Why waste time learning Morse code? HERE IS WHY! And, how to do it.

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by WA7DU, Aug 25, 2015.

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  1. WA7DU

    WA7DU Ham Member QRZ Page

    A few random thoughts for those interested in learning Morse code:

    (1) Samuel F. B. Morse did not invent Morse code. Nor did he envision receiving the code by ear. We owe both of those achievements to Alfred Vail.

    (2) If you want to learn Morse code, there are some things to take with you into the learning experience. One is the Koch Method of Morse Code Instruction. The WWW is the place to go to learn about Koch. The Farnsworth method is another vital twist in code instruction. Again, the WWW...

    (3) More keys to easy learning...learn the sound patterns of the letters, numbers, and symbols, NOT the dot/dash symbols on a flashcard or chart or any other printed display of dots and dashes. It would be best if you never looked at the dot/dash patterns ever. Learn by ear only, not by eye. As one expert put it, "don't try to teach the ears through the eyes."

    (4) If you are pessimistic about your ability to learn to be a Morse code operator, four-year old children have succeeded. They could not write what they received, but that did not keep them from learning to hear and understand Morse code messages.

    (5) The very best telegraphers could receive at a speed greater than 80 words per minute. Don't think you can do it? Thousands and thousands learned to operate at a speed sufficient to earn a living as a telegrapher, or to pass the old-old code test for an Amateur Extra class license from the FCC. Among "average" telegraphers, 20 wpm is slow. If they could do 40 or 50 wpm, you can do 20 wpm with a bit of effort.

    (6) If you become proficient in receiving and sending Morse code, chances are that you will develop a love for it. This was the finding of one author (William G. Pierpont) who researched the subject, and who interviewed many expert telegraphers in the process, putting his findings on paper in a book entitled "THE ART AND SKILL OF RADIO-TELEGRAPHY."

    (7) If you think you might develop an affection for Morse code and telegraphy, either land-line, or radio, the book cited above is a good read. Another is "ZEN AND THE ART OF RADIOTELEGRAPHY." Both books have sections devoted to helping a prospective operator learn the necessary skills.

    (8) If the bug bites you, and infects you with the desire to re-live the history of commercial telegraph, a great story is told by George Campbell in his book "GOOD NIGHT OLD MAN."

    (9) Your computer, tablet, or smart phone can help you learn Morse code. Some hints on where to find programs or apps: On the web, G4FON, LCWO.net, and others which you can find with Google. Mobile apps: Morse Code Trainer (Android), IZ2UUF Morse Koch CW (Android), Codeman (iOS), Morse Elmer (iOS). The last two are favorites of mine. There are more apps available, and more being developed as time goes on.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2015
    KM4UBG, K5URU and AC8UN like this.
  2. WA5RF

    WA5RF Ham Member QRZ Page

    For Linux CuteCW is a good one. It has several different modes of training like, recognition, speed, word, grouping and a few more. It has Koch, under the recognition section, and even lets you break it into 4 different Koch segments so you can focus on one grouping at a time.
    KD0TFP likes this.
  3. KN3O

    KN3O Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm working on learning CW right now, at slow points at work and free time at home. I'm confident on my ability to send recognizable code tomorrow if I had to. Its the receiving that is difficult. Despite being able to send at 10-15 wpm, I'm struggling to learn to receive only 7 different letters at 10 wpm.
  4. KB1CKT

    KB1CKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    As an "amateur" I play radio for the love of it, not for money. Don't have hours to spend on it, and thus I'm a rank novice at most things involved with radio. Just the way it is. I'm lucky when I get an hour a day; and sometimes months can go by with none at all.

    I've come to realize why most hams are old men. Once one retires they have plenty of time for this hobby!
    N5WVR, KE4HTS and KC9UDX like this.
  5. N7ZAL

    N7ZAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think the reason we have a lot of older hams is because ham radio was a lot different years ago. It was magic and enchanting to converse with DX without the use of satellites, INTERNET, etc.

