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Sota cw

I had initially “skim-read” Roy’s December News, and have since been dipping back in to read individual articles with more attention. One of these was the recollections of David G3RDQ, which I found very interesting. David has been a very regular caller to my 80m CW activations.

Considering the persepective we have now, it was quite eye-opening to read of one of SOTA’s early HF CW exponents - Jon GM4ZFZ - failing to qualify an activation by not getting the requisite 4 contacts. But that is indeed how it could be then, as I know from conversations with Richard G3CWI.

I was licensed in 2001, when 12wpm CW was still an entry requirement to the HF bands. Access to HF was no incentive at all for me to learn CW, and I didn’t! When this barrier was eventually removed, I tried the occasional HF activation, but had only very limited success on SSB. Either I made zero contacts, or had to rely on a benevolent base station like John GW4BVE or Richard G3CWI to “blast a hole” for me in the crowded 40m band, and help me keep the frequency clear thereafter. The assistance was greatly appreciated, but the natural desire was to be more independent!

Like many, I became increasingly envious of the fun, and the international activation logs that HF SOTA stations, particularly those on CW were having. A lot of my friends from the early days of SOTA, while still active on VHF FM, were adding other bands and modes to their activations. With a 40m dipole antenna for portable HF, I had three options - move to Scotland, buy a Yaesu FT-857 or learn CW. Here was that previous missing incentive.

Now my friend Sean M0GIA here in Macclesfield is taking his first steps on CW for more or less the same reasons. Additionally, Sean is a keen aerial experimenter and wants to see what DX he can work QRP on the higher bands. Hence his wish to get involved in SOTA (for the locations) and CW (for the efficiency).

Not many predicted that CW would still be going strong in years to come when it was removed as an entry requirement for HF. But, counter-intuitively, could that be the very reason? Now, anyone who does CW does so because they want to, not because they have to. Certainly for me, it has helped in a big way. My debut CW SOTA activation was on The Cloud G/SP-015 (where else?) in 2007, and it was a very positive experience. It was at 10wpm. I wouldn’t have been allowed on HF with a capability of less than 12wpm in 2001. Being on the air doing what I wanted to do (SOTA activating) really helped me progress in the mode. Not having to be up to a certain speed before I did, therefore, was significant.

I wonder what developments in operating habits and styles we will see in the next 7/8 years of SOTA? Anyone care to take a guess? Maybe we will all be out on the hills playing portable HF if the BT Powerline adaptors continue to be installed unchallenged.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:
Good point you have Tom, i know a few operators who now use CW and learned the code after it was removed as an entry to HF.

Now this is just my view but i think it is harder to learn now that there is no classes as such? If it was still an entry requirement there would be more places to study, it is hard to grasp but even harder to stick with it.

It sure goes a long way at QRP levels and i have to say im impressed so far, deccent aerials and CW … the world is your oyster! Sean M0GIA

Now this is just my view but i think it is harder to learn now that there is no classes as such? If it was still an entry requirement there would be more places to study, it is hard to grasp but even harder to stick with it.

But don’t you have a rather good teacher??? When do you want to do some more on the air?

In reply to M1EYP:
Tonight! Had some practice lastnight with M1BYH and 2E0RXX although Greg just listened. Say about 9pm meet on s20?

Yes you was chosen for your teaching skills, i would like to be competetive in a class room enviroment if i had the choice. Sean M0GIA

Sigh. There’s just no pleasing some folks is there?

In reply to M1EYP:

CW is easy to learn, it’s no big deal. There’s just 36 characters to learn initially, so at a rate of 2 a day, which anyone should be capable of, the alphabet and numbers can be learned in 18 days in theory. After that it is simply practice, practice, practice to get up to speed.

I always advise students to leave their key in the draw until they can read at 10 wpm. The reason for this is that we have a tendency to imitate/send what we receive, so it’s important to be able to hear each character properly before trying to imitate it on the key.

I have run several classes on air on 2 metres and others do the same. Bill G0ELZ in Liverpool (one of my ex students) is currently running a cw class and can be found most nights on 145.375 at approx 19:00 onwards.

It’s worth learning and is most definitely the mode where the big SOTA points and uniques are available, not to mention the DX.

Give it a go, have fun.

73
Mike GW0DSP

In reply to M1EYP:
Nope

Sean M0GIA

In reply to GW0DSP:
Mike you mentioned DX so well worth learning! I keep listening everynight on the bands and keep picking more out as the days go by, i get the CQ DE then it gets hard but not impossible and i have definitley improved. As you say practice. Sean M0GIA

In reply to M0GIA:
…and stick to reasonably high character speeds (15-18 wpm) with BIG gaps. Don’t learn how it all sounds when slow and then speed it up. It doesn’t work so well. G4FON software is good for doing this for you (learning faster characters with big gaps that is).

Keep it up Sean… 73 Marc G0AZS

In reply to G0AZS:

Good advice Marc, I’ll second that!

Mike

I found that aspect quite a dilemma while learning. I did mainly do faster character speeds (15wpm) with big gaps (overall sending speed 9wpm). However, I reached a stage where doing this was denying me the rhythm of the whole word, and that was the bit I really needed. Soon solved by listening to 40m on the 817 while driving to work every morning though!

Probably about the stage where you are now Sean, I went back and did the whole 40 character alphabet again, from scratch, on JustLearnMorseCode.com (I do take it you’ve downloaded that freeware? It’s the same as G4FON, but with extra features to monitor your progress).

And don’t forget regular drills on RuFZ. Mix it all up. Concentrating on one learning method isn’t as effective as varying between (say) four - which could be: practice operating, SWLing, JustLearnMorseCode.com training and RuFZ training.

