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Author Topic: My Morse Learning Campaign  (Read 61659 times)
KK4MRN
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« Reply #165 on: February 06, 2014, 10:31:50 AM »

Hey Martin,
I have since learned that I will not be able to do this in a few months like I thought I was.  Looks like it will be a year before I will be ready for my first contact.

I have been listening to the code practice app on my phone at work and wherever I go.  Not a full listening, just trying to get my body used to listening to code over a long period of time. 

I have not been practicing like I was in November and December.  I used to write down on paper what I heard and progress to the next element when I got 90% or more.  Yet, now I am just listening.  I need to be taking this practice seriously again by writing down on paper.

Sometimes, I listen to W1AW if I remember and I can receive the station.

How do you keep yourself motivated to learn CW?  To me, that is the hardest part.  My brain wants to run away everytime I try to practice.

- Daniel, KK4MRN.
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #166 on: February 06, 2014, 11:32:17 AM »

How do you keep yourself motivated to learn CW?  To me, that is the hardest part.  My brain wants to run away everytime I try to practice.

That is hard to explain. I think it's a logical progression. I'm in ham radio because:
  • --I love building things.
  • --I want to build my entire station myself (this is under way); and not from a kit; using discrete components, not ICs (this limits me to tube gear and early transistor gear).
  • --My knowledge of radio, and my skills, are elementary; so building speech-modulated equipment is too ambitious for the time being.
  • --I love the idea of (eventually) working DX and in particular weak-signal stuff, only just above the noise floor. I love receivers ... building a REALLY GOOD, CW-oriented receiver of my own design would be just an amazing thing, I think, sometime in the fairly distant future.
  • --I live in an apartment and that's likely to continue, in one place or another, for the rest of my life. Fancy antennas and powerful rigs are probably not in my future.
  • --I've been fascinated with Morse Code all my life. I also have an interest in cyphers (which cannot be used in ham radio!): I have a whole little library of books about them and in particular the whole Enigma/Bletchley Park history including the Morse intercept stations.
  • --Now that Morse code has almost no non-ham usage, it is the ultimate challenge that you do "because it's there."
  • --In our frazzled, complicated world, I yearn for simplicity.
  • --Finally a negative reason: I've listened to a lot of SSB QSOs on the air and they just don't thrill me in the same way as CW. Why? I really don't know. CW is extremely slow compared to speech (about one-tenth of the speed!).

My *motivation* has always been there. However I'm a full time businessman too. Finding the *time* is the issue. Also, not getting too exhausted....

I wouldn't worry too much about putting off your CW quest for another year or so. I first passed the ham test in England more than 42 years ago, and the U.S. tests two years ago, and I'm still not on the air ... each thing happens in its own good time.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: February 06, 2014, 11:36:15 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
KB1WSY
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« Reply #167 on: February 07, 2014, 03:53:05 AM »

For three days in a row, my Morse drills have been crap. There isn't any particular "difficulty" but I have trouble copying more than 10 or 20 characters without taking an "exit lane" and dropping several characters in a row.

But I'm not worried about it. The problem is physical and mental exhaustion, mainly from professional commitments (I've been getting barely 5 hours of sleep per night for the past several days; several big work deadlines). Strangely enough I am "enjoying" the drills even though the result is crappy: they are a welcome break from everything else that is going on in Life.

Simultaneously, on the non-professional front, I am completely "rebuilding" my shack. Have removed all of the equipment and furniture (it's been dumped in a spare bedroom) and now have a "blank slate" for making a better layout, building some furniture, and creating a proper "work bench" area away from the station itself. I had got to the stage where the "junk box" was taking over the shack, like all those coils were reproducing or something ... must be the harmonics.

I also continue to monitor CW on the ham the bands, with success.

I am certain that my Morse accuracy/speed will improve as soon as work pressures can be brought under control. The main thing is to KEEP GOING every day.

