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Author Topic: Novice question about Paddles vs Straight Keys for learning  (Read 27018 times)

Posts: 330

« Reply #30 on: April 04, 2011, 02:32:04 PM »

>Your decision should be based on taking advantage of your transceivers capability.

I have an FT-950 with a built in keyer.  It also supports a straight key as well.  So as far as technology goes, it is not really a factor. 

Posts: 477

« Reply #31 on: April 15, 2011, 07:23:37 AM »

There are a number of aspects that come into play.  Learning on a straight key will allow/make you pay attention to the 'construction' of characters, and seems a little simpler.  Not a bad thing, but not absolutely necessary.  You can do the same thing with 'paddles', but it certainly isn't as 'simple', too many adjustments to figure out.
None of that takes the monetary aspects into consideration.  Bugs and 'paddles' are expensive, so are the keyers.  It all amounts to what you want to do (and how bad you wanna do it that way) and can do. 
I started with a straight key, progressed to a 'bug' and then a keyer.  Being lazy, I dread the thought of going back to a straight key.  Smiley

Posts: 154

« Reply #32 on: August 09, 2011, 05:39:35 PM »

I know this thread is a few months old, but I've been searching because I'm also debating between a straight key or a paddle.
While searching, I came across this link posted here in '08:
It's a good read.  Think I'll start with a straight key, get proficient, and then maybe try a paddle.
Seems like I might make too many mistakes starting with a paddle... just my opinion.  YMMV.   Grin


Posts: 0

« Reply #33 on: August 10, 2011, 02:21:45 AM »


That article is a classic one.

However, I suppose that when you can NOT send iambic an F correct, you will have a gap too wide between the second dot and the dash when you are working not iambic.

Another thing to think about is the question about learning straight key or paddle is that I miss the third method of a side swiper. Also known as Cootie key and as double speed key.

Easy to learn
No possibility the let slip too much dits
No carpal tunnel syndrome (glass fist)
No loose of ones "fist"
Easy to make yourself one of a (worn out) hack saw blade (or )
No independent movement of thumb and forefinger required (to tap in the dash), but strong muscles of arm ...
No need to switch to another method when you grow proficient direction 30 wpm and over.

73 Bob
« Last Edit: August 10, 2011, 02:32:32 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged

Posts: 154

« Reply #34 on: August 13, 2011, 09:23:11 PM »

Well I decided to go with a Heathkit uMatic SA-5010 that was listed here in the classifieds. (Thank You Gary ( K0IMJ ))
Looks like it will be great for practice and  to use.  I know I was leaning towards a straight key but a google search brings up a lot of positives about this unit.


Posts: 653

« Reply #35 on: August 17, 2011, 10:14:49 AM »

My own story. I started studying code by listening to the ARRL tapes while commuting to and from work. Once I felt like I had it memorized a bit I tried to call CQ on 80M one night using my straight key. It sounded OK to me but I got no answers.  I told my Elmer (W1ARE - SK - with whom I worked) that no one would answer my CQ. He said we would set up a sked and he would answer me.  That evening came and I called him on the phone to make sure he was ready. He was and I sent my CQ call.  I waited a second and then the phone rang. It was Dan - "What the hell was that?" - I answered that I sent CQ - he disagreed - he told me to stop by his house the next day to pick up a keyer and set of paddles.  He told me to practice a bit and we would try again.  I did practice and immediately noticed the code I sent was much more rhythmic.  With only about an hour practice I tuned up on 80M and sent my CQ - lo and behold I had an answer - A fellow from Maine came back to my call and we exchanged names, locations and signal reports - I think it took about a half hour.  When you use a straight key you are responsible for all the timing of the code.  Since you sent it you know what you sent and it sounds OK to you.  With a paddle and keyer you initiate the dits & dahs but the keyer completes them forcing the proper timing.  I vote for a paddle (and a keyer if it is not built into your rig) to start.  You will get used to hearing the code the way it is supposed to sound and if you would like you can move to a straight key later (though I never felt the need to do so).

