CW: About to throw in the towel

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CW: About to throw in the towel

Post by KC0CCF » Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:51 pm

I'm a recent new member to skcc and have been using the Koch CW trainer. About two weeks ago, I reached my highest copy level of 28 characters at 15wpm. I just cannot seem to break this level getting around 82 percent accuracy.
About to give up. Any suggestions? Or do I just continue pound away?

Mark Kc0ccf

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Post by KC9KHG » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:37 am

First of all,welcome to SKCC and the forum!
I wouldn't give up,and for that matter,I didn't! 15 wpm? Is that character speed and spacing? If you're at 15wpm...get on the air and start having real QSOs!

When I was learning,I got to the point where I could recognize the letters and got on the air. Numbers are easy,or at least they were/are for me. Send an email to a few of the SKCC Elmers and start having regularly scheduled QSOs with one or more of them. Also check out the K3UK sked page here--->

Sounds to me like you're off to a real good start and just need to get on the air!!

Good Luck & 73!
SKCC #3687Tx6
WCC #281

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Post by KC0CCF » Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:02 am

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm still a little nervous getting on the air. Feeling like I'm not ready I know will probably always be. Yeah the spacing I recently bumped up to 15 to match the char speed. That was painful. I'm anxious to get on. Still have few more letters and most of the numbers.


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Post by KC9KHG » Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:33 pm

Hi Mark,
Keep plugging along,you're almost there!! When you know all the letters and numbers,shoot me an email direct if you like.I'd be proud to be your first CW contact. I'm not too far removed from being where you are now and my speed is not that fast. I'll have no problem slowing to what ever speed you are comfortable with.

Contact me here or direct (email address good on QRZ) if you have any questions on how I learned,or what my experiences were while learning.

Very 73!
SKCC #3687Tx6
WCC #281

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Post by ki5ms » Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:50 am

Don't let that stop you, get on the air and have some fun!
The people in this group will slow down to your speed.
Go to 40M at 7.114 and someone will work with you.

I have been doing this for 30 years and I still can only do a little better
than 15WPM, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of working cw.

Roger KI5MS
Roger KI5MS

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Post by G0KZZ » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:43 pm


I think Morse Code is a little like hand writing. Some people can write fast, some write slowly. But it makes no difference how fast you write, so long as you have something interesting to say and folks can 'read' what you've 'written'.

Like the FISTS moto: "Accuracy Transcends Speed" :wink:

I'm like KI5MS above, I've been tinkering around with Morse for years but I'll never break any speed records. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying every second of it!

The problem with the Koch method of learning Morse is that it's a false ride. A get fast quick scheme. But in reality it is no faster!

OK, so someone manages to read characters sent at say 20WPM, but with a one or two second gap between each character. Once you adjust the true speed, taking in to account the extra time lost between characters, you end up with a 'true speed' of maybe say 6-8 WPM.

Also, with the Koch method you are not learning the true rythm of the code, and many operators struggle to get the correct spacing as they eventually start to close up the gaps. So instead of sending word word word it becomes letter space letter space, or worst still it becomes one of those unreadable streams of dits and dahs that are all to prevelant on the bands these days, where all of the characters seem to merge into one long blur.

Another much propagated myth is where folks say "As soon as you can read about 75% of what you're listening to, increase the speed!". If they stopped and thought about what they were saying they would realise that if you can only take 75% of what you're hearing, then 25% is being lost. Most likely the 25% will contain say three or four characters that you have not yet fully mastered, so if you up the speed there is even less chance of you learning those missing letters or numbers whatever.

My tips would be:

  • Start with a character speed around 6-8 WPM, that way it's still slow enough to easily follow the individual dits and dahs as you learn the 'tune' for the character in question.

    Leave as long a space as you need to recognise a character. This may be as much as four or five seconds at first, but in time you WILL start to recognise them more quickly.

    Once you can achieve pretty much 100% copy at you starting speed/spaces, gradually reduce the gap between characters until you are at the standard three dit spacing between them.

    When you reach the stage where you can take pretty well 100% of what you hear at 6-8 WPM, only then should you increase the overall speed gradually.

    A good tip I found (actually I worked this one out for myself while I was learning) is that while you are writing down characters you should be moving from one letter/number to the next with a steady flow (you are actually listening to the next character as you write down the previous one!). If you find that you write down a character and then seem to have a few moments of hesitation before you start to write the next one, then you most likely aren't running the code fast enough and it's time to speed things up a little.

