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Author Topic: Would you tell someone they have a bad fist?  (Read 50567 times)
VK3HJ
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Posts: 619




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« Reply #45 on: October 11, 2013, 08:03:51 PM »

An interesting question, and interesting discussion.
I passed the AOCP 10 wpm code tests in 1981, without too much difficulty (I was only 17 then), but after getting on air, decided CW was all too hard and just yapped at a microphone. It was a great sunspot cycle and the DX came freely. I just took it for granted, and didn't bother chasing.
After a long time away from the hobby, I found DXing was actually fun, as I had plenty of scope for a decent station on a rural property.
I soon realised I needed to get going again on CW to dig out the best DX, so started working to improve my skill to a useful level about 5 years ago. Now it's my main mode.
On "bad fists" it is important to distinguish poor sending from technical problems. I'm not old and grumpy enough (yet) to tell anyone their baby is ugly any more than to tell someone their sending is difficult to copy. If I REALLY want to make the contact, I'll spend time listening to pick up their sending characteristics, for several minutes sometimes. There are few truly awful fists active on air, but even the roughies can usually be decoded with patience and imagination! There is a VK who used a straight key (poorly) who is an active operator. We could recognise his sending even before he completed his call (on a number of DXpeditions). A couple of his fellow club members had a quiet word with him face to face at the club, and now he uses a paddle and sends just fine!
And there's a JA station who pops up from time to time - really rough inconsistent sending. I just put it down to a disability and now don't have to ask him ten times to repeat his call!
It's amusing when a station calls you, and you repeat his call back to him, and he returns a different call, and sometimes three times! This I put down to a nervous anxiety, and I just patiently persist till we come to an agreement. I remember for the first years of CW operating, my knees would shake, I would break out in a sweat and sometimes I had a mental block sending. Imagine not being able to send the first letter of your own name! The memory keyer buttons are great for the short perfect exchanges such as for DXpeditions.
There are so many tools available now to make it possible for almost anyone to operate CW. On DXpedition, I use some macro keyboard sending, but usually sign off with the paddle, which also gives me the possibility to greet the caller personally, if I recognise the call.
Having gained some ability and confidence with CW at last, I now can manage the more difficult fists, but I really don't go looking for them much!
And I never spot every QSO I have, congratulating them on being able to decode my sending, like a certain French bug-er!
Bottom line is, if you can't copy an operator's sending, move on and find one you can!
Have fun and keep this heritage mode alive and kicking.
Vy 73,
Luke VK3HJ
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N6GND
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Posts: 379




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« Reply #46 on: October 11, 2013, 09:10:07 PM »

"Bottom line is, if you can't copy an operator's sending, move on and find one you can!"

That's what I do. Sometimes I will hear someone calling CQ and I think to myself "I'd like to make a QSO but I don't think I want to work so hard trying to decipher that fist!"

Most ops are surprisingly good given that most of us are self-taught. And there are those ops with just wonderful fists that both have an individual personality and are perfectly clear.

I have never forgotten being complimented on my fist by a Russian op when I was a new General Class over 50 years ago. I think positive reinforcement is the way to go, such as "it really seems like you could have a beautiful fist in a year or two!"

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K9AIM
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« Reply #47 on: October 11, 2013, 09:46:13 PM »

Despite repeated attempts I could never learn to copy behind.  My wife also taught Stenography and informed me that the best stenographers always copy behind. 

sorry if this is a dumb question, but what do you mean by 'copy behind'  Huh
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N0IU
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« Reply #48 on: October 12, 2013, 04:42:03 AM »

Copying behind...

When you first learn CW, the natural tendency is to copy in "real time" where you write down each letter as you hear it. For instance, when you hear a DAH, you would write down a "T". Then when you hear DIT DIT DIT DIT you would write down an "H". Then when you hear a single DIT, you would write down an "E". But as you get better, you would hear "DAH    DIT DIT DIT DIT    DIT" and instead of writing down each letter as you hear it, you would write down the word "THE" after you have heard all the characters. So you see, it is called "copying behind" because as the code is still being sent, you are writing down something you have heard (past tense) instead of writing down something as you hear it (present tense).

