A couple of the CW clubs I belong to, SKCC and NAQCC, do encourage using slower speeds on nets and in other ways. It seems that there is little discussion of CW operating and learning in our journals, QST, CQ and RadCom and perhaps the editors could be contacted with a suggestion that an annual issue be devoted to CW learning and the discussion of wpm speed.

Another aspect is the fact of what I would call artificially-generated code especially in contests in which many contacts are made at relatively high speeds but without real-time listening and responding. I think this kind of operating is not encouraging to learners.

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K8AXW
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« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2016, 10:40:04 AM »

Quote
My point exactly.  Not everybody will be good at Morse code.  This has been scientifically studied by the US Army, and they concluded such.  They had a 50% washout rate for men in the radio courses.  

Joe:  I can't refute your statistics quote.....but I CAN tell you that in our code class the washout rate was much lower.  In my particular class we started with 30 and graduated 23 at speeds in excess of 20wpm.  Other classes at the same school graduated around the same ratio of starters to finishers.  I might add that some who "washed out" deliberately did so because they simply didn't care to spend their hitch copying code.

Quote
But who needs "fast" today on the Ham Bands?  If I wanted "fast" I would make a telephone call, or use SSB.  Or RTTY.  Or PK31.  But but but with CW, I am very happy at 12 wpm or slower.

Most needs "fast" on the ham bands.....speaking of CW of course.  CW becomes more fun the faster you go.  It is extremely enjoyable to set back and head copy at 20wpm or faster.  

Quote
That is why I am calling for a national standard (like other standards) of 12 wpm on the ham bands.  The standard gentleman's speed should be 12.  Sure, you can go faster if you can and you want.  No law against that.  But polite people go 12.  

I'm sorry Joe but I have simple label this one as LUDICROUS!  It reminds me of Bermuda several decades ago (perhaps even today - I've lost track) when they passed a 25mph speed limit on the whole island!  Would it be great if a 25mph speed limit was posted on ALL highways in the US?

Quote
It's like meeting someone at a party, and he starts talking at an auctioneer's speed.  Highly impolite.  Normal people speak to each other at normal rates

If you meet at a party and you learn that he/she can talk at an auctioneer's speed and are able to emulate, what's wrong with that?  

I used to try listening to President Lyndon Johnson talk and it used to either drive me crazy or put me to sleep.  Actually, in most cases I simply changed channels or turn the TV off.  How'n the hell anyone could talk that slow is beyond me!

End of rant!

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ONAIR
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Posts: 3536




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« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2016, 05:15:32 PM »

Quote
My point exactly.  Not everybody will be good at Morse code.  This has been scientifically studied by the US Army, and they concluded such.  They had a 50% washout rate for men in the radio courses.  

Joe:  I can't refute your statistics quote.....but I CAN tell you that in our code class the washout rate was much lower.  In my particular class we started with 30 and graduated 23 at speeds in excess of 20wpm.  Other classes at the same school graduated around the same ratio of starters to finishers.  I might add that some who "washed out" deliberately did so because they simply didn't care to spend their hitch copying code.

Quote
But who needs "fast" today on the Ham Bands?  If I wanted "fast" I would make a telephone call, or use SSB.  Or RTTY.  Or PK31.  But but but with CW, I am very happy at 12 wpm or slower.

Most needs "fast" on the ham bands.....speaking of CW of course.  CW becomes more fun the faster you go.  It is extremely enjoyable to set back and head copy at 20wpm or faster.  

Quote
That is why I am calling for a national standard (like other standards) of 12 wpm on the ham bands.  The standard gentleman's speed should be 12.  Sure, you can go faster if you can and you want.  No law against that.  But polite people go 12.  

I'm sorry Joe but I have simple label this one as LUDICROUS!  It reminds me of Bermuda several decades ago (perhaps even today - I've lost track) when they passed a 25mph speed limit on the whole island!  Would it be great if a 25mph speed limit was posted on ALL highways in the US?

Quote
It's like meeting someone at a party, and he starts talking at an auctioneer's speed.  Highly impolite.  Normal people speak to each other at normal rates

If you meet at a party and you learn that he/she can talk at an auctioneer's speed and are able to emulate, what's wrong with that?  

I used to try listening to President Lyndon Johnson talk and it used to either drive me crazy or put me to sleep.  Actually, in most cases I simply changed channels or turn the TV off.  How'n the hell anyone could talk that slow is beyond me!

End of rant!


  I wonder what was Johnson's speaking WPM?  Shocked
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KD8IIC
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« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2016, 09:14:40 PM »

 Totally ABSURD to contemplate imposing a "National Standard " code speed.
 
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