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Author Topic: My Morse Learning Campaign  (Read 112270 times)
KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #180 on: February 12, 2014, 02:34:08 PM »

So as of today, I'm achieving a fairly consistent 88 percent to 89 percent accuracy on the 25-character drills.

Meh.

I've been stuck at that level for the past 12 days, so I think it's time to move on, even though I'm still not consistently at the 90 percent level. I am almost sure that it's caused by exhaustion and "too much going on" rather than any specific problem with the code-learning.

The 25 characters learned so far are: K, M, R, S, U, A, P, T, L, O, W, I, ., N, J, E, F, 0, Y, V, ,, G, 5, / and Q.

Starting tomorrow, I am adding the 26th character which is the numeral 9 or dah-dah-dah-dah-dit.

Settings are still the same: 20wpm Actual Character Speed combined with 17wpm Effective Code Speed ("Farnsworth spacing").

I have been supplementing those Koch random-character drills (about one hour a day) with three other Morse activities:
--Monitoring QSOs on the air.
--"Head copy" of actual English words taken from the 26-character set, at 20wpm (no Farnsworth). This is being done in long sessions of up to half an hour each, during walks in the neighborhood or while a passenger in trains and cars. As of today, I am "catching" about one word in five.
--Pencil-copy of straight 15wpm code (no Farnsworth). The idea is to start getting used to "normal" code without the extra spaces.

Am feeling reasonably good about progress being made. As others are pointing out, it's not linear. When I get frustrated with one type of "exercise," I switch to another type.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #181 on: February 13, 2014, 04:31:42 AM »

So here's an example of the special "restricted character" listening drills I've been doing to help with "head copy" at 20wpm:

EFFORT EQUAL RULE SON KEPT SAM INFORMATION FEEL SIMPLE ORIGIN SKILL TAKE MEMORY SWEPT GENTLE SEEING LEAVE PRIMITIVE LOUIS UPON FURNITURE MISSING PLATES YOUNGER UNLESS SLIP KEEP IF NATURALLY WESTERN VOWEL PIANO FOG FORT EQUALLY PIPE TEMPERATURE FINEST FAMILIAR LYING IT SO SOLUTION FAT POOL STRING JAMES WIFE KEY FIRE TOO TURN NEST POETRY PLURAL EASILY IMPROVE APPLE MOUNTAIN STORY FIRST WANT RUSSIAN STRAW STRIKE PROGRAM ....... (and so forth).

It's from a set of 900 common words in the English language. All thanks to Wim/PA0WV who wrote the word-selection software. The above words contain only the letters that exist in my current Koch sub-set, thus providing a "real language" version of the Koch drills. After generating the subset, I'm using the RAND() function in Microsoft Excel to generate random-order drills -- real words, but the order changes from one drill to the next.

The cadence of these drills is radically different from the "random-letter" Koch drills. A cursory glance will show you how frequent certain letters are (the vowels, especially E, I and A) and how relatively rare some letters are (Q, for instance, which is common only in ham-speak!).

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 04:37:08 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
N4OI
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Posts: 210




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« Reply #182 on: February 13, 2014, 05:06:38 AM »

[...] 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.[...]

With all this preparation, you should sell the honor of your first CW QSO to the highest bidder on ebay!    Grin

73
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KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #183 on: February 13, 2014, 05:50:00 AM »

With all this preparation, you should sell the honor of your first CW QSO to the highest bidder on ebay!    Grin
73

I'd like to be able to say that my 42-year "hiatus" between first passing the ham test and conducting the first QSO will be some kind of ham record ... but I doubt it. Anecdotally, I've seen several accounts (on forums like this one) of hams who got into the hobby as kids but didn't follow through until retirement -- and I'm not at retirement age yet.

Yes it is ridiculous. Part of a personality type that "starts" a lot of things but doesn't "finish" them all. Plus an insistence on an entirely homebrewed station. Plus an excessive dose of perfectionism. Roll Eyes Roll Eyes Roll Eyes

Also, modern, high-stress life is hard to combine with a "serious" hobby such as CW ham radio that requires a certain amount of learning, a government license, a rig, an antenna, and the time and discipline to learn Morse code.

But this time I can "smell" it, that first QSO won't be very long from now. Smiley

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 05:53:34 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
W1JKA
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Posts: 1777




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« Reply #184 on: February 13, 2014, 06:13:46 AM »

Re: KB1WSY

Looking forward to construction pics of your homebrew xtmr. and ensuing mini pile up during your first back on air CQ call.
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KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #185 on: February 13, 2014, 06:31:33 AM »

Re: KB1WSY

Looking forward to construction pics of your homebrew xtmr. and ensuing mini pile up during your first back on air CQ call.