    Always aim for 100% copy, at least while you are initially learning, because if you make do with say 75% copy, the chances are (as I mentioned above) that you are missing the same characters or maybe character pairs. You will be missing them because you do not know them, or rather because you have not successfully recalled them enough times to allow your mind to translate what you hear subconsciously.

    It takes time to program program the old 'grey matter', time for links to grow and become permanent. You simply cannot pick up a book on weight lifting one day and then bench press 600lb the next. Morse code is the same, you have to allow time for your 'Morse muscles' to grow and develope, and in time you will be the one 'kicking sand' in the faces of phone only wimps (I'm only joking here!) :wink:

    73, Mark.

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Post by WB6VRJ » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:39 pm

as far as code speed goes-I am stuck at 18 wpm and love it! I used the Farnesworth method to learn, and I get along very well at that speed. I even check into a couple of CW nets-and the NCS [net control station] is always very patient-heck, there are hams slower than me and they get aolong just fine!
73, de WB6VRJ SKCC # 4898

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Post by KA7CTT » Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:43 am

Hey Mark...
Like everyone says...Get on the 'air' and have some fun.
You'l find virtualy everyone will slow to match your speed.
I too have been doing CW for over 30 yrs...Not fast, but enjoy every QSO.
The more QSO's you have, the more your speed will actualy increase before you even realize it.
'Jump in'...the CW water is great!

SKCC #1522

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Location: Commerce, MI

Post by k8jd » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:05 pm

You don't have to strain yourself to get to 35 WPM before you make contacts on the SKCC frerquencies ! Most of the members I contact on the air are operating at a very leisurely pace , most below 10 WPM.
I had to put an extender on my bug or use my old J-38 key for QSOs.
My normal bug speed and keyer paddle are getting rusty because I mostly work SKCC guys and gals now.
Just enjoying CW contacts will allow you to be more familiar with Morse and confident on CW and your higher speed ability will get there naturally.
73 from K8JD, SKCC 1395, Centurion 18, Tribune 12, Band Endorsements; 160, 80, 60, 40, 30M, 20, 17, and 10M

Ham radio is real Radio, CW is real Hamming!

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Post by K8PG » Wed Apr 27, 2011 11:24 pm

Hello Mark, :)

Sounds like your doing good- Do not worry about
being a Speed Demon-get on the air and have fun-
the best practice is on the air operating-enjoy yourself.
The speed will come if you work at it sooner or later-
by all means Do Not Give Up-SKCC is about operating
straight keys-meeting new folks and all the fun you wiil
have learning-Their are many fine folks and operators
in this club-keep plugging at it-you will be glad you did.
take Care Mark-73/44s/GL/DX


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Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 5:57 pm
Location: Burlington, NC FM06gd

Post by kb4qqj » Tue May 03, 2011 8:06 pm

First and foremost. Get on the air as soon as you are able to. That is the best method. Pick operators that you can copy easy. If they are sending too fast but you still recognized letters, CALL them. I promise 99.99% of them will slow down to your comfort level.
Don't try to learn Morse Code using any visual or association method: don't memorize a list that tells you "A" is "dot dash" or "B" is "dash dot dot dot" etc. You will hit a 5-8 wpm wall and stall. Learn it by sound in your ear. You will quickly recognize that "di-dah" is"A". Inserting a third step, where your mind first translates the "dot dash" or an association method (Q= pay day today...D= dog did it) into the written letters will not lead you to easy head or even written copy at anything above very QRS and it will be near impossible to relearn. If slow is what you want that's ok too. But start out that way to stay that way.
Never learn at a character speed less than 15 wpm.
If I call you by name you don't hear me say M-a-r-k. You hear the word/sound Mark. Same with cw. Learn the sound. You've already learned to read and write in first grade. No need to try again. Put the letters together in one sound.

If you are starting on your own with no local Elmer this is a great place to start:

Learn the "alphabet" in groups, beginning with letters comprised of all dits first, then on to letters with all dahs next, then finally learning letters with both dits and dahs.
Learn to copy the code in groups of letters that have related sounds. U(dit dit dah), F(dit dit dah dit), and the question mark(dit dit dah dah dit dit).
Learn the more frequently used words and characters first, and the more difficult ones last.
Listen to the Morse Code characters sent at 15-20 wpm, with long pauses between each character. This is known as the Farnsworth method.
Listen to W1AW at a speed slightly above your comfort level before you start your regular practice period each evening. It will amaze you how much that helps your brain slow down and relax. Don't try to copy every letter, just get the ones you can.
Don't pause when you miss a character. Forget it, drop it, move on immediately to the next character. you can come back and fill in later. If you copy "N" then miss the next letter and pause you will miss the whole word. If you copy "N-_-m-e" you can guess it was "Name".
Last and most important, don't let anyone or all the confusing suggestions discourage you. Practice, practice practice and get on the air. Nobody cares if you mess up! We want to work you and get to know you and share a common interest in Morse Code.
And finally.... Best stated by my very good friend and QRQ buddy Milt, K4OSO:

"Eight Reasons CW Ops Stay Off the air.

