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Drawback to Farnsworth

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:37 am
by N6EV
I have a student who I've been working with for a long time. He came to me already having learned 80% of the characters via the typical sources of learning that use the Farnsworth method. He's come a long way in that time. We've got him just shy of 10WPM copy speed now.

When we were first introduced, he was so excited, he wanted to get on the air and have a QSO with me even though he hadn't yet learned all the letters and numbers! I think he was shy about 5 letters and about 8 numbers at the time. Since he's only a mile away, we kept in touch via 2 meter FM simplex while holding a CW practice QSO in the 40 meter Novice section. So instant feedback was possible in both directions. He had a good fist even back then. When he'd reach a letter he hadn't yet learned, he would just send a long daaaah. I'd figure out the word easily from the rest that was sent. When I came to a letter he didn't know, I sent it extra slow. On numerous occasions, he'd pick up on the new letter, and by the end of the QSO, had actually learned a new letter. That was a neat feeling for both of us.

Anyway.. enough background.. the reason for the post. He learned the letters via the Farnsworth method, with the letter speed around 13-15 WPM, then spaced out to slow the overall copy speed. When I would practice on the air, I emulated this and he had no problem copying. Once had learned all the letters, numbers and prosigns, he struck out on his own for a solo flight on the air. Later he complained to me that he could not get other operators to QRS for him. He would send the code basically in the Farnsworth mode, letters at 13WPM, but spaced such that copy speed was down around 7WPM. The operators coming back to him would send full 13WPM code, without the Farnsworth spacing, and the code would blow right by him. Now I've QSO'd with him enough to know his fist is excellent, and his spacing is very good. I can only surmise that the other operators were keying solely off of his letter speed, and presumed that that was the speed he could copy at, regardless of letter spacing. It bothers me that the other operators wouldn't slow down when asked to QRS.

I guess the purpose of this post it two fold. First: Has anyone else experience this either first hand or as an Elmer? And second: This is just a reminder for everyone to be cognizant of those just learning via the Farnsworth method. Their copy speed is much slower than the character speed implies.

Your thoughts?

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 11:04 pm
Hi Paul,
I learned the same way as your student. I only have had 1 or 2 times when the Op didn't QRS. Or I should say,stayed at a slower speed. When I sent QRS PSE,they started off slow and gradually went faster again. Easy to do I guess. I just sent to fast,TNX QSO and 73.Then called CQ again.

When I come upon a slower Op,I try to match their spacing not their letter speed. Maybe because it's the way I learned too.

TNX for the QSO's & hope to work you again!


Farnsworth and Communication

PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 9:56 pm
by N0SSS
Foremost, I want to say that I agree ops should have tried to QRS when asked by your student. I think anything less than their best effort to QRS and establish a "link" of communication may discourage new ops. And that is unacceptable. Now that I got that out of the way, I'd like to add some perspective to this issue.

I have multiple perspectives on this, having experienced the role of your student and much later the role of communicating with ops using farnsworth spacing.

As a student, I remember being "blown by" from ops not emulating my farnsworth spacing. However, I actually did not want them to emulate my farnsworth, only my speed. Thus, I was using the QSO as training more than communication.

I have met 50 yr cw veterans using farnsworth. Why? Just a few days ago one such op was just beginning to learn the bug. Hence, his use of farnsworth. I have met other old timers that elect for Farnsworth perhaps to ensure clear communication. Clearly, if I was uncertain about the exact timing between letters, I'd elect to over compensate the pauses between letters than to accidently sqaush them all together and ruin the goal of communication. In both cases, I do not need to send farnsworth to these FB ops.

Another issue clouds my decision to send farnsworth. Its actually very hard for me to send farnsworth now that I've grown out of it. The beat of morse compels me to send the next letter at a precise time. Trying not to send at Standard Speed takes quite an effort.

So here is the problem as I see it:
1) In practice, the difference between Farnsworth Spacing and Regular Spacing is one of degrees. How far does the farnsworth spacing deviate from regular spacing?2) Farnsworth spacing is used by both veterans and newcomers to cw.
3) Is there a correlation between degree of farnsworth spacing and copy skills?
4) Some veterans may find farnsworth spacing hard to send, due to the fact that they may relegate all keying to the subconscious mind, rely on beats, or use other obscure mechanisms to key the code.

Thus, at the beginning of most QSOs I simply do not conjecture, unless its outright obvious from letter substitution mistakes (R/K, E/T, F/L, A/N, etc) or a HUGE farnsworth space that the op is a newcomer to cw. Thus, in most cases, I await them to communicate to me if they want me to QRS or change to farnsworth.

Obviously, on 7.114 I always try to send farnsworth. Sometimes my concentration slips momentarily and I find myself not using farnsworth. But my intentions are good. I think the 7.114 elmer frequency is the best solution to this issue. The only other better solution I can think of---is being the teacher, inherently knowing the needs of your students before the QSO even begins.

I will try to make a point of asking obvious farnsworth ops, "M y s p e e d o k ?" whenever I talk to them now, just to be sure.

Thanks for bringing this issue up as well, N6EV.

adam nosss

PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:32 am
by N6EV
Good points Adam. Thanks for your perspective(s). Since he first complained, he has had better success. I don't think his degree of Farnsworth sending is excessive or overly exagerated. And perhaps that's part of the problem. He may at times (like all new ops) be sending faster (less Farnsworth spacing) than he should be for his copy skill, giving the other operator the false indication of how fast to send, and expected spacing.

Nancy Kott, WZ8C (North American FISTS coordinator) wrote an interesting article about 'instant recognition' which I'm sure applies to some extent:

This student and I just had a good session tonight at our fastest speed to date.. somewhere around 11 to 12 WPM. So the Farnsworth spacing is just about used up. Pretty soon I'll start transitioning him to non-Farnsworth copy to see how he does.

Thanks again for the feedback. If anyone else has any thoughts, please join in.