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Author Topic: Learning CW  (Read 7757 times)
WA7SP
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« on: March 12, 2012, 01:47:08 PM »

I am looking for a CW learning program which would help me recapture my very old rusty CW, which was learned in the military flying from point A to point B hoping we were flying on the right beacon and the code we heard was the right station identification ID. I got back into the ham radio again after being away for over 50 years or so. Any recommendations that would help this old dog re-learn the code again a little easier!  Thanks   Jerry WA7SP   Email: wa7sp@tlcsem.com
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PA0BLAH
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2012, 02:15:23 PM »

Jerry,

Better take away ur email, in order to avoid spam.

Log in at www.lcwo.net

or load a free program on your computer:
http://www.justlearnmorsecode.com/
or
http://www.morsecat.de/

When you know the code and need more proficiency:
http://www.arrl.org/20-wpm-code-archive

the other speeds are on the same page.

Bob
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 02:22:06 PM by PA0BLAH » Logged
NK6Q
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Posts: 202




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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2012, 04:28:25 PM »

ARRL online website has code practice files from 5 WPM to 40 WPM.  ARRL membership is not required to access the files. Literally hours and hours of practice at whatever speed you choose.

http://www.arrl.org/code-practice-files

See you on the air!

Bill in Pasadena
dit-dit
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KF4O
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2012, 05:43:27 PM »

Jerry,
I am  in the process of doing the same.
This web site, esp the "Instant Recognition" essay has been invaluable in the process:  http://www.themorsecrusade.g5fz.co.uk/
I am using a variety of methods :
on the air QSO's,  
the Koch CW trainer http://www.g4fon.net/ ,
QRQ is nice for helping with instant recognition--I write my own single letter files for it (easy to do) http://fkurz.net/ham/qrq.html  
Also, here is an  excellent article:  http://www.morsecode.nl/20wpm.PDF
 Good luck and  work hard each day!
Randy, KF4O
Taiwan
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M0LEP
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Posts: 209




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« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2012, 10:27:07 AM »

This web site, esp the "Instant Recognition" essay has been invaluable in the process:  http://www.themorsecrusade.g5fz.co.uk/

There's a particular paragraph in that "Instant Recognition" article that describes my main morse-learning difficulty rather too well (emphasis mine):
Quote
How do you find out if you have instant recognition? One way is to play a code practice program. As each letter plays, can you immediately say or write the letter? Or do you think “ummm…A” or “…dit dah…ummm…A”? If there is a split second delay in your recognition of the letter, then you haven’t learned that letter to the point of instant recognition. A split second may not seem like much; it’s not going to make much difference when your’re going 5 or 10 WPM but when you get to higher speeds it’s going to mess you up. The time it takes you to think “…ummm” before recognizing the letter will be long enough to make you miss the next letter after it. It will snowball to the point where you lose whole words. You may get enough of it to make sense of the copy, but you will not feel comfortable chatting on the air. It might discourage you enough to make you want to give up because you feel you are practicing and practicing and aren’t making progress.

Here's a random recent attempt of mine at a lesson on LCWO.net that illustrates that snowballing, but recognition failure is, I think only part of the problem for me:

Code:
Sent Read Errors
NLKMU NLKMU 0
NWAWUA NWAWUA 0
UKES UKES 0
EPWK EPWK 0
PURTM PURTM 0
TPLMSL TMSL 2
EWLLSN ELLLSN 1
MMWWNA WWWN 4
LMT LT 1
NL ML 1
MPW PW 1
SUPRME SUE 3
RS 2
TAEA 4
PT 2

I missed a couple of letters in the sixth group, and stumbled over the W in the seventh. Things fairly rapidly fell apart after that. Now, clearly I can recognise most of the letters, because I got the first five groups correct, so something other than instant recognition is also going wrong...
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2E0OZI
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Posts: 270




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« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2012, 11:07:26 AM »

I found that I had the same problem as you, and yet I have managed to complete a grand total of 1 QSO, but am ready for more. I used the "C2" programme just to learn the letters and numbers (its downloadable from the ARRL website I think) and then moved onto LCWO, doing callsign practice for about 2 weeks. The I realised I was hearing calls pop out of the air when I was listening, and a freind who does a lot of CW said go for it NOW, rather than wait for perfection.

