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: Relearning CW  (Read 7300 times)
WB4CMB
Member

Posts: 39




Ignore
« on: June 12, 2013, 12:29:00 PM »

I am an old ham, first lic in 1966, kept it current but inactive for many years.  Upgraded my lic several months ago.  As well as getting back on the air with phone, I am very interested in "relearning" CW.  I'm awfully rusty.  Would like to go QRP, so CW would be very helpful
Anyway, when I first learned code, I had a rather unusual method/record (showing my age).  This method started out at 13 WPM and increased in word complexity.
Anybody possibly have this record or tape or whatever with this method?
Thanks     Ray
Logged
K8AXW
Member

Posts: 3956




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2013, 06:22:02 PM »

Ray:  Welcome back!  I just traded cars.  My old one was 20 years old.  I am astounded at the progress and innovation that has been made in automobiles the past 20 years!

I respectfully suggest that you "update" your CW learning method.   Grin
Logged
KB1WSY
Member

Posts: 812




Ignore
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2013, 05:38:29 AM »

Anyway, when I first learned code, I had a rather unusual method/record (showing my age).  This method started out at 13 WPM and increased in word complexity.

Hi Ray,

I first learned in the late '60s using long-playing records that started out at 13WPM and proceeded as you describe. Although produced independently of Heathkit, those LPs (which came with white carboard covers with stark black type in the middle of the cover) were sold as part of a "become a ham" package sold by Heathkit, which included their code oscillator kit as well as three ARRL books: "How to Become a Radio Amateur," "Radio Amateur License Manual" and "Learning the Radiotelegraph Code." Those LPs were in a closet at my parents' house until quite recently when my elderly parents, understandably, threw them away in a house-cleaning. I tried to find them again online, with no luck. What I did find was a similar-sounding course from the 1950s (the Ameco method) which is still available from Mile-High Technologies, but when I bought it I discovered it wasn't what I was looking for.

Anyway I did a lot of research and concluded that almost all of the Morse teaching methods of the 1950s and '60s, at least outside Germany, used the wrong approach. Although it was quite possible to learn the code with those "old" methods, and even to jump right in at 13WPM as in the method that you and I remember, there is a much more effective way called the "Koch method," named after Dr. Ludwig Koch, a German psychologist who invented it in 1936. Although it dates back to the 1930s, its German origins and its association with the training of wartime telegraphists in Germany apparently kept it "out of sight" for many decades.

There are various products available for the Koch method. Personally, I can recommend two:
--A book, "Morse Code: Breaking the Barrier" by Dave Finley, N1IRZ, published by MFJ Publishing and available on the MFJ website. This isn't a teaching book, but rather, a very interesting history of the code and the various approaches to learning it, coupled with vigorous advocacy of the Koch method.
--A free piece of software available at this website: http://www.g4fon.net/. It's not the only software available for the Koch method, but it does the trick for me.

With that modest investment I found that I could jump right in at around 17-20WPM. Unlike other methods, you learn the alphabet one letter at a time and don't move on to a new letter until you can reliably copy the learned letter at around 20WPM (or whatever speed you set; you can make it slower if you want). This is very different from the traditional method and rather "abstract" but much more effective.

The catch is that you really have to complete the entire course (all 40 characters or so) before getting a working knowledge of Morse. With the older methods, you could at least be copying (but very slowly) within a few hours. With Koch, it's all or nothing. So for instance, so far, I have learned 18 characters and am only barely able to copy a few words from the average on-air QSO. There are still too many gaps in my alphabet. After a one-year gap due to work commitments, I'm finally getting back to it and hope to assimilate the remaining 22 characters in the next few months!

You can also combine the Koch system with what's called "Farnsworth spacing." This is when, for training purposes, the characters are transmitted at a certain speed (for instance 20WPM) but the spaces between the characters and words are sent slower (for instance 17WPM). You can do that with the G4FON software I mentioned above, and with many other Morse trainers. It is probably not a good idea to use Farnsworth spacing all the time, because you could develop bad habits.

