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Author Topic: paddle or straight key  (Read 3126 times)

Posts: 1041

« Reply #15 on: November 22, 2007, 06:31:52 AM »

KE4MOB, I'm sorry but you missed the point all together.
It's not  whether a person can send code at
17 wpm or even at 30 wpm! Speed is not the issue here.
The issue is to learn how to properly form the code
and use proper spacing between characters and words
so people can actually understand what a person is
sending! A straight key will allow the new person to do
all of these things and do it properly but it takes
practice, lots of it.


Posts: 175

« Reply #16 on: November 22, 2007, 08:39:40 PM »

A paddle is much easier to use at higher speeds.  I used a key for 2 years before I bought a paddle. I could not believe the difference.  

Posts: 720


« Reply #17 on: November 23, 2007, 09:16:02 AM »

"There are thousands of hams (including myself) operating CW daily who began with a straight key at around 5 wpm who went through the all the learning curves and "humps" within a period of months (not years as you claim), and without psychological trauma."

It's the way I started out too...and you know what?  Looking back, it's garbage.

If what you say were really the case, I think that there would still be Morse testing.  The majority of hams today (regretfully) believe that learning the code needs to be boring, tiresome, frustrating.  Why?  Because we start them out at 5 WPM on a straight key.

It should not matter what device is used for training the prospective operator.  What should matter is that initial RECEIVING speeds be such that there is no possibility of learning "dot dash" or any other form of translational recall.  It should also be fast enough so that the code develops a "rhythm" in the ear, which leads the trainee to proper spacing, as well as be fast enough for some sort of useful communication.  Does 5 WPM do any of that?  Nope.

My experience learning at 5 WPM was this: it's painfully slow.  It allows the mind to wander.  It allows a person develop translation routines in the brain.  It is completely unusable except for the most rudimentary of communications.  It in no way represents what one encounters on the air.  

The only reason to aim for 5 WPM was because that's where the first testing benchmark used to be.  Now that testing is gone, we need to stop thinking about passing tests and start training on producing the best long term results in the shortest amount of time.  5 WPM only produces operators who are totally unprepared for what's currently on the air and must (usually) unlearn things before they can go forward.

Here's an idea.  Start out at 15 WPM (omigosh...conversational CW right off the bat!!).  Give each student a Bencher (or bug, or straight key--doesn't really matter).  Teach common letter combinations and small words, both sending and receiving.  

I've done this.  Students don't hit "humps", don't have to unlearn anything, and are ready to jump right into their first contest once they learn the last letter.

Posts: 2994

« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2007, 03:23:44 PM »

KE4MOB wrote: "The only reason to aim for 5 WPM was because that's where the first testing benchmark used to be. Now that testing is gone, we need to stop thinking about passing tests and start training on producing the best long term results in the shortest amount of time."

I think you are confusing character speed with actual throughput speed of information sent.  I agree that there is benefit in the Farnsworth method whereby people get used to hearing 13-15 wpm characters instead of yielding to the temptation to count dots and dashes in 5 wpm characters.  However the actual speed in words per minute of someone who has just completed memorizing the characters is roughly 5 wpm, regardless of the speed of the characters.  In other words, beginners need that extra spacing between characters.  

Everybody learns to crawl before they walk, and walk before they run.  That's just how it is. I agree with your goal of making the process of learning code as painless as possible-- I just think some of the advice you wrote above was not sound.  

Chuck  NI0C

Posts: 214


« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2007, 04:18:16 AM »

I'd like to play a little bit of devil's advocate because no one is
really providing evidence to support their view. Perhaps it's because
this question has been asked many times before and they feel like it
doesn't deserve more than *stating* their view.  If you're going on
logic alone, it seems that you can make a convincing argument for either
point of view.  Beyond that, there's been one anecdote and one reference
to ARRL but that's it.  So, where is your point of view coming from?
Have you asked a bunch of lids you've encountered on the air and
recorded that the majority of them started on a paddle instead of a
straight key?   Or maybe you have some experience teaching many students
morse code?  The best evidence would be something mildly scientific,
like you've taught 100 students and split them 50/50 straight key /
paddle and you've inferred from those results.

What seems to be more important in learning to send good code is having
a way to validate the code that you send, either by someone else, by
record/play back, or even better by using a computer algorithm to
decode.  I only have my own experience to support that one: the CWIRC
decoder really helped me get my spacing right.

The same goes for whether or not to start learning to send early,  what
bad ops do you know that started sending early?  I don't see what's so
bad about practicing to send as soon as you learn the code for a letter
(especially if you're validating it with a computer decoder).  Steve
(WB2WIK) insists that the key (no pun intended) to learning morse code
and becoming a good op is to both copy *and* send equally.  I didn't
start to practice sending until I was at about 13wpm, and in retrospect
I wish I started earlier because it took me much longer to get to 20wpm
head copy than Steve says it takes with his students.

So, unless there's some real evidence otherwise, I say pick the sending
device that you want to end up using, start sending as soon as you
can, and use a computer algorithm to validate your sending.


Posts: 31

« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2007, 02:13:01 PM »

Let's see if I can relay my experiences, since I'm right in the middle of the learning process. I originally passed the 13 wpm test back in 1994 and then promptly let it go because my one and only qso w/a novice, on a Bencher at 5 wpm, scared me to the point of sweating.

