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Author Topic: From Contact to Ragchewing  (Read 18386 times)

Posts: 18

« on: November 16, 2013, 03:43:29 AM »

After a late start in life into ham radio (although the desire has always been there) , I've been making some CW  contacts for a while now. My dilemma is this: I have no problem making a contact and exchanging call signs, signal report, name,etc. etc.. but the problem comes when the contact shifts to a QSO. I'm getting lost for some reason and not being able to follow the information flow . My question is this : How do you transition from a casual contact to a nice friendly QSO ? I know this question may sound simplistic but I'm finding out it's more difficult than one may think. There is probably not one answer to this question since we're all different (thank the Lord) but I'd like to hear from some older guys (like myself) who may have gone through this successfully.  As far  as communicating is concerned I'm a CW only op. Thank you in  advance for any advice you may give.   

Posts: 2100

« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 04:03:46 AM »

What was easiest for me and I still do it is to listen until I come across a qso that I can copy at a comfortable speed and if either party is discussing something I am interested in i.e. other hobbies, geography, rigs ect. I will tail end one or the other and hope for a comeback this works the majority of the time.This definintly is not the fast approach but always results in an interesting rag chew at least until QSB or QRM sets in. Also if I'm in a casual contact qso  from calling CQ I will mention something that I just got through doing such as fising or travel and often the other operator has the same interest and we take it from there.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2013, 04:08:31 AM by W1JKA » Logged

Posts: 388

« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2013, 05:51:56 AM »

A good CW chat flows easily if you follow a few guidelines -- a couple of which are a bit unique to CW:

  • First, the art of conversation is based on a true interest in learning about the other person.  And this usually is aided by everyone's desire to also talk about themselves.  I particularly like to ask about other hobbies, career or retirement, grandkids, and of course, radios and equipment.

    Next, keep the information exchange very simple.  (If someone asks the time, do not tell how the watch works.)  This is especially true if chatting with a DX contact who may not have English as their primary language.

    Third, I like to be redundant.  For example, I describe my antenna as an indoor dipole in the attic.  If I talk about a hobby, I will say basically the same thing a couple ways and always repeat the nouns and verbs.  Example -- "I like fishing. Fishing [not "it"] is very exciting for me, even when the fish [not "they"] are not biting."  This approach assumes that the other ham may not be tracking with every word.  Redundancy helps make it easy to follow the main points. 

    Finally, although the QSO may go on for up to an hour at times, it is good to keep each exchange as short as possible.  In fact, here is a good place to introduce QSK or break-in for a brief comment, or just a HI HI followed by a BK.  Asking a question (in a couple of ways - remember redundancy above) before turning it back is a good way to move into a more natural conversational cadence.  And be able to pick up on when it is time to close the QSO and tie the ribbons and move on down the log…. 

    These are just some points off the top of my head - YMMV.   But I have found that a good conversation is one of the most enjoyable CW experiences. 


Posts: 10

« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2013, 05:53:36 AM »

I'm not experienced nor old but I suggest two options. The easy and classic: start your QSOs at lower speed than usual so once you start chatting you don't loose the flow.
The other, a little bit complex and modern(some may flame me for this but hey I'm 37 and born with PCs) install CWskimmer on your PC to help you follow the chat. At the beggining you may look at it all the time, then less and less till you won't need it at all, well unless someone respond your 20wpm cq at 35 :-)
Just my 2 cts.
73 from Patagonia

Posts: 11

« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2013, 07:42:17 AM »

I find that making notes about what you intend to talk about and jotting notes down what the other op has said
helps a lot to make a great rag chew.

Posts: 6994

« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2013, 09:29:07 AM »

GKC:  Most of the time the problem you're having isn't code speed as much as it is mental "programming."

If you have conditioned your mind to copy call, name, QTH, sig rprts and nothing else then when something else is sent you're lost.  It's something out of the "norm," something you're not expecting.

I've encountered this many times down through the years. I've asked questions many times and had to repeat the question because the receiving operator wasn't expecting a deviation from the expected exchange.

The best way to reprogram or condition your mind is to spend a lot of time listening to ragchews.  Pay particular attention to the conversation once the normal exchanges are made.  This will help you to transition when it comes time for you to enter into a conversation.

Sometimes this problem is caused by poor code copying ability.  You can learn the typical exchange at a fast pace but once that passes then your ability drops to a much slower speed.

I've also encountered this when I was in Germany.  I learned certain words and phrases to use when greeting people or ordering food.  But once those words and phrases were used, then I done communicating.

Many foreign QSOs are brief for this same reason.

Bottom line:  Listen and get your code speed up on conversation.

Al - K8AXW


A Pessimist is Never Disappointed!

