Electronics > RF, Microwave, Ham Radio

Thoughts on learning Morse

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Granted, this may be off-topic for eevblog, but the subforum does have HAM in the title...

So, I've been plugging away at morse for a couple of weeks. It's an interesting experience.

If I stop and think about the big picture it's too daunting to contemplate really. So much gibberish to get my head around. I've never been a rote learner, and in fact to this day do not have times tables stored in my head, despite hours of recital in primary school.

It appears that everyone agrees these days that the characters should be heard at full speed. I've been using 25wpm for this. Seems OK.

I started with Farnsworth spacing at 15wpm. This is too fast by far. I persevered for some days with this and made very slow progress. Sessions were frantic, panicked, stressful and progress was slow. I was reluctant to slow down on account of there being disagreement and little original content on the inter-tubes about what the best Farnsworth spacing is.

In the end I thought "to hell with it." I've been learning a new character at 11 wpm, which seems fine, and working my way up to 13 wpm as I reach 90% at slower speeds. 13wpm is manageable and doesn't cause excessive panic. My thinking is that at this stage I need to just know all the letters and numbers. I figure I'll get plenty of practice and be in a better position to speed up when I start copying words and callsigns. Hope I'm not wrong!

Anyway; why is it an interesting experience? It appears to be learning without thinking or reason or something. This is more like learning a trick, sort of like learning to juggle, or ride a unicycle, but this is a brain skill, not a physical one (if you see what I mean). Normally when I learn something I think it through and that process cements the information. This is like monkey hear monkey do. But it works. As I said earlier, if I think too hard about the task ahead it seems daunting and altogether unreasonable. On the other hand, a bit earlier on I never thought I'd get this far either.

It's also interesting that I already seem to be better at listening to and recalling the sounds as I copy. I was not expecting this! I'm not seeing letters in my head as it were, but I can remember the sounds and copy behind a couple of characters if I hit a hiccup.

So that's my story so far.

Is there anyone else here who learned just for the fun of it?

I've been learning over the past few years, and can now comfortably get on the air and have a conversation at 18wpm or so.  Or I can do a contest-style short exchange at 25 wpm or so.  My learning has been slow, because my practice has been intermittent, but it's not a race. 

There are several computer aids to help you learn.  Koch and Farnsworth are your friends.   I found lcwo.net and justlearnmorsecode.com to be very helpful, but there are others which are similar.

You're right, in that it's not something that requires intellectual thought, but lots of repetition and practice is required to make things fluent and automatic.  You don't want your brain to have to think about dits and dahs, and count them up to turn them into letters.  There's no time for that when the letters are coming fast and furious.  You want to hear the letters directly, and eventually, you want to hear words.  That sort of automatic recognition of the letters and words only comes with practice.

The most similar thing I've done before is either learning to play a musical instrument or learning touch typing.  Or maybe learning a foreign language, but a language has a MUCH larger vocabulary that must be mastered -- Morse code is only 26 letters, ten digits, and a handful of punctuation marks and symbols.

While eevblog is great for general electronics, there are other boards with more ham radio related content, and a bigger population of Morse code learners and users.  Qrz.com has a fairly active CW/morse code forum where you can find lots more training hints.

People can and do argue the usefulness of Morse code in this computerized age.  It may not be essential, but it is fun.  It allows me to communicate over long distances using a very simple, small, inexpensive, low power transmitter than I can build myself.  I've found that the people I've met on the air are consistently polite and helpful to newcomers.  Maybe there is a rude and snarky Morse code operator out there somewhere, but if so, I've not found him yet.

Have fun learning the code!

Radio Tech:
The only trick to learning code is practice. Take it slow and easy, no need to rush it and try and copy it being sent too fast.  Speed will come as you get more practice.  Another mistake with folks is they study for a few weeks then quit and start back a few weeks later. Just spend 30 minutes to an hour a day will help.

When I got my novice license code was a requirement. So I had to learn it.  I when to the VE session so nervous. I was worried I would never pass the code because of my hearing. Deaf in my right ear and only 60% hearing in my left.

Anyway I sat down and took the code test, it seemed so slow. I copied every character 100 % and even answered the code questions. At this point I was so excited but so nervous that when I took the written I flunked it. |O  Went to another session a few days later and passed it and the technician test. Tech was all I wanted at the time and was pleased.  This gave me voice on 50 MHz and above and code on everything else. By the time I went for General they dropped the code.

I have taught several people who swore they could never get it.
I start with the 1 an 2 character letters ( e, t, i, m, a, n ) at 15 WPM spaced at 5 wpm and stay with them until they get them down pat at 15 wpm spacing.
Then I throw in the 3 character letters, then 4 etc.
Once they get them all at 15WPM I increase up to 25 WPM.
One fellow went for his 5 wpm test and didn't have to take it because they sent the extra test first and he passed it !

Do you own a smartphone? Put an app on it to practice every day some minutes. On every occasion you get. It is better to do over the day four times five minutes, than in the evening 30 minutes in one go.


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