High speed CW head copy

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by W4WVW, Jul 26, 2020.

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  1. W4WVW

    W4WVW Ham Member QRZ Page

    What's the practical limit for the best of the best? 50 wpm? 60 wpm?

    I hear these speed demons and think that they have to be using a machine/computer to decode. I don't think I could copy 60 wpm on SSB, that's a word every SECOND!

    While impressive, I feel that a lot of the hi speed ops miss out on QSOs because of the limited number of ops who can copy.

  2. WA1GXC

    WA1GXC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I cannot copy that fast. There are high-speed guys who routinely do 50 and 60; I can get words and phrases. I'd like to fake humble/brag

    that I think I could get my speed there if I practiced copy off a machine-generator, like a computer, running at 55WPM. But I might not have

    the aptitude and I'm too scared to fail . Just being honest. For me right now, I don't care and it's too much work, so I truly identify with guys and gals who

    are practicing and working very hard to get their speed to wherever they have set their goals.

    Your brain is more amazing than you give it credit for. Back in the days of machine RTTY, which I had a lot of fun with, I could identify several

    of the complex (not just the easy ones) characters as they were received-- Carriage return, line feed, figures, space as they came across the machine

    as commands. That's at 60 WPM--each letter was a series of start pulse, 5 x 22millisecond pules followed by a 32 ms. pulse--and I unknowingly had learned the

    sounds. World champion Ted McElroy I believe copied 72 WPM Continental Code for a half an hour, copied on a typewriter.

    The radio operators we admired when I worked as a professional were the ones with good ears. Literally no one was impressed with speed. We all

    could copy very fast. There was one guy--I can mention his name because he is gone--retired USCG Master Chief Radioman Walter Doucette. He

    copied stuff most of us could barely dig out. And he copied--this is no exaggeration-- over 1 line behind on the "Mill"-- 50 characters on the

    typewriter behind what he was listening to. Greek, Turkish, mixed letter/number groups. Other-worldy.

    To really get your speed up, you need to be frustrated--you need to be practicing with code that is faster than you are comfortable with. If

    you get 75% or 80% percent of what's being sent, you're doing great. Try 5 WPM faster than your good performance. For me, that's about 50WPM.

    It sure is a lot of work, though!

    KD9PQB, W5BIB, K1LKP and 4 others like this.
  3. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Those that can copy that fast enjoy doing so between each other. They aren't missing out on anything any more than the slow speed operator is missing out because of his speed.
    If its good code I'm ok up to about 30 wpm but I sure don't like long windy QSOs at that speed. Its tiring for me! But so is 8 wpm.
    K0UO and WA1GXC like this.
  4. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Apparently their numbers are sufficient that they are able to talk to each other. Regardless that's a decision for them to make, no one else.
    K0UO and WA1GXC like this.
  5. WN1MB

    WN1MB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think another cup of coffee would be good.
    W1BR, W1BV, K0UO and 5 others like this.
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm sure you can "copy" well articulated speech at way over 60 wpm.

    Most people speak faster than that in conversation; as a voiceover announcer for years, I was usually clocked at about 150 wpm (doing commercial work where a lot of data was squeezed into 30 or 60 seconds).

    Re the code, unless it's "machine sent," most code-copying programs can't decode high speed CW well although they're getting better over the years. I've never had any kind of Morse "decoder," and always "copy" by ear, writing down only the other stations's callsign and name to prevent simply forgetting it.:p I do keep a log, and at the end of a QSO add the time and frequency band; and have a scratchpad handy to "take notes" if the other station sends something interesting I'd like to reply to and also might simply forget.

    I can copy ~50 wpm this way okay, but 45 is more comfortable and requires less focus. The 30 wpm practice sessions sound fairly slow to me. But I like code and have been using it for 55 years now, and reviewing my logs it appears 70% of my contacts over the last few years have been CW.

    BTW I cannot "send" 60 wpm. I can send about 40 wpm with few errors, and maybe 45 with more errors. Like most who really use the code a lot, I've always been able to "copy" faster than I could ever send, and that gap has grown wider with age.:(
    WD4ELG, N7BKV, WB5YUZ and 1 other person like this.
  7. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not everybody's going to get to 60 WPM, even if they practice a lot and like CW.

    Most people, though, can get to 35 or 40 WPM copying, and 30 or 35 sending. That's where I am, and I am on CW for an hour or so almost every day.

    A parallel might be running. Lots of us can run a 10 minute mile, and most of us could go faster if we trained harder. However, that does not mean it is practical for us all to expect to run a 4 minute mile if we just train hard enough. There are practical limits to all human accomplishment!

    The woman pictured below, though, Eileen Cline (K0ILM) could both copy and send 60 WPM, sending on an early electronic keyer in the days before keyboards. It was a rare enough occurrence for someone to go that fast that it got her picture in magazines, books, and newspapers. I used to know but can no longer recall what kind of paddle she used to send that fast; it's there in the picture, surely someone will recognize it (photo by Bob Herzberg, K4JBI):

    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
    N2EY, WA1GXC and W4WVW like this.
  8. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    There was that video somewhere in one of those threads on the Titanic where a historian of sorts said the radio operators of the day would routinely send at around 40 WPM as I recall, and these were young men that would have started operating as wire telegraph operators when they were something like 15 or 17 years old and have had a decade of experience before getting such a prestigious position.

    In another thread was a link to a comedic bit about a mix up in the military where long time "code operators" were mistakenly sent to "code school" and there was mention of a legendary character that could do 60 WPM. The possibility of hyperbole for comedic effect is highly probable. But the story of these men sandbagging in their classes to frustrate the instructors was hilarious.
  9. WR2E

    WR2E Ham Member QRZ Page

    Just a tip I use and seems to work for me. (I can't do 50-60 though!)

    Tune in to W1AW code practice as often as possible but DO SOMETHING ELSE in the shack while you're listening. Don't even concentrate on it. After a time you will find that you have just 'read' a whole page of QST without even being aware of having done so.
    W5ESE, N7BKV, WB5YUZ and 1 other person like this.
  10. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Found it. It was an Autronic key manufactured by the Electrophysics Corp. of Costa Mesa, CA. They were a common sight at hamfests as recently as the 1990s:

    RA1AOM and WA1GXC like this.

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