Another tip. When you are practising reading CW with JLMC or RuFZ, do use the software features to type what you receive in on a computer keyboard, rather than write it down with a pen/pencil. That builds the brain connections more strongly and more quickly, and will lead to that desired “automatic” response of hearing the letters, not the dots and dashes.

It will be good to have you in the small but select band of Macclesfield’s M-prefix CW operators. (Although an M0 isn’t quite as unusual on CW as mine and Andy’s M1 callsigns).

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

It will be good to have you in the small but select band of
Macclesfield’s M-prefix CW operators.

…and when will we have the pleasure of hearing the M3E** Macclesfield call series on the air with CW? :slight_smile:

73 Marc G0AZS

He says he won’t do it Marc. Full stop. Which is quite frustrating, seeing as a couple of weeks ago, he said “Why do you always send dah di-di-dah - dit - dit after 73?”. That suggests to me he’s more than capable of it. But, he says he won’t… :frowning:

In reply to M1EYP:

I tend to disagree with a lot of what you say Tom. These programmes are ok while learning the basics of the code but in my opinion they don’t represent the real world.

There’s no substitute for sending and receiving on air to improve everything about your cw. In the real world, we don’t all send computerised perfection cw, we all have different fists, some key on a paddle, some on a straight key, but they all sound different. Styles vary greatly so experience and practice on the air is vital. The likes of Roy G4SSH, Phil G4OBK plus others and to some extent myself, can listen to SOTA cw and 9 times out of 10 tell you who the op is before they send their callsign. No computer programme can teach you those skills.

Mike GW0DSP

In reply to M1EYP:

Another tip. When you are practising reading CW with JLMC or RuFZ, do
use the software features to type what you receive in on a computer
keyboard, rather than write it down with a pen/pencil. That builds
the brain connections more strongly and more quickly, and will lead to
that desired “automatic” response of hearing the letters,
not the dots and dashes.

That’s one way of guaranteeing I won’t progress, Tom - as a “hunt and peck” typist I will be limited to about 5 wpm! ;>)

73

Brian G8ADD

Hence my recommendation for a package of four distinct learning styles Mike. I considered very recent research about the brain and learning, as available to me in the “day-job” to come up with those ideas in my own (still ongoing) CW learning process. Furthermore, I can verify that it has worked. I am recognising some fists. Yours is very easy to spot just from the ‘G’ for some reason Mike.

Fine if you disagree Mike, you know a lot more about CW than me. But everything I said was based on sound learning principles, and I can personally verify that it has all worked as intended. It’s not an airy unsubstantiated theory.

Your point is quite valid Brian - mine assumes a familiarity with touch typing.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Tom we may have our wires crossed a bit here. computer generated morse is fine to learn the alphabet and numbers, there’s no disputing that. It can also be a good system to practise and increase your sending speed.

My main point is that there is no substitute for the real deal, on air practice, to improve perception of cw and to improve, both your speed and an understanding of real cw qso.

The very thought of a programme which expects the recipient to decypher the sent character, then find that same character on a keyboard’s key and press the key is absolutely hideous to me. Is it a test of cw ability or a test of ones typing skills? Such a system would kill the enthusiasm for many ops as Brian points out.

When practice is carried out on air, the recipient only has to hear the letter and commit it to paper or memory, then listen for the next letter and so on. Well, that’s how it is at the outset.

You mentioned that you no longer hear the dots and dashes, but just hear the letters now, that’s part of the learning process, eventually you won’t here the letters so much either, but will hear the completed word without realising it, this is the case with me and, I should imagine most other high speed ops. CW just becomes like a second language if you get my drift.

The main point is to have fun and enjoy cw, which I know you do. We must remember CW is not a race, speed is unimportant, it’s the quality that counts.

Mike GW0DSP

I think we agree about far more than we disagree here Mike. However, the keyboard typing aspect can be really powerful in making those instinctive connections in the brain. This is because, if you can already type reasonably well, you don’t have to locate any particular letter. You can just hit it. I found it much faster to denote a copied character via keyboard than via pen/paper. But also, there is an instinctive physical action triggered. This really helps to make the connections so that you brain has those CW characters embedded in its “second nature”. I won’t go into it more than that, because it’s rather technical, reminds me of work and somewhat boring.

I will concede that this would not assist someone who is not a comfortable keyboard typist. That much is obvious. In that case, the JustLearnMorseCode.com or the RuFZ may not be the best things to use. Instead, I would recommend G4FON Koch Morse freeware for that component of the training. I entirely agree that real on-air listening, and real on-air practice is crucial.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:
I realise everyone is different and learn at different speeds but how long did it take to go solo on the air with CW? I would like to hear from ALL CW ops.

I have now taken this as a winter project and being realistic looking at the months ahead somewhere like summer with a basic QSO ie exchange calls RST.

                              Sean M0GIA

In reply to M0GIA:

In my case Sean, it took me 6 weeks from starting to learn cw to passing the then 12wpm morse test at Liverpool with Mr. Jardine. A few weeks later I passed the 25wpm morse test and became a morse examiner for the then county of Clwyd, now Flintshire. Roy G4SSH became the chief morse examiner for the UK, he can offer you sound advice. Believe it or not, I was once capable of qso at 40wpm but not these days. I’m fine at 30ish wpm and at a short burst maybe 35ish wpm. Sota qso is a different kettle of fish to rag chew mode and can be worked very fast if required.

Your cw was fine when we worked Sean and the only advice I would offer you would be to slow down a little bit by spacing your characters a tad. Just keep at it Sean, the hardest part is now behind you, power to your elbow.

One thing I was told, which I believe to be true, musical people find it easier to learn, I play guitar, I wonder if anyone else finds a correlation with being musical and learning cw quickly?

Mike GW0DSP