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Author Topic: Zen and the Art of Radiotelegraphy  (Read 6340 times)
IK0YGJ
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« on: January 19, 2010, 05:48:06 AM »

Hi all, last year I wrote a book, in Italian "Lo Zen e l'Arte della Radiotelegrafia", after being pushed by many friends I finally completed its translation.

You can download it here:
http://www.qsl.net/ik0ygj/enu/index.html

This book is the result of several years of experience in amateur radiotelegraphy. It suggests, for the first time, a learning methodology based on an integrated and multidisciplinary approach designed to accompany the apprentice from the first steps in ham radio all the way to a world-class proficiency in telegraphy. The book introduces, ad-hoc tailored to amateur radio, techniques used successfully by competitive athletes, including extreme sports such as free diving, adapted to the difficult process of learning telegraphy.

This book is not only written for the benefit of amateur radio operators who want to learn this beautiful art, but it also meets the urgent need felt by the author to narrate his own path of development that has radically transformed him and the many friends with whom he shared the pleasure of such a long learning process and the immense joy of the discovery, both from the technical and from the human point of view. Wireless telegraphy is the discipline of sending and receiving signals in Morse Code and, although it started “only” as a technical tool, it soon revealed itself to be an art. Definitely a special kind of art: as a butterfly, it had a shiny but short life, rising and falling throughout the 20th century. The first implementation of Morse Code was created in 1832, employing a numeric code for the most common English words, and the numbers translated into a sequence that used just two symbols: dash and dot.

Morse Code, as we know it today, i.e. encoding letters and numbers in a series of dots and dashes, is actually an invention of Alfred Vail, an assistant to Samuel Morse in 1844. It is a historical reality that Morse, in fact, stole the idea from Vail. Morse code was created initially as a combination of dots, dashes, long dashes, short and long spaces. We have to wait for wireless telegraphy, and therefore the twentieth century, to find the definition of the standard Morse Code or “International Morse”, made of dots and dashes, spaced according to standard criteria.

It is only thanks to the genius of Guglielmo Marconi that telegraphy "takes off", by leaving the ground (i.e. transimission cables) in the true sense of the term, and getting “on the air”. On December 12th, 1901 Marconi sends the first Morse signals across the Atlantic and a new invention, whose gigantic power was still to be fully understood, arises: wireless telegraphy. Since then, many lives were saved, as in the famous case of the Titanic (1912) and the wireless telegraph has evolved and excelled as no one could have imagined. After a century of successes, in 1998, coastal maritime radiotelegraphy installations have been replaced by satellite communications, which eventually provided a much more secure and reliable connection. As a result, telegraphy is slowly sliding into oblivion. As a direct and inevitable consequence, in 2005 telegraphy also disappeared from amateur radio exams. Surprisingly, this condition of uselessness elevated radiotelegraphy the rank of an art.

Despite this aging process, telegraphy is still very much alive with radio amateurs, because it offers the possibility of communicating over great distances using less expensive transmitting and receiving devices. Such devices are even simpler to build. A contact based on telegraphy is made in a universal language that, like Esperanto, pulls down any social, geographical and cultural barrier. The amateur radio operator uses a code that not only shortens the speech, but also allows him to communicate with people living in any part of the globe, near or distant, regardless their language or culture. Thus, wireless operators can greet each other using a common language even if one is Chinese and the other Guatemalan. The question is: what is so special in radiotelegraphy, in the era of the Internet and global mass communication, pushing us to face a long and arduous path of learning, requiring mental and practical training, trying harder and harder to learn such a language?

