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The 50 WPM plateau. Morse dyslexia?

Discussion in 'Working Different Modes' started by KE5FRF, Jul 30, 2010.

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  1. KE5FRF

    KE5FRF Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have been working on getting my copy skills up from 40 WPM to 50 WPM using the RufzXP software. I recently maxed out at 44 WPM and my top score was in the 8,000 points range (still too many errors, but a 10,000+ score is within reach with effort).

    But what I am finding is that I become dyslexic at speeds in excess of 40 WPM.

    I run practice QSOs at 45-50 WPM with other software. QSO speed is a little easier to maintain because of familiarity of words and context. Fewer numbers come at you with conversational Morse.

    But with the RufzXP software it is all callsigns in a "contest" type format. You have only two opportunities to hear the call (F6 function key stroke allows a single repeat). Callsigns can be quite tricky at those speeds, especially long DX callsigns with a /QRP or /P at the end, and heaven forbid a /QRP/4 or something. But those score tons of points!

    Anyway, what I am finding is that at these higher speeds, I am hearing the first TWO characters fine, and the last one or two characters fine. So, a 1x2 or 2x1 US callsign like N4XX as an example is a piece of cake. I also do OK with 1x3 or 2x2 calls, but this is where a problem sometimes pops up, and longer calls even more so.

    I am doing my best to copy behind, which I think is the critical method at higher speeds. If I were to try to type while I copy, my mind would be too distracted and I'm sure to miss things. (That method does work OK if you are willing to use F6 a lot, because you can type all that you hear and fill in the rest the second go.)

    But I am especially finding that the middle characters on longer calls get backwards in my mind. I will hear WA9XLX for example, and pride myself that I copied it all as I was hearing it, but when it comes to replaying it in my mind (the copying behind part) I will not remember the 9 and maybe the X and L will be flip-flopped. I might mistake the nine for a 0, or I might flip it backwards and think I heard a 1, or I might even go as far as thinking I heard a FOUR. (4 because dididididah and dahdahdahdahdit are both 1-4 combinations). In other words, by the time I copied the entire transmission and even if I hear each individual element correctly, MY SHORT TERM MEMORY STORAGE isn't adequate. It seems my brain does a very quick dump of all the middle stuff in the callsign and only notes the beginning and end stuff.

    I have a theory on this. Being a ragchewer and not coming up in the "contester" ranks so much (only casually) I have learned to analyze code being sent to me, even at higher speeds, by pulling out the important stuff. If someone sent "I live in Philadelphia, PA" at 45-50 WPM, I might only hear "LV N PHLDLPHIA, PA but I get enough to realize what was said. If they sent "RIG HERE IS ICOM 746 PRO" I might get "RG HR 746 PRO" and know exactly what was said. My brain has been conditioned to pull out the important stuff.

    With callsigns, ALL of it is important, and very random (Well, there are patterns and prefixes that are known but that is only a little help).

    I wonder if anyone else has a similar problem and if there is a method for enhancing short term memory storage to prevent the "dumping" that I experience.

    I have a goal of 50+ WPM reliable copy. This isn't because contesters really operate at that speed (other than sending 599 and TEST sped up). It is just a personal goal of mine to break the plateau.
  2. MW0UZO

    MW0UZO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Wow, I can only dream of 40WPM - Absolute best at the moment is intermittent 14wpm with pen and paper, if I'm lucky. Goldfish memory doesn't help.

    Well done for getting so far - I want to know how you got there!!!!!
  3. W5UXH

    W5UXH Subscriber QRZ Page

    Rag chewer side of it

    I qso nearly every day with a friend, running for about an hour typically, and speeds are in the 60 to 65 wpm range (using keyboards of course). We only need fills when qsb or qrn or qrm hits.

    On the other hand, send me an unknown call at 30 wpm, particularly a DX call, and I will not get it on the first go. Even if I copy it, by the time I try to write it on paper, I only have a general idea of the "form" of the call because I can't remember "random" strings of characters for two seconds. Words are easy (in context). Strings of random characters are impossible.
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I can copy quite a bit faster than 50 wpm if it's very well or perfectly sent; but that is indeed my "plateau" when it comes to sending.

    And if anything, it's shrinking downwards with age.:eek:

    I used to be able to send "almost" error-free at 50 wpm for years. Mistakes would happen of course, but not so many as to be disruptive. Now at 50 I'm making more mistakes and really only get comfortable at about 45.

    Going in the wrong direction, with time.

    I think it's coordination and dexterity in general. I used to handle chopsticks better also.:p
  5. KE5FRF

    KE5FRF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Operating, almost exclusively CW. Working guys like WB2WIK a few years ago when I was only comfortable at 25 WPM and suggesting that he go faster and push my limits. Working the occasional contest, copying the W1AW practice runs and qualifying runs, using computer training tools like RufzXP and my MFJ pocket tutor. BUT MOSTLY OPERATING.

