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Author Topic: Sending  (Read 3716 times)
KB1WSY
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Posts: 721




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« on: March 17, 2012, 03:10:22 PM »

Hi,

I'm fairly pleased with the progress I've made copying CW using the Koch method. After 6 weeks I am up to 20 characters at 15wpm with a higher than 90 percent recognition rate. However I only recently started to practice *sending* and I find that a number of characters that I have no problem *copying* elicit a total memory blank when *sending* or get confused with sound-alike characters. I think this is because my copying is "automatic" as I carefully did *not* memorize any "di-dah" patterns, to avoid creating the dreaded "lookup table" in my brain.

So, I'd greatly appreciate advice on how to improve the "automatic" recall of characters during *sending* -- anything that will help, without damaging the "reflex" action I have developed when copying.

One thing I've tried is to listen to a randomly generated Koch drill and copy it in pencil, and then *send* from my written copy. This works because I have just heard the characters, but I am not sure how useful it is.

Another thing I am doing is picking a problematic letter and sending it over and over again, although I am a bit worried that this, too, could harm the "automatic" recall that I have achieved with the copying process.

The funny thing is that people often say sending is easier than copying!

TNX ES 72 DE Martin, KB1WSY
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K8AXW
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« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2012, 06:00:27 PM »

Most people find that sending is more "automatic" than copying.  Actually, I've never encountered this problem/question in over 50 years of hamming. 

The only thing I can suggest is to try to imagine what a written letter would sound like if you was copying it.  Then try to replicate it with the key.

To expand on this.... look at a magazine and instead of reading each word, say the sound of each letter in Morse.  Then when you can do this with some ease switch to replicating the sound you made with your mouth with a key and oscillator.  A tape recorder is a great help.

Good luck!
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KB1WSY
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Posts: 721




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« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2012, 06:54:37 PM »

Actually, after writing my earlier post, I had another mammoth session doing nothing but sending and it is slowly getting better. It was quite hard and I had to stop and go back to listen to some code at times to jog my memory about the more elusive characters. I'm sure you're right that this is an unusual problem, but it doesn't surprise me. When copying, I am working "automatically": my fingers are writing a letter down simply as a reaction to a sound pattern. For what it's worth, I am a fast and "reflexive" touch-typist: I can type a written text into a keyboard at about 70-80wpm while carrying on a conversation or even thinking about something completely different; I don't have to "read" consciously or understand what I am typing.

When successfully copying Morse I have only a vague idea what sound pattern I actually "heard," it just comes out on paper. If I do anything to "analyze" or "memorize" the sound pattern while copying, I immediately get behind and start skipping characters (basically, the less I "think," the better I copy). It looks like, for me anyway, sending is a totally different mental process. On the other hand I spent six weeks copying and have only just started sending, so it may be as simple as "lack of practice."

>>The only thing I can suggest is to try to imagine what a written letter would sound like if you were copying it.<<

You have put your finger on the problem. With quite a lot of the characters I have learned, I find it hard to do that. Although I can copy them, they are apparently less accessible to the part of my brain that is doing the sending! I will try harder!

Thank you for your good-luck wishes. I am feeling better about it after the long practice session.

73 DE Martin, KB1WSY
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AE5QB
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Posts: 269




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« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2012, 06:58:37 PM »

Sending is a different skill.  You are training the muscles in your arm/wrist to move to the character rhythms you have in your head.  That takes a little while.  The good news is that after a little practice, sending will almost surely be faster than you can receive.  Why you ask?  Simple, when you are sending, your brain has time to think before the character goes out of the end of your arm.  When you receive, your brain is always working in arrears.  Your brain has to wait until it hears the intercharacter space and then put together all of the sounds that came before that.  When you are sending, your brain can think so much ahead of what your arm is doing.  So anyway, with a little practice, sending will come rather quickly.

I recommend starting with a straight key. Others will argue saying you will eventually want to progress beyond a straight key so why not start there?  I won't fight that battle, you choose.  I think there is something nostalgic about sending with a straight key and it looks cool.  The folks that have joined SKCC would probably agree - all 9125 of us.  So anyway.  Just pick up a book, put your rig in practice mode or grab a practice oscillator and start sending.  The key to success is critical practice.  Be critical of your sounds.  Particularly listen for the intercharacter spacing.  This is an area where a lot of hams mess up.  They run their characters together so it sounds like one big stream of dits and dahs.  Another thing to listen for are characters that end in dit-dah.  It is quite normal to cut that last dah short as you anticipate going to the next character.  Listen to be sure your dits and dahs are properly formed and that you do have correct word spacing as well.  Sometimes it is easy to read the characters but it is like those run-on sentences your language arts teacher got onto you about.  Don't run the words together.