I'm not saying anything new and you will find many earlier threads where similar advice has been given. I encourage you to give the Koch method a try. One drawback is that it really only works if you don't mind using a computer. One reason it didn't travel from Germany for a long time is that it requires the ability to generate large quantities of truly random training drills and that is not something you could do on a long-playing record or a cassette tape. (I'm not sure how Dr. Koch did it in the 1930s, but never mind!) When I'm traveling and away from the computer, I train using a small MP3 player that I bought for less than $10 and have loaded with random drills generated by G4FON -- the software has the ability to pre-record such drills.

BTW there is nothing "magic" about the Koch method or any other method. Unless you are one of the few people who have an innate gift for Morse, it will be a lot of hard work, and harder than it was when you were younger (I know that from personal experience).

Have fun!

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: June 13, 2013, 05:45:01 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
NK7Z
Member

Posts: 864


WWW

Ignore
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2013, 09:40:28 AM »

I am an old ham, first lic in 1966, kept it current but inactive for many years.  Upgraded my lic several months ago.  As well as getting back on the air with phone, I am very interested in "relearning" CW.  I'm awfully rusty.  Would like to go QRP, so CW would be very helpful
Anyway, when I first learned code, I had a rather unusual method/record (showing my age).  This method started out at 13 WPM and increased in word complexity.
Anybody possibly have this record or tape or whatever with this method?
Thanks     Ray
An Ameco record?  Smiley  I used the same set to learn code!  See http://www.n4mw.com/CPRecords/cpr33rpm.htm for a blast from the past!  Welcome back sir!
Logged

Thanks,
Dave
For reviews and setups see: http://www.nk7z.net
KB1WSY
Member

Posts: 812




Ignore
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2013, 11:55:16 AM »

An Ameco record?  Smiley  I used the same set to learn code!  See http://www.n4mw.com/CPRecords/cpr33rpm.htm for a blast from the past!  Welcome back sir!

That's an interesting link you provided. It allowed me to identify the Morse method my parents bought for me at the Heathkit store in the late 1960s. It was: "Revolutionary New Word Method to Learn RADIO CODE" by Russ Farnsworth (he of the Farnsworth spacing). If you click further to look at the documentation, it says: "The speed chosen for this course is 13 words per minute." It also says, "Instead of increasing the transmitting rate, the complexity of the material is increased."

So: that is the answer to WB4CMB's question, he was using the aforementioned "Revolutionary Method." From what I remember, it was quite good -- better than the Ameco method that I bought recently. A quick search found that the original LPs are still available on eBay from time to time. If you are shopping for it, make sure it's a complete set: there should be 3 LPs.

However I still strongly recommend going with the current thinking and using the Koch method instead. 

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
Logged
M0LEP
Member

Posts: 212




Ignore
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2013, 03:16:48 PM »

However I still strongly recommend going with the current thinking and using the Koch method instead.

If you could find suitable text you could use quite a few of the "Koch" computer programs to send you Morse of "increasing complexity" at whatever speed you saw fit.

You could argue that the Koch method also "increases the complexity" as you progress, but it uses random characters rather than anything comprehensible. Personally, I'd swap the random gibberish for something comprehensible, as it's much easier to learn to read when what you're reading makes some sort of sense.

73, Rick M0LEP
Logged
KB1WSY
Member

Posts: 812




Ignore
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2013, 04:28:31 AM »

You could argue that the Koch method also "increases the complexity" as you progress, but it uses random characters rather than anything comprehensible. Personally, I'd swap the random gibberish for something comprehensible, as it's much easier to learn to read when what you're reading makes some sort of sense.