    The key to get past the plateau you are stuck at is to put down the pencil. That will get you up around 18-25 WPM where 95% of your non-straight-key QSOs are operating at.

    Then, it becomes necessary to move away from the straight key (assuming you use one) and graduate to paddles or a bug and work on sending. Sending and copying are reciprocal and one helps to advance the other. This is because the same cognitive functions that go into deciding what to send and how to send it are also used in copying. One exercises the other!

    Oh, and if you are counting dits...Everyone does, even at QRQ...but it has to become REFLEXIVE. SUBCONSCIOUS. It can't be a visualization. You can't be seeing a dah and three dits scroll by in your mental notepad, and then translate to a "B". You have to hear "dahdididit" and instantly think "B" without any pictures or wasted steps.

    Eventually, you have to also build a vocabulary of WORDS. You have to be able to recognize "TEST" or "RIG" or "ANT" and hundreds of other common words and pre/suffixes instantly. This frees up your mind to concentrate on the not-so-common words that you have to think about.

    40 WPM is nothing to scoff at, but it isn't extraordinary either. Not when you look at the RufzXP Toplist scores and realize that this is a very small representative sample of QRQ ops on the bands. 40 WPM gets you into, probably, the top 10% range in relation to others. But there are a LOT of much faster guys in within that 10%. I see this as more of a challenge than anything else, and I like a personal challenge.
  6. AG3Y

    AG3Y Guest

    I'm with Steve on this one. I can still copy quite fast, but my sending ability has gone down the tubes ! Probably due to my partially paralized hand because of my accident. However, even though I love the mode, I have found other modes that I am better suited for. My current interest is DRM SSTV, and occasionally the analog modes of SSTV. I really wish the bands would pick up so that the signals would be strong and steady. QSB and QRN/M really hash up an analog SSTV picture something fierce!

    I remember McElroy had the record for the fastest received Morse. I wonder how that record was established? Did he copy his test with a mill, or did he write everything down?

    How do the modern speed reading code masters do it? Mill or written down? or just comprehension? If it is only comprehension, do they do as you are doing, and pick up enough of the sentence to understand the rest? That isn't really copying the code, is it ?

    A series of random 5 letter groups would seem to me to be a much harder test to achieve.
  7. K9STH

    K9STH Platinum Subscriber Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Back in high school I could actually put around 70 wpm "on paper". However, getting much over around 50 wpm with a "bug" was really pushing it!

    These days, because of rheumatoid arthritis I often have to resort to a keyboard for sending. Not all the time, but often enough. I can still copy at least 40 wpm for a relatively extended time length and, for contest operation, I can usually take over 50 wpm. However, like Steve, copying high speed is definitely declining with age.

    Glen, K9STH
  8. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I can't help you get to 50 wpm. I can barely manage 20 myself and 15 wpm is my comfort zone. But I just wanted to say how impressed I am with what you've learned. I happen to have remembered some of your earlier posts along the way.

    Almost exactly five years ago, you were trying to learn code by actually writing down the dits and dahs and then going back later and deciphering it!

    Then you were dealing with the 20 WPM Hump just a year later, in August 2006

    I think it's pretty dang impressive to go from writing down the dits and dahs, to a 50 WMP Hump in five years. Actually more like two and a half years because I know you dropped out of sight for while and just came back earlier this year.

    Anyway, that's a great accomplishment.
  9. KE5FRF

    KE5FRF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Wow, thanks. Kind of neat to go back and look at the history. Yep, it was a lot of serious work along the way. And when I got my station set back up about 5 months ago it came back almost instantly...about 25 WPM...and in just a few weeks I was back to QSOing at 30 WPM. The proverbial "like riding a bike" thing comes to mind. Actually, when I went off the air a couple of years back I was able to "push" myself in QSOs at around 35 WPM. I thinking taking a long break and coming back at it sort of reinvigorated me and gave me some strong motivation to work on increasing speed again. So, I've been doing that and it seems like the time off was a benefit.

    Now, can I maintain QSOs with QRN, QSB, QRM, and a sloppy fist on the other end at 40+? It depends. Better conditions and a good fist are a big plus. Sloppy sending is a distraction at just about any speed.

    But yeah, I've hit another plateau and it will take more work. But I like the challenge. ;)

  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    The few hundred (or so) code students I've had in class over the years all learned the same way: To not write anything down, right from the start.

    We never had any paper or pencils in class. I always taught by "listening" to the code and not recording it, which is how I learned.

    It would be impossible to learn a new language by writing down everything you hear, and I always figured code is about the same.

    It's unfortunate that so many "great" code lessons, in the past and present, involve "tricks," or forcing people to write stuff down. I always thought that was silly. Those who learn without such handicaps usually learn faster and better, and can retain what they've copied much longer because they have nothing to look at and refer to. It's more intuitive to just listen and decode, much like a foreign language. If to speak a new language you have to first figure out how it would sound in English and then translate it, you'll never be comfortable speaking that language.
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