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Author Topic: My New Years Resolution - Remembering CW  (Read 2076 times)
KJ7XJ
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« on: January 29, 2004, 02:13:15 PM »

I was licensed in 1986 and I learned just enough code (15WPM at that time) to get my General. I have not used it since. Flash forward....Some people make New Years resolutions to loose weight or quit smoking, I made my 2004 resolution to get on the air without the microphone!
 Right before xmas I downloaded G4FONs software, bought a Bencher paddle, and a MFJ Keyer. I have been studing for a month now with the software and listening to various QSOs on 40m and 80m and I am having trouble "getting it" again. Someone had said that CW was like a bicycle,  Ive got back on, but I cant figure out how to pedal. I want to learn in my head so I can copy fast (at least 20+ WPM), but when I start hearing a few letters, my brain will think and I start missing the next charaters. Im told that I should start hearing words and not letters.
 My question is, what am I doing right or wrong? Should I not listen as much to actual QSOs and practice the software until I get "it" down? Should I get on the air? (I dont think Im quite there yet)
  Eric - KJ7XJ Tacoma,WA
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KE4MOB
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2004, 04:28:38 PM »

You are on the right track.  Don't get flustered or discouraged. Rome wasn't built in a day, and it might take you months for your brain to get back in tune.

I started relearning in November--9 years ago I passed 20 WPM.  After two months I'm back up to a comfortable 10 to 13 WPM, I'd guess.

I try every night to spend at least 30 minutes listening to QSOs.  Whatever I hear, whether it's 7 WPM or 20, I'll try to copy it.

At first, I used the software to get the cadence and sound down.  After the first month, I dropped it in favor of listening to actual QSO's.

Of course, nothing beats making QSO's...sweaty palms and all!!

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KJ7XJ
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2004, 05:03:38 PM »

Well I havnt had the chance to get on the air (or at least in close to 20 years). Im sure I would be sloppy. I have practiced sending and its better than my ears. I just cant figure out why I cant make out words and abbr. I know all the letters and puntuation needed for a QSO but Ive grown 20 years older since last making a CW contact, and its just not sinking in.  
 Were on opposite coasts, perhaps I should humble myself and set up a sched. (that makes me tremble thinking about, but we all got to start or restart somewhere I suppose). Ive been trying to copy something around 7.110 ( a net perhaps, its on almost every night) I also get good signals at night on 80m ( I have a G5RV which hears best on those bands at night)
  Its been easiest listening to slow coders in the novice portions, but I dont think I am ready to start a QSO. Its frustrating. I want to learn, and my brain isnt what it used to be.
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W4YA
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2004, 08:00:01 PM »

Eric,
My advice: Stick with G4FON. It really works. Hide your key somewhere until you can COPY whatever your goal is. You can't learn code by sending it - only by copying it!!! Don't listen to on-the-air QSOs. That's the second-worst way to learn the code. The worst is to send to yourself.

73,
Jim W4YA

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AD6WL
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2004, 02:36:30 AM »

I can copy reliable at 15wpm and about 50% at 20wpm.  I have been told that after 20wpm you can start to hear the words not just the leters.  I guess we just keep practicing.  Have fun with, I do.

73, Jim
AD6WL
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NI0C
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2004, 08:38:07 AM »

My advice would be a combination of KE4MOB and W4YA's advice.  The most fun and painless way to increase one's speed is to engage in on-the-air QSO's.  However, you do need to stay "calibrated," as it were, to the spacing of perfect code.  That's where software programs and W1AW code practice sessions come in.  

I'd also advise copying with pencil/paper or on a keyboard-- try "copying behind" first by a few characters, then whole words, then several words.  In this activity, your brain acts as a sort of delay line for output on paper.  The head copying will follow naturally.

Good New Year's resolution!  It will work for you as long as it is fun.  That's why I advise at least some on-the-air activity.

73 de Chuck  NI0C
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K5PU
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« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2004, 12:06:58 PM »

I once used to know code 'way back when' I was first licensed and also recently decided to hide my mic and dust off the key.  Unfortunately I learned code at a glacial 5WPM. My problem was I wasn't able to increase my speed because of the way I learned code. I kept 'translating' the individual dits/dahs into chars instead of simply hearing the character/word 'pattern'. Slow code is no fun so I let it slide.

This time I decided I'd relearn code at 20 WPM from the getgo. I D/L'd G4FON & NuMorse Pro and while both are great (although NuMorse is much more sophisticated)I use both in my newfound quest to become truly proficient.

I used G4FON to initially 'impress' the chars in my head at 20WPM. That was about two months ago and I'm just now getting to where I feel comfortable copying 20 WPM but sent at about 12 WPM. Now I'm using NuMorse to send at 20WPM and automatically decrease the char spacing during a session to increase my effective WPM. Plus I'm getting some 'hands on' time on the air in the 40 mtr Novice subbands so I'm in similar company Wink

I think I have to disagree CW like riding a bike. More like code is a 'second language' and an acquired skill. If you don't use it you lose it. Sure you'll retain some of the skill but you have to retrain yourself to become proficient again.

A month is not a long time to become concerned 'something is wrong'. I honestly felt the same way as you about a month ago because I was having the same problem... I knew the chars but got 'lost' in a QSO because the code was getting ahead of me.

