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Author Topic: My Morse Learning Campaign  (Read 316384 times)
PA0WV
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« Reply #255 on: August 30, 2014, 04:41:23 AM »


Seriously.  It's not a science, it's a simple language that only has about 45 words.  I never learned Chinese or Swahili, but I think if I moved where those are spoken, I'd learn 45 words in a few days.  Either that, or maybe starve if I couldn't order food. Tongue

It is not a language but an alphabet. You can't speak a language by learning an alphabet. Afterall you should not have to learn anything when you use the Latin alphabet just as I do, in order to converse with me.  That we, you and I, are able to converse is not your performance but solely mine.

When it should be so easy to learn the code as you suggest, what were all those freshmen military guys, trying to escape the task of cleaning  greasy staircases in Anchorage, then doing full time for at least three month?  

The time involved in learning the code is age dependent. Ham radio is an "old mans" hobby, just buying a radio, not able to deviate the default menu, buying an wire antenna in see-through package and there you go, proud to be not a CB ham because you did an "FCC-test". with questions like:

There is an ape in the tree; The ape scratches his head, and hence falls out of the tree.
A. He is falling to the left
B he is  falling to the right
C he is falling  upwards
D he is falling downwards.





« Last Edit: August 30, 2014, 04:48:40 AM by PA0WV » Logged

KB1WSY
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« Reply #256 on: August 30, 2014, 04:47:09 AM »

I have no clue why folks today, 150 years later, have such a problem with it. Cheesy

I don't see it as "such a problem." Admittedly it's been laborious, but not terribly "problematic." The main thing is getting it done, regardless of distractions.

I have no idea why it was easy in the past and, supposedly, hard now (or even if either of those assertions are true). We've gone over this issue so many times now, but in a nutshell: at least in my case, it's been difficult to set aside the consistent daily practice time that seems to be required for my middle-aged brain to take in this stuff. It's not "hard" at all, once I get down to it, but I don't seem to be able to get anywhere without extremely consistent daily effort.

For some people the issue may be motivation. With all the distractions of modern life, it can be hard to devote effort to a single-minded, esoteric pursuit such as learning Morse (which, nowadays, has no use whatsoever as a practical skill and is being kept alive almost entirely by ham radio operators).

I don't totally "buy" your generalization that it's "easy" to do, but I don't think it's particularly hard either. A lot easier than learning a foreign language: at the advanced age of 31, I took a one-year sabbatical to study Arabic in Cairo, and that was a thousand times harder than learning a simple sound alphabet such as Morse!

Let's put it another way Steve. When I was about 14, I took a typing class at school. I was the only boy in the class, BTW. I think it must have been a total of about 6 hours of class time, by which time I was touch-typing effortlessly at about 30wpm -- and with daily typewriter usage (and a later career as a journalist) I later reached speeds of 80wpm+ without even breaking a sweat.

Now let's suppose that I had never taken that course and was still, at 57 years old, a "2-finger typist." How likely is it that I could "become" a touch typist after 6 hours of course time? My answer is: not terribly likely, even if I could find 6 "free" hours to attend the course! For me the "problem" with Morse is a combination of being rather older, having a lot less "free" time, and being always on the edge of exhaustion because of work and family commitments. It probably has almost nothing to do with the nature of Morse code itself. Smiley

73 de Martin, KB1WSY


« Last Edit: August 30, 2014, 04:59:54 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
K7MEM
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« Reply #257 on: August 30, 2014, 05:51:43 AM »

I will just give my opinion on a couple of topics being discussed here.

IMHO, copying Morse code at 20-25 WPM, and writing it all down, is not that difficult. When I was in my upgrade mode, the Morse code tests were still part of the licensing tests. For the 13 WPM test, I worked my code speed up to about 15 WPM. The extra speed helped overcome the stress of the test taking. But I also knew how the Morse test was structured. It was a simulated QSO and you only needed to copy the important information, like call sign, name, QTH, etc. So you knew when important pieces of information were coming and you paid closer attention.

