Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net

   Home   Help Search  
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Unlearning bad habits  (Read 4170 times)
KJ6QLD
Member

Posts: 22




Ignore
« on: March 23, 2012, 11:08:13 PM »

A couple years ago, before ever getting a ham radio license, I memorized the morse code letters and numbers and played around with an iPhone app that simulated an iambic paddle.

After getting my license last summer, I tuned into some CW and discovered that copying is a whole different ballgame.  So I did some research, learned about the Koch method, and have been working on learning using this method for the past couple of months, using a Koch-based iPhone app, as well as G4FON software

Unfortunately, I think my prior knowledge of Morse code is undermining my Koch method learning, as I can't seem to break the the mental process of translating the dits and dahs rather than just learning by reflex.  I've cranked the character speed up to about 25 WPM, (Farnsworth speed still at only 10 WPM) to try to give myself less time to recognize dits and dahs.  Right now, I'm at 20 characters, and progress has slowed significantly.

Any tips an getting the brain to stop translating the dits and dahs?
Logged
KB1WSY
Member

Posts: 714




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2012, 02:13:20 AM »

Quote
I memorized the morse code letters and numbers

I did the same thing 40 years ago with lower tech methods: using the LP records that came with the Heathkit Morse code learning course, which also included an ARRL Morse book and a code oscillator kit. Lately, I have begun all over again, using G4FON software like you.

Quote
I can't seem to break the the mental process of translating the dits and dahs rather than just learning by reflex...

I cannot claim any expertise except that I have been going through the learning process like you.

My main suggestion is to change the character/overall speed mix. After quite a lot of experimentation I settled on 20wpm character speed and 15wpm overall speed, whereas you are using 25/10. In my opinion your speed parameters are giving your brain too much time to "think." Initially, the result of changing the speed parameters will be awful (it was for me, too) but after a while things get much better -- several days, in my case.

Also, from time to time, I strongly suggest turning Farnsworth *off* altogether. I have been listening to QSOs on the air even though my character set is still limited, and the most striking handicap is that I have been learning Morse with substantial extra space between characters (20/15) which is not how the good operators send Morse. The less proficient operators do leave extra space, presumably as an overhang from learning with the Farnsworth method! So, what I have been doing occasionally is switching the G4FON parameters to 15/15 instead of 15/20. This makes copying substantially harder, but is much closer to what happens on the air.

>>Right now, I'm at 20 characters, and progress has slowed significantly.<<

You are not alone. I am at 22 characters and right around 20 characters, I hit a barrier. In my opinion, it happens because each new character is being "diluted": the new character appears (on average) once in every 22 characters whereas, at the beginning of the learning process, it was appearing much more frequently because there were fewer other characters. There is a setting in G4FON to "favor the new character" which I haven't tried, have you tried it?

There are barriers at many stages. For me, the hardest habit to break was when you miss a character and then waste time trying to figure it out. By the time you have, you have meanwhile dropped four or five more characters. So I have trained myself to just write a dash for a missed character -- this was hard to start with, but when I got the hang of it, the overall recognition percentage went up sharply.

Another big problem I have is with the short characters, and I assume this happens with everyone, not just me. If you get a bunch of letters "e," "i" and "s" close together it can be hard to capture them fast enough (including writing them down) and by the time you have, you have missed the characters that follow. However, listening to real QSOs on the air (rather than the canned random drills) I have found that this problem is less acute, largely because you quickly learn to recognize entire common words -- the classic ones are "is" and "the." Technically this problem happens because, unlike almost all other digital alphabets, Morse doesn't have a fixed character length: the number of "bits" per character is variable. This makes for high efficiency but a harder learning curve! I have learned to welcome the appearance of a "period," a "comma" or a "zero" because these long characters give you a nice breathing space!

I've also decided that this process takes a lot of *time* especially if you are no longer in the childhood years when learning any "new language" is an order of magnitude easier than it is if you try later. I've been at it, for about one hour per day, since mid-January which means it has now exceeded the 60-hour mark. I hope to complete the process some time this summer. I have lots of "bad days" when my recognition rate falls sharply or when I get very tired well before the end of a 5-minute copying drill. When this happens, I take a break and come back to it a few hours later. I also found that it is very bad if you miss a day or two; so your solution of using a phone app is good, you can use it even when traveling. In my case, I bought a $19 MP3 player and loaded it with drills recorded from G4FON, and also printed out the "solutions" so I can check my accuracy while on the road.

It also takes (at least in my case) a lot of concentration. Even though I am using headphones, all it needs is someone speaking in the same room, and I get distracted and drop characters. One key factor, in my case, was finding a quiet corner of the house -- or a quiet time of day such as early in the morning which is when I am writing this -- it made a lot of difference.