One thing that I have noticed is that *when* I am on a "good streak" with the copying, it is very automatic. But when you are exhausted and still learning Morse, it's easy to "crash out" of these drills.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 03:58:30 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
KK4MRN
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Posts: 85




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« Reply #168 on: February 07, 2014, 11:10:28 AM »

Every practice session, I have been changing the tone so it does not sound the same as the last session.  It's like I become tone deaf to the same tone over a long period of time.

I recently got some parts in to fill my so called junk box, so I will be building a simple QRP CW transmitter and receiver this weekend.  I will not be going old school like you using only tubes - it will contain transistors to make things easier for me.  ICs maybe used for audio amps.   I have an appliance (as some hams call commercial rigs) that works good with CW, but I think I will get more thrill from something I built.

I agree that it helps to have a good amount of sleep.   I have not gotten to the point where I automatically recognize characters without counting dits and dahs.
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N4OI
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« Reply #169 on: February 08, 2014, 06:38:20 AM »


How do you keep yourself motivated to learn CW?  To me, that is the hardest part.  My brain wants to run away everytime I try to practice.


I have been a ham for 11 years now, which is not that long relative to others in this great hobby.  My CW learning experience had two distinct stages: (a) learn 5 WPM for the exam, and (b) learn about 10 WPM for basic QSOs.  I accomplished (a) and got my license.  Then bought a new FT-920 with a microphone and Bencher paddle.  I was about to give up on CW, but the XYL gave me great encouragement to keep at it. 

Looking back, I am sure that I would have chucked the whole thing if SSB (or digital, which is like PC instant messaging) were all there was to it.  CW makes it all worthwhile.

So…. my advice is to keep at it and get to that 10 WPM milestone by listening to W1AW code files, on-air QSOs, software programs -- whatever.  Then comes the fun!  Start working real, on-air QSOs at 10 WPM or as fast as you can almost handle.  (BTW - I started with a paddle and keyer from the get-go, but if you just have to work that straight key, YMMV.)  Have fun.  Boost your speed and write down less as you continue working QSOs and having fun. Do not be satisfied with a 15 WPM or 20 WPM plateau. (And yes, you will have to move to an iambic paddle and keyer eventually if you want to get to those 30 WPM conversational speeds that won't wear out your fist.) 

Soon it will become second nature.  Not just like someone is saying the letters to you, but even better.  You will begin to recognize many letter groups as words -- no assembly required!  I am not sure how many lifetimes it takes to get to the "end of the CW Internet," but remember, the joy is in the journey.  Have fun!

 73

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KB1WSY
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« Reply #170 on: February 08, 2014, 12:34:30 PM »

Today, my Koch drills are still crap (and I am still exhausted, and still need to catch up on several weeks of very little sleep).

But I'm not worried about the Morse learning process. "It is what it is" and the main thing is just to keep going.

I'm in the process of completely revamping my shack, which involved *emptying* it of all its contents first. I am building a proper station area, and a separate "workshop" area. The old, very messy shack had become a serious problem so it needed to be faced head-on! (More details here: http://forums.qrz.com/showthread.php?423830-KB1WSY-Shack-Redo).

I temporarily moved the receiver to my home office. Today I've been monitoring lots of FISTS club activity on 20m. Some of it is beautiful code and very easy to monitor. One of the participants, WD8OCV, spelled out his QTH as "ASHTABULA, OH" and I had no trouble copying that! (He made it extra easy by going nice and slowly....)

Also very busy with work. So lots of things going on ... all of them good, but it's quite tiring to keep all those processes going simultaneously! I'm hopeless at multitasking, as XYL will tell you!
« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 12:38:15 PM by KB1WSY » Logged
NI0C
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Posts: 2383




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« Reply #171 on: February 08, 2014, 03:24:35 PM »

Take heart, Martin.  Learning and maintaining Morse proficiency is not a linear process, it is more random.  Three steps forward, two steps back sometimes.  Take a look at the graphs of Rufz speed practice runs here: http://www.dxwatch.com/rufzxp/

Click on the callsigns to see graphs of progress for individuals who have chosen to upload their scores. Notice how random the graphs appear!

