Author Topic: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?  (Read 1685 times)

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Offline cdev

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CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« on: January 22, 2022, 09:10:55 pm »
Since it is the essence of radio, I would like to learn CW and use it hen I get my license. Have any of you who use CW often got any wisdom to impart to beginners. What kind of keys do you like?

When I get a radio I am hoping to get one that lets you listen between the CW. Although I used to fear the code, now I like the idea of being able to use it. How did you learn? What kind of key and rig do you use?

Finally there are some intriguing affordable rigs coming on the market.
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Offline rob77

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2022, 09:32:24 pm »
how to teach a continuous wave ? that can't be taught , if you mean Morse code which is one of possible coding methods for CW transmission, then there are some good methods for teaching Morse code , usually by groups of 4 letters and once you master the 4  you add 4 more letters...while also ramping up the speed. 40 characters per minute a is good starting speed. i learned it during my military service almost 25 years ago and never used it since then ;)
 

Offline cdev

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2022, 09:41:45 pm »
Yes, Morse Code is what I meant, sorry!

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Offline Kim Christensen

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2022, 11:25:34 pm »
It's a long time ago for me (1980s) since I got my ham license. Back in those days you had to be able to read @ 20 wpm to pass the advanced license.
From what I remember, I first studied the basic format of the code and memorized all the patterns. Then practiced sending code. To practice receiving, people passed around cassettes with code on them at various speeds starting at around 5 wpm or so. Then you'd just keep practicing with faster and faster code tapes. There is a point at which you stop counting dots and dashes and start recognizing characters by  their sound. Kind of like music. That's when your speed capability jumps.
I'm sure there are some Youtube or MP3 practice files with code out there.
 

Offline bob91343

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2022, 12:09:00 am »
I was around 12 years old when I learned Morse code.  I finally got my license at 13 wpm when I was 17.  For a while I practiced with a friend using a home made oscillator and hand key.  Much later I started using a bug and eventually an electronic keyer but I still use the hand key occasionally.

Get a receiver and listen on the ham bands for CW transmissions.  In addition, ARRL broadcasts code practice daily.  Look on their website for the schedule.
 

Offline fourfathom

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2022, 12:51:15 am »
Yes, Morse Code is what I meant, sorry!

Don't apologize, rob77 is being pedantic.  Every English-speaking ham calls morse code operation "CW".  As for learning, I'm old enough that I learned from the paper-tape "Instructograph".  These days there are no doubt plenty of good training systems on the web, or as downloadable apps.  Look into the "Farnsworth" method of learning the code, this plays the characters at a fairly high speed, spacing them out instead for a lower WPM (words per minute).  This helps you learn the characters by "sound", rather than by individual dots and dashes.  The ARRL has some online advice for learning code: http://www.arrl.org/learning-morse-code

As for radios, you can't go much wrong in getting an SDR something like the SDRplay RSP1A: https://www.sdrplay.com/rsp1a/ (this is a receiver only, US$117).  There are cheaper ones, but make sure what you get is able to receive all of the HF bands -- many of them are really only for VHF operation.  The SDRplay isn't the only capable SDR out there (it's been a while since I reviewed the field and there may be better choices now) but it's a pretty solid unit.

« Last Edit: January 23, 2022, 01:13:04 am by fourfathom »
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Offline w2aew

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2022, 03:36:36 am »
I first learned morse code (CW) when I got my novice in the late 1970s.  At that time, the requirement was 5WPM.  So, I learned at that speed - BIG MISTAKE.  By learning the code at such a slow speed, your brain goes through the mental translation of the dits and dahs to the memorized pattern for each letter.  This process is slow, and will ultimately limit your operating speed.  What's worse is, it is hard to UN-LEARN this process.

So, if you are starting from scratch, you can use practice tapes, or various code programs (I used G4FON Koch Method Morse Trainer) to help you.  Use a fast character speed - at least 20wpm character speed, but at a longer spacing between characters.  This will help your brain to recognize the "sound" of each character, not the individual dits and dahs. 

It takes practice, even just a little every day.  20-30 minutes each day is a good place to start. 

This is just my opinion.  Everyone learns differently, but this is what works for me.
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Online TheSteve

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2022, 06:38:18 am »
I did my CW back in 87, at the time I had 5 cassette tapes that were a complete program to learn. I also went to a class Tuesday evenings with some instructor from WWII, he was hardcore. I had to send/receive 10 WPM for my license, but was well past 15 when I did my exam. At the moment I have a WWII straight key made by Westclox in Canada.
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Offline N0NB

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2022, 09:32:15 am »
I'm a pedant too when it comes to Morse Code versus CW.  I like to say that I know Morse and my radio knows CW.   :-DD

Don't follow the method I chose in the early '80s of word associations with the Morse character sounds.  You'll never unlearn it.  @cdev, have you looked at https://lcwo.net/ ?  This Web site might be a good help to you.
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Offline cgroen

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2022, 10:14:04 am »
When I took my license back in 1990, I learned CW by doing groups of 4 (or was it 5?) letters at a time. I trained for 30 minutes a day (not more or you get tired). And when driving my car, every time I saw a road sign, I would "dit dah" all the letters (to much frustration of my wife  :-DD). I took a couple of months and I passed the exam easily (60 letters / minute). At the same time, I used my HF station to listen to QSO's to get some training too.
Regarding a keyer, I have used a Bencher keyer always, suits me very well.
Good luck, once it "clicks" for you, its a very nice feeling  :-+
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Online emece67

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2022, 10:32:06 am »
Learned Morse in the mid 80's, using a computer (an Amstrad CPC664) I programmed in BASIC to:
  • "receive" and decode the code I generated with a vertical key that was connected in some way I cannot remember to the computer
  • "transmit", using the built-in beeper, groups of 5 random letters I copied into a paper

It was useful enough to pass the ham license exam. I have not hear, until today, about that "Farnsworth" method, but it seems a quite sensible approach, as you get the "sound" of each letter, not the di-dah sequence. Sure there are now lots of online resources to learn Morse.