One of the many good pieces of advice on this forum is to try to operate *slightly* outside your "comfort zone." So, if you've been copying at 10wpm, increase it to 11wpm or 12wpm. Or, in terms of the mix, try changing it from 25/10 to 23/11 or 20/12, if the software will let you.

Just my two cents' worth, based on my experience plus some good advice from this forum and a bit of book knowledge. My next goal in CW learning is to find an Elmer locally -- I'm not on the air yet so it will need to be done "in person."

Hang in there! It's a lot of fun despite the definite frustrations along the way!

(Yes dear readers, this is very long, and I will fully understand if there are objections to the verbosity.)

73 DE Martin, KB1WSY




Logged
N3QE
Member

Posts: 2137




Ignore
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2012, 04:45:01 AM »

Any tips an getting the brain to stop translating the dits and dahs?

I don't think there's any instant method. But I'd highly recommend leaving the radio on in the house, tuned to CW transmissions of any speed, while you are not consciously trying to copy the code. It's overthinking about dits and dahs which is the fundamental problem. That should be done at some almost unconscious level, while your brain is working at a higher level.

Imagine that you tried to learn how to understand spoken English using a scope and a spectrum analyzer. I'm sure there's some quantitative analytical way to identify the "long a" from "long e" from "esss" on the scope because they do not look the same, but that quantitative approach is just not how our brain does it in the context of everyday speech. I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with the quantitative approach if you are writing a computer program to understand spoken english, that's how a computer might do it, but that's completely different than how a human baby actually does it. Similarly our brains should be thinking "where he lives" primarily, maybe "QTH" at a level underneath that, and only rarely should we have to resort to thinking about each element in "--.-   -   ....".

Slightly different than copying text in the body of a QSO, the art of copying callsigns has a very good computer-based trainer. I highly recommend RufZXP. Again this is bringing it up above "recognize a letter" to "recognize a callsign" with maybe some mix of "recognize prefix, zone, and suffix". If you look at say the DX forums you'll see that much of the time, the DX'ers brain doesn't think necessarily what country the DX is in, but is thinking about what the DX's prefix is. That should not be surprising, the prefix/zone/suffix in almost all real callsigns have deep meaning, they are not just arbitrary letters and digits.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 04:50:02 AM by N3QE » Logged
K8AG
Member

Posts: 351




Ignore
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2012, 09:57:31 AM »

I have been a ham for decades now but only in the last coiuple of years have I had the time to operate on a fairly regular basis.  I have been working the last year on not writing everything down.  I used to write every single letter which makes copy at 20+ wpm extremely difficult.  It has taken me about a year to feel comfortable writing a call and a name and a few other notes during a qso but leaving the TX FER THE CALL.  UR RST IS... for my brain only.

It takes time to unlearn.

73, JP, K8AG
Logged
W2RI
Member

Posts: 53




Ignore
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2012, 12:15:19 PM »

You mentioned that you have an iPhone. I would recommend two apps. The first is "Dah Dit", which is a great way to learn the code while you're in your car. You can have it play a character three times and then the character is announced for you. You can use this for the Koch method, specifying which set of characters to draw from. If you're stationary, you can also use it for single words, which is a good introduction to head copying.

That's how I learned. It's painless having the app run when I'm driving in to work in the morning and again home at night. I figured that learning at 5 to 10 wpm was a complete waste of time, so I set out right at the beginning by setting the speed to 20 wpm. Once I had the letters and numbers down, I bumped the speed up to 40 wpm. By doing it so fast you find yourself learning the cadence, not the actual dit and dahs.

For actual copying, I prefer another app - "Ham Morse" - because that can play CW off news feeds, random words, etc. "CW Text" is not bad, either.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 12:17:18 PM by W2RI » Logged
KJ6QLD
Member

Posts: 22




Ignore
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2012, 01:00:45 PM »

All responses helpful and appreciated.

Thanks
Logged
VA7CPC
Member

Posts: 2372




Ignore
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2012, 06:09:07 PM »

For mastering high-speed characters, try RufZXP:

http://rufzxp.net/

It won't help (much) with normal QSO's, but it's great if you want to learn to "hear" a callsign sent at 30 wpm.

          Charles
Logged
K4PP
Member

Posts: 64




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2012, 07:55:49 AM »

Right now, I'm at 20 characters, and progress has slowed significantly.

Any tips an getting the brain to stop translating the dits and dahs?

I had the same problem. What your going to have to do is just stick with it until eventually you'll find that some of the letters or numbers will come subconsciously. Once a few start coming, more begin to follow. What your doing now is alternating between learning a language and working out what your hearing. You're basically conditioning your mind. It gets better with time.

After you learn the letters and numbers pretty good, let's say where at 6 or 7 of the letters and numbers, or more, are grasped by sound I would start rotating my training. At this point you probably should start thinking about what speed you like too since it's by sound, not working it out. Just keep telling yourself it's by sound. I started rotating between listening to QSO's, practicing Koch, listening to the CNN ticker http://cw.dimebank.com:8080/ and doing 5 letter groups.