Exhaustion and mental distractions take their toll on Morse proficiency-- for everybody.  Do what you can when you can, and you will be back achieving more than ever after you are rested. 

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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KB1WSY
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Posts: 658




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« Reply #172 on: February 08, 2014, 05:54:03 PM »

Take heart, Martin.  Learning and maintaining Morse proficiency is not a linear process, it is more random.  Three steps forward, two steps back sometimes.

What can I say, except ... THANK YOU!

I love ham radio and have a lot invested in learning CW. More than that, I just love the code itself ... I'm in the music business, and I'm a (bad) musician myself. That's something I left out of my earlier list of "reasons to learn CW." The code is actually beautiful in itself. If you remember that, it provides enough motivation all on its own. Beauty and elegance trump just about everything else!

I'm inspired to make these comments partly because I heard some beautiful code on the air today. It seemed to be mostly parts of a FISTS event. It wasn't especially high-speed, it was just beautifully proportioned, and it wasn't just one operator, it was several. It was transparently "readable."

Just like any other beautiful creation, it takes time and a lot of effort to achieve proficiency. At least, that's how it's working out for me. And that's fine.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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WB3CQM
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« Reply #173 on: February 09, 2014, 03:00:25 AM »

I am not sure how much you can apply call sign copy from RufzXP to normal text copy of Morse code.Nor the learning of Morse code .  I am not putting down call sign copy .

But first off it is NOT copy of words . It is copy of groups of random letters and numbers as little as 2 letters and one number to a possible 12 letters maybe more . Example KH6/WB3CQM/M or KH6/WB3CQM/QRP or W3C

The soft ware starts out slow and increase with speed through your success and decrease in speed with your failure. You start the session at what ever speed you choose. The object is to gain a high score and copy a call at 50 ,75 ,100 or 500 wpm - they use CMP instead of WPM

The session is what 3 min to 7 min long ? I never timed my self.

You MUST have a typing skill to be successful as far as I can tell. You listen to the call , you type it into a block then hit enter and log the call sign. There are 50 call signs sent in a session.

It is really a online competition .

In 2012 my goal was to copy 50,000 call sign on RufzXP and a call sign at 50 wpm.  I had been doing call sign copy off and on before I started this 2012 session.

Forget the fact that I have been in 1000's of CW DX Pile Ups for it means very little in this call sign copy and may have worked against me .

It took me around 45,000 call signs copied  to hit 48 wpm call sign. I forfeited the copy of 48 wpm due to lower overall score on that one run. I stayed with 222 cmp and higher score. Then went qrt for about a year. I have started again in 2014 and I am stuck at 40 wpm and and low score . Missing about 18-23 calls of per 50 call signs. Other words ONE DIT or  missed letter or number and you miss the call and if you repeat the call you lose a good 50% of score. Of course higher speed call means a higher points for that call. If you TYPE the call in with extra letter and do not check you could miss the whole call and get zero score on that call. I have copied a call perfect typed it in did not double check and find out I typed in WWB3CQM .

Why can I NOT be a champion at call sign copy ?

One reason is I am tone deft and no matter what I do I will miss some dits that are sent regardless of speed. No big deal.

Older in age . Never did this till about 2010 , takes daily practice, My guess is my brain can not process random letters at high speeds.

But I was told that the champions can remember 1 -5 calls as buffer before they even type in a call. THINK about this one a second.

When I hear a call sign sent I must type almost right away or it is Totally forgotten . If I did not type your call in I may remember couple letters of it or it  was a USA call . In order for me to totally remember a call before typing I will have to hear that call 1-4 times , Generally 2-3 times and I better type it in. before  30 seconds or it forgotten forever. I have next to NO short term memory .

