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Author Topic: A Question About Copying Code  (Read 3072 times)
10CVALLEYVOL
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« on: June 14, 2006, 12:56:57 PM »

OK, I am in the process of learning code using the Koch Method. I am starting at a character and effective code speed of 15WPM. The first thing I find hard to do is the actual recording/transcribing of the character strings of what I hear down on paper. Is this the correct way of recording what I hear? My handwriting can not keep up with the transmitted code. Am I approaching this wrong? Any suggestions?
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N7DM
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2006, 01:49:31 PM »

I suggest you learn to make lower case, 'one stroke' letters.. and print.  For example, the letter 'f'... Make ONLY the hook and down part. You can go back later to 'cross' it. Likewise for 'k' and 't'. For the 'k' make a downward line, with an up and to the right hook. You will know from practice or context to complete the 'k', later.  One stroke letters have served me well.... 'putting it down on paper'...up to 35WPM Code Proficiency Award.  

GL
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2006, 01:49:40 PM »

You can't write 15 wpm?  That's actually pretty slow, and most people (like me) can print in block letters about that speed.  I run into trouble "writing" once it gets much faster than 20 wpm, though (especially since I almost never write anything anymore, and always use a computer keyboard for all correspondence).

Best way of all, though, is to use the code to promote character and word recognition.  This becomes almost subliminal and there's no reason to write *ANYTHING* down on paper.  Either you copy, or you don't.  Writing it down doesn't make "copy" get better.

In 40 years of using code, I never write anything down and routinely operate at 45 wpm.  I can't even begin to write that fast, so it's a good thing I don't try bothering!

People tend to feel that if they don't write things down, they'll never remember what was sent.  That isn't true at all.  If you chat with someone on the telephone, I'll bet you remember what you talked about after you hang up, without writing down a single word.

It's the same thing.

I only write down stuff that would be nearly impossible to remember: An address, a telephone number, some message with a lot of numbers, stuff like that.  Routine "QSO" chit-chat doesn't normally contain any of this.

The FCC VE examination does not require paper copy of anything.  You can pass by answering questions relating to the message sent, and sign your name on that paper, and hand it in.  This is what all my students do.  They never "copy" anything that was sent on paper, other than maybe a note or two about something difficult to remember, like: BOB - LAS VEGAS - W5ABC/7.  If these are important parts of the message sent (and all the code tests have someone's name, location and callsign, and I think they all contain a "/" portable sign), of course jot them down so you're not straining to remember what was sent a minute ago or longer.  But no reason to write down routine stuff that's very easy to remember, which the whole message is.

My first 20 wpm Extra VE student was ex-KD6EWT, who is now AJ6E.  Rob passed his 20 wpm Extra code exam in about 1994 (this test no longer exists!) without writing anything down at all as he was listening, except for his name and the date.  Then, he answered all the questions correctly and handed in the paper.

The examiner said, "I've never seen anybody do that before."

That's because he probably never saw anybody who really learned code the right way take the test before...

WB2WIK/6
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N3EF
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2006, 02:44:13 PM »

  Take a look at this image for speedwriting. I'm a terrible writer but 15wpm is easy for me. Over 20wpm gets tough for me to keep up with. Iv'e been doing cw for one year as of June 16 and do well at 25wpm now but am writing less and less all the time. Just things like name and QTH. I'm trying to improve my head copy so I can start mobile ops soon. Good Luck with CW.

http://home.comcast.net/~fairbank56/speedwriting.jpg

Eric N3EF
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N7DM
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« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2006, 03:21:15 PM »

Those look right, for the most part. I'd still avoid the 'second stroke'.  Even 'x' only needs ONE line, for the first 'mark'...

Like WIK, I only read it in my head.. except for the Code Proficiency Award and a few contests. It *was* humbling when...33 years ago, I went for my Extra and in 'warming up' for it, I was not able to PUT IT DOWN ON PAPER [as was required then].. at a 'mere' 20.  I had to do some serious W1AW practice... using single stroke letters....'The Good Old Days'... HI
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10CVALLEYVOL
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« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2006, 03:54:21 PM »

Thanks for all of the comments to my question. I guess I should ask this then since there seem to be 2 schools of thought on this subject......When first learning to copy code should one ever get in the habit of writing down what is copied? My first priority now is to pass Element 1. I can already see that 5 WPM is simple but not recommended as a starting point. So I started at 15 WPM which according to most in the Ham community say makes it easier to become more proficient going to the faster levels of copy. From what I hear and recognize writing down what is heard at faster copy is not the norm. Is this just part of the complete learning process?
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N6PEH
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« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2006, 04:29:27 PM »

Yow, starting at 15 wpm???  If that's the character speed, great!  If that is the word speed, then, not great.  You are really making this hard on yourself by starting at 15 WPM.  But, whatever.

Head copy is really tough.  I know the earlier post said it's the only way to go, but I think he's a little out of touch with beginner reality.  In head copy, you're listening for words.  The only way you're going to recognize words is after years of copying them.  Otherwise, you're copying letters, then remembering them, and then pulling them back all together, and then forming the word.  While that's happening, the other word is almost done and you've missed half of it.  Now that old guy was probably copying 45 wpm when he was five years old so it was all a sinch for him.  But for most normal folks, this is just not realistic.

Unless you're disabled, 15 wpm word speed should be a speed that you can write.  But hell, if you're copying enough code at that speed as a beginner, then my hat's off to you.  You'll be like that old timer in no time.