You have a point. I have done it both ways, once as a 12-year-old with the aforementioned Farnsworth LPs ("Revolutionary New Word Method") and "recognizable" text drills, starting (IIRC) with words like "cat" and "hat" then progressing to harder stuff. I did learn the code relatively fast. Trouble is, I was stuck at 13 WPM and even at that speed it was quite a mental effort -- the "lookup table in my head" was definitely there. BTW I checked again on eBay yesterday and there were four simultaneous auctions for sets of Farnsworth LPs, at a reasonable price, so WB4CMB can definitely find those old records if needed. (Indeed I am considering buying a set myself, mainly for nostalgia's sake!!!)

My recent experience with re-learning the code 45 years later, using the Koch method, is that the copying comes much more "automatically" as a kind of reflex action of the fingers on paper. OTOH, I'm only halfway through the character set which means that when I copy real QSOs on the air they are fragmentary at best. The Koch course is useless unless you get all the way through to the end, unlike more traditional methods where you obtain a usable knowledge much earlier. However, I am *starting* at 20WPM which really is quite a jump from 13. One quite bizarre side effect is that when I do *sending* drills I find them harder than expected -- basically because Koch makes the copying so "automatic" and (at least in my case) that means the characters don't necessarily emerge from memory when sending, which is a very different skill. I posted about this on this forum last year and several OTs were incredulous, but I can assure them (again) that this seems to be a side effect of the Koch method, at least for me. This makes it important to do sending drills right from the start; with other methods this may be less important I think.

I guess everyone will have a different preference of learning method. About the only general comment I see people making on this forum over and over again is that you have to perservere, and in particular you should try to do a training session every day (or close to every day), even if you are tired/busy and the result of the session is frustrating. I was doing nicely a year ago when I started on Koch, then I got really busy in my job and dropped it for nearly a year. Took it up again about a month ago and found I had lost about half of the proficiency I attained last year.

Anyway that's just my 2 cents and I can't pretend to have the knowledge of all the highly experienced CW operators on this forum.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
Logged
M0LEP
Member

Posts: 212




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2013, 06:15:16 AM »

The Koch course is useless unless you get all the way through to the end, unlike more traditional methods where you obtain a usable knowledge much earlier.

I found the whole learn-a-character, add-a-character Koch process thoroughly ineffective.

I guess everyone will have a different preference of learning method. About the only general comment I see people making on this forum over and over again is that you have to perservere,

Yep, folks start from different places, and learn in different ways. Perseverence is necessary, but so is evaluating your progress. The really tricky thing is recognising when something you're trying isn't working. I should have dumped Koch after a couple of months rather than staggering on with it for two years...

and in particular you should try to do a training session every day (or close to every day)

If you're using a set of records I'd expect you'd get to the point where you knew the text on them from memory quite quickly? Maybe that actually helps the learning process?

73, Rick M0LEP
Logged
K7PEH
Member

Posts: 1124




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2013, 08:03:22 AM »

I am an old ham, first lic in 1966, kept it current but inactive for many years.  Upgraded my lic several months ago.  As well as getting back on the air with phone, I am very interested in "relearning" CW.  I'm awfully rusty.  Would like to go QRP, so CW would be very helpful

Thanks     Ray

Ray, you are in the same boat that I was in back about 6 years ago.  I surprised myself.  My story...

I was a Novice in 1966/1967 but college years kept me from spending time to upgrade.  At the time of my Novice years, I was copying around 20 wpm.  Then, nothing for 40 years.  In 2004 I got licensed again and back on the air with SSB but in 2007 the CW bug started tickling my fancy.  I had not tried to copy CW for 40 years at that time and I envisioned a long period of re-learning.  But, I started merely by listening to stations copying whatever I could remember.  Before I did that if you had asked me what a G or the letter F was in CW I could not answer you.  But, listening to CW seemed to awaken a memory.

It was the middle of January 2007 when I started listening again.  Somewhere around the first week of February (about two weeks later) I tried my first CW contact.  Yes, I called CQ and even got someone to answer.  But, I flubbed it totally by nervousness and lack of training with my key.  I had spent no time relearning how to send on my simple little J-38 key.  So, I had to practice that too.