Anyone starting the exciting and hard journey into radiotelegraphy is attracted by the fact of pursuing an art requiring style and precision, two characteristics that might be obtained only through study and practice. It is also matter of aesthetics: a contact in telegraphy made with precision and respect for procedures is a work of art, unique and unrepeatable in time. The wireless telegraphy radio operator, today, is a person who not only learns to "play" a very special instrument, but also learns a new language, made of a single tone, cadenced by rhythmic intervals. Learning radiotelegraphy is a journey within our own emotions and feelings that requires a radical transformation of the way we learn and how we feel. Much like a child, who must learn to speak, revealing a new mode of expression and communication with the outside world. It is a steep and thorough experience requiring continuous contact with the deeper layers of our being. So strong is the passion for radiotelegraphy that, in Italy, Elettra Marconi, president of Marconi Club ARI Loano and daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, today releases the honorific title of wireless radio operator to whom excels in the practice of this art. Oscar Wilde used to say that Art is useless: as such radiotelegraphy is, too. Just for having fallen into disuse, it lives its moment of glory as an art in the hands of few people who, in a "swinging mood" made of sweet intermittent sounds, are keeping it alive.

This book is distributed under the Creative Commons license and can be freely copied or distributed, under certain conditions (see the Copyright Notices chapter for details). This work is “QSLWare”: if you like it, just send me a QSL card via Buro.

73 de Carlo IK0YGJ
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AE4RV
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2010, 06:39:57 AM »

Thanks, Carlo. I'm reading the section on QRQ right now, good stuff.
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AE4RV
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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2010, 07:26:01 AM »

I like it it, Carlo. I'm currently trying to learn QRQ without writing or using a "mill" and I will focus a little more on Dr. Matlz's methods than I already have been. I was (fortunately) introduced to his book years ago. I wonder if FISTS or Vibroblex would want to publish your book?

You might like my virtual bug:
http://www.ae4rv.com/tn/education/bug.htm

Cheers,

Geoff
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NI0C
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2010, 08:37:32 AM »

Carlo,

Thank you for sharing your work and its translation into English.  I've downloaded it and am looking forward to reading it.  I also made reference to your posting elsewhere on eHam-- in the discussion of KE7WAV's current article: Getting Back on HF with Code."

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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IK0YGJ
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2010, 02:49:25 PM »

Thanks Chuck !
The book a really tough job, so a little hand in making it known is really welcome !
73
Carlo
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IK0YGJ
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2010, 03:38:19 PM »

Hi to everybody...
This night I put a web counter on the page with a script telling from which country the visitor came.
May ask to the OM here to access again web page, to see if the script works well ?
The link is:

http://www.qsl.net/ik0ygj/enu/index.html

Thanks es 73
Carlo
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K2ER
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2010, 06:15:49 PM »

Thank you Carlo, or should I say grazie mille!

The only problem I have is that I must now challenge my laser printer to cough out 49 pages (2 sided) so that I can read your work at my leisure.

vy best 73 es gud dx de K2ER

Roger
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WB5JEO
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2010, 06:57:11 PM »

Wonderful title. There is much that's familiar to anyone engaged in Zen practice, non-thinking and the thing that is never finished.
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KL2TC
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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2010, 01:53:46 AM »

I printed this out to study.  A nice piece of work.  Thank you for your effort!  Very much appreciated by me.

Al
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KL2LZ
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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2010, 08:41:40 PM »

Lots of very good info in this article.  Many thanks for your efforts.

I am studying CW using the Koch method at LCWO.  I hit a stumbling block along the way and thought I might try the Farnsworth method as described in the linked atricle.  I downloaded the G4FON software on my computer only to discover that G4FON Rev 9 is using the Koch method rather than the Farnsworth as referenced.  Am I doing something wrong or is G4FON now using Koch?

KL2LZ - Dan
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N2EY
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« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2010, 05:15:23 AM »

To KL2LZ:

The Koch method consists of starting out with just two letters and practicing receiving them until the learner gets better than about 95% accuracy. Then a third letter is added and the learner practices receiving them until the learner gets better than about 95% accuracy. Letters/numbers are added one at a time in the same cycle until there are no more to add. The idea is to not overwhelm the learner with new info.

The Farnsworth method is to send the characters rather quickly, with exaggerated spaces between. This does two things: 1) it prevents the bad habits of "counting dits" by making the letter sound like one sound-unit, and 2) it gives the learner extra time to recognize the letter and write it down or type it.

