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Copying on Paper - Best Practice?

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KN4I, Aug 8, 2016.

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  1. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    You are partially correct, sir!

    I use block printing as detailed by WB5YUZ, above, because it works for me. If cursive or whatever works for others, no problem.

    (I mention this in the "12 tips" article - try different things and see what works best for you).

    The same goes for other parts of the task. Some may do best with a ballpoint, others a #2 pencil, still others a felt tip. Lined paper vs. unlined. Headphones vs. speaker. Try them all and see what works - that's the most important rule.
  2. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    That's the Signal Corps method of block printing. It works but some of the motions are not intuitive.
  3. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    And there are/were times when you have to/had to write it down.

    For example, in the bad old days when FCC did code testing, you had to write down the copy - and The Examiner had to be able to read it. No going back and fixing it after the code stopped, either. Passing 20 wpm meant The Examiner had to find 100 consecutive legible characters out of the 500 sent in the test, and you had no second chance.

    Also, in CW traffic handling, you have to write down the preamble, address, signature, the whole thing, as sent. I learned to write 5 words to a line so counting the check was easy.

    You can get a 100 point bonus on Field Day by copying the special Field Day message from W1AW or K6KPH. But you have to write it down exactly as sent. (Yes, they send it by voice and digital, but where's the fun in that?)
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    When code testing went from FCC to VEC, the "copy on paper" requirement was eliminated.

    I taught my nephew Rob N8YM (previously AJ6E and originally KD6EWT) code when he was 9 years old. Rob has cerebral palsy and couldn't write fast enough to get anything on paper at 20 wpm but wanted to become an Extra (back when there was a 20 wpm requirement). So, I taught him "paperless code copy" and he became very good at it, and could also send 35-40 wpm with a keyer and paddles after a few weeks.

    As a Novice (KD6EWT) he made a few thousand CW contacts, never a phone contact, using my home station. Within a few months he was copying 35-40 wpm easily and sending that as well. But the only stuff he ever wrote down was "log" info (callsign, band, mode, date, time). He learned to simply remember everything else, including the other op's name or whatever.

    I drove him to the VE exam point (San Fernando Valley ARC) when he was 10 years old, to take the Extra. He wrote his name on the paper and then just sat and listened for five minutes, and answered ten questions about what was sent. He nailed that 100%. Examiners said they'd never seen anyone do that before.

    However, he failed the written! He tried, but hadn't learned algebra yet in school and my "quick" method of solving for an unknown didn't stick with him. But six months later, it did stick and he went back and passed, and was an Extra by age 11.

    He made thousands more CW contacts over the years while he lived with us, and still never wrote anything down except "log" data. Unfortunately, he's on his own in an apartment and not active anymore...but hopefully, one day he will be, again. He's a good op.
    N0TZU and WB5YUZ like this.
  5. AI6KX

    AI6KX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Cursive script is intrinsically and purposely faster than block printing, but when I got back into ham radio and CW last year I found that over the years my handwriting skills that had deteriorated more than my CW copy! The reason is obvious - keyboarding has replaced handwriting for me, as for most adults. (I can barely sign my name legibly anymore because they have not used checks in Japan for a looong time.)

    I had to dial way back to about 13 wpm to rebuild the brain-hand connections. As my cursive became smoother and more legible I was able to produce good written copy at higher code speeds. I still mostly copy in my head but when I feel like exercising my hand or need to remember some details in a conversation I do grab a pen.

    Steve in Okinawa
    KB0TT likes this.
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Me, too, but I really try not to.

    Here's why:

    Using your wetware to remember stuff like the other op's name and QTH and other details he/she might send is a great memory exercise that keeps a part of your brain lit up -- no kidding. The more you try to simply remember and not write anything down, the better your short term memory becomes. This is especially useful for those of us who are getting OLD.:p

    I pretty much never forget what the other guy sends, and fill in the log after the QSO is completed; that often means writing it down while another station is already calling, so I'm writing and copying (in my head) new information at the same time -- another great memory exercise. If I work a contest without a computer log (often do this, especially if I'm not competing, just making contacts), I find myself logging 2-3-4-5 contacts behind my actual contacts, so I'm writing down info from as many as 5 contacts ago. Another great memory exercise. If I screw this up, nothing really lost as I wasn't competing anyway.:)
    WB5YUZ likes this.
  7. AI6KX

    AI6KX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Studying Japanese and remembering my kids' birthdays is plenty of memory excercise for me.....
  8. K7KBN

    K7KBN Ham Member QRZ Page

    When I was learning code, I wrote everything down - because I would eventually have to write it down for my Novice test anyway. By the time I went into the Navy I'd been head-copying most of the QSOs, jotting down Name, QTH and signal reports (believe it or not, back then a "599" was a rarity, and "5NN" was unheard of).

    First day of Radioman school, in the first code class, I heard what the instructor said was going to be "REALLY fast code". It was "DOUBLE BASIC REEL NUMBER ONE" sent at about 16 WPM. I couldn't type without having the letters on the keyboard (!), so I tore the paper out of the mill and handwrote it. Instructor said it was apparent I'd had some experience with code so he sent me to the back of the room and piped 30 WPM to me. It was plain language and I wrote about 90% or better down but was able to repeat it word for word.

    That was also the LAST code class I attended. One deck up was code control, with lots of Boehme keyers and perforated tapes. And a crew of about a dozen students, all of whom were hams in the same situation as I was. Keep tapes running; rewind as necessary, make coffee for the others and our boss, RMC Zelina, and practice typing.
    W5BIB likes this.
  9. AA7EJ

    AA7EJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I acquired some CW copy skills by sending the code using manual key.
    Started sending with audio feedback, than without audio feedback.
    The emphasis was on dot to dash ratio and letter / word spacing.
    Learned to receive / copy a group of characters at a time - first group was AIE.
    Copied such group of characters in military style 5 letter word.
    The lesson would contain minimum of 25 or so such 5 letter words.
    When the group was "mastered" another 3 letter group , of more complex characters , was introduced.

    There was NO OTHER way but to copy all on paper.

    Never met anybody then (195x) who could copy , and reproduce (!) such code lesson in their head!
    The objective was to accurate copy the codded CW , not to guess what was received by "filling in " the missing stuff.

    The copy method was "cursive" - write entire word without lifting the pencil off the paper.
    It worked.

    The old timers advise was - write few letters behind.
    Hard to master, but it worked fine at higher speed.

    The obvious advantage, besides teaching accuracy in CW, of training using 5 letter words - it is language transparent / independent.
    The disadvantage when you switch to open text is that some of us still translate the text received!

    73 Shirley
    KB0TT likes this.
  10. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's great! I'm sorry he isn't on the air, but I'm glad he's doing well.

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