Another week goes by and I try again and actually complete an entire QSO exchanging Rig and WX information too.  I am guessing speeds were about 10 to 13 wpm.  There were a few letters I had trouble with at first but I kept a cheat sheet next to me to help out.

By the end of the year 2007 I was 90 percent CW, operating at about 20 wpm (same as my Novice peak), and using a paddle and electronic keyer.  I prefer the paddle and keyer since a straight key kept giving me cramps in my wrist at the start so I started practicing with a keyer.  I had a Vibroplex Original back in my Novice days but sold it decades ago.  I bought another at a swap meet and I had it fully restored by the Vibroplex guy.  But, I still prefer the keyer and paddle (I use a Begalic classic).

Now, in 2013 I am still about 90 percent CW and prefer it over voice.  I have not called CQ in SSB for about 3 or 4 years!  But, I call CQ in CW every day.

73, phil, K7PEH
Logged
N9AOP
Member

Posts: 151




Ignore
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2013, 07:49:59 PM »

Ray,
I was told to get on the air every day and make at least one contact.  I found that after a while my speed and understanding went up.  This method has two advantages--first it increases your speed.  Second in perfects your sending at higher speeds.  It makes no sense to be able to copy 30 WPM and then send so poorly that the guy on the other end cannot understand you.  Hope to catch you on the air one day.
Art
Logged
KE4JOY
Member

Posts: 1381




Ignore
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2013, 12:53:41 PM »

It is interisting that I learned CW at a young age probably about 14 years old and it has stuck with me ever since. Even after years of layoff.

Albeit at that young age I could copy, browse a magazine, and talk on the phone with girls all at the same time.

Today its all I can do to ... uhh... copy  Grin

There is a cool little free ware program out there called "Morse Runner" http://www.dxatlas.com/MorseRunner/ while it is really aimed at contest practice it can be valuable at general cw practice as it can throw out some really odd combinations of 'calls'. Fully programmable with speeds, QRM/QRN "lids" and other quirks and does a fine job at emulating a 'real' enviroment.

Also W1AW still does their practice bulletins here is their sched http://www.arrl.org/w1aw-operating-schedule

I find that a good practice tool and lets you check on your radio ant and propigation as well.
Logged
KQ6Q
Member

Posts: 991




Ignore
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2013, 10:35:49 PM »

Make it a habit to tune into the W1AW CW Bulletins and code practice broadcasts, and just listen, while reading a book or magazine. You'll start to hear words instead of letters after a while, and you'll gradually be comfy at ever higher speeds. All you need is the ability to listen on the w1aw HF frequencies at the scheduled times.

Logged
M0LEP
Member

Posts: 212




Ignore
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2013, 01:00:08 AM »

All you need is the ability to listen on the w1aw HF frequencies at the scheduled times.

...and, unless you're within the ground wave footprint, for the propagation to be playing nicely. Wink
Logged
N3DF
Member

Posts: 252




Ignore
« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2013, 09:15:56 AM »

All you need is the ability to listen on the w1aw HF frequencies at the scheduled times.

...and, unless you're within the ground wave footprint, for the propagation to be playing nicely. Wink

In nearly 50 years as a ham I have lived in half a dozen widely-scattered locations around the country (although not on the west coast).  Throughout the solar cycles, I have never had a serious problem copying W1AW transmissions at least on some bands and with modest antennas. 
Logged

Neil N3DF
M0LEP
Member

Posts: 212




Ignore
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2013, 04:31:12 PM »

Throughout the solar cycles, I have never had a serious problem copying W1AW transmissions at least on some bands and with modest antennas.

I've managed to catch W1AW occasionally. There are timezone issues and the schedule to be juggled (so at best maybe 3 slow-code slots a week I might be able to listen for), and the relevant frequency to be found. Nine times out of ten when I've gone listening for a slow code practice session it seems they've chosen a frequency that's not getting across the ocean (which is fine - it's a service for US hams, after all).
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!