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Author Topic: Copy CW in your head  (Read 14784 times)
WB0U
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« on: March 31, 2011, 07:43:46 PM »

What is the easiest way to learn to copy CW in your head?  I've have always copied by writing every thing down.  I progressed to the point where I could copy 20 wpm 100% and get one minute solid copy at 25 wpm.  I can recognize "the" "ing" and "ion" as sounds instead of individual character.

Most of my code practice has been copying W1AW so "the" "ing" and "ion" do not happen in QSOs.  (I'll never mispell amateur.  It is a real common word in practice texts. )

I've tried shutting my eyes and attempt to visualize the characters like a scrolling Broadway sign but it didn't work for me.

Can anyone offer advice on how to copy in your head?  73 de Lynn WB0U
 
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W8JX
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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2011, 08:05:10 PM »

I do not know how I learned it. For many years I was stuck as 16 WPM or so because i could not write and listen to each letter any faster. It was like a brick wall. Then after a  several years of effort and playing it in back ground at times something clicked and I started listening to words and not letters and then jump well over 20 WPM to get Extra. My dad was in signal corps at end of WW2 and they taught him to copy with a type writer at over 30 WPM.
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WA4KCN
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« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2011, 08:29:02 PM »

I in recent years have worked to copy in my head. Over the past 2 years I have made significant progress in doing so. Now I can recognize common words rather than characters while reading the code in my head. However if and when a less often used word is sent and especially one that is longer in characters, one must use his short term memory to put the word together from individual characters. This is a challenge that many cannot overcome without significant and daily practice time. A much more efficient means to increase you copy speed beyond what you are able to write is to use a typewriter. By using a typewriter your copy speed is only limited by your code copying ability. I started using a typewriter one year ago and within weeks I was able to type as fast as my code copying ability would allow.
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K8AXW
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2011, 08:58:07 PM »

It has been my personal experience that copying in the head is the result of many years of listening to CW.  I know nothing of this "recognizing words" as such but to me copying in the head means retaining the individual letters until they form a word.  Quite often when the characters come through and start a word the mind will 'jump forward' with a word that you think characters are going to spell.  Quite often, this 'assumption' is wrong. 

Initially, the copying in the head takes place with the usual expected procedure the CW contact usually takes.  Call signs, signal report, name, location.... thank yous.... such stuff.  Then when the contact goes further then copying in the head is more sporadic.  Eventually though, it becomes easier.

Trying to recognize words as such never worked for me.  Frankly, I have to question this.  If nothing else, trying to do this word recognition process might be complicating an already complicated phenomenon.

This could be the beginning of a very interesting thread.

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DJ1YFK
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2011, 12:40:02 AM »

Can anyone offer advice on how to copy in your head?

In my case it came quite automatically in the course of my first hundred or so CW QSOs. QSOs are possibly even better than random text (like the W1AW texts) to start with learning head-copy because most of a standard CW QSO is very predictable (if it follows the usual patterns, "my nams is $X = my QTH is $Y") . It takes a lot of pressure away, and much of the problems people have with acquiring new skills is related to blockages and anxiety.

For the first 50 QSOs or so, I wrote down every single letter, and I needed it in order to get all the information. Then, I slowly made the transition to recognize e.g. when a word was repeated ("name fabian fabian") and I'd stop writing down the repetition of the word. After a few dozen more QSOs, I even stopped to write down most of the framework around the important data, and by the end of a QSO there was only callsign, name, QTH etc. on my paper.

And to my surprise, by that time I could even copy complete sentences without writing them down anymore.
At moderate speeds (around 20wpm), it's easier than you might think.

Recognizing whole words, in my experience, is something that really starts to work well at higher speeds. I always compare it to reading: Your eye still sees every single letter of these words that I am writing right now. But you don't consciously take the letters of each word, concatenate them, and then try to make some sense of it. That's how first grade pupils learn reading, but after a short while, you actually recognize whole words by their pattern. You sometimes have to revert to reading single letters if you come across a word that's unknown to you, like a strange name or a word from a foreign language. Since you are reading thousands of words every day, your brain is extremely well trained for this and you aren't necessarily aware of what's happening in your brain while reading.

