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Author Topic: Zen and the Art of Radiotelegraphy  (Read 7696 times)
AK4JC
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« on: March 18, 2013, 01:12:49 AM »

I came across Zen and the Art of Radiotelegraphy  (ZART) on the internet while looking for good alternatives to the Koch method for learning CW.  I wanted to try this course, but immediately had some problems with the G4FON software that is required and I'm not certain what the author intended.

1.  Has anyone tried ZART and is willing to answer some questions as to how the exercises are conducted?

2.  Are there any opinions as to how effective ZART is in teaching code?

3.  Are there other recommendations for structured approaches to code learning that facilitate head copying while teaching the full set of characters fairly rapidly so that beginners can get on the air experience (even if slow) in a reasonable timeframe?  My experience with the Koch method shows that I have no natural talent for code.  My concern is that it could literally take me years to work through the entire character set at speeds around 15/10 using Koch, and when I'm done with that, you have to bring the 10 wpm up to 15 wpm and you still have to convert from keyboard/pencil to head-copy.

Any assistance would be appreciated.
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K8AXW
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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2013, 09:24:01 AM »

I can sincerely understand the difficulties you're having OM.  With that in mind, I'd like to suggest a few things.

First of all, after watching several hundred men learn the code, there was only a few.....less than ten out of these several hundred, that simply couldn't learn the code.  I'm not going to pretend that I know why they couldn't.....that would be impossible.

The point being that most people can learn the code if the correct attitude and patience is used.

Quite often, such "try this-try that" methods of easier code learning are detrimental to learning code.  For some they work, but in some cases the reverse happens.

Have you simply set down and tried to learn 3 letters and 3 letters only..... until you can recognize them by listening to them being played by a recorder?  This doesn't mean recognize them as you send them.

If you can do this, then add another single character.  And so on.  This is the normal way of learning the code.  Get a CW oscillator and hand key and learn to send the characters to yourself.  This aids in learning the character and what it is supposed to sound like when you hear it on the air.  Compare your sending to what is on your code tape or computer program that you're learning from.  You should emulate what you hear.

The next part of this is patience.  If you expect to or want to learn the code within a specific period of time, you're in trouble already!  Don't do this.  You're not learning the code for a job or as the military requires it, you're learning it as a hobby.  This is to expand your hobby enjoyment and you won't lose your ticket if you fail to learn it.  Take your time. Try to enjoy it!

The final  suggestion is to set aside 30 minutes each day, every day, to practice.  Avoid all distractions. This is YOUR time.  After 30 minutes you might start to lose focus, getting sloppy and actually lose ground.

Questions?  Please ask.
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N6GND
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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2013, 11:33:04 AM »

I agree with AXW. Don't get too wound up about it. You probably already know more than 25% of the alphabet: S, O, I, E, T, C, Q. That's seven letters you already know. Listen to W1AW. Once you identify W1AW you will have added two letters and a number. It goes like that, easy.
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IK0YGJ
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2013, 02:23:25 PM »

Hi Rich,
please take in account that the G4FON software is not mandatory, any software allowing you to change word speed, character speed, and to select subsets of characters to train with will do the trick.
Also Koch methods will do the job, the idea is to add characters in small sets until all elements are learnt. It is important, however that you take your time and do not think about learning at a fast pace. Just keep relaxed and have fun, characters will be starting popping in your mind by themselves.
Listen as much as CW you can, better if while doing other, just keep it going!
73 Carlo IK0YGJ

*******
Download Zen and the Art Of Radiotelegraphy free in PDF format here:

http://www.qsl.net/ik0ygj/enu/index.html

Now in 4 languages: Italian, English, German, French 
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N4OI
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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2013, 03:09:38 PM »

Best advice is to stay with it.  I recall distinctly after I struggled to learn the minimal 5 WPM needed to get my ticket 10 years ago that  I was ready to give in when it seemed I would never get it.  My XYL encouraged me to stick with it and I did.  At about 10 WPM, bonafide QSOs are possible -- critical mass!  I also downloaded scores of the W1AW practice files to my .MP3 player and listened all the time, going from fast to slow.   

The payoff is that I am a CW-only op now and very comfortable with rag chewing at 30 WPM or even more.  Think about how nice it would be if you heard someone just speaking the letters -- and amazingly it gets better -- like you hear words, not just letters.  I am convinced that, without CW, I would have abandoned this great hobby long ago...   