Just practice and if you have a buddy or an elmer to practice with you, all the better.  A friend can hear things that you might think sound just fine because you know what was and is coming.  A critical ear is worth a sows ear in gold.

Good luck and keep practicing.

Tom
AE5QB

 
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AD9DX
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« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2012, 07:21:35 PM »

I had a heck of a time getting myself to "see" the words as letters in my head while sending.  I started by sending (off the air of course) a book.  Once I started to get the hang of it, I started practicing common words, until I could send them without thinking about them.  Then I would practice sending the common prefixes of call signs KC, KB, KA, N#, ect and then I started to get on the air.  I am still not a great operator, only been licensed for a year and a month, but I looked at CW as a foreign language.  Practiced it with the expectation that foreign languages are tough to learn, then went on the air and made the best of it. 

I love CW now, at first I was so nervous but now that I am getting the hang of it 27wpm is my comfort zone I can't get enough of it! 
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EX, KC9TRM, KB9IRZ
KB1WSY
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Posts: 721




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« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2012, 03:16:41 AM »

Many thanks for the encouragement from several people. Thinking a bit more about it, I think I've figured out why I'm having some teething problems with sending. When learning copying with the Koch method, my brain seems to work like this:

(1) I already know "X" number of characters and these are familiar sounds that prompt the fingers to write down a particular character.

(2) Following the Koch method, I then add an additional new character "X + 1". For instance, yesterday the software added the "comma" character -- perhaps not a very widely used one, but it is included in my training software presumably because it used to be in the now defunct FCC test.

(3) Software randomly generates copying test. Whenever I hear a character that isn't familiar, my brain automatically knows that it is the "comma." I do not have to register "consciously" what the dit/dah pattern of that new character is.

(4) Rinse and repeat, until copying the comma becomes second nature. But even though I have heard the comma many dozens of times, that does not mean that I consciously know its dit/dah pattern. Waking up rather early this morning, I did yet another successful drill (94 percent overalll recognition including 100 percent recognition of all the commas) but realized afterwards that I cannot tell you what a comma sounds like! But I can copy it just fine, in fact it is easy, because it sounds so different compared to all the other characters I've learned so far!!

My original "bible" for learning CW is the book "Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier" by Dave Finley, N1IRZ. However, although he is an advocate of the Koch method, his chapter on sending doesn't really delve into how the "recall" process should work during sending (unlike the excellent explanation of copying). He says a lot about technique: types of key to use, getting the spacing and dot/dash length right, and so on.

Anyway, it looks like I will have this "sending" problem every time I "learn" a new character. "Learn" is the wrong word really, it's more like "absorb." The absorption process apparently works really well for copying, but a bit less well for sending..... So my new routine will be, always do a sending practice every time a new character is learned.

73 DE Martin, KB1WSY
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3756




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« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2012, 12:55:18 PM »

No doubt one can say "you've learned the code" but in a manner of speaking, you really don't "know" the code until you can look at a printed word and either speak the letters in the word, aloud or silently.  This will no doubt spark a storm of protest or opinion but I base my thoughts on how hundreds of men learned Morse while in the Army.

Normally, (Again, some may question what "normal" is) a person learns to sound the words either aloud or silently FIRST and then as they start copying then the process becomes automatic as you describe your actions.

A poor analogy would be learning to drive a car "automatically" but at the same time have no idea why you are doing what you do with the pedals and other controls.

I'm not say your are wrong.  Understand that.  If you have been following this particular forum you will have learned by now that there are many variations for learning Morse.

It's just that I have never heard of your situation in the 3 years as a professional and 55 years as a ham.

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VK2FAK
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Posts: 87




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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2012, 10:11:05 PM »

Hi all.....

I wonder how you would go if you followed what is in some documents about learning code, I mean not picking up a key until you can copy....you would have to go through it all twice...

I had posted in here before about an issue I had with sending from the head.....not the written page, have you tried that as yet...


And what do you mean by "speak the letters in the word".....do you mean in code..di-dah..

