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Author Topic: Is it just me or . . .  (Read 5572 times)
NT0A
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« on: September 14, 2011, 11:38:00 PM »

I've just recently gotten back on the air and am slowly getting back into CW. Before my 12-year break from ham radio I was sending and receiving about 25 wpm, and I am almost back up to that speed,  but CW is not what I remember.

I seem to be hearing lots and lots and lots of CW with either excessive or no space between words and characters. Am I just imagining this or has skill in sending CW with proper character and word spacing deteriorated? Poor character and/or word spacing makes CW difficult to copy and can make it impossible to copy in your head.

When I listen around the bands, the only really good CW I hear is either from the W1AW code practice sessions or the occasional 35+ wpm QSO between some real CW guru's with excellent fists. (Computer generated perhaps?) Most of the code I hear would be recorded something like this (any resemblance to actual call signs is purely accidental):

C Q C Q C Q D E W X 4 R G B W X 4 R G B W X 4 R G B K   

WX4G KBDEGL9RST RURSIG5NN599 9 HRIN ALBUQUERQUEUDNM ARK

Q  R  Z  ?

GL9RSTGL9RSTGL 9RSTK

Etc., etc., etc.

Remarkably some of the best code that I hear sounds as if it is coming from someone pounding a straight key. I would much rather fight for CW space with a bunch of really good sounding fists than labor through a "C Q C Q C Q D E W X 4 R G B W X 4 R G B W X 4 R G B K" or "WX4G KBDEGL9RST URSIG5NN599 HRIN ALBUQUERQUEUDNM ARK "style QSO. If I am not imagining the deterioration in CW proficiency, what can we as hams do to remedy the situation?

When the skill is mastered reasonably well, CW is a great mode and lots of fun.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2011, 11:40:39 PM by NT0A » Logged
PA0BLAH
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2011, 12:41:47 AM »

NT0A

Rubber stamp QSO stuff,

When you want to read comfortable and fast, you need to read printed matter in a well designed font.

When you read handwriting, it is always slow.

Just the same with Morse code.

When you exercise with W1AW of "Just learn Morse Code" you get the printed matter.

Try with a decoder on your keyer and be amazed to notice that when you are going QRQ >30 wpm it becomes pretty difficult to keep letterspaces below the level (5 dits) that it becomes a word space on the decoder. Especially when you are over 80 years old.

Bob
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2011, 01:27:51 AM »

I am one of those offenders!
I like to call cq at around 38wpm and use excessive spacing to give people who cannot read that fast a chance to read it.
When in a qso, I always match the speed of my contact and use correct spacing however.

But, the point is that although it is frustrating to read bad fists, that is the nature of human generated code, so we need
to make allowances and let our marvellous brain figure a way around it.
I can send and read from 5wpm to 45wpm (and only ever read in my head), however I still have trouble with the "swinging"
fists of some operators, especially "bug" bound ones.

No point in grumbling about it though, since I have heard these (for me) frustrating operators in long qso's with others who
seem to read them fine. So, the problem is mine - I need to listen to more of these guys so my brain can figure out a reading
strategy.
As in all things these days, many problems are not soluble by ourselves, so lets just give ourselves personal goals of becoming
the best and most versatile CW ops possible.

73s tu sk
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PA0BLAH
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2011, 01:38:22 AM »

I am one of those offenders!
I like to call cq at around 38wpm and use excessive spacing to give people who cannot read that fast a chance to read it.
When in a qso, I always match the speed of my contact and use correct spacing however.


As a matter of fact lots of people are nowadays learning Morse code with higher speed letters and wide spacing.

When they are finished, with all the characters numbers and some punctuation,  and try to make a QSO, they ask for QRS.

However there is not any normal spaced speed they can copy, because when the operator goes down to 5 wpm, they have the desired letter spacing but don't recognise the characters.

So going QRS by widening the letter space is the best thing to do.
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NT0A
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2011, 04:21:38 PM »

I can understand the rational here, but if the character space is made wider than it should be, then it is mandatory to widen the word space as well so that it is relatively easy to identify when a a word ends.