Clear as mud, eh?

As the speed increases, it gets harder to write down each letter as it is being sent so the more efficient thing to do is to just let the sound flow and write down whole words after they have been sent. This is also the beginning stage of "head copy" where you don't write anything at all down on paper.

It just takes practice!
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K9AIM
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« Reply #49 on: October 12, 2013, 02:26:20 PM »

Copying behind...

When you first learn CW, the natural tendency is to copy in "real time" where you write down each letter as you hear it. For instance, when you hear a DAH, you would write down a "T". Then when you hear DIT DIT DIT DIT you would write down an "H". Then when you hear a single DIT, you would write down an "E". But as you get better, you would hear "DAH    DIT DIT DIT DIT    DIT" and instead of writing down each letter as you hear it, you would write down the word "THE" after you have heard all the characters. So you see, it is called "copying behind" because as the code is still being sent, you are writing down something you have heard (past tense) instead of writing down something as you hear it (present tense).

Clear as mud, eh?

As the speed increases, it gets harder to write down each letter as it is being sent so the more efficient thing to do is to just let the sound flow and write down whole words after they have been sent. This is also the beginning stage of "head copy" where you don't write anything at all down on paper.

It just takes practice!

thanks for the good explanation.  I pretty much went from copying behind to head copy.  once i began to copy from behind, writing down what was already head copied seemed superfluous. 

nerves and exam anxiety made me copy real time at the FCC office as a 15 year old in 1977 as I did not want to have make the trip again 30 days later and knew the copy had to be perfect.  copying behind seems to require a certain amount of relaxation.  come to think of it, when one is somewhat loose both the body and mind seem to work better...
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WA8IUR
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« Reply #50 on: October 28, 2013, 01:20:07 PM »

As usual, a lot of good thoughts. Getting through a QSO with a bad fist is good practice for other QSO'S . Bad spelling and foreign stations who may use the wrong word or send them out of order can be a challenge too. Sticking with it for one can aid in accomplishing the other. 
  Fun have es vay with it.
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IZ2UUF
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« Reply #51 on: November 01, 2013, 10:37:36 AM »

I use QSD to indicate a faulty transmission such a slow switching where the beginning of the transmission is lost. I have heard people calling FQ FQ.

I also have a problem with bad fists: I heard some operators that put no dash space between letters. They seem to concatenate letters using the same space they use to separate dashes and dots.
Even if their speed is well below my maximum copying speed, I can't understand anything of what they transmit. This is frustrating when they are answering my own CQ. I heard other operators facing the same conditions, and the QSO was a sequence of "Huh AGN AGN".
The problem is that the "packed-letters" operators do repeat, but again without any space. They don't seem aware of the reason why they aren't being copied.
Do you think that sending QSD in this case could give them an hint? Or what should I send instead to ask them to increase space between letters? I don't need QRS, I just need at least the standard "dash" space between letters to understand where each one begins and ends.

Davide
« Last Edit: November 01, 2013, 10:48:52 AM by IZ2UUF » Logged

Davide IZ2UUF - FISTS #16285 - SKCC #9531 - JN45nk
K7KBN
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« Reply #52 on: November 01, 2013, 02:42:06 PM »

I would use QSD.  if the other station doesn't know what it means, he needs to expand his knowledge a bit.  The ARRL Log Book has a list of commonly-used Q-signals on either the front or back inside cover - depending on the age of the logbook.  But since most new hams don't use a paper log, maybe he'll just have to Google it.  It works.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
IZ2UUF
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« Reply #53 on: November 01, 2013, 03:58:50 PM »

I would use QSD.  if the other station doesn't know what it means, he needs to expand his knowledge a bit.  The ARRL Log Book has a list of commonly-used Q-signals on either the front or back inside cover - depending on the age of the logbook.  But since most new hams don't use a paper log, maybe he'll just have to Google it.  It works.