John
« Last Edit: March 18, 2012, 10:29:32 PM by VK2FAK » Logged
KB1WSY
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Posts: 721




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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2012, 05:01:14 AM »

>>It's just that I have never heard of your situation in the 3 years as a professional and 55 years as a ham.<<

Well, it was definitely an issue for me and also for KC9TRM who, earlier in this thread, mentions having "a heck of a time getting myself to 'see' the words as letters in my head while sending." I think it was a combination of my own perceptual "drawbacks" with a limitation of the Koch method. I am almost sure that when you (K8AXW) learned Morse professionally at least 50 years ago, it would not have been based on the Koch method which only really because popular outside Germany in the 1990s. And I appreciate your kind encouragement. I am in need of it, being middle aged (55 years old) and coping with a "new language."

Notice that I have used the past tense. The problem has largely gone away, after 48 hours of intense "send drills" -- putting as much time and effort into sending as copying. Going forward, I am following various pieces of advice from this thread, including "voicing" from text that I see (license plates, street signs, the Gettysburg Address, whatever). I find the "voicing" rather harder than sending with a key, which is interesting. It is an analogous issue to the copying: the characters "come out of my fingers" on the key whereas the "voicing" is harder.

It is interesting how many different methods have been used (formally and informally) for learning Morse. I am broad minded about trying them out to see what works (I currently have my software set to blend of Koch and Farnsworth). I even saw a classified ad in the last issue QST offering to teach CW using hypnosis!!! However I do believe learning "slow code" (5wpm to 10wpm) is counterproductive because it creates the dreaded "lookup table" in the brain, making copying the characters a multi-step mental process. I say this as someone who actually learned "slow code" 40 years ago (and swiftly forgot it through lack of practice) so I'm not speaking totally from a vacuum.

But who am I to say anything on the subject ... I have only a few dozen hours so far and y'all have thousands and thousands ... thank you for your help and support. For the moment, I consider the issue of "my sending problems" closed and happily solved.

>>I recommend starting with a straight key. (AE5QB)<<

I'm using a J-38 clone (Ameco K-4) which is a nice "starter key" with the good UKB base plate that doesn't skate around the table, wired to an Ameco kit oscillator that I built. I am a bit surprised by how stiff the spring is, even on its lowest tension. I'm also not totally sure about the positioning. The books I have say you should place the key way back on the desk, with your elbow actually on the table. Then grasp the knob, but use mostly wrist action (not finger action) to actuate the key. I've also heard references to the "European way" of holding the key, which apparently is mainly finger action rather than wrist action (?). Would like to hear people's opinions on this. Want to avoid RSI and CTS -- my professional life involves enormous amounts of keyboarding and mouse use, and it would be nice to avoid adding to the strain. (My "office" routine to avoid RSI is to take frequent breaks and use keyboard shortcuts rather than the mouse. So far, it has worked fine.)

I'm not yet interested in paddles or keyers, but I do understand that beyond a certain send speed, staying with a straight key becomes a limitation even if you have a perfect straight-key fist.

>>Just practice and if you have a buddy or an elmer to practice with you, all the better.  A friend can hear things that you might think sound just fine because you know what was and is coming.  A critical ear is worth a sows ear in gold. (AE5QB)<<

It will be a while before I am OTA (several months while I build my own equipment) so it's a bit hard to set things up with an Elmer OTA. There are a couple of clubs locally and I'll see if I can meet one there!

Yeah, I know, very long post. I am very excited about my new hobby, so please try to tolerate the enthusiasm....

73 DE Martin, KB1WSY
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AE5QB
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Posts: 269




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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2012, 03:39:35 PM »


I'm using a J-38 clone (Ameco K-4) which is a nice "starter key" with the good UKB base plate that doesn't skate around the table, wired to an Ameco kit oscillator that I built. I am a bit surprised by how stiff the spring is, even on its lowest tension. I'm also not totally sure about the positioning. The books I have say you should place the key way back on the desk, with your elbow actually on the table. Then grasp the knob, but use mostly wrist action (not finger action) to actuate the key. I've also heard references to the "European way" of holding the key, which apparently is mainly finger action rather than wrist action (?). Would like to hear people's opinions on this. Want to avoid RSI and CTS -- my professional life involves enormous amounts of keyboarding and mouse use, and it would be nice to avoid adding to the strain. (My "office" routine to avoid RSI is to take frequent breaks and use keyboard shortcuts rather than the mouse. So far, it has worked fine.)


