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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

    The traditional measurement (FCC Code exams in the past) was one minute correctly copied.

    Sounds like your problem may be that you are pushing the speed. If you can copy a limited number
    of characters before you lose your place, then slow down the speed a bit until you can copy
    a significantly larger number of characters successfully.

    In reading about the challenges learners have with Morse Code it seems to me that there is
    a belief that going faster leads to faster learning. Not so. Learners need to proceed at a pace
    which they can manage with comfort.

    Many learners seem to believe that characters should be sent at 20 wpm to start with, along
    with spacing that reduces the overall speed to 10 wpm or whatever. This simply will not work
    if you cannot recognize code characters at 20 wpm. Thus the learner needs to reduce the
    character speed to that at which characters are easily recognizable all or most of the time.

    If you proceed at a rate (in wpm) that works for you (correct copy for a minute at a time) you
    will gradually become more proficient automatically. A speed which you can copy correctly will
    in short order seem to be quite slow. At that point increase the speed by a couple of wpm. You
    will find that to be slow in a few days or a week. Then move along gradually until you
    are perfectly competent at 15 or 20 wpm at which time you should simply get on the air
    and your copy speed will automatically improve over time. While you are making contacts.
    WA9FZB likes this.
  2. KM4WSJ

    KM4WSJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great advice. Thank you!
  3. WN1MB

    WN1MB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm going to assume you know all 26 letters.

    If you can accurately copy 15-20 letters in a row at a given speed, then what you're experiencing is not a speed issue, but a common "stumble." It happens to all of us - at least those of us humble enough to admit being human. heh.

    If a letter gets by you, do not obsess over it, as the frustration will cripple you and you'll just fall further behind. Practice just concentrating on picking up the next letter, write it down, pick up the next letter, write it down, etc. It's difficult to develop that discipline, but once you do, it will serve you well.

    "Stumbles" and "speed plateaus" are perfectly normal. They're both part of the process. Accept that and keep practicing. You're doing just fine!
    WB5YUZ, WA1GXC and KM4KWK like this.
  4. KM4WSJ

    KM4WSJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank you!
  5. KE0STT

    KE0STT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'll add another tip I read on this forum. When copying a 1 minute stretch of random letters and numbers, like the practice sessions in various apps and on, have a "default" letter to use when you don't know the character.

    My default character is the letter "o." If I don't know the letter being sent, write down an "o." Stumble? Write down the letter "o." It allows you to quickly move on to the next character you hear without causing your brain to continue to try to decipher the letter you missed. Also, it allows you to maintain the correct number of characters in a string...information which uses to give you your score. The letter "o" is quick to write down; of course, pick whichever letter or symbol works for you. Maybe a slash "/" is better. Your choice.

    I may have 2 or 3 or 5 letter "o" in a row during a string but I'm able to recover much more quickly and start "hearing" the correct letters again.
    WB5YUZ likes this.
  6. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    What helped me was to intentionally vary the speed a bit in each practice session. In a single practice session, spend a couple of minutes at a speed where I can only get around half the letters. I'm not competent at that speed, but I'm stretching. Spend a few minutes at a speed where I can confidently, comfortably, and reliably get 100% of the characters. I'm not stretching at that speed, but I am reinforcing what I've already learned, drilling it deep into my brain. And spend much of the time at a speed where I can get around 85-95% of the characters. That's a speed where I'm not quite comfortable, but I have to focus and work to copy. Copying plain text at that speed, I notice that getting 90% of the characters will usually get me well over 99% of the words, and pretty nearly 100% of the meaning -- it reinforces the concept that a missed letter usually is no big deal in casual conversation, so you've got to avoid the stumbles and move on when you miss a letter.

    On the air, of course you'll naturally hear varying speeds. It's not a bad idea to experience them a bit during practice, as well.
    KE0STT likes this.
  7. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    "Stumbles," as described in #83 above, happen to everyone.

    The experienced op just picks up the next character he can, usually one or two later if you don't lose your composure. Then, when the word is finished, he uses the parts he did get, and context, to arrive at the correct meaning.

    When you are copying whole words (which almost everyone does, eventually, after enough QSOs), then sometimes you will lose a word and get two or three words down the line in the sentence and then suddenly get the meaning of the word you missed through context.

    The ability to get meaning through context is what keeps so many code readers from being able to read imperfectly sent or weak CW. Someday, when artificial intelligence is more advanced than it is now, that won't be a problem anymore.

    However, artificial intelligence is definitely not advancing as fast as everyone assumed it would six or seven years ago, when completely automated self-driven cars were touted in the news a lot as coming in a year or two...
    KE0STT likes this.
  8. W6MK

    W6MK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Real, natural intelligence evolved over many millions of years. An intelligent assessment of this
    accomplishment would suggest major success.

    The belief that what is artificial is going to be better than what exists now has been a
    very important selling point for corporations needing to sell ever more stuff.
    WB5YUZ likes this.
  9. WA9FZB

    WA9FZB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I guess the corollary to this is the fact that many of the long-time CW ops (yup, the grey-haired ones) find that the best CW filter to use is the one between their ears. We grew up with receivers that were as broad as barn doors and drifted like tree limbs in the water, but we made lots of contacts anyway. We just learned to deal with it. That's probably how we continue to amaze the younger ops at FD, when we pick a call out of the mud or QRM, while they are still trying to decide which filter to switch in.
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Article in the July QST by a school teacher who has taught kids Morse Code via Zoom. He said ~40 kids enrolled, aged from Kindergarten up through grade school, and they all learned 40 characters (alpha, numeric, symbols) just fine in six weeks.

    Now, he's starting theory classes so they can get licensed.

    No code requirement of course, so this was an exercise to see if he could teach kids the code and it seems it worked.

    I can't imagine why it would take anyone more than six weeks, unless they heard "it's hard," which of course introduces a big obstacle before they even start.:) Young kids never heard that.
    WB5YUZ and WN1MB like this.

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