Clint - W5CPT

Posts: 477

« Reply #36 on: August 18, 2011, 08:35:23 AM »

There are two basic steps in learning CW/Morse code.  The first is learning to recognize the sound of characters/numbers/punctuation/whatever.  The second step is to learn to reproduce those sounds.  The first step usually takes the longest and the second step just depends on your 'handiness' and what kind of key you want (or are required) to use.  The first step is a 'mental'/memory thingy.  The second is an acquired mechanical or physical skill.  They both take time and practice.  Some people are more 'mentally' oriented, some are more 'physically' oriented.  (And then, some of us have problems with both!  Smiley)
So you decide how you want/need to learn those two skills.
Some things to consider.
Straight keys are 'slower', so easier to 'get right'.
Bugs are complicated.  Not impossible to 'get right', but typically require more time doing that learning.
Keyers are simpler than bugs, but still require things 'right'.  They can also be 'slower' so easier to master. 
But there are 'catches'!  What will it take to use any particular 'style' of key with your radio?  What's your budget like?  Are you going to carry your bug or keyer with you to operate at another station besides yours?  And I'll bet you can think of other 'catches'.
So, wha'cha gonna do?  It's up to you...
 - Paul


Posts: 28

« Reply #37 on: August 21, 2011, 09:59:50 PM »

I use single lever paddles, bugs and straight keys.  I still need to learn how to use paddles, and I will do that.

My point is that just like many things for me, the real reward is the journey; in this case, learning to send Morse Code proficiently in multiple ways!

For me, the greatest skill I need to develop is sending with a bug in such a way that people think I'm sending with a keyer!  Once I get that down, on to the dual paddles!

Good luck, es 73,

Posts: 116

« Reply #38 on: September 25, 2011, 02:42:44 PM »

There are two parts to "learning CW":

(a) . . .
(b) sending with _correct rhythm_ -- proper inter-dit, inter-character, inter-word spacing.

For (b), paddles are clearly superior.  They _will not let you_ make certain kinds of errors.  < . . . >

True, but paddles can contribute to making other spacing errors. While paddles will keep your characters properly spaced as long as the time between one dit or dah and the next dit or dah is less than the time that the keyer logic switches from character interval to word interval and more than enough for the keyer to insert the proper spacing between characters.

Improper spacing when sending with a keyer can turn ARE YOU USING A KEYER? into AR EYO UUS IN G A K E Y E R ?

I love using my keyer, but I also really enjoy jumping on the straight key.

Posts: 376

« Reply #39 on: September 29, 2011, 04:57:39 AM »

My club's advice is to learn to listen first at decent speed, something like 20 WPM, Koch method and Farnsworth timing, and then use paddles for the reason given in W5CPT's post, and going to a straight key later. I'm just using a two-button computer mouse that I turn backwards.
While searching, I came across this link posted here in '08:
It's a good read.  Think I'll start with a straight key, get proficient, and then maybe try a paddle.
If that was what convinced you to use a straight key, you're misreading the article. The article says
There is a HUGE improvement in going from a straight key to a bug-- and in addition to the
reduction of keystrokes the change from vertical to horizontal keying motion went a long way
toward relieving "glass fist" as carpal tunnel syndrome was known in the trade. The keystroke
count has been reduced by an amazing 34.1%.
There is a SUBSTANTIAL improvement in going from a bug to a non-iambic keyer,
What that article questions is not the paddle - it agrees that it's better than the straight key and the bug - what it questions is the benefit of "squeeze keyeing" or "iambic keyeing", namely that of sending letters like C, Q and K just by squeezing the paddles together rather than tapping the paddles.
Personally, I sometimes squeeze especially when sending CQ, and sometimes I tap the paddles. What matters is that the timing is correct, and you get that with a paddle and keyer, wheter iambic or non-iambic.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 05:15:09 AM by LA9XSA » Logged

Posts: 2

« Reply #40 on: September 29, 2011, 08:07:07 AM »

My advice would be to start with a straight key, but get a quality one. Self training with a straight key can be so satisfying, so much so that you may never go for a paddle. Listen carefully on the bands and you will soon be able to determine the difference between straight and paddle. Never forget that a smoothly used straight key, at whatever speed, can be as individual as your signature on a cheque. If you use a paddle, you will not get many compliments on your 'Fist', as you will sound just the same as hundreds of others. Be an individual and work up to a speed of thirty wpm with a straight key. People will respect you for it and admire your skill.
73 de Tony.
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