Martin, I think few here will try to bridal your enthusiasm.  I teach 13 year olds math so I'll take any enthusiasm I can get.  I would not worry too much about the key.  I know good CW hams that can send on just about anything.  I think when we struggle with anything, it is natural to think, "...hmmm if I just had the latest and greatest wizbang I could probably nail this thing."  I know from my experience that it isn't the key! Smiley  I also know one really good CW operator whose favorite key is an old wooden split type clothes-pin.  I have the K-4 and I like it just fine, but I do agree the spring is very stiff even at it's loose setting.  I also have a circa 1972 Nye Viking key that I use primarily.  It's the first key I ever purchased and it works fine.  Use what you have.

As far as arm and key position goes, I think that is a matter of personal preference.  My style is as you described with the key back on the desk a ways and my elbow just hanging off the desk.  I use a combination of wrist and forearm action to send.  I don't personally see much danger of RSI unless you are a high speed operator running traffic for extended periods of time.  The casual CW person can take a break as needed or turn it off if the arm gets too tired.

Don't wait to get a radio built to find a practice buddy.  There must be someone who can sit down with you and a practice oscillator and help you out.  If nothing else, record your sending using audacity and then listen to it the next day or a week later with a critical ear.  You'll probably find a lot of good things in your sending and at times will wonder what you were doing.  I think there is a way to send CW over the internet, but I have not checked into the details.  If there is, that would be a heck of a way to find a practice buddy until you can get on the air.  I'll have to research that or if anyone here already knows how to do it, please share.

Please, please, please, do not take me as an expert on anything.  In fact I know a lot about nothing and very little about a lot of things.  I am not even a very good CW operator.  But I enjoy the heck out of it and am learning.  I can get by at about 13 words a minute and my goal is a modest 20 words per minute.  If I can get there I will be a very happy camper.  What I do have to offer is some of my experiences and reciprocal enthusiasm.

If I can be of help or if you just want to cry in your beer and swap frustrations don't hesitate to ask.

Have fun and keep working at it!

73

Tom
AE5QB
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AK7V
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Posts: 251




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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2012, 05:17:17 PM »

Sounds like you're learning to receive the "right way" - automatically, reflexively.  That's great. 

Most people can send faster than they can receive at first, for the reasons mentioned above by others.  And you've been given some sound advice here.  My only addition is to suggest that you "say" the code for various things you come across during idle time.  I used to "say" street signs and billboards while driving around.  Stop sign, "dididit dah dahdahdah didahdahdit," while thinking "S T O P".  I'd also move my fingers as if I were operating a paddle at the same time.  You can tap your finger on the steering wheel as if it were a straight key while saying the dits and dahs.

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K8AXW
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« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2012, 08:31:49 AM »

WSY: 
Quote
Most people can send faster than they can receive at first, for the reasons mentioned above by others.  And you've been given some sound advice here.  My only addition is to suggest that you "say" the code for various things you come across during idle time.  I used to "say" street signs and billboards while driving around.  Stop sign, "dididit dah dahdahdah didahdahdit," while thinking "S T O P".  I'd also move my fingers as if I were operating a paddle at the same time.  You can tap your finger on the steering wheel as if it were a straight key while saying the dits and dahs.


This is precisely what I am suggesting.  I learned code in the Army....perhaps before the Koch and Farnsworth methods existed or at least popular.  Plus the Army has a tendency to do thing by brute force and ignorance.  :-)  My training consisted of learning Morse at 5WPM and writing it on paper....spacing, etc., exactly as it was to be expected when listening to a receiver.

This went on for 8 hours a day (minus lunch and 10 minute breaks every hour) 5 1/2 days per week for 6 months. 

On the job it wasn't unusual to pound out 30ft of traffic in 8 hours on a mill....and this went on for over 2 years.

We never learned to send except as a "how it's done" routine for about an hour.  However, by this time we had gone through the "mouthing" Morse characters, visualizing Morse characters from signs and newspapers....wherever.

Later, many of us became hams and learning to send was almost second nature because when we made a character with a key we knew what it was supposed to sound like.

BTW, for whatever it's worth, the J-38 key and clones has a contact spacing of the thickness of a postcard.

