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Author Topic: Learning CW  (Read 20147 times)

Posts: 0

« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2011, 10:58:14 AM »

Don't get me wrong... PSK31 is great but with all of the macros availale everything seems "canned" and it doesn't hold my interest for very long.  It also seems that PSK31 contacts are just a series of the aforementioned "canned" statements and then it's over.

I find that easier to do with PSK31 (at 30 wpm), than with CW (at 15 wpm - 20 wpm).

That's right. It turns out that when you just make a CW qso with name qth rst rig, pwr es wx :  Thats OK but when you try to divert to rag chewing 90% of the QSO partners have suddenly QRM QRN QSB and pse QRU es QRT

So due to required proficiency PSK31 will be in the avarage QSO more "personal" than CW.


« Last Edit: November 15, 2011, 11:07:47 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged

Posts: 84


« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2011, 11:40:32 AM »

Do you get the same 'personal' feeling working PSK31 as you do with CW?  When I work PSK31 I feel as if I'm working a machine....or really a computer with a human operator....and don't get that "personal" intimacy I get when I work someone on CW.

Don't get me wrong... PSK31 is great but with all of the macros availale everything seems "canned" and it doesn't hold my interest for very long.  It also seems that PSK31 contacts are just a series of the aforementioned "canned" statements and then it's over.

People seem to generally be pretty down on brag files. I think there's a place for them. If I'm out just hunting states, contesting or doing a special event, I don't want to have a long conversation. Brag files are great for that. Macros, in general, can be helpful. I'm trying to learn to balance them. But, it's like everything else, you have to figure out what the other person is looking for. If I watch someone for a while and they're just blasting brag tapes, great. Quick QSO. Wham Bham.. thank you Ham. If someone's chatting with the person before me, it would be inappropriate to blast a brag out there and 73 the person.

It's like a business card. It's a quick way to get the max information to the other person.. but it's not a conversation. Both have their place.

In "balancing the power of macros", I'm using my macro every time for that initial YOU de ME on every turn. And I'll probably type after that.. followed by the BTU macro. That stuff never changes. I've also split up my brag tape into some smaller pieces and made it look a little more natural. So.. instead of my QSO being 3 button clicks, it might be 20 and some additional typing.

If I'm doing CW on the computer, it's pretty much the same. That said..

I'm learning CW so I don't even have to have the computer on. That's kinda my goal. I've done computers for most of my days over the last 20 years. I don't want to find another reason to do them at home. Granted, there's a lot of cool integration with ham gear but there's a beautiful simplicity to sitting down with a pad of paper and a straight key. No screen. no macros. no keyboard. Just you and the art.

« Last Edit: November 15, 2011, 11:44:37 AM by AK4KZ » Logged

Posts: 2808

« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2011, 10:18:02 PM »

Granted, there's a lot of cool integration with ham gear but there's a beautiful simplicity to sitting down with a pad of paper and a straight key. No screen. no macros. no keyboard. Just you and the art.

Very well said. 


Posts: 6755

« Reply #18 on: November 16, 2011, 08:50:53 AM »

OK.... apparently I didn't make myself clear.  I think perhaps the downside of PSK31 for me is that MOST people using PSK31 can't type!  Consequently, they revert to macros for a contact.  This is OK and really no different than a DX CW or even SSB QSO with a DX station that doesn't speaks little English. 

I've had a few ragchews on PSK31 but they are in the minority.  When the macros come through as fast as PSK31 can process them and then if it comes to something not covered by a macro, the speed of the contact drops to a very low level.  They can't type.

It is easy to compare slow CW to slow typing and I can understand this.  I just don't get the same feeling when using PSK31 as I do with CW, even if the other OP is slow.  Maybe it's just the keyboard, computer, interface thing that gives me the "talking to a machine" feeling.

As one said, there's room for all of us and I will add, to each his own.  I'm just expressing my opinion and why I feel the way I do.  I think this is the purpose of this thread.

A Pessimist is Never Disappointed!