So -- keep going!  It is worth the effort.

73 ES GOD BLESS U ES URS DE KEN N4OI  Grin
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K8AXW
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« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2013, 04:54:18 PM »

4JC:  I forgot to comment on one thing.  Forget this "head copy BS!"  Head copy is an advance art form.  Trying to integrate it while learning code is simply going to complicate things.

Of course there are exceptions and no doubt they will jump in here and tell you.  Accept this as "normal" at our own risk.
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AK4JC
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« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2013, 10:35:40 PM »

To everyone who commented, I really appreciate the support and advice.  I have no intention of quitting and, in fact, have an Elecraft K1, used now for receive only, to provide further motivation.  I am, however, trying to optimize my pace and, after reading many comments on this forum and on the LCWO forum, my use of a keyboard (only) to copy code concerns me.  I will certainly have to transition to hand copy at some point, since I am most attracted to CW because of its simple requirements and having to have a computer ruins all that.  I wasn't seriously expecting to pick up head copy anytime soon (perhaps in the next decade or so...), but I would like to knock a few years off the learning curve, if some variations on my current method (basically straight LCWO Koch) would help. 

The devil, as usual, is in the details, and many people have lots of advice on learning code.  The one universal is to keep the character speed high so that you don't learn characters by their dot/dash components (and I have not.  I can copy 14 characters right now and only know most of them by sound.).  Otherwise, there are many variations such as Farnsworth, no Farnsworth, using very slow word speeds, copying real words instead of random sequences, etc.  I was attracted to Carlo's book, ZART, because, in reading the introductory chapters, he adds some techniques that I am interested in, he encourages copying by hand, and he introduces new characters in groups of five.  I have no idea how this will work out in practice for me, but I have the common problem where introducing a new character in the Koch method causes serious interference with the other learned characters for some time.  I am very interested in seeing if introducing groups of characters makes this problem better or worse.

Thanks again for the encouragement!

Rick
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AK4JC
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2013, 11:28:51 PM »

Hi Carlo,
I'm very happy to see that you are monitoring this forum.  I enjoyed the early chapters of your book and they are very compatible with my interest in Buddhist techniques.  As I write in my other post, I don't know if your method will help my learning curve or not, but I am quite happy to find out.  At the rate I am learning code, trying your method is a welcome break and I can always resume standard Koch if it doesn't work out.

The reason I wrote, however, is some confusion I had when I tried your first lesson.  Your book does not mention that the G4FON software has two modes, set by a checkbox in one of the setup screens, that select whether the Effective Code Speed applies to words or characters.  To further confuse matters, so far as I can tell, the Effective Code Speed always applies to characters when the G4FON software generates the text, but the setup screen checkbox applies to text files.  When I downloaded G4FON, I set it up as you describe.  The five characters were generated at a clear slow pace by the program, and it was clear that individual characters had extended spaces between them.  When I tried your first text file, however, the program came with word mode set as a default, and the characters in a group were sent with standard, not extended spacing, but the space between words was slightly extended.  The difference between the computer generated characters with extended spacing and the text file characters with standard cw spacing was very jarring.  It was unclear from your book if you intended this effect and I wasn't sure if the text file was supposed to have extended spacing between the characters in a word or not. 

To summarize my question, should each character in a word from your text files be followed by an extended space or should characters within a word have normal cw spacing with extended spaces only between words?  I am doubtful that you intended the second option (extended word spacing only) since it is very intimidating for a beginner and, so far as I can determine, neither LCWO nor the Just Learn Morse Code software support word-only extended spacing.

Looking forward to your comments,

73 Rick
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M0LEP
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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2013, 05:14:57 AM »

There are probably as many different bits of advice as there are folk who've tried to learn...

  • Lots of the advice will be contradictory. Don't believe it all applies to you.
  • Use what works for you. Koch didn't work for me. I wasted over a year on Koch.
  • I can still split a sound into dots and dashes if it comes in at 30wpm, if there's enough time after it.
  • It's NOT another language. It's learning to read and write.
  • That's read AND WRITE. They go together. Do both.
  • Soon as you can, stuff the random characters in the bin and learn using the words, codes, callsigns and so on you'll hear on the air.

