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Author Topic: First CW QSO - What a disaster!  (Read 9067 times)
DL3RR
Member

Posts: 14




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« on: March 29, 2012, 11:50:56 PM »

Although I have been licensed for quite a few years, I have never been particularly active.  QRP and home brew equipment has always been my primary interest

I made a couple of half hearted attempts to learn the code in the late 80s, early 90s but never really got anywhere.  I took and passed my RAE in the late 90s and was licensed as M1CPL.  However, the novelty of VHF very quickly wore off and I went QRT.  When the code requirement was abolished, I became active again, and around the same time moved to Germany and acquired the callsign DL3RR.  However, once again, after a period of activity I went QRT.

That was until I "discovered" the code a couple of years ago.  I don't really know what finally spurred me to sit down and learn it properly but I made an attempt, and got fairly proficient at copying the code around 10wpm (not much, but it was a start).  Unfortunately, certain family issues meant that I never got around to use it on air.

In January this year, I finally decided to make a concerted effort.  After all - what's the point of sitting down and learning something if you aren't going to use it!  I can now copy code at 20wpm on a good day, and having done some practice at sending I decided I was ready.

Earlier this week, I sat down one evening on 40m and heard a GB station calling CQ - I wanted to work a GB station to avoid having to send in German.  My German is fluent, but I find sending CW in my Mother Tongue hard enough!  I tuned up the antenna, took a deep breath and answered him.

To my surprise, he came straight back - Heavens!  What do I do now?!?

It was at this point, that my copying and sending skills vacated my head so quickly I could almost hear a "whoosh".

I was able to give him a report, but as if to add insult to injury another station started sending very nearby!

In the next over, he told me QRM was extremely bad and as I was listening his signal disappeared into the noise floor.

Guess I need to practice some more before I try again!
« Last Edit: March 29, 2012, 11:53:08 PM by DL3RR » Logged
K7MH
Member

Posts: 344




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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2012, 11:55:41 PM »

Ya gotta start somewhere!
I was a nervous wreck for my first few contacts on CW as a novice.
It got better. Smiley
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LB3KB
Member

Posts: 233


WWW

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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2012, 12:25:29 AM »

Don't fret.  This is normal.  I bet at least 9 out of 10 hams that venture into CW find the first QSO a very humbling experience - I certainly did - but learn what you can from it and have another go with somebody else.

Write a few standard phrases down, what you think you may want to say in any given QSO at this stage, and keep that where you can see it while sending.  If you miss what the other one is sending, just stick to your plan - tell him his RST, your QTH and your name.  If you don't get what he's sending next, tell him your TX and ANT and so on.  If you still don't get what he's sending just tell him thanks for the QSO, 73 and bye-bye.

I know this may not sound "proper", but you gotta do what you gotta do to cope with the first few contacts and you'll soon figure out what's going on.  It's better to send something the other guy can understand than to keep asking for repeats of everything he sends, over and over again.  Even if he's asking you something and all you recognize is the question mark, it's okay to tell him what your rig and ant is.  He'll understand that you didn't copy his question.

Make sure you get his callsign, though.  If you're answering a CQ, write down the callsign before you respond.  If you're calling CQ, ask for repeats until you get the callsign right.  GB? de DL3RR KN will do, if the first two letters is all you have.

You'll feel comfortable about it in no time, just stay at it.

73
LB3KB Sigurd
justlearnmorsecode.com
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KF7IPW
Member

Posts: 47




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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2012, 12:41:49 AM »

Amen to the above.
I have about 50 QSOs under my belt and I still get nervous.
Every ham I've met has been patient and helpfull.

Thanks Sigurd for JustLearnMorseCode!
Your a big part of why I can use code today.

Stan
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2E0OZI
Member

Posts: 270




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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2012, 03:35:29 AM »

Hi mate, same thing happened to me as well I completely lost the plot and later emailed an apology for messing up the contact. The other ham was cool with that, and explained another 2E0 had answered just before me and he came back to him first. Thats what put me off...