Most of us typing are using QWERTY key board. I believe DRWOKE keyboard would be a 100% improvement over QWERTY keyboard.

Honestly I see very little comparing of Call sign copy to LEARNING Morse code

And though I believe there is a SKILL to call sign copy it is NOT and NEVER will be the same as copy of TEXT. Just sit down and have a 3 min to 3 hours CW qso from 5wpm to 35 wpm or higher  with some one and you will understand it is a different skill all together .

Further more Call Sign copy is Machine Sent Code . It is perfect code where you can or can not adjust the tone of code sent.

On the air qso have 1- 100 factors involved in the copy . Do you want me to start to list them ?

I do love Call sign copy and see a benefit in it for contesting or DX expedition operator and just plain fun.

I am sure we could argue the benefits of this or not for the next 20 years. But I see nothing from RufzXP to compare to learning of or copy of plain text Morse.

Also if I copy at a fixed speed of say 30 wpm I will copy like 100% calls this speed may vary a little . Then I wonder why someone comes back to me on the air from a CQ and I miss there call sometimes ::lol::

for what it is worth I am sure no one really cares what I think

73 JIM
« Last Edit: February 09, 2014, 03:05:20 AM by WB3CQM » Logged
KB1WSY
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Posts: 658




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« Reply #174 on: February 09, 2014, 03:26:36 AM »

for what it is worth I am sure no one really cares what I think

Jim,

Well, I care! Anyone who is a veteran code user is worthy of respect considering that no-one is "forced" to learn the code anymore. It's something we do because we want to.

You have put your finger on it when you mention the "memory buffer" used by code champions. This, in my experience, is an exceedingly hard skill to "learn." In fact you can't really "learn" it at all. I find it is almost entirely connected with "state of mind." If I am in a relaxed state where I'm not "obsessed" with writing the letter down immediately, "copy behind" becomes possible and my accuracy improves sharply. It's especially important in cases where there is a string of "all-dit" characters.

If you think about it, "head copy" is ALL "copy behind." It is a process where the brain analyzes an entire string of characters and recognizes them as a complete "word."

The Koch method, for what it's worth, is perfect preparation for callsign copy. Why? Because all the drills consist of random characters. Callsigns are not quite random-character groups (there is always a number somewhere in there!) but almost. I have become quite good at copying callsigns even when I cannot catch the rest of the QSO. Partly, that's because they are so frequently prefaced by DE, so when I hear DE I concentrate extra-hard on what comes afterwards. Or, if the code is really fast, I listen only to the CQ and don't bother to monitor the QSO once a contact has been made (it's too fast).

I am too much of a beginner to use RufzXP for the moment! I need to finish learning all the elements first, I think!

(BTW I am not using a keyboard for copying. I use a pad of paper and a Number-2 pencil. I spend about 12 hours a day in front of a computer, running a home-based business. My ham hobby is one of the few times when I get AWAY from the digital world. If I ever use a keyboard, it will be an Underwood mechanical "mill" purchased at a flea market! I type at 80wpm, so it's not a skill issue, it's an issue of wanting to get some "relaxation" away from computers and so forth.)

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: February 09, 2014, 03:30:15 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
NI0C
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« Reply #175 on: February 09, 2014, 04:54:09 AM »

I am not sure how much you can apply call sign copy from RufzXP to normal text copy of Morse code.Nor the learning of Morse code .  I am not putting down call sign copy .

.......................



I am sure we could argue the benefits of this or not for the next 20 years. But I see nothing from RufzXP to compare to learning of or copy of plain text Morse.



for what it is worth I am sure no one really cares what I think

73 JIM
Hi Jim,
Well, I too care what you think.  I consider you a CW friend, although I don't believe we've had an on the air QSO.  I've heard you in the DX pileups, always a courteous and good operator.