Small correction ... it's not "back on air," it's "first time on air." Back in the 1970s, I passed the test, I even built a receiver and transmitter, but then never actually got on the air (had passed the UK test, but never even applied for the available license). Lost interest ... you know, teenage.... Also, lost interest in learning the code, so the transmitter was actually an AM rig for Top Band (160m) which was available to code-less British "novices" in those days IIRC. Otherwise it would be VHF only IIRC.

Part of the issue back then is that there was, in the UK, a 14-year-old minimum age for ham radio. I was passionate about it as a 12-year-old then had that interminable wait until my 14th birthday before I could take the test. By the time I took and passed the test, the interest had waned quite a bit.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY

« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 06:35:24 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #186 on: February 17, 2014, 08:11:36 AM »

I'm scoring around 90 percent to 91 percent on the 26-character drills. Finally got enough sleep: about 10 hours/night for three nights in a row.

Time to move ahead.

The 26 characters learned so far are: K, M, R, S, U, A, P, T, L, O, W, I, ., N, J, E, F, 0, Y, V, ,, G, 5, /, Q, and 9.

Today I am adding the 27th character which is "Z" or dah-dah-di-dit.

I'm actually farther ahead than it might seem. Although the current Koch sequence hasn't reached the letters C, D and H yet, I already know those very well, because they are so common in QSOs -- as in "CQ," "DE" and "HI." So there's really only one letter of the alphabet left to learn, after Z, and that will be "X." After that, it's all numerals and the "question mark" character (which is another character that is so common in QSOs, that I know it already ... di-di-dah-dah-di-dit).

"Head-copy" is slowly progressing. It's a very different skill from pencil-copy!

As of today I have decided that with my current Morse skills, I am ready for my first QSO despite not yet "knowing" a couple of letters of the alphabet. Unfortunately that QSO won't be happening for a little while (there is some station-building still to do, plus major professional commitments between now and early April).

Meanwhile I will complete the Koch course and work some more on "head copy."

Also need to start working on my *sending* which has been neglected in recent weeks. Need to dig out the soldering iron and set up that "two-ear" system where you can listen to a drill in one ear, and send (from the same text) in the other.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY

« Last Edit: February 17, 2014, 08:16:12 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
KK4MRN
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Posts: 92




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« Reply #187 on: February 20, 2014, 01:05:23 PM »

Martin,
Glad to hear you're ready to make your first contact.   Have you finished building your transmitter?

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KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #188 on: February 20, 2014, 03:48:36 PM »

Martin,
Glad to hear you're ready to make your first contact.   Have you finished building your transmitter?

I run my own business and have limited time for ham radio. My shack is under (re-)construction after getting to such a messy state that something radical needed to be done, viz, building a proper workbench, proper storage for parts, and a separate station desk.

For the next six weeks or so I am either working on huge professional projects, or traveling on business.

Target date for building the transmitter: sometime in April (after finishing shack rebuild). Also need to build and erect the homebrew dipole and drive in a grounding rod (the electrical system in my rental apartment is shaky). Target date for first QSO: late April to mid-May. Station will be monoband 40m, receiver is 3-transistor regenerative set, transmitter xtal-controlled 10W (input) 2-tube MOPA.

Meanwhile about the only thing I have (a little bit of) time for is continuing the CW drills: learning the last few characters and then a bit of consolidation. Also need to work on my SENDING which I have completely neglected for the past couple of months.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: February 20, 2014, 03:52:14 PM by KB1WSY » Logged
KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #189 on: February 27, 2014, 02:36:04 PM »

I'm scoring around 89 percent the 27-character drills.

Time to move ahead.

The 27 characters learned so far are: K, M, R, S, U, A, P, T, L, O, W, I, ., N, J, E, F, 0, Y, V, ,, G, 5, /, Q, 9 and Z.

Tomorrow I am adding the 28th character which is "H" or di-di-di-dit.

Very pressed for time at the moment, and that situation continues for the next two weeks, which is then followed by a two week business/pleasure trip to Europe, followed by a cascade of work deadlines. So the best I can hope for is to maintain, perhaps slightly improve, the current Morse level, with about 20 minutes of drills per day.

Actually getting on the air looks like it won't happen until about mid-May at the earliest. At this point it's not the CW skills that are holding me up, but the pressures of Work and Life. The key thing is to try and get a little bit of Morse immersion every day.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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KK4MRN
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Posts: 92




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« Reply #190 on: March 05, 2014, 12:11:15 PM »

Martin,
How is your practice been going?

My iphone died that I mainly used like an ipod touch since I have another phone.  There was a great app called Ham Morse from AA9PW.

