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Author Topic: Where the hell can I find my old CW proficiency ? ? ?  (Read 4367 times)
NT0A
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Posts: 96




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« on: May 27, 2011, 08:59:12 AM »

After almost a 10 year lapse, I am finally back on the air. Prodded by my adult son who got his General last month, I put my dipole back up and got back on the air. This was a task that took more than a week and involved reeving new nylon line through pulleys, shooting arrows into the air, teetering on the top rung of a 12 foot ladder, and working feverishly during the lulls between the lines of thunderstorms that have been plaguing the mid west this spring.

All of this effort was rewarded by the rather start realization that my CW proficiency has deteriorated almost to the vanishing point. I can still copy simple words like "the, this, QTH, AR, BT," etc. at 25 to 30 wpm, but to copy any normal rag chewing  QSO either in my head or with a pencil and paper at more than 10-13 wpm is an impossibility, and that's the good news. I can't send with either a straight key or an iambic keyer without making a mistake in every damn word no matter how slow I go.

With that preamble upon which to cogitate, what I would like to know from someone who has trod the same path is, what did you do to regain your proficiency? Did you just practice sending and receiving without actually getting on the air, or did you embrace the thrill of embarrassing yourself and just send out a CQ and hope for the best? Did you go back to zero and start all over? Did crying about it help? Did kicking the dog and yelling at the spouse help? Was black magic or voodoo involved?

What worked best for you?
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KE3WD
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Posts: 5694




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« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2011, 02:49:36 PM »

Practice, practice and, oh yeah, practice. 

The good news is that today we have all the marvelous computer softwares that aid in the practice of copying CW, as well as the ARRL Code Practice broadcasts. 

Twenty minutes a day adds up in seemingly no time at all. 


73
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20565




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« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2011, 03:19:38 PM »

Frankly, I'd do my "practicing" on the air, so it entails both receiving and transmitting, and strive to make at least 5 CW contacts each day for a month.  No law against bad sending or inability to copy well.  The only legal requirement you have is staying in the band and ID'ing every 10 minutes, best you can.

You'll be back up to speed after 30 days and 150 contacts.

Stick in the "newbie" sections of the bands if you can, where you'll find a lot of patient operators many of whom aren't any better than you are right now.  40m is a great place for this, between 7100 and 7125.
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K0RS
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Posts: 706




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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2011, 08:40:22 PM »

C'mon, Bob, it hasn't been that long since we did Field Day, has it?  Huh Wink

Listen to Steve's (WIK) advice, he speaks the truth!

Nice to see you on eHam.  Hang around here to keep your enthusiasm up, you'll be back up to speed in no time.

Larry

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K8AXW
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Posts: 3739




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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2011, 09:06:11 PM »

NT0A:

I have some good news and some bad news.  Bad news first..... it's going to be necessary to practice and practice some more.  No easy way here man.... just bite the bullet and do it. 

The good news is, your brain has been formed.....the "I can't do this crap" isn't there anymore..... so the amount of practice you will need to do is much less than the practice you did to get the code in the first place.

I suggest practicing some off the air for awhile..... and then get on and have at it.  This will give the CW ops a little break and then it will be much easier on you and them.

One more thing.  After being proficient and then losing it.... there will be a tendency to try to regain your speed immediately.  Understand, it ain't gonna happen.  So, slow down and do the drill.

Now, with that being said, I applaud you getting back on the air.... your son should have a pat on the back as well.  With the sunspot cycle on the increase, this is a very good time to be getting back with us.

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KE3WD
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« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2011, 06:28:45 AM »

I think for most, *copying* is more problematic than sending. 

But if you want to practice your sending, or use of a new (to you) keying methodology, you can still use the computer and programs that decode Morse and turn it into text to practice your sending skills.  Instant feedback onscreen, plus add at least one drill a day in which you are sending but *not* looking directly at the screen until afterwards, can surely help to pinpoint problem areas and, with proper input from yourself, correct same. 

Being a musician as well as wearing several other hats, I am a proponent of using shorter sessions, repeated, vs long duration practice sessions.  My experiene with teaching, both musical instrument and CW, bears that out, the students who pay heed to the "twenty minutes a day" - or "twenty minutes at a shot" sessions certainly have met goals in shorter time, for the most part. 


73
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K8AXW
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« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2011, 08:16:04 AM »

3WD is correct.  When you're involved in long practice session you run into the law of diminishing returns about 20 minutes into the session.  Break it off after 15 to 20 minutes and then later, rather it be an hour or several hours, go back and do another 20 minutes or so.