It's very similar with high speed CW. Most easy, common words are recognized with much less effort than complicated or unknown words. You still hear all the single letters of every word, regardless in which category it fits. But in the case of common words, the mechanics of recognition are different than for complicated or unknown words.

73!
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N9BH
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2011, 05:20:27 AM »

Many years ago, long before the Internet, I read somewhere to try writing the characters with your finger instead of with a pen. I found that doing so gets you started copying in your head but I would not suggest continuing with that method for long.

I do not know if other people have this problem, but I have found that if I say the character to myself in my head that it interferes with the next character being receiver. Silent sound interfering with real sound. I have also found that after a while it seems I am spelling words in Morse instead of converting each character. The biggest thing I have found is to copy without thinking about it, just let it happen naturally. Often, for me, that is easier said than done. Smiley Sometimes when not really paying attention I realize I am copying the code.

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N2EY
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« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2011, 06:01:10 AM »

Operate, operate, operate.

Contesting and traffic handling helped me learn to head-copy.

The big issue is short-term memory.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2011, 09:03:40 AM »

I never did anything but copy in my head, so it's hard to say.

I learned code by walking to school with my buddy David who also wanted to become a ham, and we "voiced" code to each other as we walked, and also as we walked home each day.  That was about 1-1/2 hours of walking and "doing code," and after a week or two we were doing about 10 wpm with the alphabet, numbers and common punctuation and we had never written anything down or touched a key at that point.

We finally put together an oscillator and got two keys and started actually sending to each other, but still nobody was writing anything down.  We just listened, and heard the code like it was a spoken language.

At the last minute when we found out the Novice code test could be just random sets of letters and not real sentences, we panicked and on the last couple of days we practiced writing stuff down.  It wasn't that easy, but we got it.  We went and took the Novice 5 wpm code test and passed it easily, but I'm glad we found out we had to write stuff down before we went to take it.

That was almost 46 years ago.  Operating CW on the air, I never write anything down except "logbook" info (date/time/callsign/name/qth), which is done at the beginning of the contact.  Other than that, really nothing goes on paper.

In a contest, I only use a keyboard to key in the other guy's callsign and required data (S/N, power level, zone or whatever) -- the computer software fills in the date and time and 599, and can fill in the zone or multiplier, too.  Really not much to copy in a contest -- it's mostly the other guy's callsign, and the computer does the rest. Wink  I use the keyboard as a scratchpad, also, since most of the contest programs provide that option.

Good luck in making the transition.  I think it's probably a lot easier to start out like we did, not writing anything from the very first dit.
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AE5QB
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2011, 09:51:25 AM »

Me thinks that research has probably been done on this.  If not, time to ask for a government grant! Smiley   I bet there is military research on this very subject.  Maybe someone already knows.  If not, I will see what I can find.  It is a very interesting topic.

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KE4ILG
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2011, 10:30:36 AM »

My experience makes me second others thoughts on getting on the air.  Write down what you must, relax, make more qso's.  The practice programs are helpful as is W1AW but I find working live ops much more interesting and entertaining. As your copy speed increases you will do more head copying naturally.

I tend to work mostly in the 16-24 wpm area.  If conditions are good I copy mostly in my head.  I find most qso's follow normal conversations.  Of course there are suprises in the course of a qso but that is part of the fun of copying.  Under poor conditions I feel the need to write down more of the information so I can fill in the holes with logic.  And there is nothing wrong with asking questions or a repeat of the missed information.

                                               73, Mike ke4ilg
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VE3WMB
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« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2011, 08:09:02 PM »

When I started to head copy what worked to help me visualize was to close my eyes and print the character on the palm of my other hand using my finger. It didn't take me too long to make the transition from that to
just visualizing in my head. The hardest part about developing the ability to head copy is to "let go" when you
hear something that just doesn't register. Once it starts to "click" it is an interesting feeling .. a bit like reading
a good book, where you can get so into the story that you are not even consciously aware of reading the words, the ideas just sort of appear in your head. Also I suggest slowing down a bit so that you are in your comfort zone at first, but just like learning to hand-copy code you want to push the speed beyond your comfort zone to improve.