    It really filled a need, where as today not as much.
    KI5WW, M0PHE and W5BIB like this.
  6. WA7DU

    WA7DU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree with this to the extent that most hams are older. But, from my experiences as a volunteer examiner, administering licensing exams, young people are still interested. Even interested in Morse code...
  7. K7MEM

    K7MEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sending faster than you can receive seems to be normal. At least for me it was. However, don't fall into the trap of sending faster than you can receive on the air. Other operators gauge your receive speed by your transmit speed. If you send too fast, you could be lost when the other operator returns.

    10 WPM is plenty fast to get on the air. IMHO, getting on the air does not help you get faster, but it does give you the confidence necessary to enhance your skills. When I was working on my speed for the 20 WPM test, I used a cassette tape recorder (it was a long time ago) that contained simulated QSOs. I would listen to them two or three times a day, for about 15 minutes. Any more than that I found to be counter productive. In a relatively short time (6 months), I was copying 25 WPM and passed the test easily.

    I am retired, but I don't consider myself old. Getting old, yes, but not old yet. I also find that I don't have plenty of time for the hobby. (http://www.theshiftyjackranch.com). Physically, I am doing far more than I ever did when I was employed. Now my work is just on the other side of the door.
  8. AG6QR

    AG6QR Subscriber QRZ Page

    But many of the hams of retirement age have been involved in the hobby since their youth.

    I got into the game late. I became a ham after my 50th birthday, but I'm far from retirement. I have a full-time job and two young kids at home, ages 9 and 5, who keep me very busy while they're awake. My home doesn't have space for a shack in a quiet spot, so my shack is in a corner of the family room, and the only chance I have to practice or work CW on the air undisturbed is after the kids are asleep.

    I've been working on CW for about two years, and can now confidently get on the air at 12-18WPM (faster for quick cookie-cutter contest exchanges). I'm proof that you can learn CW even if your teenage years are long past, and even if you've got lots of distractions and limited time. My learning hasn't been as fast as some, but this isn't a race. I'm still a work in progress.

    I try hard to get a half hour a day of practice, but some days that doesn't happen. I think the brain learns best with fairly short practice sessions that happen nearly every day, instead of occasional marathon sessions. But do what you can, because the one thing I can guarantee is that nobody learns CW without some practice. And I believe anybody can eventually learn it with practice. (Here's a secret that may ruffle some feathers: CW operators aren't necessarily smarter than non-operators. The main thing that separates them from those who don't know code is that they have been persistent in devoting significant time and effort to learning CW.)

    In addition to the suggestions that already appear on this thread, one thing I've done is to convert a bunch of text to mp3 files, and put the mp3 files on an mp3 player, which I can listen to at night as I'm drifting off to sleep. Lying in bed in the dark with no way to write, I'm forced to "head copy", making it easier and quicker to actually understand what I'm receiving. Before I was doing this, I had been practicing on the computer. The letters would go from my ears straight through my fingers to the keyboard, without pausing in my brain. I would copy for a while, and only after I had stopped and looked at what I'd typed would I realize that I'd written down words, maybe even my own name and/or call sign!
    WC3T likes this.
  9. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    These days, amateur radio is a hobby folk tend to come into later in life. I'd guess the average age of candidates on Foundation courses here is almost certainly over forty.
    N5WVR and WC3T like this.
  10. KB1CKT

    KB1CKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I got my ticket when I was 20 or so. But I was in college. Even if I had a General ticket I wouldn't be able to operate much, no way to put up antennas. Wasn't until I was 25 or so that I could start to put up temporary antennas and operate sporadically on HF--was always on 2m FM before that. Once I could actually get on air my code speed has gone up; but I've never stuck with the code long enough for it to really sink in--even at 20wpm I find myself counting elements! At 28 I finally got my house and with a permanent setup where I could just flip the switch and play radio. But over the last 10 years stuff always comes up, and I fall out of the hobby due to competing interests and general frustration.

    Am hoping this go-around I'll stay active long enough for it to sink in. Have practice files, try to copy only the 20wpm stuff; but in the end I find I like ragchew at 13wpm when I get on air.

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