Obviously not everyone will agree, but the best overall solution is for every CW operator to to learn how to send and receive standard code and not to make adjustments in character and word spacing. True high speed code is heard not by character but by entire words and/or phrases. My fear is that unless each CW operator takes it upon him or herself to commit to sending "standard" code, CW as a reliable mode of communications in the amateur bands is going to deteriorate to the point it is a novelty.
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NK6Q
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« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2011, 08:50:51 PM »

In response to the remark about bug-swing:

I'm a frequent bug user and I've had many ops comment during QSO's that they thought I was on an electronic keyer.  I've also heard a lot of bad "bug" fists: spraying excessive dits all over; interminably long dahs.  I think some bug users make excuses for their bad sending by saying it's their unique "bug-swing". 

Clean code is clean code.  A bad fist is a bad fist, no matter what kind of device you're using.

Bill in Pasadena
NK6Q
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N2EY
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2011, 04:19:08 AM »

Clean code is clean code.  A bad fist is a bad fist, no matter what kind of device you're using.

Bill is exactly right. I agree 100%.

All a bug really automates is making strings of dots. Dashes and spaces are still up to the operator. In some ways a bug is closer to a straight key than it is to an electronic keyer.

Which means you need to have a good straight-key fist in order to have a good bug fist.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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PA0BLAH
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« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2011, 05:51:06 AM »

Gentlemen,

What is a fist.

A fist is the telegraph distortion added by a person to  machine generated code model.

Obviously you have bad an nice fists.

Question arises is a "nice fist" better to copy then the machine code with the same amount of text per time unit?

I don't think so, because I look to the analogy with printed matter and hand written text.

So we recognise the sender on his fist. And the sender often is proud on that he can be recognised  and tries with more bending, text dependent timebase changes,  and dash/dot/spaces dependent timebase changes, and the like to improve recognition of his fist to express his personality and mental state in the coded messages.

When someone succeeds to make a fist of 100. % that is no measurable timedistortion of dits and dahs and spaces more than 0,5%, clever, think about estimating distances of 1 to 7 meter on 1 cm precision without failing.

It can be done with the aid of electronic circuits and a keyboard.

That is "not done" when I read requirements to be a member of very high speed and extreme high speed clubs , look at the website of pa3bwk. Independent of the meaning of old goats.

Requirement is that you code your text yourself during generating code.  So only keyers, and cooties and straight keys are allowed.

Furthermore lots of people hate to work with a QSO partner that is not able to copy Morse code but uses his computer.
Reasons:
1. The same as people don't want to play chess against a computer
2. When QSB or QRM: a perfect decodable signal is not decoded by a computer in readable message.
3. It degrades their efforts that allowed them to enter the club of people that had the balls to learn Morse code, which generally speaking are people that are able to finish what they plan to do. (Unless it are former professional telegraphers) They often don't want to QSO fakers.

How can you prevent those fakers from answering your CQ, calling you  or whatever?
Right: By developing a fist that is virtually undecodable by the computer decoders.

Fist 100% is nice for PSK31, that's what they need.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2011, 05:57:33 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged
NT0A
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2011, 07:09:57 PM »

What is a fist? A fist is the telegraph distortion added by a person to machine generated code model. Obviously you have bad an(d) nice fists.

Lots to think about here, but first an oberservation. I assume that the lack of a call sign in your profile means that you are neither an amateur or commercial radio operator. By that I do not mean your comments are invalid or unimportant. Nevertheless, one can better understand comments if one understands the viewpoint.

Although I understand your definition of “fist,” I am not sure that I agree with it. Where one can make a good case that the further away from the mathematically perfect code an operator is the “worse” one would classify said operators fist, most hams I have know over the years would use the word two different but related ways.

The first is simply to refer to the characteristics of the code sent by a specific operator. The second relates to the ease of copying or understanding a particular operator. For example an operator could have a “fist” that is easy to copy while being defined as having a swing or lilt.

Quote
Question arises is a "nice fist" better to copy then the machine code with the same amount of text per time unit? I don't think so, because I look to the analogy with printed matter and hand written text.

Maybe yes, maybe no. If the “nice fist” sends code as close as humanly possible to mathematically perfect machine code, the answer is yes. If he/she doesn’t, that answer still may be yes.

Some of the most characteristically unique code that I have heard was sent with a bug. It had the swing that one frequently hears if there is an “imbalance” between the speed of the “automatic” dits as compared with the manual dahs, but frequently such CW was very easy to copy. At the same time it is intuitively obvious that it would be possible to send the same number of dits and dahs per unit time as the machine but to send it in a manner that would be completely undecipherable.