So I did, and I'm glad I did.
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell
M0LEP
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2012, 12:10:05 PM »

I realised I was hearing calls pop out of the air when I was listening

I'm still trying to learn the characters. I catch CQ and 5nn easily enough, but very little else pops out of the air.

I tried the "Morse Machine" on lcwo.net (which seems to be very similar to C2), but found that it taught me to de-construct*1 the charaters in order to recognise them, even if they were being sent fast. If you train yourself to use a process like that, however unintentionally, then instant recognition is pretty much impossible. I'm now trying to un-learn what "Morse Machine" taught me...

*1 ...by which I mean "hear sound, figure out its dahs and dits, and then decide what character it is." Of course I didn't realise at the time that this is what it was training me to do.
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AE5QB
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« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2012, 02:39:46 PM »

Don't overthink it.  It is a process that takes time.  As long as you are using a system that is aural (all recent systems are that I know of) it will come.  Yes when you are learning the characters your brain will try to decompose the sounds, It is Ok to think, "did I hear  dit-dit-dah-dit or dit-dah-dah-dit?"  But it is not Ok to think, "Is that a dot-dot-dash-dot or a dot-dash-dash-dot?"  The difference is that in the second example, your brain is converting the sound to visual images of dots and dashes, as you have no doubt seen in a code chart, and then into characters.  You are using the visual portions of your brain instead of the aural portions of your brain.  Thinking about dits and dahs is your brain trying to reconcile what it heard to what is stored away as aural patterns that represent characters.  And this is fine.  As you keep at it, your brain will start to do this more and more quickly until it becomes almost instantaneous. 

I would not start out with the MorseMachine set to all 40 characters.  Go back to the individual characters in the lessons part of the site and start with 2 to 4 characters.  Play them and listen to them listening for the pattern.  I like to say them to myself, "dit-dit-dah-dit,  F"   After a while you will no longer think, I just heard dit-dit-dah-dit," but rather, "I just heard an F."  Then add to it.  Once you have got the sounds of 4 or 5 characters burned into your brain, then go to the MorseMachine and use only those 4 characters for practice.  When you can knock down the green bars fairly quickly with only a couple of errors, then go back to the lessons and add a couple of more characters.

It will take time, but you will get there.  If you can practice for 15 minutes twice a day, that is better than 30 minutes once a day.  Between sessions your brain will be processing what it just learned and moving it from short-term memory into long-term memory.  Another good suggestion is to practice the last 15 to 20 minutes before you go to bed.  While you are sleeping is when your brain does a lot of the learning.  It tends to work on what you just learned before going to bed.  I guess in digital terms it is a last-in-first-out operation in which what the hippocampus last heard is what it tries to move into long-term memory first.  I know it sounds corny but it is true.  This is really going to sound kooky but I remember as a lad of 12 I could not for the life of me get my .22 caliber rifle with scope up to my eye quickly.  I would bring up the gun and have to move my head and the rifle around before I could finally see through the scope.  My grandfather told me for 10 minutes before I went to bed, I should just hold the rifle up to where I could easily see through the scope.  He said not to practice bringing the gun up to my eye, but rather, put it in the right place and just hold it looking through the scope and turning my upper body to look at different things.  I did as I was told and within 3 days it was no longer a problem.  I could bring the gun up to my shoulder and have it positioned perfectly so I could see through the scope.  While I was sleeping, my brain worked on that muscle memory and moved the feel and position of all my involved muscles into long-term memory where it could instantly be recalled.  I know it sounds corny but there is plenty of brain-based learning research that supports what I just shared.

I am no CW expert but someone who is probably only a few months ahead of you.  I have pretty good recognition with few to zero errors at about 13 words per minutes.  But I still get hosed up on the prosigns like AR, AS, BT, BK, KN, SK and the comma and slash "/".  I don't have instant recognition of these yet so I stop to think about what I just heard and in the meantime miss the next 5 characters.  I have got to practice more on the above and also practice on not stopping to think when I miss something.  It takes time and skill to keep going and not stop.