I used a very simple study method. I made a group of audio files using a utility named Morse Academy. I had 10 files for each speed, 5 through 25. I found where my current copy speed was (~10 WPM) and started there. As soon as I was copying 90%, I would bump the speed up by 2 WPM. At the time I used a cassette player, for portability, but now a MP3 player would be better to use. All of the tests used the standard character timing for dots, dashes, and spacing.

In 30 days I was copying the 15 WPM samples at better than 90% and took the General test. I then kept going, in the same manner, up to 25 WPM. That took a bit longer to do, but it did work. I just increased the testing speed, by 2 WPM, every time I got comfortable with the speed. In the end, the extra speed helped calm the jitters, so I wasn't struck dumb during the test. And that did happen to many a test subject.

But I also found that, while it wasn't necessary, copying everything down was possible, right up to 25 WPM. And it was easy and comfortable. Plus, I only write in simple block lettering. If I used cursive, I wouldn't have been able to read it later. At the time, you could pass the test by 100% copy, or by answering 10 questions. I passed both ways and walked out an Extra.

Many years prior to the upgrading, and all during the studying, I was on the air. It didn't help in increasing my speed, but it was fun to do, and gave me confidence that I could copy and understand others on the air. And, it didn't interfere with my studying for Morse code test.

I also agree with PA0WV, on the fact that Morse is not a language. It is just an alphabetic representation of your own language. The words are just coming at slower speed, and in a manner that you are not use to. So it is sometimes difficult to put together. I have no aptitude for other languages (unlike my XYL who can understand/speak almost any language). Even English, my native language, is difficult for me sometimes.

There is no real requirement to be able to copy each and every letter/symbol perfectly. I still have trouble sometimes with numbers. So sometimes you just have stop making excuses and Git-R-Done.
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #258 on: August 31, 2014, 05:55:52 AM »

So, after couple of days without the Farnsworth spacing, I'm encouraged.

Although the copy rate is considerably lower than the pre-Farnsworth scores, I feel like it's a much more natural rhythm and I am much less likely to try to "count the dits and dahs." If I don't immediately copy a particular character, there isn't time to think about it, I just move on.

Ironically this seem to be helping with the more recently learned characters, which include several numerals. The fact that I'm not writing them down immediately ("skipping" them) is not so important as hearing them over and over again and eventually assimilating them.

At 20wpm and without extra spacing, it has however become even more important to try to achieve that sort of "zen" calm where you're not really thinking about anything much, just listening to the code and letting the letters flow out of your fingers. The closer I get to that state, the higher the copy rate, and the more fun I have.

Admittedly I've also, because of more favorable work and family conditions, been able to spend more time, and better-quality time, doing Morse drills. For the past week it's come close to about half an hour per day: about five minutes per hour, starting in the late morning and ending in the late afternoon. It's mostly copying, plus maybe 5 minutes of sending practice. Then, in the evening, I try to monitor 40m CW for 20 minutes or so.

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: August 31, 2014, 06:00:36 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
K8AXW
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« Reply #259 on: August 31, 2014, 06:47:59 AM »

Martin:  You're proving what I've been saying for years on this CW forum!  Just learn the code and forget Farnsworth and all of the other gimmick methods of learning code.

What I have been trying to point out is that "after you learn the code with a gimmick, then you'll have to unlearn the gimmick which in effect is requiring more time to be able to copy "on the air" code"!

It's always difficult to unlearn a bad habit.  However, with a fast moving process like listening to code, the confusion induced by this "unlearning" really becomes a problem.

I'm happy to hear that you've managed to improve your copy time. 
That will do more for you than anything else.

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N4OI
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« Reply #260 on: August 31, 2014, 08:13:14 AM »


Seriously.  It's not a science, it's a simple language that only has about 45 words.  I never learned Chinese or Swahili, but I think if I moved where those are spoken, I'd learn 45 words in a few days.  Either that, or maybe starve if I couldn't order food. Tongue

It is not a language but an alphabet. [...]

