Sunday, September 25, 2011

Morse Code ... Are There Any Short-Cuts ?

< CW >

Over the past couple of years ....
I've been making a half-hearted attempt 
to improve my ability to operate using Morse Code 
Mainly due to the fact that I enjoy combining two of my favorite hobbies
Ham Radio & Hiking 
Portable ops are really fun ... 
And I love playing radio in the great outdoors !!
But no one likes to lug heavy radio gear up and down the trail
So what is a Ham to do ?
The equipment I want to carry needs to be
Small ... lightweight  ... Battery friendly ... and VERY EFFICIENT
To me that means only one thing
Why QRP ? ... size and weight
Why CW ? .... Efficiency
It has been said that there is a 18db advantage with CW
That's like turning on a amp and gaining 3 S units !!
If I'm using only 5 watts or less of transmit power ...
CW is the advantage I need !!

QRP is not only fun... it's a challenge !!

For me ... CW practice in the past has been hit and miss 
Generally a slow process ... and at times even painful !!
I've found it requires... 
Patience ... Discipline ... Persistence
I've tried all the magic programs and software that I can find
But I've yet to find that magic CW learning / improvement tool.
Currently I can receive basic CW qso's up to 15 - 20 wpm on a good day.
That is .... If I write it down.
My short term goal is to consistently copy 20 wpm in my head
NO pen ...NO paper
I'm not gonna lie ... It's tough for me
 I've increased my practice sessions over the past couple of weeks 
and I can see a difference already !!
 I thought I would give you the links 
to some of the CW software that I like & use to hone my CW skills.
These links If used on a regular basis ... 
can help those just starting to learn code ... 
and those trying to increase their CW speed and skill.

( Mouse over and click on the links below to go to the sites)

Another Tool I like ...
That I probably use the most is 
My Little MFJ Pocket Size Code Tutor
This little pocket tutor is great...
I take it with me everywhere I go
Yes ... even to the bathroom ... Hi Hi !!
This is my favorite of all the tools I use to improve my CW
But I have found, It helps to combine my methods 
I typically combine the code tutor with 1 or 2 other methods
Including actually getting on the air and making qso's
Finally .... I was reading various articles about CW the other day ...
and came across a great article by N1FN / Marshall G. Emm
Marshall is the owner of Milestone Technologies / Morse Express
and has a great line of CW keys and various other equipment for sale.

Below is a snip from one of Marshall's articles
and a must read for those of us that are struggling 
with the challenge of learning or improving our CW 

On Learning the Code
Using Morse code is a skill, like riding a bicycle, or playing golf. You have to learn how to do it, and you get better at doing it through practice. Riding a bicycle is a good analogy, because it seems impossible at first but eventually something "clicks" and you can do it. Not only can you do it, you wonder what all the fuss was about. In one respect, however, playing golf is a better analogy because it is open ended. The more you do it, the better you get, but you never quite reach perfection.
There are many, many techniques for learning Morse code and for increasing proficiency. The unsaid secret is that almost any of them will work if you give them a chance. The only way to really learn Morse code is to use it. You are teaching your brain to understand what it is hearing, and teaching your hand to send what you are thinking. Skills are developed through use, and there are no shortcuts.
As amateurs we do often have unrealistic expectations about the learning Morse code. There are few if any professional Morse operators left in the world, although there are lot of hams who used to be pros. A professional is someone who makes his living from sending and receiving code, eight hours a day or more, day in and day out. It's their job. Amateurs have limited time available and so it takes a good bit longer to reach anything resembling "mastery" of Morse code, but it will happen if you keep at it. At some point, whether you are giving a "first qso" to a novice at 5wpm or ragchewing with a friend at 20wpm, it will suddenly dawn on you that you are not copying what is being sent, you are hearing what is being said.
That's the point at which you will have discovered the real joy of Morse code, and become a member of the international and eternal brotherhood of brasspounders. Not because you have to, and not because it is fun, but simply because you can.

To veiw the entire article 
CW - The Once and Future Mode

Some People say
"Life's Too Short For QRP"

I Say
"The Trail's Too Long For QRO "

There Are No Short-cuts !!
CW PAIN = Practice
CW GAIN = 18 db Advantage

de N4LA



VE3WDM said...

Good morning Todd, very good post and I sure can relate to lots you have mentioned. I am at the point now were I want to start copying in my head. I just cant write the code down by hand at certain speeds. I find I get slowed down and lost by trying to write it down. I have done most of what you are doing. I also have made up some CD's for the car from Julian' cw program. I play them in the car on my way to and from work for about 15 minutes. I try to listen and copy in my head. I find myself on a roller coaster with code. It seems I am getting it and then hit the air waves and the wheels seem to fall off.

Hi.. My name is Todd Brady. From said...

GM Mike ... Sounds like we experience much of the same when it comes to CW. I also use a CW training course on CD by Chuck Adams (K7QO)... which is a excellent course .. But I prefer the little code tutor because of it's interactive mode. Some days I get on the air and cw seems easy .... but there are days when my brain just seems to lock up. Thanks for the reply