Don't give up.  Just don't push yourself too fast until you have mastered the characters you have already learned.

Good luck!

Tom
AE5QB
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PA0WV
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« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2012, 03:05:31 PM »

J
Also, here is an  excellent article:  http://www.morsecode.nl/20wpm.PDF
 
I don't think that article is excellent.
It tells you to make two learning steps in the process of copy by head.
First step is somebody, an aid, is spelling the newspaper and you listening and try to understand the text.

What spelling "whiskey hotel alfa tango..." or "double-you eitgh aa tea"?
Any idea you could do that at 20 wpm, which is pretty slow for head copy?
And as you know, you need to exercise every day, try to get the xyl to spell the newspaper every day for 15 minutes?

So I designed "the speller" You put ASCII text in it and it spells it out.  A second model puts the character on a 5 by 7 sot display . Design you can find http://pa0wv.home.xs4all.nl/zelfbouw.html under the link "SPELLER" (9 th link from topline)

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Using an appliance without CW is just CB
WB3CQM
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Posts: 117




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« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2012, 06:21:31 PM »

Don't overthink it.  It is a process that takes time.  As long as you are using a system that is aural (all recent systems are that I know of) it will come.  Yes when you are learning the characters your brain will try to decompose the sounds, It is Ok to think, "did I hear  dit-dit-dah-dit or dit-dah-dah-dit?"  But it is not Ok to think, "Is that a dot-dot-dash-dot or a dot-dash-dash-dot?"  The difference is that in the second example, your brain is converting the sound to visual images of dots and dashes, as you have no doubt seen in a code chart, and then into characters.  You are using the visual portions of your brain instead of the aural portions of your brain.  Thinking about dits and dahs is your brain trying to reconcile what it heard to what is stored away as aural patterns that represent characters.  And this is fine.  As you keep at it, your brain will start to do this more and more quickly until it becomes almost instantaneous. 

I would not start out with the MorseMachine set to all 40 characters.  Go back to the individual characters in the lessons part of the site and start with 2 to 4 characters.  Play them and listen to them listening for the pattern.  I like to say them to myself, "dit-dit-dah-dit,  F"   After a while you will no longer think, I just heard dit-dit-dah-dit," but rather, "I just heard an F."  Then add to it.  Once you have got the sounds of 4 or 5 characters burned into your brain, then go to the MorseMachine and use only those 4 characters for practice. 

Don't give up.  Just don't push yourself too fast until you have mastered the characters you have already learned.

Good luck!

Tom
AE5QB

I disagree with Tom on 2 things. One It is NOT all right to think dit dit dah dit. And two , I will have to disagree about using Morse Machine. On Morse Machine there are more than a few people that believe it is not good. I will stop on that point.

Back to dit dit dah dit. - I am NO EXPERT on cw or teaching it by any means either. But when I hear a letter I do NOT ever say it out in dit dit dah dit. I hear the sound and either process it or not. I know it in a instant . Try this next code practice. Hear the letter being sent and in a instant say it out loud. As soon as you hear it !

In fact I am working with QRQ software to hear random words at high speed and am working to know these random whole word sent . As well as  calls . This is not any training I have done before. I find it very difficult right at the moment . At times I must slow the word down and spell it out in my head  at 30 wpm or 20 . I find this frustrating but rewarding. Go to Fabian's site or QRQ and view the principal behind instant recognition of  whole words. Using this software.

I find at 20 wpm or 40 wpm I have the same trouble to remember a full call. Before I type it. It takes me 1-5 times to hear a full call to fully> remember it, depending on the call < speed does not seem to matter. It is the same problem. I have poor to next to no short term memory.  The fact is I can type a full call as it is being sent , BUT ! I have been instructed to try and stop this practice and hear the full call or full word then type it in . This takes memory and processing. I am instructed to try and build a buffer.