Hand in there.  This is supposed to be a fun trip, not an ordeal.  And it is true that there are MANY ways to learn Morse, both sending and receiving.
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2012, 08:58:40 AM »

>>Hang in there. This is supposed to be a fun trip, not an ordeal.<<

Actually, I'm having a blast, even on the bad days when the copying doesn't go as well as usual. It's also a thrill to be able to copy more and more stuff off the air. Supposedly, the "transition" from learning through canned drills to copying actual QSOs can be tough, so (following the advice of N2EY on a different thread) I'm avoiding that problem by doing both simultaneously even though when I started copying actual traffic I was only managing to achieve a tiny recognition percentage.

Much of the real code "out there" is faster than the 15wpm I am learning. And the hams who are sending more slowly ... are often the less proficient fists and can be quite hard to copy even when they are sending very slowly (no surprise there, but who am I to criticize?). I'm currently limited to listening on one band (20m) with a very basic receiver (while I build a better one!). There's loads of QRM and QSB plus the selectivity is very poor so I hear all these CW QSOs piled up on top of each other and have to learn to discriminate between them by ear. Very good practice I think.

I've also found it is essential to do some Morse every day, whether it is a drill or listening on the air. The few times I've "taken a day off" I have lived to regret it. So I bought a cheap MP3 player and loaded it up with drills, so that I can work on Morse even while traveling. All the non-hams around me think I am totally mad but it looks like I'm just going to have to get used to that, it seems to come with the hobby.

73 DE Martin, KB1WSY
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K8AXW
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« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2012, 05:02:28 PM »

Martin:  It sounds as if you have the right attitude and I compliment you!  No doubt learning to copy CW with a receiver with poor selectivity will help you eventually.  It's surprising how the brain can listen to 2 or more CW signals, lock in on one and the rest seem to fade away. 

The main problem I've always had with the Koch and Farnsworth methods of learning code is that once you learn it that way you have to relearn it the way it's actually used.  But, whatever it takes.  Just hang in there.  It's really a pleasure to be able to tune a signal consisting of nothing but dits and dahs and actually understand what is going on. 

Guess it's something like knowing a foreign language and walking into a restaurant and hear them talk about you!  LOL.
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2012, 12:46:47 PM »

Thanks again, everyone, for the encouragement. I am spending more time listening on the air now, which is an interesting puzzle. If you combine the Koch method (I have only 21 characters learned) plus QRM, QSB, plus interference from the Nashville-based Bible-thumping station WWCR, all on a dinky little receiver kit with a bandwidth like a barn door, plus my middle-aged befuddlement, you get this (from my listening sessions in the past few days on 20m). The dashes represent one or more  characters that I missed because I don't know them yet or didn't catch them, or QSB/QRM that zapped the characters:

(Example 1) "r nice r- -- u iy- sou- -- rig u 5-0 es nt --w- sunny te- t 0 f- always since ch-w- -l- in north j-y -to f-- kill m-"
(Example 2) "ir- rig yaesu k es yagi if jeff trng yrl"
(Example 3) "qri seems to uh tt in worst so ill say-- tn- f-- qso ho- cl -- - claw at -kk0--"
(Example 4) "rst is 599 5nn, name is vernie vernie, qth lk wales, lk wales fla fla" (cool, a complete sentence and I even know where Lake Wales is).
(Example 5) "tu tuner a-- hr --- ham -- -- yrs -- sunny"
(Example 6) "la omni looked -- om -- thought -- nn- only, just -- es -- out tt sof-"
(Example 7) "rig u 5--0 es nt -- -- sunny ----- always nice ch-w- --- in north j-y --"
(Example eight) "fine a so really fa-t--us to hr ag -- sig o swa"
(Example 9) "acc--ion. my qth 5 miles on e-w -- nashville ---"

You old-timers can perhaps barely remember that phase of CW learning! So near, and yet so far! Still it is great to be copying "real stuff" even if only partially. By the way I am finding only a very distant relationship between CW speed, and my recognition rate (except that anything above about 20wpm is too hard). It seems to have much more to do with the fist at the other end. The worst ones are either running the characters together too much, or spacing them way too far, like an exaggerated Farnsworth tape. But again, who am I to criticize!

I am only able to read *call signs* occasionally, because I haven't learned the numbers yet except zero, so when I hear a number, I stop in my tracks to try and figure out which number it is (by adding the dits and dahs and seeing in what order they are) and by the time I have figured it out, the rest of the call sign is long gone.... and probably the repeated call sign too....

73 DE Martin, KB1WSY
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