Sure, there are good programs for Windows like Just Learn Morse Code, but this requires me to be in front of a computer when I do code practice.   When I do code practice, it is best for me to NOT be on a computer because I get distracted easily.  My kitchen table is the best place to sit and do code practice.  This has been primarily my place when studying for my ham license exams too.

Anybody, what are some good Android apps for learning morse code?  I had bought a ton of ham radio apps for my iphone, but most were not good.   Hmmm...  Maybe this question should be its own topic.
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KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #191 on: March 05, 2014, 04:01:22 PM »

Martin,
How is your practice been going?

Thanks for asking! It's going OK, under the circumstances. As I explained a few posts earlier, I'm awfully busy with life in general. So, the Morse practice is down to "maintenance" levels -- about 20 minutes per day. Sometimes, such as today, I am just too exhausted to copy anything much; and when that happens I stop, because it's counterproductive.

I don't see emerging from this until sometime in May, the way things are going. The main goal is to keep the proficiency that I already have. I'm off on a two-week business/pleasure trip to Europe later this month and I have high hopes that I can also make some additional Morse progress during that time. I don't need a smartphone or even a computer: I prepare MP3 drills in advance and play them back on a $9 MP3 player.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: March 05, 2014, 04:04:09 PM by KB1WSY » Logged
KB1WSY
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Posts: 806




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« Reply #192 on: March 07, 2014, 02:40:27 PM »

I'm scoring 90 percent the 28-character drills.

The 28 characters learned so far are: K, M, R, S, U, A, P, T, L, O, W, I, ., N, J, E, F, 0, Y, V, ,, G, 5, /, Q, 9, Z and H.

Tomorrow I am adding the 29th character which is "3" or di-di-di-dah-dah.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #193 on: April 06, 2014, 09:52:08 AM »

So, one month since my last post....

I've been very busy with life in general, including traveling for two of the past four weeks. I've cut back on the Morse drills, down to about 20 minutes per day, which has meant no "progress" but also no "setbacks." I'm still at the 29-character level in the Koch method (at 17WPM) and doing OK on that. While traveling in Europe I also monitored the 20m band with a small Ramsey kit radio, to "keep my hand in" with on-air CW.

It's hard to say when I'll be able to get back to Morse (and ham radio) in earnest, so the important thing is to make sure I at least maintain the Morse skills that I already have, and try to make a bit of progress with learning the characters as time permits. Professional/family time commitments are already occupying the next two months at least.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
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KK4MRN
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Posts: 92




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« Reply #194 on: May 07, 2014, 09:25:36 AM »

Martin,
Where are you with your learning?   

I want to get back to learning CW.   Reading your messages (and others) have been an inspiration.  I actually turned on my HF radio the other night and listened to CW on 40m.  It has been awhile because I was sick.   I even got myself to build a simple QRP receiver from a kit.  I was so excited when I actually heard CW with an antenna no bigger than my finger.   Then I hooked it up to my G5RV antenna that I used for my base HF transceiver - oh my - signals boomed in.  Yet, I also got Shortwave Broadcasts too...   I have may have done something wrong building it or it needs a front end bandpass filter.  But nevertheless, I am excited.  My next simple QRP radio to build will be a transmitter.   

And now comes the problem - I need to know CW in order to be able to use these simple QRP receivers and transmitters I build.   Sure, I have my big commercial HF transceiver (some hams call them appliances), but it is so fun to build and operate the radio you built.

I first picked up trying to learn CW in fall of 2012 around the time I was studying for my Technician License.  Picked it back up in April 2012, November 2012, and other times.  Hopefully, I can stick with it this time.  Some days it seems I get no where.   I do remember the joy of listening to W1AW with their slow code practice one night and actually understood what was being pounded - except for punctuation, numbers, and pro-signs.

Once I make my first confirmed contact, I am going to reward myself with a real key from VibroPlex or Nye Viking, etc.  For now, I have a MFJ economy key that came with a code practice oscillator.

Since I am getting nowhere, I may decide to slow down my learning speed to 10wpm or slower.  And match to spacing to the actual speed to match real world CW instead of using Farnesworth.  Then listen to more real CW on the air like W1AW. 

I got so excited one night, I hooked up my straight key to my HF rig on the CW portion of 10 meters at night, and I pounded my call sign a few times.  It felt great.  It sounded great - much better than the awful sound from the code practice oscillator.  It was night on 10m, so I had no fear of causing interference or wondering what to do if someone actually replied.

My goal last year was to make my first contact by December 2013 so I could also get on Straight Key Night.  But all I ended up doing was listening - I was not ready sadly.

- Daniel, KK4MRN.
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