Quote
So we recognise the sender on his fist.

Rarely unless we communicate with the same person with some degree of frequency.

Quote
And the sender often is proud on that he can be recognised  and tries with more bending, text dependent timebase changes,  and dash/dot/spaces dependent timebase changes, and the like to improve recognition of his fist to express his personality and mental state in the coded messages.

My experience is that this is extremely rare primarily because it impedes communications which is the primary thrust of the hobby. There are some unethical operators who will deliberately distort a CW signal with either key clicks or strong chirp hoping to gain an edge in attracting the attention of a rare DX station, but that is an entirely different matter.

Quote
When someone succeeds to make a fist of 100. % that is no measurable timedistortion of dits and dahs and spaces more than 0,5%, clever, think about estimating distances of 1 to 7 meter on 1 cm precision without failing. It can be done with the aid of electronic circuits and a keyboard.

I believe it is incorrect to say that one can “make a fist of 100%.” A “fist” is always 100% a “fist.” It would be correct to say that a given “fist” can either copied 100% or is indistinguishable from machine code, but it is incorrect to say a “fist” is 45%, 72%, 90% etc.

It should be noted here that although an electronic iambic keyer makes it eaiser send standard code, it does not mean that any specific operator is either capable of sending or willing to send such code. Much of the chopped up code that I hear on the bands sounds as if it is produced electronically because although the character and word spacing makes for difficult copy, each character is perfectly formed.

Quote
That is "not done" when I read requirements to be a member of very high speed and extreme high speed clubs , look at the website of pa3bwk. Independent of the meaning of old goats. Requirement is that you code your text yourself during generating code. So only keyers, and cooties and straight keys are allowed.

Furthermore lots of people hate to work with a QSO partner that is not able to copy Morse code but uses his computer.

Certainly there are people with a puritanical streak who shun working with someone sending code with a computer, but I suspect that most hams are more than willing to carry on a QSO with such a party. My initial comments about the number of computer to computer QSOs using high speed CW was based on the observation of almost 40 years as a ham. Forty years ago it was rare to hear almost letter perfect code at 35wpm or more. That is not the case today.. Spend any time in the lower part of any of the bands and one will hear many letter perfect, high speed CW QSOs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. My personal belief is that it is more difficult to use the computer that way than it is to send and receive code at whatever speed one can with a key, keyer, or bug.

Quote
How can you prevent those fakers from answering your CQ, calling you  or whatever? Right: By developing a fist that is virtually undecodable by the computer decoders. Fist 100% is nice for PSK31, that's what they need.

Perhaps there are some exceptions, but all of the digital programs I have tried have a hard time copying anything but almost perfectly sent code, and the higher the speed (to a point) the better. Certainly one can deliberately massacre his or her CW to the point that it could not be decoded by a machine, but that is not what I sense is commonly done, and that certainly did not seem to be the case with the broken CW that prompted me to start this thread.

Rather it appeared to be more a case of operators who either:

1.  Did not know what standard should sound like,
2.  Did not know how to send standard code, or
3.  Needed time to think between characters of how the next character is formed.

The solution for all three of those possible causal factors is to:

1.  Listen to the ARRL code sessions and practice copying the code
2.  Never send code faster than you can copy
3.  Never send “Farnsworth code” during a QSO unless you maintain the standard ratio between character and word spacing.
4.  On the air, don’t speed up past the point that your CW is easily read.
5.  Practice sending higher speed code off of the air until you can send good code at that higher speed.

Like most hams, I would rather copy good standard code at 7 wpm than badly sent code at 25 wpm. All that said, however, we cannot escape our human frailties. As Bob Locher (W9KNI) so elequently pointed out in his 1983 The Complete DX’er, the excitement of contacting a rare DX can reduce anyone’s “fist” to Jell-O, that point where one is reduced to sending code that is almost unintelligible.

That was a situation  in which I found myself just two nights ago as Asiatic Russia  boomed over the Artic with an auroral shimmer into my dipole antenna here in the Kansas City area.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2011, 07:29:20 PM by NT0A » Logged
PA0BLAH
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« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2011, 06:43:33 AM »

Gentlemen,

OK I am writing here "in cognito".

But when you click on my user-id you can read the timespan of activity each day, and read previous messages I wrote here, that will give  you more than enough of the desired information, you prefer to have. Even the time of night-rest and hence with pretty high probability the longitude I live.

