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Author Topic: Keyboard keyers.  (Read 8365 times)
N0RKX
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Posts: 63




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« on: July 05, 2001, 12:42:26 AM »

With the advent of general and contesting logging programs which include keyboard keyers, I'm curious whether people use them all of the time or just for chasing DX and contesting. Do you use them in casual CW QSO's?
If you do use a keyboard keyer do you also use a software decoder like Hamscope, MixW, or CWGet? I've tried all three and none of them work as well as my ear. They might work better during a contest where I'd guess 80% of the CW sent is machine generated.

Opinions, thoughts?

NØRKX
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K0BZV
Member

Posts: 22




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« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2001, 09:37:53 AM »

Time for another nickel worth from here.
I use keyboard keying for all of the purposes stated.
I have keyboard keying, electronic keyer and even a
good old straight key.  I do not trust the decoders
for receive and rely on my ears.  I have a hearing
problem and often the decoder does not like the same
tone I do.  The various methods of keying are used as
I wish but the keyboard is great for contest operation
as the repetitive stuff can be programmed.  My name/
location/grid square/etc don't change!!  A memory type
keyer would also work, but I don't have one and I do
have a computer.  I normally use a keyer/paddles for
casual ragchewing.
CW - The Original Digital Mode
73 de Carl - K0BZV
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VE3IAY
Member

Posts: 20




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« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2001, 08:44:03 AM »

From someone whose favourite mode is CW, followed by digital modes like RTTY, MFSK, PSK, etc.: I use a keyboard keyer during contests, but even there I prefer to have a paddle also available for quick non-programmed messages. I'm less error-prone with the paddle than typing on the keyboard, and I keep forgetting which function key puts the program into and out of keyboard mode. You don't have time to think during a contest, you want to run on automatic. For DXing and ragchewing, I use a paddle and a keyer with four memory buttons and a manual speed knob, but the speed knob plus one memory programmed with my call sign is all I normally use. If you make a mistake sending your call sign to a DXpedition, they may never get it right, so it really helps to have an error-free method of sending your call sign. Casual ragchewing is where I would find keyboard sending easiest to use. But personally, if I want to ragchew using a keyboard, I just move up the band and use a digital mode.

As for receiving, a contest is the last place I would think of trying a software decoder for CW. Between the heavy QRM, even through cascaded narrow IF filters, and the great variety of sending speeds, I can't imagine that any of the software I've seen would be any help. It often takes software longer just to sync to a different-speed signal than a typical contest transmission. Again, during a contest you want to be working on automatic. You want to get into a rhythm where you type the incoming data into the contesting software's entry box almost as it comes in, and only use your conscious brain to decide whether to respond to it, log it, or wipe it out. You may not have time to wait until you see the entire call sign or exchange on the screen, double-click it, and backspace over decoding errors to correct them, if you can even remember what you heard so you can make the correction (when I rely on the software to copy, I find I can't remember as well as when I am copying unaided). By then, a really busy contester on the other end will have given up on you and moved on to the the next guy. Where I find software decoding most useful is during a ragchew, as a means of extending my medium-term memory (just look higher up on the screen, or scroll back a page or two).

73, Rich VE3IAY
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20666




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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2001, 05:58:25 PM »

I agree the CW decoders are practically useless in contests...too much close-packed QRM, often within a few Hz...and the contest exchange is so short that any bonehead can copy what is required for the contest log (a callsign and zone, for example -- the "59" or "599" is filled in by the contest logging software!).  

I own, and have used, the MFJ keyboard keyer.  It works great (not contesting, just general purpose operation, ragchewing, etc), is RFI-free and has zero problems.  But it's just not fun!  I think a lot of the fun of CW operating is sitting back and listening to what the other station is sending, and then sitting up to send with a paddle...the fun is diminished by too much automation.  At first, I liked the MFJ because it allowed me to reply immediately to comments or questions posed by the other station...such as, if the other guy said, "WX here is very cold, we had two feet of snow today..." I could immediately send into the MFJ buffer memory, "Oh, too bad abt ur WX, here it's sunny and warm..." and do this while I was still listening to the rest of his transmission.  I'm a fast typist (about 120wpm), so keying in quick comments like this only takes a few seconds and doesn't distract me from the QSO.

Then, all my comments are stored in the MFJ buffer, and when the other station turns it over to me, I just hit "enter," and if the speed is adjusted to 20wpm, the machine will send several sentences without me doing anything.  I could literally walk out of the room for a cup of coffee, and come back, and "I" would still be sending!  That seemed like fun, for a while.

But, after a while, like most anything new, it just wasn't fun.  Not nearly as much fun as using the paddle, making occasional mistakes to prove my humanity, etc.  Automation for contesting is fine and helps improve scores.  Automation in everyday life is, um, boring-?

73 de Steve WB2WIK/6
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W4BQF
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Posts: 73


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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2001, 08:23:06 AM »

I've been using a kybrd almost exclusively for some 25 years; about 95% kybrd and the other 5% one of the three bugs on my desk. Computer contesting software is essential to be competative today. I also do high speed CW over 60wpm, which requires the kybrd, but I still use it for rag chews and DX chasing. I try not to injure other's ears by using my bug's too often, but I still enjoy them.
Code readers can provide a great function. That function is not to copy code for you, but to help you increase your 'in-head' copy speed. I don't think I could have ever gotten over the 55wpm speed hump without one. Forget using readers in contest, as Steve and Rich have said, you don't have time to mess with it, plus they are very unreliable, even under normal conditions.
Don't worry about the 'old-goats' that decry kybrds as not being real CW, they probably can't type or copy over 20wpm. Do what YOU want to do to enjoy YOUR part of the hobby. By the way, I'm an 'old-goat' myself, with 50 yrs of doing CW and still looking forward!
Tom/W4BQF
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