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About CW speed and more ...

Hi all,

Where are we going ?

Where are our values ?

What will the youngest people believe ?

It disappoints me when a hunter answer to a SOTA activator at a speed that is not suited to him !
So where are your CW bases ??

It seems to me that we have all been taught to adapt our speed to that of the correspondent so why act like this !
If you do not know how to reduce your speed, it is nevertheless simple, consult the manual of your darling TX …

Moreover are you serious to put 2KW, 1000W and even 500 to make you hear of a small activity which uses only these 5 small watts ?

But the most hilarious is the OM which uses its computer to launch its callsign automatically without having or even heard the station by just clicking on the spot (in SSB too, it’s always the same)

I don’t think I’m free from blame, but there are things I will never do.

Think about me…

73 Éric


I have an external memory keyer for my 817. It has a speed knob on the front and that makes changing speed easy, it is much more involved having to change menu settings for the internal keyer, so I do not use it. Whenever I am called by some sending much slower than my nominal 18-20wpm I hold the dot paddle and adjust the speed so the slower calling station can hear me matching their speed. This is to give them a psychological boost that I am adjusting my operating so I can work them. If they’re not much below 18-20wpm then I leave much longer gaps between characters as most people can copy fast characters as long as they have some thinking time.


Especially cw is a handwriting that shows its own character. I always find it wonderful, if I recognize people only by fragments of their callsign.

I always leave a little bit more space between the letters, because I think that this helps to understand them… and I enjoy it with my partners when they do so.

And yes - there are days when I am not in such a good mood and CW does not run smoothly. And there are clammy fingers on the summits, uncomfortable sitting positions, … and many other things, which make the CW signs individual.

But that shows the people on the other side and I love that! Because I want to have contact with a human and not with a machine.

73 Armin


Thank you for the answer Andy, I know your way of operating in CW as you must know mine.
But increasing the time between signs is not necessarily a solution (25wpm vs 15wpm), this morning I was listening to the QSO between Phil @G4OBK and @SM3LXI /P, he had reduced his speed to work karl-Erik :wink:
(I spotted him in the correct frequency and added “QRS pse”)
But my think is about chaser …

As one who is still new to CW, I am learning at a speed of 18-20 with BIG space. I do not want to learn at 7 wpm and take forever to even get to 15. I know the “standard” exchange and probably send faster than I should (as my copy still sucks worse than a bad vacuum). I have my speed set at 15. If you hear me chase, don’t slow down, just add space if you send me anything other than my call, a greeting and rst.

Gary W5GDW


I also have an external memory keyer for the ft817, with a speed control on the front face of the little box. It’s a Pico keyer and I recently had to put a new CR2032 battery into it, after 5 years of use. It has a single push button control too, one brief touch of the button sends whatever is in memory 1. That is a CQ call in mine.

In case this helps, on the ft817 there is a short cut to the speed setting of the config menu. Provided your first level menu is positioned at the line where KYR is on the C key, a long press on the C key takes you straight to the speed setting in the second level (config) menu. Set the speed, long press the F button to save. Resume operating at the new speed.
Using this shortcut does still require you to stop sending briefly, but that can sometimes be done while hearing the incoming call.
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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N0XAS Pico Keyer? I have one and it’s really good. I found it burned through a CR2032 in 6months. The second time after 3 months I fitted a hard power switch. Been on this cell for ever now. It went on the fritz and I thought “new 2032 time again” but when I took it apart the PCB was covered in green gunge… damp conditions in GM encouraged some conductive growth. Probably there was some gunge I never noticed before which was keeping it awake and using up the battery prematurely.

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I never got out of ‘write everything down’ mode since working towards my Morse test in the mid 1990’s and it’s limited my copying speed to about 19-20wpm because I can’t write faster. That’s where I got interested recently in head-copying.

So now my pencil is hovering over the notepad for those key words for the log and I’m trying to memorize the subset of abbreviations for SOTA QSOs in order to get my copying speed into the 20-25wpm range.

As an activator I find most SOTA chasers adjust to about my sending speed or a bit faster. But there’s always a QRQ operator [who’s usually QRO too] who sends his call repeatedly QRQ. Doesn’t he realise it’s too fast for me and sending his callsign just once but slower would do the trick? He need not even adjust his character speed – just inject bigger spaces.

Meanwhile, since I’ve just started re-learning how to copy, any masters of head-copying, please tell us your learning techniques.

73, Andy (G8CPZ / M0ALC)


I find I copy in my head much easier when the morse is sent rhythmically. Practice makes perfect… well that’s a noble aim!