Perhaps it is both.  Here is the "typical QSO:"

"______ de WB8FSV TNX FER CALL BT MY NAME IS JACK JACK BT QTH IS HILLIARD, OH HILLIARD, OH BT UR RST IS ___ BT HW COPY?"
And perhaps on your second transmission:

"______ de WB8FSV TNX ______(name) FOR NICE REPORT BT MY RIG IS A KNWD TS 450 ANT IS A DIPOLE BT WX IS ________ TEMP IS ___ BT HW COPY?"

Note that even when using English characters and not their corresponding morse code sounds, the language can appear to be foreign.  Perhaps that is why we can enjoy basic communications with those around the world, regardless of their native tongues. 

73   Grin
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PA0WV
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« Reply #261 on: August 31, 2014, 09:39:58 AM »

N4OI

you are right,

That are the rubber stamp QSO's, learned by heart at Morse Academy, they proceed nice till  the moment that  at the same speed a question in the native language of the QSO partner is asked. That is the way to influence nature, because then suddenly 5nn changes in  hvy QSB QRM QRN tks QSO cuagn 73 es SK
« Last Edit: August 31, 2014, 09:52:43 AM by PA0WV » Logged

AC2EU
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« Reply #262 on: August 31, 2014, 10:42:11 AM »

N4OI

you are right,

That are the rubber stamp QSO's, learned by heart at Morse Academy, they proceed nice till  the moment that  at the same speed a question in the native language of the QSO partner is asked. That is the way to influence nature, because then suddenly 5nn changes in  hvy QSB QRM QRN tks QSO cuagn 73 es SK

I have had much more abrupt breaks than the above when asking a question. Often I'll get the standard "73 TU DE_________SK
as if I didn't ask a question!
However, if the other Ham doesn't understand very much English, what else can he do?
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #263 on: August 31, 2014, 11:00:40 AM »

I think that the past few posts on this thread pertain to the skill of operating CW, as opposed to learning Morse code.

The boilerplate QSO abbreviations and customs aren't so much a language and more a kind of subset of English, a patois if you like. Actually, it's not even a subset of English because it contains abbreviations such as DE (French) and ES (which I suppose is Latin or Spanish, I have no idea).

If you throw in all the Q-signals, various other common pieces of shorthand, and some remnants of the Phillips Code and railroad telegraph abbreviations, you end up with an interesting and fun subculture. "Learning Morse code" doesn't even begin to encompass that stuff, but it's a necessary precondition!

In a former life, I was a wire-service journalist and we still used remnants of that stuff in our internal service messages, even though we were using teletype/computer equipment. For instance, "30" and "95" -- for newcomers, "30" means "end of message" and "95" means URGENT. We also used a lot of telegraphese, such as "UNWANT STY" (we don't need a story) or "UPSEND LEDE" (please send an update). Not to mention the classic DOWNHOLD (spend less money!). These were left over from the days when telegraph offices charged by the word!

Every service that used CW developed its own fascinating dialect!

« Last Edit: August 31, 2014, 11:08:27 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
PA0WV
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« Reply #264 on: August 31, 2014, 11:35:30 AM »

Yes OK, I got the point.

BTW 'es' is not from Spanish but it is the railroad code for the ampersand &, a non existing character in international Morse code.

And oh yes, 55 is introduced by the Germans short after WW2. They say it is meant to be 'success' (MANY POINTS in a contest) but another tale tells that it is introduced because HH (Heil Hitler) was not longer allowed to be used as greetings in a QSO.
So now the neo's have introduced 88 (YES 88) cuz H is the eighth character in a..z Kind of Caesar encryption.

Quote
AC2EU
However, if the other Ham doesn't understand very much English, what else can he do?

Yes but I wrote, that I asked a question in his NATIVE language. So the point is they are able to make a rubberstamp QSO with name and QTH sent twice, wide spaced  and slow, and that's it. Morse Academy and the 5 wpm FCC  exams promoted/ stimulated that, I suppose.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2014, 12:04:06 PM by PA0WV » Logged

AC2EU
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« Reply #265 on: August 31, 2014, 02:28:30 PM »



Quote
AC2EU
However, if the other Ham doesn't understand very much English, what else can he do?