Posts: 0

« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2011, 09:12:53 AM »


Of course, nobody was harsh to you, your opinion is just appreciated and weighted and compared with our own experiences.

I just do not agree with you, (perhaps you can convince me) and the reason is that in both PSK31 and CW there are standard messages that are (nearly) the same for each non rag chew QSO.

But  CW requires much more proficiency when you switch to rag chewing, than PSK31.
Nowadays most people use a keyboard everyday for email etc.

My experience is that when you switch in CW to rag chewing, they lost you. When you go rag chewing in PSK31, THEY fall perhaps back in speed in the answering  but they copy you 100%. That is the big difference.
And because for that reason more people escape a QSO in CW when you start rag chewing than that happens with PSK31

So my conclusion is that on the average personal feeling must be higher when using PSK31 than CW.

« Last Edit: November 16, 2011, 09:17:41 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged

Posts: 30

« Reply #20 on: November 25, 2011, 05:19:28 AM »

Hi Steve
I used the Koch method to learn Morse code.  I used a combination of the G4FON koch program and JustLearnMorseCode program.  I found the JustLearnMorseCode a bit more flexible to use than the G4FON program. I started at 13/18 and later went to 15/20 wpm.  It took me about 2 month to learn the the letters and numbers. I practiced about 15-30 minutes per day. After I had learned the code i went on training with the most common words using this option in the JLMC program I started with 15wpm and slowly worked my way up to 20wpm. This is about as fast as I can manage to write by hand. Today I can easily copy around 20 wpm. Another good way of maintaining your code after you have learned it is to use the RufzXP program that sends callsigns at increasing speed.  I can now copy Callsigns up to a speed of 35-40wpm. It's a great program and a lot of fun as you can monitor your development through the scoring system it utilizes.

Good luck in learning morse code.

73 de LA3AKA

Posts: 51

« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2011, 07:12:53 AM »

 I am trying to learn at 15wpm character speed with 10wpm spacing (Farnsworth method). 


This "learn at a higher speed with extra spacing" is turning out a lot of really, really bad CW ops.   While this approach may help somewhat in learning to copy, it teaches totally wrong spacing when sending and ends up with terrible fists.   Way too much of the on the air CW these days is sent by people who do not know proper spacing.  They cannot send proper CW and probably can't copy it either  Angry

I had a station answer my CQ last night sending at 20 wpm with 1 to 2 seconds between each character!   I really wanted to respond with QLF but I just changed frequency.


Posts: 96

« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2011, 02:02:40 PM »

HI all...

As a new person to code....well this year anyway......I started learning 5/20 to learn the letters and such....but found it a pain when trying to increase the timing...

I found it much much better to start with 2 letters @ 15/15 and go over and over them doing 3mins of copy until the letters were just popping out of the head....then add another letter or maybe 2......I personally think people are in to much of a hurry, for me it took time.

Doing this way I can copy 18/18 comfortable and about 80% of 20/ there is no reason to do the slow 5/20 .........and I agree with some of the sending on a new person and going from hearing computer code to on air code..I have some trouble at times, and it's mainly due to spacing...


Posts: 5

« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2012, 03:08:11 PM »

Hi Steve,

I can tell you the way that I learned it.  I bought an ARRL code practice tape when I was studying for my novice license.  I practiced learning the code for 15 to 20 minutes a day, no more.  I would put the tape away and forget about it until the next day.  I always practiced in the mornings before going to work.  That was when I seemed to be the most alert.  It took me six weeks to learn the alphabet, numbers and punctuation.  Giving your brain a rest is the key. 

When you are ready to try it on the air, get a friend who is a ham to work with you.  Set up a time to work with him or her on the air.  It will break the ice and give you confidence.  When you are ready to jump in, don't be shy about telling the other operator that you are new to CW.  Hopefully, he or she will match your speed.  You may be a little nervous at first but, that's normal. 