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N7DM
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« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2006, 07:35:56 PM »

Over the years, I have been asked, "How do you learn to read it in your head?".  The honest answer is, "I don't know".  As best as I can remember, as I was 'copying everything down'...I'd find myself sorta drifting, and see the words form in my mind.. like typed print. It is still that way. Back then you HAD to copy, to pass exams... so you worked on that skill.

I will grant you, *I* was thirteen (13) years old. In the recent years I have met older guys...who... just, flat... can NOT get it. My heart goes out to them. I suggest 'Morse' is just another skill like piano playing or typing... both of which learn a lot better, young.

I will also say that once The Skill is there, it seems to stay. I have had occassional periods when I was not on air.  When I came back on, 'Reading' it was like I had never left. SENDING had to be 'refreshed'...lots of 'air polution'... HI
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N8UZE
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« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2006, 07:53:22 PM »

It is not your writing ability that is the problem.  Right now your brain isn't processing fast enough so it isn't leaving you enough time to write.  Put the character speed at 15wpm and the word speed at 5wpm.  As the brain gets better at processing, you can make the word speed faster.
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10CVALLEYVOL
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« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2006, 09:03:02 PM »

I thought the whole concept behind the Koch method was to train the brain to process at a faster WPM than starting out at say 5 WPM. The Koch method is suppose to teach "reflex" by associating each chatcter with the unique sound it has associated with it. Now I am beginning to think is what you are referring to as "head" copying, something each cw operator will eventually have to rely upon as the WPM get faster. But, I see from some of the replys so far that some of you feel one should start slower and work your way up in WPM which defeats the logic behind the Koch method of learning. It does give your brain more of a chance to process those characters to form words before the next word starts coming over the air, but will I pay for it in the end when I try to get over that 10-13 WPM hump often referred to?
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NS6Y_
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« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2006, 09:38:18 PM »

I'm working on my code more too, and I'd say writing it down is much harder - maybe 15wpm isn't that fast to write, but it's fast to comprehend the code AND write it down. I figure it's just work to get faster so trying to put in the work. W1AW is very very helpful here.

Dr. Dit says "write everything down" so at least while ascending the skill hill, that's good enough for me!
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N8UZE
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« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2006, 05:17:17 AM »

If the character speed is 15wpm, you will not face a "barrier" at the 10-13wpm level because you are already copying at the higher character speed anyway.  So long as the character speed is high, such as 15wpm, the brain develops a reflex rather than a lookup table.  It was that old "lookup table" that created the barrier at the 10-13wpm level.  Without that table, your word speed will keep increasing as the brain reflex becomes faster.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2006, 10:25:39 AM »

Element 1 is only 5 wpm.  I recommend doing whatever you need to do to simply pass that element, which is using code at a crawl, and then *get on the air and use the code* to go faster.

I'm not out of touch with the reality of "beginner code" when I say it's very possible to learn code without writing a thing on paper, from Day #1.  This is the way I teach code classes to groups, and have been for many years.  No pencils and no paper allowed, starting with the first dit for an "e."  They do learn this way, and quickly.

You don't need word recognition for "head copy," at all.  You do if you want to copy 60 wpm.  But at 10-15 wpm, not at all.  You need only character recognition for this.

I we speak in personal conversation (vocally) and I s-p-e-l-l every single word I say to you instead of saying the whole words, you'll still understand everything I say.  It will just be slower than normal conversation.  But I can s-p-e-l-l out words and still "talk" at least 40 wpm.

Pre-licensing, I recommend everyone learn code with a partner, so you can practice not just "copying," but also sending, which is the other half of using code and equally important.  It's vital to the learning process to actually have code "conversation," not just "copy," if you want to get good, fast, and efficient.  You send, then the partner sends, then you reply, then he replies, etc.  Like a "QSO," except it doesn't use radios -- just code oscillators and keys, or can be effectively done using nothing more than mouths and ears.

I used to walk to school with my code practice partner (Dave, who became WB2WND) back in eighth grade.  We'd have a QSO as we were walking to school, and then back home -- about an hour of walking each day.  We'd use "dit-dah talk."  Just say the dits and dahs, like you were sending them.  Exactly as effective as using oscillators and keys, and ramps up code speed and undeerstanding quickly.

ANYTHING like this is absolutely, positively more effective than "listening" to code, which is a passive exercise.  USING it to converse with a partner is active.  No comparison.

WB2WIK/6
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10CVALLEYVOL
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« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2006, 10:53:06 AM »

Thanks to all for your inputs on this subject. I have learned alot more than I knew before about what "copying code" really entailed. I will take your suggestions and plan to start over today with a Character Speed of 15 WPM and a Word Speed of 5-7. I have recently aquired a code practice oscillator that I will hook up with the straight key I purchased as my first key. Between learning to copy using the Koch learning tool that G4FON developed and the use of my key and an oscillator, I hope to be ready for my test in July followed by my first contact shortly thereafter.

Thanks again for all of your help,

Another Beginner
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N0IU
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« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2006, 11:15:20 PM »

All very good suggestions, but there are no shortcuts. Copying at higher speeds takes time, lots of time, to get to the point where Morse code is relaxing and enjoyable to listen to.

There was a question asked on one of the boards if there was a secret method of learning code that us OFs discussed while sitting around a campfire deep in the woods away from 'lower' class operators and would we let him in on our secret now that he was an Extra?

You just can't rush some things.

Scott N0IU
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