The military didn't have this luxury so they force fed CW for 8 hours a day.  Out of an hour, 50 minutes was dedicated to copying CW.  They wanted whatever you could get after the 20 minute limit.  Plus they were also training people to copy CW for 8 hours at a clip. 

I don't think you want to do this for a hobby, no matter how much you want to get your proficiency back!
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AB7KT
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Posts: 155




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« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2011, 10:34:41 AM »

Just become active on the air.
After a few hundred QSOs, you will be right back.

Leave the poor dog alone.
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I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT
NT0A
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Posts: 96




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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2011, 03:22:50 PM »

C'mon, Bob, it hasn't been that long since we did Field Day, has it?  Huh Wink

Listen to Steve's (WIK) advice, he speaks the truth!

Nice to see you on eHam.  Hang around here to keep your enthusiasm up, you'll be back up to speed in no time.

Larry
Yeah, Larry, it's been at least 23 years ago. You know, times flies by when you having fun! (It also flies by when you're not watching.)
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3739




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« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2011, 11:17:45 AM »

Just become active on the air.
After a few hundred QSOs, you will be right back.

NT0A:  I doubt if it will take a few hundred QSOs to get you back to ragchewing speed OM.... not with just a 10 year absence.  Especially if your prior speed was the ability to copy at 20WPM or more. 

The amount of time it takes to 'bounce back' after an absence depends a lot on your proficiency prior to the absence and the amount of time you used that proficiency.

In other words, if your speed was 20WPM or higher, it won't take as long to bounce back to to being able to copy at 15-18WPM.  If your prior speed was 15WPM then it will take longer to bounce back.  Code speed is an indicator of how long you have been using code.  There is a naturally tendency for speed to increase with time.

Being away for 10 years..... I'd venture to say with a bit of off the air practice and then with 25-30 on the air QSOs, you will be ragchewing.
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KC6ZBE
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Posts: 47




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« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2011, 07:54:08 AM »

NT0A:

For what it is worth, I was in the same shoes not long ago....I took a 10 year hiatus from ham radio due to my job, but was able to get back into it in '07....I used to be able to run code at 20wpm no problem...

Like the others said, practice and practice....Even if it is just one QSO a day....Had to start at around 10wpm at first but now Im back up to around 17-18wpm....For the hell of it, I participated in the CQWPX CW contest we just had a couple of days ago and did ok....Just spinned the dial, finding people calling CQ and gave them points...

Hang in there, it will come back to you...

Dave - KC6ZBE
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WS4T
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Posts: 182




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« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2011, 02:28:48 AM »

I'll post this link just in case anybody doesn't have it: http://www.arrl.org/code-practice-files

Tons of free code practice.
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3739




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« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2011, 08:46:47 AM »

4T:  Good link.  Thanks for that one!  I forgot all about it.
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KU8F
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« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2011, 04:55:20 AM »

I have had the same problem, but after 20- years absence instead of 10.  I have noticed a lot of "PERFCT" code at over 30 wpm,  and I have finally concluded  that a LOT of it is from hams that dont even know how to copy or send, rather they use a computer aided program to type the message, a program codes it to morse.  and to receive , the program deciphers the morse code to typed print!!   But there are also a good number that still use the code, Im sure.    Im learning as I go, the funny thing happened the other day.  Im still looking to make a DX contact with Japan, after trying SSB.  So im trying the CW frequencies now, and Ive heard a few.  I finally thought I found one this past Saturday and excitedly answered and tried to QSO, got a report, and then heard a lot of questions I didnt understand, until I Finally realized he was correcting me to his call, a VE1 not a JE1.   dislexia big time and embarrasment, I said SRY a few times, and quickly logged off.  ------"Ted
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N5XM
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Posts: 242




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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2011, 07:45:34 AM »

I think you can get it all back.  I agree with the idea of practicing off the air to get your sending up to snuff.  Turn to the Editorial section of your newspaper, and find an Editorial with bunches of big words in it, and practice sending at steadily increasing speeds.  Find a fast speed ragchew somewhere and just listen to the cadence and copy as much as you can.  This way, you're working both sides of a QSO (sending and receiving).  Listen to the ARRL practice sessions that start fast then slow down.  As everyone says, get on the air and make contacts.  Add up all of the above, and you'll make up a lot of ground in a single month.  Best of luck.  You can do it!  E-mail me if you want to set up a sked.  You never know where you might find a new friend.  Rick, n5xm
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