Copy skills get better with time and
practice. Nerves are certainly a factor at
first. The answer to nerves is exposure.
Get on the air and practice those skills.
After all, you're not copying vectors for a
brain exploration surgery, just fun stuff.
So what if you do miss something?

Who cares? Everyone does! If you show me an op who sends flawless CW, I'll eat
my hat. Even keyboarders make mistakes. Its what you do when you make one that
is the measure of an op. A good op corrects his mistakes. When you glide past
mistakes it leaves the other guy guessing.

Accuracy transcends speed. Accuracy is absolute, while speed will increase/improve
over time. What you don't want is to get faster at sending poorly. Fast and poor are
an awful twosome. Practice sending well, at a speed which is comfortable for you.
You WILL make mistakes,…just correct them and move on.

As many have suggested, by writing down the parts of a typical exchange/qso, you
will be better able to get through a qso. Its really funny how few comments are
directed to spelling. Spelling slows us down and trips us up in many qso situations.
When you practice off-air, its fine to use a sheet of text, but I find that sending as if in
a qso is much more helpful. Practice this by sending out of your head. You'll get
used to sending off the cuff and your spelling will improve tremendously.
If ragchewing is your goal, keep your exchanges short, at first. Don't try to say too
much in one exchange. That way, it will give you time to think about what you'll say
next, and will slow the other op down as well. That will make his transmissions
easier to copy. Keep it casual, and don't let it become hard work.

Keep a hand towel at your operating desk. My palms sweated on my first date but it
didn't stop me. Remember, no one can see you! Try PRETENDING you're as calm
as a cucumber. Think of yourself as a "take charge" op who can handle any situation.
As an op thinkest, so shall he be on the air.
One particular activity that improved my confidence and ability to handle most
situations was learning traffic handling on the Maryland Slow Net. Net speed was
maximum 10 wpm (and flexible), the instructors were patient and considerate. That
training gave me the confidence I desperately needed.
I'm now an Instructor/NCS on that Net and watch the transformation of new ops from
tentative and unsure to ops who would be welcomed on NTS traffic net throughout
the country. Its easy and painless and proceeds at the new op's own pace. Even if
you don't become an active traffic handler, the training is invaluable for learning
general operating practices.

Bull Crap!!! Everyone expects new/inexperienced CW ops to be somewhat tentative,
make some mistakes and miss some copy. They expect it because they performed the
same way when they were new and inexperienced.
Some well-meaning ops, in an attempt to sooth the nervous new op will say, "Aw, no
one will notice your mistakes" Bull crap! Of course they notice them! They'd have
to be idiots not to. But, no one cares about a your mistakes. This is a hobby, a means
of having fun. It will be fun if you stop agonizing over it. The amount of fun you
have at CW is inversely proportional to the amount you worry about it.

That's fine if you like spending your time procrastinating. "He was gonna get on the
air tomorrow" would make a unfortunate epitath. "He really enjoyed his ham radio
hobby and his CW" is a much nicer one. I waited until I was over 60 to finally get
started in Ham radio. I often think of how much fun I could have had over the years
if I had just bitten the bullet and jumped in. Now, I'm trying to make up for lost time.
But, we all know that's impossible.

Use whatever you're good with, and develop your skills on the others at your own
pace. Whatever you do, don't try to swage your fist into a type of key that frustrates you. Learning new skills, while not easy, should be fun. Measure your progress in small chunks. Don't set your goals too far ahead. You must be able to see progress. If
speed improvement is your goal, measure it one word per minute at a time. Don't try to go from 5 wpm to 10 wpm. That's doubling your speed! It would be like me trying to go from 35 wpm to 70 wpm. Not gonna happen. Go from five to six, then
six to seven, and so on." End of Quote

Get on the air, play radio, have fun Mark!! It's a hobby to be enjoyed.

73 for now,

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Joined: Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:15 am

Re: CW: About to throw in the towel

Post by KC9UNL » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:03 pm

Hi Mark,

The most important thing to remember is that --- it is time to get on the air. It has been suggested to go to 40m, 7.110-7.122. Call CQ at the speed you feel comfortable with. someone will pick u up.
You will feel great after that first QSO. Let me know if I can be of help.


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