The guys are giving you the right advice, such as make sure you get all the call first before you respond etc. I would also add (from my own experience of a grand total of 5 QSOs in the last 2 weeks or so);

Have 3 pens and a pencil handy, and a scratch pad thats big enough to NOT move when you write on it!
If you have not got narrow filters get them - I wish I had them last night!!
Wear headphones
Try and arrange a time free of distractions - if my wife or daughter come in and talk to me or ask me a question I just give up at this stage - theres no point. I need 100% concentration just to make the contact.


If you fancy a sked drop me a line.

Scott
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell
K3TN
Member

Posts: 293


WWW

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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2012, 03:38:53 AM »

That is about par for the course for a first CW contact! When I started I actually wrote down what I would send on an index card that I could look at: "DE WN2ADH BT TNX OM BT UR 599 599 BT NAME IS JOHN JOHN BT QTH IS FREEPORT, FREEPORT NY NY BT HW CPY? DE WN2ADH" and used that for my first few QSOs till the radio willies shook their way out.

As someone else said, always write the other guys call down first and you will be fine in a few more QSOs.

73 John K3TN
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John K3TN
HA7AP
Member

Posts: 19




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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2012, 06:09:57 AM »

Although I have been licensed for quite a few years, I have never been particularly active.  QRP and home brew equipment has always been my primary interest

I made a couple of half hearted attempts to learn the code in the late 80s, early 90s but never really got anywhere.  I took and passed my RAE in the late 90s and was licensed as M1CPL.  However, the novelty of VHF very quickly wore off and I went QRT.  When the code requirement was abolished, I became active again, and around the same time moved to Germany and acquired the callsign DL3RR.  However, once again, after a period of activity I went QRT.

That was until I "discovered" the code a couple of years ago.  I don't really know what finally spurred me to sit down and learn it properly but I made an attempt, and got fairly proficient at copying the code around 10wpm (not much, but it was a start).  Unfortunately, certain family issues meant that I never got around to use it on air.

In January this year, I finally decided to make a concerted effort.  After all - what's the point of sitting down and learning something if you aren't going to use it!  I can now copy code at 20wpm on a good day, and having done some practice at sending I decided I was ready.

Earlier this week, I sat down one evening on 40m and heard a GB station calling CQ - I wanted to work a GB station to avoid having to send in German.  My German is fluent, but I find sending CW in my Mother Tongue hard enough!  I tuned up the antenna, took a deep breath and answered him.

To my surprise, he came straight back - Heavens!  What do I do now?!?

It was at this point, that my copying and sending skills vacated my head so quickly I could almost hear a "whoosh".

I was able to give him a report, but as if to add insult to injury another station started sending very nearby!

In the next over, he told me QRM was extremely bad and as I was listening his signal disappeared into the noise floor.

Guess I need to practice some more before I try again!
Hi There!
I am very active on all band and I am willing to work you at any speed you like.
Even if you feel that it is really hard, you should still give it a try.
You can find my e-mail address either on qrz.com, or on HamQTH.com in case you would like to set up a sked.
Every CW operators who love to speak cw, they are very understanding, so.....you don't have to worry about a thing.

73 Imi HA7AP
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K8AG
Member

Posts: 352




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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2012, 07:28:28 AM »

Guess I need to practice some more before I try again!
Best practice is getting on the air.  Decades ago I was finally on ready for my first QSO.  Those days I was a Novice operator and CW was the only mode.  I had a cheap key afixed to my code practice oscillator and simply connected it to my homebrew 2 tube crystal transmitter.   I heard a CQ in the vicinity of my crystal so I responded.  An op in Ohio responded and I was in my first QSO.  Of course on my second transmission I was so nervous that my cheap code key fell apart.  I actually finished the QSO by tapping key parts together.

The only ops who don't have problems operating are those who never operate.  Welcome to CW.  Looking forward to exchanging calls down the log.

73, JP, K8AG
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KB3TXH
Member

Posts: 44




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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2012, 07:46:43 AM »

Having a script for a basic QSO helps me when my mind goes blank. I copied mine from this site.

http://naqcc.info/cw_qsos.html

There are still times that I look at my copy of it, when stuck for a reply.