Regards.
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Offline rob77

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2022, 04:28:11 pm »
get the "sound" of each letter, not the di-dah sequence.

that's why you shouldn't get lower than 40 characters per minute when learning, so the sound of a character is not spread over a "long" period of time. don't know what words per minute it translates to (is there an average word length? ).
 

Offline fourfathom

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2022, 06:27:35 pm »
get the "sound" of each letter, not the di-dah sequence.

that's why you shouldn't get lower than 40 characters per minute when learning, so the sound of a character is not spread over a "long" period of time. don't know what words per minute it translates to (is there an average word length? ).

I think five characters is the standard for converting CPM to WPM.  We usually talk about WPM, as that is what the old ham license requirements used -- 5 WPM for novice and tech, 13 WPM for general and advanced, and 20 WPM (as I recall) for extra.  So 40 CPM would be about 8 WPM, and I agree, it's probably counterproductive to learn at a slower speed.

The Instructograph I learned on didn't use the Farnsworth method, so we started out at a slow CPM with slow spacing (you changed the speed by changing the paper tape speed).  This was in Junior High "Electric Shop" class -- a few friends and I already knew our "electricity" stuff, so the instructor offered to have us learn Morse and if we got our ham license we would get an A in the course.  I didn't get my ham ticket, but I did get my code speed up to about 25 WPM so he gave me the A anyway.  It's been over 30 years since I've used Morse, but I can still send and receive it (not at 25 WPM though).  If there's a  point to this long story it's that after getting comfortable at higher-speed Morse it becomes difficult to receive extremely slow speed code where you hear the dits and dahs instead of the character sounds.  Fortunately that transition speed is probably around 10 WPM, and very few operators send more slowly than that.
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Offline bob91343

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2022, 06:50:12 pm »
To increase my speed in preparation for the 20 wpm test, one thing I did was listen to high speed code.  What I did was pick one character out and figure out what it was, in spite of missing many characters after it.  After a while, the number of missed characters began to reduce until finally I caught every one.  That system avoids the slow speed traps that get so many in trouble.

One difficulty they don't mention is the sloppy sender.  When your dits are too long or your dahs too short or spaces where none should be or none where they should be, even an ace operator will have trouble.  One of the things you learn is to forgive sloppy sending, even to the point where you figure out what the other guy really means.  That includes bad spelling and missing words.  And incorrect Q signals.
 

Offline rob77

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2022, 08:02:25 pm »
When your dits are too long or your dahs too short or spaces where none should be or none where they should be, even an ace operator will have trouble.
that's what QXX is for  ;D
 

Online Bud

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2022, 08:04:20 pm »
I learned the code using word association method. It is when each code letter sounding is associated with a word or phrase that is similar in rythmics with the letter and starts with that specific letter. Search for "morse code word association" to understand the concept.
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Online mag_therm

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2022, 06:55:08 pm »
I learned 12 WPM to get the Australian full call in 1969.
Teacher was ex RAF operator, one-on-one for about 6 months 1 ~2 evening/week.
I think his method was something like the Farnsworth, keying newspaper articles from end to start.
I remember, not being allowed to start keying until I could copy nearly 12 wpm, because he didn't want a ham fisted student.

Now fully retired I am interested to start again, so presently reading the ARRL Level 1 manual.
I read there is now emerging some international recognition of qualifications, but not yet in USA.

Interested in straight key. I have an old one here, being a British style (probably Canadian)
 Key W.T, 8 Amp No.2 Mk11 - with the 3rd (rear) bridge

With lack of use for 50 years, I am having dyslexia  with copying  F & L, U & D, V & B.
If I can overcome being thrown by those, I think I will be able to get back to 12wpm or so.
 
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Offline cdev

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2022, 12:05:03 am »
I wonder if any substances might assist the neurobiology of people copying code, because there are some (one close relative of coenyme Q-Q10 comes to mind) that markedly improve short term memory others improve long term potentiation, which is not needed while copying but is needed to help you remember things permanently. It seems doing things, like writing down the code as it comes in, might improve that..

 
get the "sound" of each letter, not the di-dah sequence.

that's why you shouldn't get lower than 40 characters per minute when learning, so the sound of a character is not spread over a "long" period of time. don't know what words per minute it translates to (is there an average word length? ).
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline fourfathom

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2022, 12:07:25 am »
I've only used a straight key, and that was a *long* time ago.  Funny thing though, even now when I'm mentally wandering I will sometimes be thinking in words and I automatically start converting them into morse code dits and dahs in my head.  So, I think I wouldn't have too much difficulty to get back up to a useful speed.  I suppose I'm a bit OCD, for example I also often silently count my actions when there's absolutely no reason to count them.  Fortunately I don't make a big thing of it and few people are aware of this (oops, I guess my dark secret is now out!)

I think that "getting" morse code is related to having an aptitude for music.  Most everyone can learn, but it's just easier for some people.  I suspect this due to nature more than nurture, but who knows?
« Last Edit: January 27, 2022, 12:11:07 am by fourfathom »
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Offline Mark19960

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Re: CW ops, how did you teach yourself CW?
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2022, 07:03:30 pm »
Gordon West. Anyone remember him?
Learned using his cassette tapes in the 90s.

 


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