If you are like me (and be honest here Wink what I had to admit was I really didn't know ALL the chars at the 'subliminal' level as well as I thought. I found myself having to stop/think (for example) "was that a G or a U" ? And as soon as that happened 5 more chars had passed and I was lost Wink

Basically I got ahead of myself... so although I hated to do so, felt like I was backing up (arrgh, AGAIN?!?!), what I did was drop back to the fundamentals. But that setback was also a personal revelation. I was able to finally 'internalize' I don't HAVE to copy 20WPM perfectly right now... that it will happen in due time (if I just stick with it). Could it be you need to achieve that same revelation?

Sorry for the long winded reply but I wanted to show your concern/frustration is not unusual. Bottom line is you WILL have to get over hurdles, hit plateaus, have setbacks but hang in there and DON'T GIVE UP! Patience, practice & perseverance is the key.
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KJ7XJ
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« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2004, 01:19:21 PM »

Thank you for the input! I think I heard you (K5PU) on 40 in the past week. I have a "pipeline" from this area to 5-land. I hear beacons from down there all the time too. Thats exactly whats been happening to me, I hear a few letters, and then the "is that a U or G" thing pops up in my head, and while Im thinking about that, 3 or 4 more letters have gone by. Thats what I needed to hear. It sounds like I should backpedal alittle like you did...
  As far as putting the key away until I can copy. I can see where that is a good idea. OTOH, I can also see where live practice would benifit.
 I also might try a different program. The G4FON software has helped me a ton, but maybe I should branch out and get something else like that NuMorse you mentioned ( I think thats it).  Thanks again for everyones input. I am more determined now than ever to get back up to speed on this. This whole changing in licensing and doing away with CW is making me more eager to KNOW CODE NOT NO CODE....Eric
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W5HTW
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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2004, 07:00:00 PM »

I agree with putting the key away until you can copy the speed you wish.  The reason is most people can send faster than they can receive.  But ... inherent in that is, if you are sending faster than you can copy, how do you know you are sending correctly?!  You can't copy it!  So you start to learn "bad sounds," that are not correct code, as you are listening to yourself.  But once you can copy good code at 15-20 wpm, it is very easy to learn to match your sending to that sound.

Machine-sent code is best to listen to, of course, and W1AW code practice and bulletins are terrific, and include the extra benefit of teaching you to use your 'head filter' to sort out the various signals that are trying to interfere.  The G4FON software is excellent, really, one of the best, for you tailor it to your specific needs of the moment.  

Comparing code to a language is probably fair.  I lived in France for three years and learned French very well.  Yet two years after I left there I was losing that ability and I wondered why.  I met a French lady who had lived in the US for 12 years at the time.  She could no longer speak French!  That amazed me!  But it also told me the "use it or lose it" adage is true.  I felt less bad about my own loss of the language.  

Similarly, I used CW professionally, at speeds in the 20-35 wpm range, for several years.  And since it was code groups, there was no such thing as guessing.  It had to be letter perfect.  Yet, when I wandered away from code use (after leaving that job) and later returned, I found my skills were more in the 15-18 wpm range max, not even up to my license testing!  Since then I have tried to keep 'solid copy' skills around 20 wpm, and as I get older that gets harder!  'Mental copy' skills remain around 35 wpm, but on a bad mental day I may drop to 20 maximum.  Use it or lose it, indeed.  I can't compare it to a bicycle, but then again, I haven't tried to ride one of those things in 10 years or so!  

Have fun, enjoy the code, at whatever level.  I wander the Novice bands (40, usually) and if you hear me on, give me a call.  Would love to work you.

Ed
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NJ0E
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Posts: 48




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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2004, 07:31:09 PM »

don't be afraid to get on the air and use cw in the
novice bands, even if imperfectly. that's what the
novice bands are for. keep it fun!

i sometimes scan the novice bands, looking for cq's
to answer. and sometimes i send cq's there myself.

w1aw has code practice transmissions and 18wpm
bulletins. also, the arrl 'certificate of code
proficiency' awards may be a good way to keep your
interest up. i'm planning to work on my cw skills
also, and am going to use the arrl ccp program as a
tangible goal. see http://www.arrl.org/awards/#cp

73,
scott nj0e
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KJ7XJ
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Posts: 34




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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2004, 01:40:57 PM »

Thanks for the input! Over the weekend I download, played with , and purchased NuMorse. I now have two recommended CW programs. The NuMorse will take some getting used to, but I can get this down. The NuMorse is cool becasue I can drill myself at my own pace. I can hear where I have been having trouble now. I am listening to K,M & N at 25 WPM and only getting 85% copy. I can see that it will take work, But I WILL get this down.
               Eric
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KJ7XJ
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« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2004, 02:21:40 PM »

Heres an update.....I am almost finished with the NuMorse practice lessons. I have found this program to be most usefull. I am getting my $30 worth out of it for sure! I have found it benificial to set it at 20+ WPM with a 6-7 WPM spacing. That way I can hear the letters at a speed I will soon be at, with a spacing that I can figure it out. I will start shortning the spaces as sson as I am done with the lessons.
 I have got up the nerve to work KB7UXE (Thanks Dan!!) Although he is close to me, he was able to be patient while I told him I was a toaster in the fish pond. (or I sent something like that) lol. I can copy 75% or better depending on speed. My ear is somewhere around 10wpm (I think). I can copy faster but the percentage drops. The key here is KEEP LISTENING!
       
                   de KJ7XJ ..
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