Thursday, March 28, 2024

Whats going on with Morse code?

   It would seem from the blog reading I have been doing that CW seems to be on the rise within our ranks. I am not sure what it has to do with but Parks on the air, summits on the air and so on are getting popular these days and maybe folks are realizing you may get more bang for your buck with CW. If you have read my blog for any amount of time you know that I am "into" CW. Way back CW was a must if you wanted your ham licence to get onto HF. At that time I forced myself to learn CW to get my licence and that was it. I hit the needed 12 wpm for advanced and then put CW on the sidelines. 

I moved into a townhome and had to operate stealthily as the HOA cops were always out and about and antennas were a BIG no no. I set up an antenna in the attic the Alpha Delta DX-EE and it worked great. I was operating SSB in the Canada Day contest and having a blast. Later that day my next-door neighbour said she could hear "CQ contest" from her speakers!!! If I wanted my love for ham radio to continue I had to change things up. I had to drop the power and in doing so SSB was going to be tough for contesting. It was then I decided to take up CW again and go QRP with it. 

This meant basically relearning the code, I did it before but this time it was for keeps! Below is my journey with the code and some of the pitfalls and joys. I found the second time around learning the code was not like the first. This time I wanted to learn it and not have to and that made a big difference. 

Certain letters came easy such as M, O, T, E, C, Q and then there was J, H, B, S, F, L. As I started out I thought my frustration would subside as I learn more of the code. It did but I found it reared its ugly head for various reasons. Frustration comes with most learning and is not specific to CW. Learning a language, playing an instrument, or driving a car they all come with frustration but we press on. When learning anything one must understand that you may not become a pro. You may not be Peter Frampton, Mario Andretti or top-end CW ops. We may not be wired that way but we have to be thrilled with where our ability, hard work, work and family constraints fit us onto the scale of skills. 

What is the best way to learn the code....well it's personal and the short answer is we have to ferrite out the method that works for us. Understand this can be one of the most frustrating parts and if you are not committed to learning the code this could be your excuse to give up. Through trial and error find the way that greases your wheels to learn the code. I tried code-learning CDs in the car at home and so on that was a flop for me. Getting on my laptop for short sessions and having the program throw letters at me and I had to type in the correct letter did it. 

Things you will run into while on the journey: 

- Moving 3 steps forward and sometimes 4 steps backwards. Get ready for it will happen and understand it will pass. 

- You feel there are certain characters you will never get. Hold on and I guarantee you will get them some just take longer than others. I see parents who are all concerned that their little one is not walking at the same age as everyone else. I tell them to look around and see how many adults are not walking but crawling ...some take longer than others but we all will get there. 

- Counting the dits and dahs, I found this more so with the numbers learning. Understand it will happen and later I will tell you what I did to break this habit.

- So you know all the letters and numbers but why then all of a sudden are you have issues with certain letters or numbers that you had mastered? Understand this is part of learning and will happen. Remember 3 steps forward and 4 steps back. As you increase your speed this for sure will happen. 

- As you begin to listen to words or QSOs's your going to hear a letter and not get what it is. You then will stop to think about it and then get behind in your coping and frustration. This happens to all of us you have to learn what they said in the movie The Goodfellas "forgetaboutit", It's time to train your brain to skip over it and move on.
- As your speed increases you will have a tendency to assume the next letter and when it's not that letter you will be thrown off. Guessing the next letter is normal and you are going to have to ignore it and wait and see. This is very true with copying call signs. For me, it was I hear V and I think VE and it's VK. I hear D and I think DL and it's DF. Guessing ahead with CW will get you further behind. Let me be clear thinking ahead is not the same as listening ahead. 

Ok, enough of that for now let me go back to counting the dits and dahs and how I overcame that. I increased the sending speed to a point where it was impossible to count any part of any letter or number. This trained me to listen to the complete sound of the letter or number. With this over time came instant character recognition. We all know CQ in Morse and most of us don't hear individual C and Q but we know the sound of it and know it's CQ. 

For me, morse code is an adventure and my understanding is to get to your happy place with it in regards to speed and understanding. Why are you learning the code POTA, SOTA, Contesting or general QSO's or a combination of them? Depending on what you will be doing with the code will determine your learning path. For example, I love contesting. So accuracy, speed, letter and number recognition and being able to keyboard without looking at the keyboard. Other Morse code adventures require word recognition, sending code via a key and adjusting to weather and operating.
Enjoy the journey, have fun and keep expanding on the art of Ham radio.



QRP - When you care to send the very least! said...

Kudos, Mike - all "sound" advice!

Sorry for the pun, couldn't help myself - but no kidding - very good advice!

73 de W2LJ

MadDogMcQ said...

Excellent! I love reading stuff like this - it’s VERY encouraging! And you’re right - there does seem to be a huge increase in CW interest - I see it all the time on social media where people express their interest.

I hope to work you - just give me another five years LOL

73, Tom, M7MCQ

PE4BAS, Bas said...

Thank you very much for this post. It is very encouraging. I keep on practising and one day I'll get it. At this moment I struggle most with B and 6, V and 4, J and 1. Because of the warnings I don't count at all. I was able to do a decode on 40wpm. Don't know what the word was, it was a short word but I did it. I'm not yet frustrated but instead I'm getting addicted to this ;-).
However I'm far away of decoding complete sentences. Thanks again Mike, although you did learn morsecode before you do master it again. One day we'll do a proper CW QSO, not the contest stuff only hihi. 73, Bas

VE9KK said...

Good morning Larry and as always very nice to hear from you.

VE9KK said...

Good morning Tom, I am glad you found the post helpful. Enjoy the journey and slow and easy wins the race. Looking forward to make contact on the air with you. I have done that with Bas a few times.
73 and have a great holiday weekend.

VE9KK said...

Good morning Bas very nice to hear from you, good to read you found the post encouraging. Those letters you mentioned give me issues at times. One of my practice groups is B5SH6B. Looking forward to a QSO in the future.
73 and enjoy your long weekend.

Anonymous said...

Any particular morse program on the internet that worked for you?
Tom kb3ghc

VE9KK said...

Good morning Tom and very nice to hear from you thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. As for internet programs the ones I have used are:
- Morse code world
- Morse runner
- G4FON but you have to be a member of LICW club to get that program. The Long Island club is excellent for material, classes and feedback with learning and improving CW.

I hope the above links help but if you have anymore questions leave let me know and you can also email me at ve9kk at hotmail dot com

Bert, PA1B said...

Hello Mike, Excellent post. Guessing ahead with CW will get you further behind. Hi. FB.
Why are you learning the code? Well, for me it is, working with the Lowest Possible Power. 73, Bert

VE9KK said...

Good morning Bert and always nice to hear from you, the code for me is contesting at this time. I enjoy the challenge and the competition that it brings.