Thanks. Next time I'll try with QSD, though I'm not very confident it will work! Smiley

Davide
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Davide IZ2UUF - FISTS #16285 - SKCC #9531 - JN45nk
N4KZ
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Posts: 599




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« Reply #54 on: November 06, 2013, 12:42:23 PM »

Fascinating topic. It's one all of us who operate CW have or will run into and how we handle it calls for delicacy. I admit to having told white lies to operators to end the QSO early when I found their fist too difficult to copy. Years ago, I called CQ on 30 meters and was answered by an Old Timer who added extra dits -- lots of extra dits -- to every letter or number ending with a dit. It was tough to copy his CW which didn't really even sound like CW the way he sent it. I held in there for 15 minutes and then told him I had to QRT for bedtime.

I know many operators take great pride in the skill shown by their sending. And if they send good CW, I don't blame them. But if their CW is sloppy with poor spacing, letters run together and so on, I only hope they eventually take pity on the poor victims who have to copy their poorly sent Morse Code. For those few, I enthusiastically recommend sending with a CW keyboard. I have used a keyboard keyer for more than 30 years and it produces the sweetest CW music around. My fist is actually pretty good with a straight key or an electronic keyer but my arm begins to tire after 20 minutes or so and mistakes creep into my sending. I'm too much of a perfectionist to tolerate even a few mistakes in my sending. Plus, I was already a good touch typist when I bought my first CW keyboard in the early 1980s.

I've never looked back and never felt embarrassed or considered that I was "cheating" because I send with a keyboard. The way I look at it -- I'm doing the other guy I'm working a huge favor by sending him nearly perfect CW which is easy to copy.

Can everyone else say that?

73, N4KZ
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K1DA
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« Reply #55 on: November 07, 2013, 06:59:46 AM »

   There are those who can't send very fast or well with a staight key and try to compensate with a bug....the net result is a "D" is a long dash with a bunch of dots, a "B" is a few more dots, and a 6 is a lot more dots.  At lease with a keyer, the dot to dash ratio is fixed. 
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N4DSP
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« Reply #56 on: November 09, 2013, 08:01:05 AM »

Be honest. This way they can improve.
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K7RNO
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« Reply #57 on: November 09, 2013, 11:08:22 AM »

Be honest. This way they can improve.

That's what I feel too. It is what I appreciate for myself also.

I think QSD alone doesn't cut it. The other party will be most helped with specifics. That way, they learn what the problem is and where they may want to improve.
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73,
aRNO
NAQCC #6870, SKCC #11131
IZ2UUF
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« Reply #58 on: November 09, 2013, 03:30:40 PM »

I think QSD alone doesn't cut it. The other party will be most helped with specifics. That way, they learn what the problem is and where they may want to improve.

I think you are right. Probably I should attempt with "PSE SPACE LETTERS". Also, I should win my natural repulsion to admit to myself that I'm not good enough to understand their embroiled emissions and ask them to repeat more clearly. I know that many people, more experienced than me at CW, would have understood easily and this is not good news for my ego!  Smiley

Davide
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Davide IZ2UUF - FISTS #16285 - SKCC #9531 - JN45nk
WY4J
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« Reply #59 on: November 10, 2013, 05:35:37 PM »

Sometimes I will spend a few minutes trying to decipher the call. I been caught off-guard and will then make a notation on the log such as horrible fist or run all letters together so when they call me again so I know what I'm store for. Another observation, most of these operators are real nice guys and rag chewers that I would love to spend an hour chatting with if they were just a bit easier to understand.

There seem to be more and more operators who do not allow any space between letters or words such as:

cqcqcqdew4zyxw4xzyw4xzyrrrtnxferthecallbturrstis599599btnameisjoejoebtqthnewtownflnewtownflhwcpydew 2absw2xzykn

Although the most humane approach would be to let them know so they don't spend days, weeks or years calling cq without ever receiving a response. I just feel bad telling someone that they have a horrible fist. So I either not respond and leave the frequency or if they are the ones calling me I will not respond. The bad thing is when you are the one calling and they follow you all over the band. Then, turn off the radio and go watch a little TV.
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