I gave a definition of a fist as I see it, and talk about and possibly, when Morse code was defined in another way with other timing, as for example American Morse code was,  the same average person would acquire a higher speed in a shorter exercising time, you never will know that. It is easy possible to recognise a person on his fist, just as easy as you recognise the handwriting of your relatives.

By the way HI is often sent as HEE, that is because is was original HO the way the Christmas man is laughing, and in American Morse code the O was two wide spaced dits.

When you say that a good fist, transmitting the same amount of text, in a certain amount of time (throughput)  may be better or easier to copy than machine generated code, then that is an indication that Morse code was not optimal in its design of timing of the elements.

Furthermore in WorldWar-2 telegraphers were heavily trained in transmitting correct  machine like code. The reason was that the enemy could recognise otherwise "the fist" and hence determine the movements of troops. For that reason Morse code has  to be as neutral as possible in timing and electronic means to reach that goal, were not available.
Teaching  started with counting 1112131123 for a V,
and when speed increases the instructor was sending text that all participants has in front of them, and they were required to send isosynchrone with the teacher, in order to reach that goal. On paper tape recorders, dots dashes and spaces were measured with a ruler and had to be "exact".

Thanks for reading
Bob PA0BLAH

« Last Edit: September 20, 2011, 06:45:39 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged
NT0A
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« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2011, 09:42:43 AM »

By the way HI is often sent as HEE, that is because is was original HO the way the Christmas man is laughing, and in American Morse code the O was two wide spaced dits.

Very Interesting. I have not heard that explanation before. What I had understood was that the HI was a contraction in time of HEE. A sort of shorthand that everyone understood that HI HI was really HEE HEE.
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VK2GWK
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« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2011, 10:46:18 PM »

OK I am writing here "in cognito".

What are you afraid of, mate... I am always a bit suspicious of people that are not prepared to show their true colours.  If you really want to hide, use a real fake ID and not a callsign that suggests that you are from the Netherlands.

Sorry for this off topic remark but could not resist.

I don't mind "fists" as long as I can copy them.
I don't mind people replying at 35 wpm as long as they slow down when asked.
I don't mind people that want to get a new one on CW with help of a computer as there are others using hearing aids or glasses.....  Smiley
I do mind people with bugs that cannot restrain their dots.
I do mind people that just follow the Cluster and get my call wrong: they obviously don't listen.
And I especially do mind people that don't properly recognise that bl**dy K at the end of my callsign... Smiley
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KC5CQD
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« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2011, 08:27:16 AM »

I too have noticed this trend and so I make the conscious effort to not be like that.  I can QSO comfortably at around 18 to 20 WPM and so I tend to use a higher speed to send my characters and allow enough of a spacing to maintain the 18 to 20 WPM speed.  I even do this with ops who are sending at much lower speeds and even they can usually keep up with my 20 WPM because I'm allowing them enough time to translate the characters.  Of course, on the rare occasion that they can't keep up, I always slow it down. 
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W5LZ
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« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2011, 07:40:31 PM »

If you send code by hand, doesn't matter if you use a bug, keyer, or straight key, you will develop a 'fist'.  That just means that you get into a habit of making characters a certain way.  After a time listening to several people send, you can 'pick up' on who they may be by their 'fist'.  That's about as normal as it gets.  That 'fist' is like listening to people with different accents, or speech characteristics.  You can also begin to 'pick up' on who is using a keyboard to send CW.  Sorry, no one makes perfect characters all the time, but it's quite common for machines to.  It's also quite easy to determine if someone is using a code reader or not.  Just make a change in your sending style, it'll stop them every time (the code readers).  The human ear is much more adaptable than a code reader, your ear can make sense out of characters that are not 'perfect'.  That code reader can't.

How about the strings of characters, no spaces, etc?  My first guess would be a mechanical means of sending that code, a memory keyer, etc.  It isn't the same thing at all, but how many text messages have you seen with no capitalization, punctuation, etc?  It's basically from the same thing, not fast enough if you do it 'right'.  Right?  As in impatient.

Good fists, mediocre fists, bad fists, you'll hear all of them if you're around CW much.  The mediocre and bad fists are just trying to hard, or trying to be too fast.  Or, are just tired.  Best advice is to slow down or stop.  That's also probably the most unwanted advice you can give, or get.
Oh well...
 - Paul


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