Jim, you make some valid points distinguishing the differences among:
1.  learning Morse.
2.  Conversational Morse (plain text copy); and
3.  call sign copy competition.

The only point I was trying to make make in my post to Martin was (and from my observations only, not from any scientific studies) that human progress in any of these three areas seems not to to be steady or linear; rather it seems to be random. Hopefully, our progress will show up as a linear bias to a very scratchy, random function. The Rufz graph for DJ1YFK shows this perfectly.   

I also have many runs of Rufz and CWFreak under my belt, and can tell you that my performance is greatly affected by my state of mind, including what is going on in my life at the time, also exercise and caffeine. I go into a slump if I have not had sufficient physical exercise (walking or running outside). 
 
The records that are displayed in Top List rankings in these competitions are spikes, not average performance.  I think the performance graphs with many data points in the link that I provided give a clearer picture. The short term memory buffer that you and Martin have mentioned may well be key to explaining variations over time.

73,
Chuck  NI0C     
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WB3CQM
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« Reply #176 on: February 09, 2014, 09:49:35 AM »

I am not sure how much you can apply call sign copy from RufzXP to normal text copy of Morse code.Nor the learning of Morse code .  I am not putting down call sign copy .

.......................



I am sure we could argue the benefits of this or not for the next 20 years. But I see nothing from RufzXP to compare to learning of or copy of plain text Morse.



for what it is worth I am sure no one really cares what I think

73 JIM
Hi Jim,
Well, I too care what you think.  I consider you a CW friend, although I don't believe we've had an on the air QSO.  I've heard you in the DX pileups, always a courteous and good operator.

Jim, you make some valid points distinguishing the differences among:
1.  learning Morse.
2.  Conversational Morse (plain text copy); and
3.  call sign copy competition.

The only point I was trying to make make in my post to Martin was (and from my observations only, not from any scientific studies) that human progress in any of these three areas seems not to to be steady or linear; rather it seems to be random. Hopefully, our progress will show up as a linear bias to a very scratchy, random function. The Rufz graph for DJ1YFK shows this perfectly.   

I also have many runs of Rufz and CWFreak under my belt, and can tell you that my performance is greatly affected by my state of mind, including what is going on in my life at the time, also exercise and caffeine. I go into a slump if I have not had sufficient physical exercise (walking or running outside). 
 
The records that are displayed in Top List rankings in these competitions are spikes, not average performance.  I think the performance graphs with many data points in the link that I provided give a clearer picture. The short term memory buffer that you and Martin have mentioned may well be key to explaining variations over time.

73,
Chuck  NI0C     

Hi Chuck ,

No we never  had a on the air cw qso yet.  I also  care what you have to say as well. I respect your opinion and you  have lots more experience at cw call sign copy than me and I think you are up around 70+ wpm call sign copy. Plus you have been a cw op long time as well. ( Thanks for nice words )

You make a good  point to Martin that  learning or progress in cw is more random than steady or Linear and is affected by many factors.

I use the word factor due to my Retriever field trial experience. Field trial judges set up test where by the dog that  best fights the factor (wind, terrain , or complex marking concepts  )  and holds the best line  to the mark or blind will end up winning that day in most cases.

We have two saying's in field trial game as well as racing pigeon sport. And I apply this to Morse code .

Rest Rust - Winners Train , losers complain . Of course rest is a needed element in learning and competition.
I also believe when you do NOT train you will NOT make forward progress, I see that even with winning field trial retrievers. Some times Less is Best but still one must train to gain. Just my 2 cents worth.

In my case the harder I train at Call sign copy or copy of plain text as well as  sending the better I do. But when I start to get tired and start messing up I pull the Plug !

You make some interesting  points Chuck about to much caffeine and not enough exercise, lots of things on our minds. Those are true factors effecting our performance.
 

So how many runs do you do per day on RufzXP , what speed do you start at and do you have a estimate of number of calls you have copied  from your start of your quest ?