I used to relish a call from Reg G3WPF on 2m CW as I didn’t need to write anything down. His morse sent at around 20wpm would usually produce 100% head copy, even when conditions on the hill were challenging. In my opinion SOTA operation does not require anything faster. Faster sending by the activator only encourages chasers to speed up.

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Gerald, was this a rubberstamp type QSO or a ragchew?

I’m already head-copying SOTA and contest-like QSOs at around 20wpm [at least when SWLing at home so not under pressure, but probably not trying to manage a 40m pileup]. I’m also making progress on other standard ham abbreviations. But I think memorizing the unique sound of dozens or hundreds of complete [English] words as in a ragchew, would be a long term challenge for me.

I agree but I know [from previous discussions] others differ on this, e.g. Guru @EA2IF

My motivation for getting my head-copying up to 21-25wpm is not to activate faster [sending at 20wpm is about right for my QRP signal on compromise antennas] but to be able to chase QRQ activators and to understand those QRQ chasers who won’t slow to my sending speed.

I feel the same way… about 20 wpm is a good speed for me when I do standard qso. But as soon as a longer question comes up and I am not ready to write, I am stuck. I have to be able to take notes.
Anything much faster - but also much slower - throws me out of the rhythm.

Fortunately, my KX2 can comfortably adjust the speed for giving. So I can immediately adjust to slow giving partners. However, I make more mistakes below my usual speed.

With a strong pileup on the summit, it is rarely the signal strength that makes me reach for the chaser. It is the tone, the rhythm, the quality of the CW character… and of course a well-known letter combination. So known chasers sometimes have an advantage.

…chasers who call me with very high (for me too high) speed, I can also ignore well.

73 Armin

Do you mean I support QRQ when SOTA activating?

Ok here’s my 2 penorth for what it’s worth. I’ts more of a quest for advice more than anything.
I have made very few contacts in CW on Sota so I don’t know if my procedure is right or wrong !
Ok I will listen for the activator then I will send such as this :- 2E0AGB 2E0AGB PLS K
RR 73 SK E E

I send at 18 wpm

Please advice would be appreciated.

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Hi Guru,

I can’t find the thread where you and I discussed this previously - but you expressed the view then that you prefer to activate at higher speeds [25+wpm I think] because you get through more contacts quickly. You also said you slow down for QRS chasers [which I know you do from my QSOs with you].

73 Andy

And whilst searching for that old dialogue we had on CW speed I found some good advice you gave on head copying …

The best way to learn is to listen!

Often you have a strong pile up on the sota or you don’t want to stay on the summit for too long. So the sota qsos are usually quite short and reduced to the essential.
The essential means here that the call of the chaser is confirmed and a rst is given. Usually you say goodbye with 73 - but that’s it.

I call - cq sota de dl6gca/p

You only answer - 2e0agb

I heard you, confirm your call and give you a rst - 2e0agb 559 559 bk (i prefer to send the real rst and no 5nn)

You have heard your call confirmed and rst and know that I listen to you and confirm for me - bk 2e0agb 539 539 73

I say goodbye - 73

This is the normal procedure if you are in a hurry as an activator (strong pile up, several summits planned a day, bad weather, moody wife,…) …otherwise you can take your time

73 Armin


Nope, it must have been somebody else, I think. Actually, I activate around 22-20 WPM because I know weak signals like the ones coming from a QRP station are better copied if QRS. I have even written some posts recommending US activators to go QRS because I like chasing North-American activators and I’ve experienced that when they go QRQ (25 WPM) and their signal is at about the noise floor level, it’s is just impossible for me to get the code they are sending. On the other hand, a 20 WPM morse is much easier to copy in those extremely weak signal conditions.
It will be interesting to find that thread to see what I wrote there. If you find it, let me know, please.
Thank you.


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Hi Allen,
This seems a bit too long for a standard SOTA chase.
I’d recommend you to shorten it to the following:
When the activator stops sending and listens for chasers, you send your call once or twice, depending on the pileup size and the signal strength you guess you’ll be putting on the activator receiver. Just your callsign without PSE K or any other sign.
Once the activator answered to you with a signal report, you come back with R R or QSL to let him know he got your callsign correct and you got his report correct. Then you can send GM/GA/GE (Good morning/afternoon/evening) followed by the activator’s name if you know it. Then UR 599 or whatever signal report you want to give him and 73 GL (Good luck) TU or BK (back to him)
He will say CFM or QSL or similar and 73 TU. Then you’ll have just finished you QSO.
That’s it.

I hope this helps you.



Hi Guru, I found that discussion.

From memory I thought it was 25+wpm but in fact it was 22wpm - which probably seemed fast to me back then [Q4 '17] when I first started SOTA activations around 15wpm. Now 22wpm seems achievable to me.

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