DX'ing and contesting is very different CW than ragchewing and you might do that exclusively.

You'll want to listen to some actual QSO's and get in on some because you need to quickly grasp the common words and abbreviations.

As an example after abt 3 yrs at it, I can do 5 word groups at abt 30 wpm but never at a conversational rag chew. But the practice at 30 makes 20 wpm seem really easy.

Keep at it and stay interested, and take your time and have fun. Take a break every now and then, even a week sometime, you might be surprised.

K4PP
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 07:59:47 AM by K4PP » Logged
KE3WD
Member

Posts: 5694




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2012, 03:12:29 PM »

All it takes is proper practice over time. 

Twenty good minutes a day or so, no more than one hour session. 

It is the repetition that does the job, for both the brain and the so-called "muscle memory" when sending. 

There really is no other way to get there. 

73
Logged
K8AXW
Member

Posts: 3722




Ignore
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2012, 06:26:57 PM »

Would learning by the Koch and Farnsworth methods be considered "bad habits" that will have to be "unlearned" when one starts to copy code as it really is used?
Logged
K7KBN
Member

Posts: 2782




Ignore
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2012, 09:38:51 PM »

Would learning by the Koch and Farnsworth methods be considered "bad habits" that will have to be "unlearned" when one starts to copy code as it really is used?

If you learn to copy machine-perfect code only, you may well have some difficulty in a "live" QSO if the other guy is a bit sloppy, or if he's sending with a bit of swing.  That's why so many of us recommend getting on the air and using code.  Get used to the sound of different fists.  Old Navy Radiomen knew a lot of the RMs half a world away simply from recognizing a fist they knew from "A" school!
Logged

73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
LB3KB
Member

Posts: 224


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2012, 10:07:43 PM »

Would learning by the Koch and Farnsworth methods be considered "bad habits" that will have to be "unlearned" when one starts to copy code as it really is used?

Koch doesn't influence the way you operate.  You should aim to get rid of Farnsworth, though.  Standard timing is, well...  the standard.


73
LB3KB Sigurd
justlearnmorsecode.com
Logged
KC9TNH
Member

Posts: 304




Ignore
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2012, 04:40:31 AM »

Any tips an getting the brain to stop translating the dits and dahs?
Same journey over the past year so some observations, judgement of whether they're tips or not reserved.

Koch method before even getting first HF rig realizing that copy was the long pole in the tent and listening to clean code fosters clean code, which pays off later with comments on-air from an Elmer of "u hve gud fist." (Am not & never been in a speed race.)

Before I got a laptop on which to load RufzXP used my HF rig's CWTRAIN capability to spit out characters (alpha/numeric/mixed) at whatever speed/pitch the keyer & sidetone set to & copied. I have since found that it's a great warmup if having been away for awhile, not just for callsigns and the DX-game but as a self-assessment ("hmmm, maybe we're not so hot as we thought awhile back.")

Get on the air.
SKCC - listen & participate in some Wednesday or weekend events.
Get on the air.
Call CQ on 7114 or that area, someone who will downshift to your speed will likely be along shortly.Many old hands "hawk" that area for the sole purpose & satisfaction of providing the distant-end of a needed learning experience. (you'll know when they sign off at 28wpm)
Get on the air.
The rapid fire DX stuff is more an assessment of your station & callsign recognition, but hardly a conversation. So get on the air and have some longer QSOs. The rote memorization (brain running the traps of a translation table in your head) will go away when you "own" the characters.
Some listening practice EVERY DAY and
Get on the air - a QSO a day, every day.
Fun-factor will increase, trust me on that.

Smiley
Logged

73
Wes -KC9TNH
"Don't get treed by a chihuahua." - Pete
N3QE
Member

Posts: 2137




Ignore
« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2012, 09:58:48 AM »

Get used to the sound of different fists.  Old Navy Radiomen knew a lot of the RMs half a world away simply from recognizing a fist they knew from "A" school!

And after a while in a CW contest environment, you can identify the major contest stations by their keying defects (dropped leading dits mostly), keyclicks, and 50 vs 60 Hz buzz from their amps :-)
Logged
K8AXW
Member

Posts: 3722




Ignore
« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2012, 10:36:03 AM »

Quote
Old Navy Radiomen knew a lot of the RMs half a world away simply from recognizing a fist they knew from "A" school

I know some will find your statement somewhat hard to believe but let me tell you for a fact that I could tell when they changed operators on a net, if the operator was either sick,  hung over, simply feeling bad or if he really didn't want to be there!  

Fists become 'voices' and are easily recognized after a time.  
« Last Edit: March 28, 2012, 10:38:27 AM by K8AXW » Logged
Pages: [1] 2 Next   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!