Posts: 14779

« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2013, 11:47:05 AM »

Part of the problem may be that in a normal conversation you are taking time to think about what he is saying and what your response will be rather than just copying standard format stuff like call sign exchange. In military training I found I could copy 5-letter code groups a whole lot faster than I could copy a ham radio QSO for that same reason. The code groups didn't mean anything to me so I didn't think about them, just typed them as they came in. The key is to slow down the WPM if you are looking for a QSO rather than a quick contact exchange.

Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA

Posts: 784

« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2013, 08:43:11 PM »

 Take your time, get to know who you're talking with, and just be yourself. You won't go wrong. 73

Posts: 47

« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2013, 06:29:06 AM »

What works for me is keeping the speed of the QSO within my comfort level.
I can not head copy, so if I struggle just to write down what my contact is sending, then
I don't have time to read, or even notice that he has sent a topic of interest.

If I can read what he is sending AS he is sending, I will circle a key word, such as fishing, camper,
. Then when it is my turn, I comment on that subject, or ask a question about it.
 The circled words suggest the next topic for me to comment on. Then, I am ok until I run out of circled words.

You said you would like to "hear from older guys". See, I circled that Hi.

Well I relearned Morse code, and got my Gen.ticket at 69, three years ago. So it works for this old guy.


Posts: 2100

« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2013, 07:39:34 AM »


Just a semi related comment. Reading your post and similar ones in other eHam forums I notice a common thread among us older and especially retro hams that have re entered the hobby after 35-45 years QRT. Mostly that we tend to gravitate to CW and QRP type operations. I attribute this to trying to regain some part of our lost youth when starting out in the hobby and what our definition of ham radio was at the time. I find it interesting that myself and two other local hams I grew up with and got our novice tickets in the 60s all  went QRT for 40 years or so, we all got re licensed about four years ago and did the usual gig of buying a new mid range modern technology Ten Tec or Icom transceiver. Bottom line after 6 months or so we all ended up with some type of QRP rig(s) or got our old novice stations back on air. My IC-7200 is on the closet top shelf, I'm sure the grand kids will eventually have fun with it, mean while trying to locate more Xtals for my recapped Johnson Adventurer. As for Contesting I have won a major one by surviving this long, not interested in any other type.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2013, 07:45:48 AM by W1JKA » Logged

Posts: 2850

« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2013, 12:35:56 PM »

You may want to practice listening to the code while doing something else, like tidying up the shack.    The idea is to become proficient enough at the code that you can do something else at the same time. 

Zack W1VT

Posts: 349

« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2013, 05:42:05 PM »

I find that getting the other person to talk about himself works well as most people like to talk about there own likes etc. I  tend to head copy and just jot down things I might want to comment on.
Too bad the old RCC went away (or I lost it) RCC = Rag Chewers Club.
Dick KH2G

Posts: 558


« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2013, 04:46:48 AM »

Simply slow down until you become more proficient and comfortable copying the conversation.  This happens to everyone and gets easier with more practice and experience.  This also includes experience in being able to communicate your thoughts to the other party efficiently and effectively by using simple sentences and repeating key words.  Nothing worse then trying to copy a rambling cw op that brings up several topics in one transmission. Keep it short and simple.  Regards.  -Joe N3Hee

CW Academy Advisor (Level II)

Posts: 18

« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2013, 10:08:11 AM »

Simply slow down until you become more proficient and comfortable copying the conversation.  This happens to everyone and gets easier with more practice and experience.  This also includes experience in being able to communicate your thoughts to the other party efficiently and effectively by using simple sentences and repeating key words.  Nothing worse then trying to copy a rambling cw op that brings up several topics in one transmission. Keep it short and simple.  Regards.  -Joe N3Hee
Very good advice Joe. Thanks to everyone that responded. You'all have given me a lot to think about and work on.. I hpe everyone has blessed es safe Holiday Season .  73   Gary N4GKC

Posts: 69

« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2013, 06:13:46 PM »

While I am not an old time cw op, I have found something that helps me. I met a guy through the local 2 meter repeater who also enjoys operating cw, and who is at about the same skill level. He lives in the next town over from me. We decided to have a sked every Sunday evening to practice cw. During our weekly rag chews we discuss anything and everything--kids, jobs, antennas, books, or whatever. Because I can expect almost anything to come up during the conversation, my copy has gotten much better. A side benefit of this weekly rag chew has been the formation of a very nice friendship.

I have also learned that I copy better when I am relaxed, and that if I don't get every word I can usually fill in the gaps from context. If that doesn't work, there is no shame in asking for a repeat. Bottom line: Learn to relax. The conversation will flow much better, and you will enjoy it more.

Hope this helps!

Garth, KF7ATL
« Last Edit: November 26, 2013, 06:21:21 PM by KF7ATL » Logged
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