Best of luck ...

Michael VE3WMB

What is the easiest way to learn to copy CW in your head?  I've have always copied by writing every thing down.  I progressed to the point where I could copy 20 wpm 100% and get one minute solid copy at 25 wpm.  I can recognize "the" "ing" and "ion" as sounds instead of individual character.

Most of my code practice has been copying W1AW so "the" "ing" and "ion" do not happen in QSOs.  (I'll never mispell amateur.  It is a real common word in practice texts. )

I've tried shutting my eyes and attempt to visualize the characters like a scrolling Broadway sign but it didn't work for me.

Can anyone offer advice on how to copy in your head?  73 de Lynn WB0U
 
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KV4BL
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Posts: 77




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« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2011, 08:17:45 PM »

This is a very interesting thread!  W8JX's comment about copying letters and then one day it jumping to whole words is similar to what I have heard for years.   Unfortunately, I have not achieved that level yet but I am hoping.   WB2WIK's story was interesting as usual, too.  WOW!  To have had a friend you could learn code from and with like that at that age would have been awesome!   I was the only radio geek in my whole school, back in the 60's and 70's.

About twelve years ago, while struggling to get my speed up so I could pass the General test, I decided to just try copying in my head rather than copying by pen.  I don't write too quickly.   I found that I could copy slower stations quite well in my head and give a bystander in the shack a brief synopsis of what was being said, such as, "that is Joe in Colorado Springs, CO.  He is talking to Bill in Odessa, TX."  This boosted me enough over what I had been doing in writing everything down to pass the 13WPM test.  Trying desperately to get my speed up to 20WPM to get my Extra, I got up to around 18WPM right before the FCC dropped everything to 5WPM, across the board.  I let my speed atrophy through lack of use.  Still, I hope to one day work on getting my speed back up and hitting that magic point where you hear words, rather than individual characters.  That has to be a great feeling!

Even now, I have trouble copying unless there is at least a slight "Farnsworth" spacing between characters.
73,
Ray  KV4BL
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K7KBN
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« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2011, 09:05:56 AM »

I never realized "head copy" was supposed to be difficult.  I've been doing it since I was a Novice.  I did have to write out the full thing for upgrades, but that wasn't hard either.

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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
WA8JNM
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Posts: 175




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« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2011, 03:13:41 PM »

I've been learning to head copy for the last couple years, running CWSkimmer on the side, which has a code reader feature.  I find that if I just listen to CW with my eyes closed, knowing that if I get lost I can glance at the code reader, removes almost all of the pressure. Not sure if a code reader is thereby a help, or instead takes away too much of the pressure and I shouldn't be using it.    Cheesy  One other comment: I find that faster code, e.g. say, 23 wpm, is easier to copy in my head than, say, 16 wpm, because the remembering each letter necessary to form the word involves less time.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2011, 02:31:23 PM »

I never realized "head copy" was supposed to be difficult.  I've been doing it since I was a Novice.  I did have to write out the full thing for upgrades, but that wasn't hard either.



Depends when you did the upgrades.  Under the VE system for many years that code was required, copying anything at all on paper was not required: You could do that if you wanted to, or just copy everything in your head and then answer ten questions about what you heard.  If you did the "question and answer" thing, you didn't have to copy any of the code sent on paper at all.  You just had to answer the questions correctly.

I taught my nephew Rob the code, paperless, and when he upgraded to Extra under the old 20 wpm requirement, I went with him (he was too young to drive -- he got his 20 wpm Extra at the age of 12).  He was nervous about writing the code down, and I said, "Relax, just write your name at the top of the paper and listen."   Five minutes later he answered all the questions correctly and passed.  Other than the answers to the questions, the only thing he wrote was his name. Smiley

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