How G4FON works depends on how you set it up. Most code practice software will do both.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K5END
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« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2010, 05:28:13 AM »

I've read your book, "Zen and the Art of Radiotelegraphy" and enjoyed it.

The impact of Zen-ish stuff is real. Not to get philosophical, but I see Zen,  Xi, ESP or whatever that mysterious mental thing is, as a natural phenomenon, and not necessarily a religious commitment. In other words, it does not conflict with western religion, IMO.

Recently a local elmer sent me an email and referred me to this book, when I was on page 26 already. That email qualifies as an ESP QSO, for reasons of Zen or whatever, and this is not the first time it has happened with the same elmer. He's a great elmer, and known well in the Ham world, but is so humble in his wisdom that to post his CS here would probably not be his wish. I'm still a clumsy grasshopper, but I am trying.


... send the characters rather quickly, with exaggerated spaces between. This does two things: 1) it prevents the bad habits of "counting dits" by making the letter sound like one sound-unit, and 2) it gives the learner extra time to recognize the letter and write it down or type it.


I found one more thing it does.

If that space is too exaggerated it is very easy to build a mental lookup table to use during the idle time. This is a bad thing.

I found this out the hard way after the first few weeks. When I slowed down and tried to do 15 wpm character speed at 15 wpm effective speed I could not keep up.

What the Elmers have told me has proven itself correct: practice is fine, but getting on the air is far better.

You can read all about tennis and even practice hitting the tennis ball against a wall (like handball.)

But getting on the court and playing against another human is the only way you will learn to play tennis.

I found this out too, as I was interested in tennis as a young adult. I lost interest in tennis the first time my (then) wife beat me.  Roll Eyes Obviously that was a very un-Zen way to respond.  Shocked

The good news is, you don't have to "win" at Morse code. It's fun at any reasonable speed. Like Zen, Yoga and even the real meaning of western religion, it is the process or journey, and not the result or destination that matters.

To me, that is the answer to the question regarding the meaning of life.

Growth is life. Keep growing.

The destination is, well, the "end."

And that concludes this Sunday sermon.  Smiley
« Last Edit: January 31, 2010, 05:44:13 AM by Larry Kendall » Logged
WB5JEO
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« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2010, 10:32:33 AM »

What the Elmers have told me has proven itself correct: practice is fine, but getting on the air is far better.

Very true. You can't do well what you're trying to do if you're consciously trying to do it. (Try thinking your way through stepping and placing your feet while walking down stairs.) In Zen practice, you begin attending to nothing but posture and breathing. If you're doing that, you can't "think." You can't think about not thinking about sounds, thoughts that arise, etc. And non-thinking being kind of what you're up to, you can only do it well when you're not trying to do it, because if you're not trying, you can't be afraid of failing.

Once the non-conscious mind, the only part that learns anything, has the knowledge, it's vastly better at producing it when needed than the conscious is at calling for it. Once the practice has planted the knowledge of the code and formed the muscle memory, might as well use the conversation of actual operation to allow it to happen without thinking. It's just the way things work.
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VE3WMB
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« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2010, 01:53:59 PM »

You say  ... "It is a historical reality that Morse, in fact, stole the idea from Vail."  

What proof do you have of this? I believe that this is merely hearsay.

It is interesting that Kenneth Silverman, the author of "Lightning Man - The Accursed Life of Samuel F.B. Morse", concluded just the opposite; that
indeed it was Morse that did develop Morse Code. His conclusion was based on extensive research and examination of  personal letters exchanged between Morse and Vail.

Michael VE3WMB
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KL2LZ
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« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2010, 07:06:37 AM »

Try as I may I still can't get G4FON Rev 9 to do anything other than the Koch method.  It seems it just isn't in the Farnsworth method anymore.  Perhaps thats what Rev 9 is all about.  I have been doing the Koch method at LCWO and it just isn't working for me.  I think I'll give the K7QO method from FISTS a try.  

Dan
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