Fast-forward to roughly two years ago--SKCC was just forming and I joined, thinking a straight key would be fun. I bought a J-38 off of e-bay and went at it--for some 9 qso's, and then dropped it again because I jumped on the air before completely re-learning all the characters on G4FON. I felt embarrassed at how bad my copy was, but my fist was not all THAT bad. I think the most likely reason for dropping out was a lack of commitment.

A month ago I took it up again, completely learned the characters, and am having a blast. I've had 47 qso's in exactly three weeks. The issue is that I can send (yes, clean) faster than I can copy. However, sending and copying is much more effective than just using some software. As many say, it is much more difficult to copy someone through the qrm/qrn/qsb ect. than on a computer speaker--and makes me nervous just about each and every time.

What I'm noticing now is that the straight key is becoming somewhat of a handicap for _me_ in terms of speed. I can't send reliably well enough to increase my speed as much as I'd like, and those I 'Q' with keep their speed down to what I'm sending--and I appreciate it. However, this becomes a bit of a trap because, although I learned on the computer @ 17 wpm spacing/20 wpm, I notice I'm beginning to copy dits & dahs at the slower straight key speeds instead of the speed I used on G4FON. Now I look for qso's to listen to a bit outside my comfort zone to push my copy speed. I'm now looking for a paddle. YMMV, but this is MY experience. Having said all this, I still love using a straight key and the challenge of sending clean CW.

Posts: 31

« Reply #21 on: November 24, 2007, 06:46:30 PM »

I found this on KK4DW's site and thought it might be appropriate for this discussion:

"The primary factor in improving your performance on the air with CW isn't the tool but rather the skill of the operator.  Nothing replaces practice, and the understanding that the objective isn't to see how fast one can send, but rather how his sending can be so perfect that it is quickly and easily read the first time through, without error or repeating,  by the intended receiver.  

The intent of any transmission over radio or wire is to be understood.  Radio inherently involves fading, noise, and interference from competing transmissions.  Adding your lack of skills to these impediments only complicates understandability and curing your lack of skill entails regular practice more than the purchase of a new and fancier toy.  Learn to use what you already own perfectly and you will have more enjoyment out of the hobby than owning  thousands of dollars worth of expensive toys you never learned to master.

One has to also understand that the vast majority of CW operators are not high speed.  Most are quite  content below 20 w.p.m.   Many are quite happy sending and receiving around 15 w.p.m., so when you go blasting off at them at an error filled, choppy, poorly spaced 30 w.p.m. plus, they seem to fade away quite rapidly, you may be limiting yourself to a very select few who can respond to your call.  There is, in fact, a growing resurgence in the use of the straight key.  I personally use one almost exclusively.  There is a recent new club called the "Straight Key Century Club" or "SKCC" that has close to 2000 members worldwide and is growing rapidly.

I urge every new CW operator to start out with a straight key.  Learn rhythm, timing, spacing and be the guy  whom the person on the other end always comes back to with "Solid Copy" after every transmission.  I also urge you to get out of this insane "contest mode" to see how many contacts you can make and to instead, concentrate upon seeing how much you can learn about the other chap in the distant city you went to so much trouble to contact once you get linked up with him or her.

The idea isn't to fill the log book, but to fill your list of pleasurable experiences on the air by getting to know other operators and make friends on the air.  I think you are going to have a lot more pleasure
out of this great hobby if you spend more time rag chewing at comfortable speeds with perfect code than trying to impress people with how fast you can blow them off by exceeding their ability to copy."

Posts: 550


« Reply #22 on: November 25, 2007, 10:39:10 AM »

My comment recommending starting out with a
straight key was based on my experience working
new hams in what until recently were the 80 and
40 meter Novice bands.

Beginners attempting to start out with paddles
frequently let extra 'dits' slip through. It's
pretty easy to do, when using a paddle to launch
and interrupt streams of 'dits' and 'dah's. S's
become H's, V's become 4's etc. Made copying
very challenging, and sending frustrating, I'm
sure. The new hams I worked who were using
straight keys seemed better able to concentrate
on the contact, learning the characters more
thoroughly, and become acquainted with CW
operating procedures, instead of the particular
finesse required to manipulate a paddle (which,
of course, they can always pursue separately at
a later time).


Posts: 214


« Reply #23 on: November 25, 2007, 05:54:49 PM »

Thanks Scott.   I've been guilty of that, except my problem is usually the opposite, I send h instead of 5, etc.  I guess my point is that you can argue both ways.  The flip side is that there are other problems that manifest when learning with a straight key that don't when using a paddle.  Like having to get the the dit and dah durations correct and consistent.  I've heard code that is quite hard to copy because of this, and it's far less obvious to the sender that he/she is screwing up the spacing than when a paddler messes up sending a 4.   Also, s, h, 5,  and v, 4 are hard to copy anyway so I often find myself having to consider all the possibilites on the fly, even when they are sent perfectly.

Also, doesn't the same problem happen when making the switch to a paddle?

Posts: 567


« Reply #24 on: November 27, 2007, 08:36:48 PM »

some beginner uses paddle or some of uses streight.after the test i took streight key without being on the air,this is how i do it .but it takes little time to get use the paddle !

5 word per min is pain in the butt way too slow,some guys ask you what speed some don't before the test !some tell you use streight key. but if you feel up to it either streight or paddle as long you feel when you sending the code,like me i need to get back into it when i have time redo my code i can do better on 7 than 5 word per depend on how you learn it or how good are you !

Ham Radio Since 2001
General Lic. Since March 17,2007

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