One more thing; don't worry about sending code.  It's a lot easier to send than receive.  In fact, you'll find that you can send faster than you can receive.  Just don't do it on the air or you may not be able to copy the other operator. ;-)

Gary, N7HTS 

Posts: 100


« Reply #24 on: February 07, 2012, 11:48:24 PM »

I was in exact same situation , also lived in apartment, with indoor antenna, only way I can hear anything or heard by some one was CW.  ( due to insufficient antenna and power level ) , so that was only mode I was able to use.   I started out slow speed like 4-5 WPM, about same speed as Novice License exam.   you might want to participate in such event as straight key SKCC  sprint ( refer to SKCC web site ) , etc.  those who use straight key often send 5 to 10 WPM.  so it is easier to copy, and during spring, it is short QSO, like Name, State, RST, etc. 

Posts: 1003

« Reply #25 on: February 08, 2012, 08:28:22 PM »

Besides getting on the air and making contacts, one practice method I recommend highly is
tuning in the evening W1AW code practice broadcast, use headphones, and turn on your PC
and copy the code in WordPad or Notepad. It relieves you of the task making readable characters with
your pen or pencil, and if you miss a letter you just hit the spacebar. It really does help!
Also, make sure to work the contests - CW SS and Field Day particularly. multi-op at home for CWSS,
and club participation on Field Day are a great way to build confidence and proficiency - and use
logging software - I like the N3FJP collection - and with that, if you're doing your own logging,
you'll be typing the callsigns - don't use a pencil at all - one hand for the paddles and key, the other for the

Fred, KQ6Q

Posts: 1

« Reply #26 on: February 21, 2012, 03:04:58 PM »

Hey All-...
That being said, what is everyone's suggestion about learning the code? 

Posts: 7718

« Reply #27 on: February 21, 2012, 05:45:45 PM »

Yes use the Koch method.

Copy on paper with no visual aids. Ears only.

Practice for 15 minutes once or twice a day.

Have fun!

Posts: 1299

« Reply #28 on: February 27, 2012, 03:58:48 AM »

I think a "one size fits all" method may be too rigid. I'm about one third of the way through the Morse learning process using the Koch method i.e. i have learned 15 characters after about three weeks. Until a few days ago I did it strictly at 15/20wpm meaning that the characters are sent at 20 but spaced at 15 -- a combination of Koch and Farnsworth. After reading a lot of advice including these posts and the book "Breaking the Code" by N1IRZ, I have recently altered my training regimen by doing this: (1) When a new character is introduced, do the random character drills as described above until reaching 90 percent accuracy. (2) Next, switch to a 15/15 speed, cutting out the Farnsworth, and do the drills until again reaching 90 percent accuracy. (3) Move on to next character.

The two types of code, with and without Farnsworth, are almost like two different languages. Although it is much easier to learn the new characters with Farnsworth spacing, I have decided that this artificial crutch should be removed *during* the training of each new letter rather than waiting until the entire code has been learned. Why? Because (a) real code and real QSOs don't use Farnsworth spacing unless the operator has a bad fist, (2) I am seriously concerned about developing a bad fist myself if I don't quickly get accustomed to "real" CW (actually I haven't started sending yet since I have yet to build my code oscillator kit!), (3) in the real world there will be all sorts of different fists to copy on the air and it is good to vary the routine a bit while learning.

Having said that, most of you have vastly more experience with this and I'm a total neophyte. It's a lot of fun, I must say.

On last thing. For reasons that I don't really understand, while Farnsworth spacing makes the new letters initially easier to learn and copy, the code itself is much more tiring to copy. I find that I am quite exhausted and cannot wait until the 5-minute drill is over, it seems endless. However this is not at all the case with "normal" (15/15) code: I get to the end of the 5 minutes and am quite ready to take another 5 minutes. There must be something deeply harmonious about the "normal" spacing if it is so much more pleasing even to a total beginner like myself.

About the only thing that worries me about doing 15/15 is that in theory, it might make it harder to speed up to 20/20 later??? What do people think??? (The advantage of 15/20 being that the ear gets accustomed to hearing the characters sent at 20.)

73 de Martin
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