Yes but I wrote, that I asked a question in his NATIVE language. So the point is they are able to make a rubberstamp QSO with name and QTH sent twice, wide spaced  and slow, and that's it. Morse Academy and the 5 wpm FCC  exams promoted/ stimulated that, I suppose.
[/quote]

I never heard of Morse academy until you mentioned it.  The FCC no longer requires code at all.
If the limited responses are at 20 WPM and up, they are called "contesters"  Grin
Otherwise most of those guys can't converse in CW beyond contest responses, but they are quick to tell me that they can do 30 wpm...
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #266 on: August 31, 2014, 02:34:36 PM »

Martin:  You're proving what I've been saying for years on this CW forum!  Just learn the code and forget Farnsworth and all of the other gimmick methods of learning code.

What I have been trying to point out is that "after you learn the code with a gimmick, then you'll have to unlearn the gimmick which in effect is requiring more time to be able to copy "on the air" code"!

There do seem to be a lot of "gimmick" methods of learning the code (such as the "mnemonic" tricks) but I wouldn't list Farnsworth, or the Koch method, among them.

Farnsworth spacing, for me, was really useful in the early period of learning the characters. By separating them with a greater space, they "stood out" better and could be learned faster. Yes, I should have taken off those "training wheels" rather earlier. Indeed, it will take a while to "unlearn" the bad habits of excess spacing between characters. But in my case, the tradeoff seems to have worked OK.

The Koch method isn't a gimmick, either, having successfully been used by its inventor to teach German operators and being the fruit of some psychological insights about how people learn. Of course, the fact that it's not a gimmick doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best way to learn ... there is a choice of methods available.

Fact is that nowadays many of the offered methods (which tend to be distributed via various websites) use either Koch and/or Farnsworth and thousands of hams have used them successfully. That doesn't invalidate older teaching methods; for that matter, Farnsworth has been around for more than half a century now and Koch is even older, although it only received wide attention outside Germany starting in the 1990s.

Thank you for your encouragement. Yes, in the end it comes down mainly to persistence and finding enough time.

BTW 'es' is not from Spanish but it is the railroad code for the ampersand &, a non existing character in international Morse code.

Thanks, that's interesting to know!

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: August 31, 2014, 02:42:21 PM by KB1WSY » Logged
KB1WSY
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« Reply #267 on: September 02, 2014, 12:32:23 PM »

As of today, I have "finished" the Koch course. There were five characters remaining to be learned, but I already "knew" four of them to some extent from my monitoring of on-air transmissions (the letters C, X, D and the numeral "1" which are all very common in North American CQ calls). The only "unfamiliar" character is the numeral "6" but I don't see the need to drill that one to death, I should be able to pick it up on the fly.

So as of today, I'm no longer using random letter/number groups for my drills, but actual QSOs. These are either monitored on the air, or produced mechanically by the G4FON software, which includes several hundred "typical QSOs."

I must say that at 20wpm and without Farnsworth spacing, this is a whole new ball game and quite hard! I am probably only copying about 50 percent of what I hear. OTOH it is a lot of fun to be copying "real words" and there's a great feeling of accomplishment from knowing all the characters have been learned. It also seems to be getting rapidly better day by day.

I am also spending a larger proportion of the drill time on sending practice because it's now possible to "practice" sending an actual transmission using real words containing any letters of the alphabet. (Doing sending practice with random groups gets "old" really fast.)

"Key-down" time for my first-ever QSO will be later this month after putting up the antenna. From a Morse point of view, I am more than ready! (Also, when I send my first CQs I will start quite a lot slower than 20wpm!)

73 de Martin, KB1WSY
« Last Edit: September 02, 2014, 12:52:31 PM by KB1WSY » Logged
AC2EU
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« Reply #268 on: September 02, 2014, 02:35:38 PM »

Drum roll. please!
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K8AXW
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« Reply #269 on: September 02, 2014, 10:03:26 PM »

Brain to rectum...... increase pucker-factor to 10.
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