My script reminds me how to start a QSO, and how to end it, but the middle of the QSO can be anything you want it to be.
Your age, job, kids, vacation, antenna farm ( or lack of one ), other hobbies.

 





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K8AXW
Member

Posts: 3958




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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2012, 09:43:22 AM »

RR:  I'm sorry I had to laugh out loud when I read your post!  It brought back what has always been a vivid memory of my first QSO which was on CW.  This was about 55 years ago. It was a total disaster, even worse than yours!

At the time I was stationed in Bad Aibling, Germany (DL4TPO) and my first contact was with the Heath AT-1 transmitter which used cathode keying.  This means some pretty healthy current flows THROUGH the key.  It was hot in the shack and my hands were all sweaty and I was a nervous wreck. 

I answered a CQ from a guy in Sweden and as you said, the procedure and code left my head so fast that my head should have imploded!

Then.... as I was trying to get back together, my fingers slipped off the key knob and made contact with the key arm and the cathode current went through my arm until it felt like someone had smashed my hand with a hammer!

THEN, things really went to hell after that until the Swedish station graciously eased out of the mess we were in.  I was still shaking an hour afterwards.

The note thing others mentioned is a great idea.  Keep at it and you will be having fun before you know it!
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WA7KPK
Member

Posts: 129




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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2012, 02:33:16 PM »

To my surprise, he came straight back - Heavens!  What do I do now?!?

It was at this point, that my copying and sending skills vacated my head so quickly I could almost hear a "whoosh".

I was able to give him a report, but as if to add insult to injury another station started sending very nearby!

In the next over, he told me QRM was extremely bad and as I was listening his signal disappeared into the noise floor.

Guess I need to practice some more before I try again!

Yeah, some QSOs are 599+ signals, the key is clicking away like a dream, you have solid copy on the other ham and everything is great. Some QSOs everything goes wrong. The baby starts squalling, you forget how to send the letter "Q", a thunderstorm rolls in and the static crashes wipe out your contact, a DX pileup happens right on top of you just as the ragchew is starting to get good . . .

Practice is a good idea no matter what, but the best practice you can get is on the air with real hams. Maybe you can find an Elmer or a friend you can have a friendly, relaxed chat with once or twice before you try QSOs with strangers again.

Keep at it and in a couple of years this first CW QSO will just be another great story to tell at the pub after the club meeting - just before you tell them about that rare DX that came back to your CQ a couple of days ago!

Cheers & 73,
Creede WA7KPK
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VA7CPC
Member

Posts: 2405




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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2012, 05:06:09 PM »

Quote
Guess I need to practice some more before I try again!

No!

You copied his call?  He copied your call?  That's a QSO!

The best "practice" you can do is to keep working other stations.   Your "first QSO" experience is completely typical -- we all felt like that.

             Charles
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N8TI
Member

Posts: 115




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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2012, 09:13:56 PM »

My first CW QSO was using a FT101ZD.  As soon as I hit the key, I immediately blew out the two final amp tubes! I forgot to do or not do something. I had to wait about two weeks before the new tubes came in the mail.  At least you managed a QSO without smoking your radio. FB OM.

Joe
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KB4MB
Member

Posts: 295




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« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2012, 05:36:51 AM »

Your contact was similar to almost all of ours our first time.  That WAS your practice.  Don't go hide off air, jump in again.  I promise you in five contacts you will have 80% of what was sent.

Think of it this way, you copied all the information you would have copied in a pileup on voice.  On voice you are happy to hear your call and your signal report, and maybe a confirmation that he/she heard you.

Just because a string of dits went after that fact, you copied enought to count as a contact.  Go do it again!
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DL3RR
Member

Posts: 14




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« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2012, 06:46:12 AM »

Thanks for all the help and suggestions!  Cheesy

I have put together a crib sheet of possible things to say for next time.

Last night, I had another go - answering a CQ call, and calling CQ a couple of times myself.  However, no luck - still that's the way it goes sometimes.

I think I might need to invest in a filter though.  My IC718 doesn't have a CW filter as standard and tuning out adjacent stations after dark is virtually impossible.
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