73, Rick
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W5LZ
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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2013, 06:35:18 AM »

It takes time, lots of it.
It takes practice listening to code, lots of it.
There are 'methods' that can make it easier for some people, but it always takes time/listening/work, no way around that.
Those are about the only 'universal' things about learning Morse code.  Everyone is not equal in ability, which means it takes some people longer than others.  That's absolutely normal in learning anything 'new'.  And as you progress you will find that there are some aspects, techniques, that will 'help' you and make no sense to anyone else!  But you have to 'find' those techniques for your self, no one can tell you what they are.  (A 'short cut' only works after you learn the 'long' way.)
So, reconcile yourself to a lot of 'work'.  Later, after you do learn it, you'll wonder what all the 'fuss' was about, "Anyone can do that!", you know?
War Story time!
I've seen people who were totally deaf learn code by 'touch', fingers on a speaker.  I've seen people learn it by 'sight', flashing light.  And I've seen people who couldn't learn it no matter what they did (but that was very, very few of them).
I haven't used code in quite a while.  I can still 'copy' it if it's slow enough, or if I concentrate enough, but nothing like when I was doing it all the time.  So what else is new?  You know?
Keep at it, you WILL get there.
 - Paul
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W3TTT
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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2013, 10:16:52 AM »

Suggestion: as soon as you have all the letters numbers and a few punctuation marks, try listing to Maryland Slow Net and the Appalachian Trail Amateur Radio Net on 7070 kHz at 7:00 PM.
https://sites.google.com/site/atamateurradionet/ and others.   
73, W3TTT
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IK0YGJ
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Posts: 43


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« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2013, 03:33:45 PM »

It takes time, lots of it.
It takes practice listening to code, lots of it.
There are 'methods' that can make it easier for some people, but it always takes time/listening/work, no way around that.
Those are about the only 'universal' things about learning Morse code.  Everyone is not equal in ability, which means it takes some people longer than others. 


Fully agree with Paul, just take your time, listen and above all ... have fun! No hurry, just plain, simple, fun.
73 de IK0YGJ

*******
Download Zen and the Art Of Radiotelegraphy free in PDF format here:

http://www.qsl.net/ik0ygj/enu/index.html

Now in 4 languages: Italian, English, German, French
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KE7WAV
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Posts: 126




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« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2013, 08:04:41 PM »

I learned as a young boy and then promptly forgot the code. Years later coming back to the radio I learned again by using the same method I did the first time--an ARRL or Gordon West CD and to learn my letters. Then I hopped on the air and started chatting with a local ham having a weekly rag chew for about an hour every week. The code came pretty easy because we were just chewing the rag.
The first time around when I was a kid we used code oscillators across the room adjusting the volume to simulate qsb until we could copy our 5 wpm to pass the novice test. A good friend goes a long way. Then be willing to help someone else along and be an elmer for the next guy who gets bitten by the code bug:-)
KE7WAV. 
By the way-- I am happy to chat nice and slow if you check up between 7.100 to 7.120  you may hear me.  That is my usual haunt-- I may be going a bit faster than you want to chat but call me at a speed you can copy and I can call you back at that same speed. Hope to see you in the log soon.
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AK4JC
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« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2013, 09:52:53 PM »

By the way-- I am happy to chat nice and slow if you check up between 7.100 to 7.120  you may hear me.  That is my usual haunt-- I may be going a bit faster than you want to chat but call me at a speed you can copy and I can call you back at that same speed. Hope to see you in the log soon.

Thanks, I don't have enough characters yet to chat at any speed, but I'll be looking for you when I do.

73 Rick AK4JC
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KB4QAA
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« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2013, 11:57:28 AM »

-There is no single 'Right Way" to learn code

-There is no "Wrong Way" to learn code

-Each of us has different talents, abilities and preferred styles of learning

-Head Copy is a noble achievement, but not everybody can do it.  Few start out being able to do this. 

-I have tried the G4FON software and it is nice, but I never wanted to be a 'mill' operator.  I copy by pen.  Not for me.

-Practice a little every day. 10, 15, 20 minutes.  The instant you get tired, or your concentration breaks, STOP!  You are done.  Continuing beyond that point only makes negative reinforcement.

-Vary your speeds a little, and vary your method.  Send newspaper or magazine copy.  Tap out code with your pencil on the table.  Sing out the road signs as you drive to work.

-When can you get on the air?  As soon as you know all the letters, numbers and signs.  Five or seven wpm is all that you need.  Speed and skill come from practice in talking to live, interesting hams.  Don't be embarrassed.  You learned to walk, and ride a bike the same way, and never looked back!

bill
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