I understand the High Speed Call sign champions can remember 5 -10 calls before they even start to type. ( wow is all I say )

When I started my training I was lucky if I could remember the call 1 second after I heard it. Other words by the end of the call sent I forgot it all ready !

You understand this is not a issue at 10 wpm . It is when you get to higher speeds it is very difficult to write or type or think and not start to get lost in copy ! 

The process of decoding code in ones head by any other means than INSTANT RECOGNITION I believe will hold you back to slower qrs speeds.

I do not believe you will get to qrq copy by any such processing . You must hear the sound and know it as soon as you hear it.

In fact I could not ever figure out what dit dit dah dit was. First I got the key out and started sending code to my self . Then I said ah ! that is a F . Reason , I must hear the sound to understand the code sent. I can not see it nor can I deceiver it from written text. You know I had to look on the internet what dit dah dah dit was. I said it out loud for 1/2 min and still could not figure it out.

Rather you say dit Dah or Dot Dash in you mind makes no difference in my thinking.

Instant Recognition is simple : Your hear a F or a P and you know it in a instant from the sound.

If I am totally wrong will some one please in lighten me .

73 JIM
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M0LEP
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Posts: 209




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« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2012, 04:34:17 AM »

I figure folks learn in different ways. I'm still trying, a full two years down the trail, to find out what will work for me. Unfortunately, so far, I've mostly found what will not work for me, and  Morse Machine is one of those things. Farnsworth timing is another, for very similar reasons. The jury's still out on the Koch lessons.

It takes me 1-5 times to hear a full call to fully> remember it, depending on the call < speed does not seem to matter. It is the same problem. I have poor to next to no short term memory.  The fact is I can type a full call as it is being sent , BUT ! I have been instructed to try and stop this practice and hear the full call or full word then type it in . This takes memory and processing. I am instructed to try and build a buffer.

That's familiar. I can try writing down the characters sent to me, but I have to read back over them to make any sense of them. Obviously, for the Koch lessons I don't need to do that because they're random and not supposed to make any sense, but just occasionally the randomness seems to throw out an actual word. Sometimes I don't spot it 'til afterwards. Sometimes I spot it as I'm writing, and then the next group or three get lost...

I've given the word training on lcwo.net a go from time to time, but I almost always have to hear a word several times over in order to get it, which somewhat defeats the point of the exercise...
« Last Edit: March 18, 2012, 01:19:50 PM by M0LEP » Logged
AE5QB
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« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2012, 05:08:49 AM »

That's familiar. I can try writing down the characters sent to me, but I have to read back over them to make any sense of them. Obviously, for the Koch lessons I don't need to do that because they're random and not supposed to make any sense, but just occasionally the randomness seems to throw out an actual word. Sometimes I don't spot it 'til afterwards. Sometimes I spot it as I'm writing, and then the next group or three get lost...

I've given the word training on lcwo.net a go from time to time, but I almost always have to hear a word several times over in order to get it, which somewhat defeats the point of the exercise...

Don't give up!  This is perfectly normal.  While it would be great if we could all go straight to head copy of complete words it probably isn't going to happen.  Some say to start with head copy and start listening for combinations of sounds to get the words.  I say nonsense!  That isn't how you learned to read and write.  Remember how painstakingly painful that was?   There was a movement in the 70's and early 80's that said kiddos don't need to learn phonics.  The heck with sounding out words.  They need to just be able to look at words and read them instantaneously.  That thought process produced our first generation of totally illiterate kids.  Sure they could learn a few hundred words but as soon as they came upon a word they didn't know they were totally lost and had no skills to sound it out.  But I digress.

I see learning code as being very similar.  Maybe some can do it but I don't get the folks who say to just start head copying full words.  Why don't we take a step farther and say, just head copy complete sentences.  To me the reason we don't do that is obvious.  If we don't know the character sounds, how in the he ll can you possibly head copy words?  I guess if one subscribes to the idea that most communications is conveyed in a few hundred common words and that CW QSO's are mainly a canned exchange then that approach might work, but I still have my reservations.

