Learning CW, it just doesnt stick!

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by SA7CNG, May 21, 2020.

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  1. W6MK

    W6MK Ham Member QRZ Page

    In the military everything depends on how many bodies are needed. If only a few are needed and there are plenty of students, then many will be washed out. If there are many operators needed and
    the class enrollment is only sufficient to fill the need, then no one will wash out. The sargeant will
    be informed, there will be some yelling and some weekend passes will not be issued.
    WB5YUZ likes this.
  2. NM7G

    NM7G Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't have a magic answer for you. Nor do I have someone's method to recommend. I'll just relate my experiences.

    I was a kid, and I had no regular helper. A few hams helped me, but on no consistent basis. So, I broke the problem into basic elements. I knew I first needed to know the alphabet, and I needed to know numerals 0-9 (at least). I didn't even think about punctuation or "procedure signals" such as DE, SK, AR (pretend there are lines above the pairs).
    I taught myself 26 letters and 0-9 by myself, not by listening to anything or anyone but myself. I made 3"X5'' flashcards. A letter was on one side of a card and dot-dash representation on the reverse. When I read the dot-dash (or "di-dah" side), I would say it aloud, albeit often softly, as to not disturb family. There was no deadline imposed on me to master the 36 characters. I carried my stack of cards with me as I walked to school, when my parents took us shopping, and in much of my spare time, when neither household chores or schoolwork were pressing. The key point is I MASTERED the 36 characters, before I even contemplated trying to receive them aurally or send them with my J-38 key.

    When I first tried to copy, I used whatever audio source I could find. But, and this is an important but, my goal was to receive 7 wpm. The next step seemed self-evident. Repetition. It's important to note that, in hindsight, I was patient with myself, and I kept at it. I wanted it! I wanted it a lot! I was confident that with perseverance I would prevail. As I recall, reaching the 7 wpm level took about three months. When it came to passing the General Class test, I didn't need to relearn the 36 characters. I just added punctuation and procedure sigs, and slowly, very slowly, increased speed. Once I was on-the-air at 13 wpm, I liked ham radio so much that I put in a lot of hours with headphones on, glued to my $17 surplus 40m receiver and homebrew 10 Watt TX. Somewhere around 18-20 wpm, I decided to put the pencil down, and patiently try to copy in my head plain text from on-air W1AW or other code practice stations. After 5-10 hours of copying with nothing in my hand, I felt progress was being made.

    If there are any key words in this, they are patience and perseverance.
    73, Gary
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
    W5BIB, WB5YUZ and KB2SUJ like this.
  3. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    That sounds a lot like a portion of the DLAB, Defense Language Aptitude Battery. I took the DLAB before enlisting in the Army. One part was on testing the ability to differentiate between different sounds. Another was on telling the difference between subject, verb, and object, in a sentence with a made up language. I believe that there were more than two parts to the test, I just don't recall them right now. Anyway, the point is that this looks familiar and I'd guess that given the effort the US military puts in to selecting and training people that they have a good idea on what works and what doesn't. The US military had to learn a lot quickly in this during World War 2 because that was a war like none other before or since. Sadly many lessons had to be relearned for Korea and Vietnam because not all lessons learned were conveyed to everyone.
  4. WA9FZB

    WA9FZB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    When I entered Army Basic Training at Ft. Campbell, KY in 1970, one of the tests they administered to all incoming recruits was a simple code recognition test. They had a tape that sent only two letters, A and N, in a random sequence. We were to just write down the letters as sent. The object of the test was to identify potential radio operators by selecting those having an aptitude for code. I got yelled at for asking "Where are the other letters?" Of course, they were mad about me, because I got a perfect score but they couldn't send me to 05C (radio op) school because I was National Guard and was already enrolled in 31E (radio repair) school.

    Another code-related, military story happened when I took the final exam in the advanced radio repair school. The final exam was a bench test in which the student had to fix a defect in an R390A, and then re-align it. We were given 4 hours in which to complete the test. I got the radio fixed in just a few minutes, and aligned within the hour. I spent the remainder of my time listening to 40-meter CW QSO's on the headphones. Unbeknownst to me, the instructor sneaked up on me and snatched the cans off my head. He took a listen, expecting me to be listening to music or a baseball game. When he heard the CW, his face became all confused. He yelled at me, something like "What the *%^** you listening to, troop? You don't even know what they're sending!" I took the phones back and proceeded to recite to him just what was going back and forth in QSO. I had him! All he could do was shake his head and mutter something like "You in the wrong school!" Aced that course.
  5. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think aligning an R390A in an hour is the real accomplishment! I owned one for a while, and not only never tried aligning it but just carrying it from the operating table to the work bench was a chore.:p

    Damned complicated receiver with many "moving parts."
  6. WA9FZB

    WA9FZB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    We were sometimes "fortunate" when the instructor would give us a receiver that was only slightly out of alignment to deal with. If one happened to be the class clown, he got the real buggers to align -- the ones with bad IF cans that would never align. . . welcome to THIS man's Army!
  7. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ditto here. Have never aligned a triple conversion rig. Don't believe I would ever try. That's a job for someone who knows what they are doing.
    WA9FZB likes this.
  8. WA9FZB

    WA9FZB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    . . . Or used to know. Back then, aligning a 390 was almost a daily experience in repair school. I haven't had my fingers inside one in over 40 years. Doubt that I could even operate it properly without some shake-down time.

    Ah, the wonders of youth.
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  9. SA7CNG

    SA7CNG Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have spent an hour a day during my vacation, mostly with the Koch method, but also transmitting on a MFJ 557 trainer. I have made good progress in transmitting, but no progress what so ever in being able to decode letters without counting the dots. I need to visualize the code to be able to decode it, and that is not nearly as fast as it needs to bee. For some reason i am not able to learn the ability to connect a sound to a letter in my head.

    CW is fun, and if i had at least been able to master the first four or five letters using the koch method after the many hours i spent training i would probably continue, but i have other duties and responsibilities that i need to tend to. Putting in the months of intense training that it would require is not possible.

    I can how ever copy 5 wpm reasonably well, i have a good memory for details, so learning the morse code was done in a day. The ARRL 5 wpm training codes were really helpful.
  10. KD1JT

    KD1JT Ham Member QRZ Page

    There’s your problem. You think you “can’t” so you can’t. Of course when you start you’re counting dits and dahs. But Morse Code is a auditory language ... you don’t visualize it. That would be like visualizing spoken words. You are able to connect sounds to letters, in the exact way you connect sounds to words in spoken language.

    As to the time it takes to learn, well, no one started out at 35 words per minute. Most of what you now see as work and practice ... is nothing more than getting on the air as soon as you can work at 5 wpm and making contacts. Comprehension and speed develop naturally if you use it.
    WN1MB likes this.

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