 Chuck I think your slump would probably be my most successful run on RufzXP  or spike as you rightly  call it::LOL::

73 JIM
« Last Edit: February 09, 2014, 09:57:32 AM by WB3CQM » Logged
NI0C
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« Reply #177 on: February 09, 2014, 10:21:17 AM »

Quote from WB3CQM:
Quote
Of course rest is a needed element in learning and competition.
I also believe when you do NOT train you will NOT make forward progress, I see that even with winning field trial retrievers. Some times Less is Best but still one must train to gain. Just my 2 cents worth.

In my case the harder I train at Call sign copy or copy of plain text as well as  sending the better I do. But when I start to get tired and start messing up I pull the Plug !

You make some interesting  points Chuck about to much caffeine and not enough exercise, lots of things on our minds. Those are true factors effecting our performance.
 

So how many runs do you do per day on RufzXP , what speed do you start at and do you have a estimate of number of calls you have copied  from your start of your quest ?
Jim,
I don't do too many Rufz runs these days; I have 843 attempts stored in my database-- these date back several years.  Lately, I've been doing a lot with CWFreak.net, and have 1358 attempts in my database, which dates back only to last September.  I like the fact that they have monthly, yearly and all-time competitions.  I also like the brevity of CWFreak, just 25 call signs.  It also penalizes you quite heavily, once you miss a call sign.  It places a premium on accuracy and perfect copy in what the program calls a "Combo." 

I noticed a dramatic slump when I took a two week winter vacation, and it took me over a week to get back in shape.  When I mentioned caffeine, I meant that caffeine seems to help me! 

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #178 on: February 09, 2014, 12:03:10 PM »

I noticed a dramatic slump when I took a two week winter vacation, and it took me over a week to get back in shape.  When I mentioned caffeine, I meant that caffeine seems to help me! 

Although I have been mentioning a lot of "variation" in my skills from day to day, there is one constant: first thing in the morning, it's lousy, even on a "good" day. A bit better after the first cup of coffee. A bit better after breakfast. Then a gently improving curve all day, especially when I get enough exercise -- which has been tougher recently because of the winter weather (when the weather is OK, I walk a lot). In the evening: even half a glass of beer pretty much destroys my ability to do a Koch drill. I can still monitor on-air but at a diminished level.

(So on a "bad day" those early drills are especially bad; but the "badness" isn't quite as bad at the end of the day as the beginning of the day, if I stick with the drills all day, which I don't always do if the copying is really awful.)

Another thing that has been entirely consistent for a while now: The first dozen or two dozen characters of each Koch drill are the toughest. It gets better once I am "in the groove." In fact, sometimes I "cheat": if I'm still stumbling after the first couple of dozen characters, I draw a line under my copy and re-start the computerized drill from the beginning.

It really has an lot to do with "getting in the zone" mentally. When it happens, it's fantastic!

Today I was a passenger in a two-hour drive up to Maine. On the way, I spent about 45 minutes listening to real-language drills with the most common 900 words in the English language, at 20wpm, "head copy" (no possibility of pencil/paper). This was very interesting. For the first 15 minutes or so I was catching essentially nothing. By the end of the 45 minutes I was catching perhaps one word in six. I realize that doesn't sound very impressive but with a lot of practice, I can imagine it being very useful. Among other things, it gets your ear accustomed to some very common character strings in the English language such as OO or LL. It also, depressingly, reminds you how frequent letters such as E and I are -- and of course they fly past in an instant. The cadence and sound are completely different from a Koch random drill, and, of course, much more like a real QSO.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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NI0C
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« Reply #179 on: February 09, 2014, 12:55:13 PM »

Quote from KB1WSY:
Quote
It really has an lot to do with "getting in the zone" mentally. When it happens, it's fantastic!
And so it seems to be at any speed or proficiency level!  Keep up your good work.
73,
Chuck  NI0C
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