I honestly believe that you must ingrain the sounds of the characters into your brain first.  And that means forgetting about words.  There is a reason, I believe, that code is taught with random 5 character groups.  It is an attempt to get us to just copy the characters without regards to the words that are or are not being formed.  To go back to my previous analogy, when we were learning to read we started with the letters and the sounds they make.  Remember the different sounds that a, e, i, o, and u make?  Then we put those letters together into character groups and learned those sounds - ph, oo, sl, pr, st, etc.   Then we finally put all of the sounds together to form words.  Yes reading was hard work and when we first started reading a book our brain was just trying to get through the words. The reading comprehension still wasn't there and didn't come until we developed instantaneous recall of the letter and letter group sounds.  Then the brain had time to put the words together to form comprehension.

I think learning code is the same way.  Your brain first has to be able to discern a dit and a dah, character and word spacing, and then the prosigns.  Finally after it learns all of that, a painstakingly slow process, then it can start putting the sounds together to form words.  So after all of that I say, your brain is just doing what it does when learning a new language.  While you are trying to learn the characters, your brain is trying to comprehend what you are hearing in word format.  This results in a loss of concentration on hearing the letters and the next thing you know while you are trying to put together one word, the code stream is 4 or 5 characters down the road.  Instant frustration!

Focus on just getting the characters down without worrying about comprehending the words or the sentences.  Just get it down.  If you miss a character, train your brain to not delve on it and just skip it and move on.  I truly believe that these are the skills we should be training our brains to do when first learning code.  After you learn to automatically hear all of the characters, your brain will then start working on putting together common patterns such as CQ, BT, AR, and common words like is and es and the, and wid.  Then you will be on your way.  You will be surprised how much this works automatically while you are learning the characters.  I mean, how long did it take your brain to be able to pick CQ out of a code stream even at high speeds?  Just keep at it, focus on the individual characters in random fashion and one day you will realize you have learned 40 characters and are starting to hear words.

Maybe there are some folks who really have skipped all of the normal learning processes and went straight to 20 wpm head copy in two weeks.  They can probably learn a foreign language in 2 weeks as well.  I am not one of them and I don't believe that is the way that most people learn a new language.  I am totally jealous of those who can do such things but again, I think they are the minority.  Judging from the number of folks who struggle with code, I believe those folks are absolutely the minority.

Don't give up.  Just keep on keep'in on.   Good luck!
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K7KBN
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« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2012, 10:14:22 AM »

It's JUST like learning a language.  For example, if you're learning Spanish, one of the first spoken  phrases you'll probably learn is "Como esta usted?", meaning "How are you?".

The teacher will tell you that you have to listen to the whole sentence and recognize it for what it is.  If you break it down, word by word, "como" can mean "how".  It can also mean "I eat".

In learning code, you have to listen to the entire letter, numeral or punctuation mark as a whole, recognize it for what it is, and either type it or write it down or store it in cerebral memory as the next character comes across.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
M0LEP
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« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2012, 01:12:22 PM »

It's JUST like learning a language.

Language learning is another thing I'm NOT good at, so it is probably not a coincidence that I'm having difficulty learning Morse...

While you are trying to learn the characters, your brain is trying to comprehend what you are hearing in word format.  This results in a loss of concentration on hearing the letters and the next thing you know while you are trying to put together one word, the code stream is 4 or 5 characters down the road.  Instant frustration!

Yep, that certainly doesn't help, though it's not the only thing happening with me. There's also some sort of short-term memory issue that gets in the way of writing down random character groups. I often find I'm missing characters from a group; I've heard them but just not managed to write them down, and it usually gets worse as the exercise progresses. See the example I posted earlier...

Listening to and writing down random characters (or groups of characters) is probably a good way of testing whether you've learned the characters being sent, but I'm rather less convinced it's a good way to LEARN the characters in the first place...
« Last Edit: March 18, 2012, 01:24:11 PM by M0LEP » Logged
2E0OZI
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« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2012, 01:57:45 PM »

I think there is a huge difference between standard/canned CW exchanges and conversational CW, which is a huge leap above that. I am at the stage where I can handle a simple canned exchange RST Name QTH 73 and thats FINE. Because I am just starting out.
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell
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