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LCWO Discussion Forum [Atom LCWO Forum Feed]

This is a simple discussion forum for LCWO users. Feel free to use it for any kind of discussion related to this website.

Thread: to hell with straight key for beginners advice

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AuthorText


Posted: 2022-03-02 18:04
I often look for slow morse on air and in 98% of the cases when someone is sending at less than 13wpm they're using a straight key and they do it soooo badly. I find it easier to understand good 20wpm than some crooked 12wmp.
General request. Stop advising straight keys to beginners! It's just hurting them and other beginners.
There's no actual advantage of using SK, that's why paddles and electronic keyers were invented... This SK sounds like BS repeated by oldies that that started with SK because there was no other option.
Once a beginner gets familiar with the correct spacings etc he'll now better how to create correct sounds on a SK.



Posted: 2022-03-03 00:41
Never heard a beginner sending 5 instead of H, 4 instead of V and so on, unless he is trying to use a (set of) paddle(s)


Posted: 2022-03-03 00:48
"beginners" need to listen to as much of the best morse they possibly can
- so are probably better steering away from other "beginners" in favour of more experienced operators who are prepared to slow down . . .

On the whole I think most people find sending at their own speed less of a challenge than receiving at someone elses,
so
more people have to slow down their keying to match their receiving speed than try to speed up their keying/


Hand keying requires learning all the timings.

Keyers will do the dits and dahs timings correctly but neither the correct number of each
nor the spacings between characters and words.


Plenty of chars and words get merged into one on the bands - hence the periodic youtube invocations to listen to what you are sending . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO_i-FiESjI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NjiYHVTpOA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OB1Kc4s0aNE


Either way I expect most people will want to learn and learn on the equipment they plan to use, especially if they just bought it,

and most people will just do what they want or what they think is best

and avoid the religious wars.


cb


Posted: 2022-03-03 00:58
OH1BOR:
SNIP
There's no actual advantage of using SK
SNIP


In an emergency when the ship is on its beam ends alternately , keyers are not so much use,
so coast stations had bugs/keyers ( tho some preferred hand keys at the usual speeds )
but
ships always needed some hand keys.

Quite a few Hams like to keep all the traditional skills alive a bit . . .


Posted: 2022-03-07 22:44
OH1BOR:
...in 98% of the cases when someone is sending at less than 13wpm they're using a straight key and they do it soooo badly... Stop advising straight keys to beginners! ...


Careful. We also have OMs with disabilities on the band - trembling fist etc.

Not every bad fist is a beginner.

If I can decode the OM I can do the QSO, if I can't read his fist I can't. But In no way do I need to complain.

73

Gerd.


Posted: 2022-03-08 04:19
I'm a beginner - haven't had my first QSO yet. Most of my study time is spent decoding, the rest is spent practicing my keying skills. I ended up with a straight key AND paddles! I bought the straight key first (one of them Vibroplexes - good quality). But I can't get the dits and dahs right. So, I bought the paddles and my keying is MUCH better. I agree with OH1BOR.


Posted: 2022-03-08 11:02
Hi! My opinion is that one has got to be precise, diligent and reliable while on air. Those who send CW on the bands and do not make themselves understood, will hardly get answers.

That's the reason to study, to practice, to listen also to ourself whyle keyin.

73
IV3YNB


Posted: 2022-03-08 16:21
df9ts:
If I can decode the OM I can do the QSO, if I can't read his fist I can't. But In no way do I need to complain.


I can only agree with this whole-heartedly.

There's plenty of room out there for people with good or bad skills on either paddle or straight key.

I think that people, generally, are better starting off in whatever way they find suits them best and allows them to produce the most readable code. As many have demonstrated you can always learn the 'other one' later...

The hard part is being able to listen to what you are producing with a critical ear, such that you can observe your own mistakes (hence why recording your own output and coming back to it later is so valuable).


Posted: 2022-03-09 14:44
Somewhere along the journey of my wasted and useless life, I became fascinated with the image of a telegraph operator or amateur radio operator. However, time and tide took me far away from those things. Still, I hold a fascination with the straight key. The paddles and iambic keyers just fail to stimulate me very much. However, I may try them some day just to see what they can do. For now, some of the straight keys have the advantage of being just a little lower in price for the beginner.


Posted: 2022-03-09 17:31
I find it funny that we never hear the advice that a new driver should only learn on a car with a crank start, manual spark advance/choke and non-synchro manual transmission. If ya want to be a 'real' driver...

I advise hams to learn with some form of an electronic keyer. This way the character element timing is controlled and they learn what proper weighting sounds like. Later a straight key is a great thing to learn (or not) depending on the individuals interest.

The most important part is they are interested in learning.

73, KBØNES


Posted: 2022-03-14 01:47
I got my General in March of 1990, when you needed 13 wpm to pass, and I learned on a straight key. Which was even hard back then. Then I purchased a Heathkit iambic keyer, and never looked back.

Now I'm 75 years old and my hands aren't so steady. Been out of the hobby for awhile, but now I want to play with CW on QRP. And I won't use anything but paddles. Just me, but I don't want to figure out the timing anymore.


Posted: 2022-03-15 09:44
KB0NES:
I advise hams to learn with some form of an electronic keyer. This way the character element timing is controlled and they learn what proper weighting sounds like.


I did in in the past !!! Transmitting with an electronic paddle gave me right timing and my skills became better.

73
IV3YNB



Posted: 2022-03-15 14:15

Usually, when people resort to some pet peeve, resulting in the usual "bashing" of other persons or methodologies, Newcomers and visitors duck down and keep out of sight, for reason that they prefer not to become a victim. Where bashing persists in a public medium, where people are faced with "to hell with" propositions, all educational and encouraging communication comes to an immediate halt.
Moreover, it invites all other persons to join in and jump on the bandwagon to criticize any person who lacks proficiency in any enterprise. This topic for example, has dominated for about 3 days now. There may have been some nervous person watching from the sidelines, and considering to ask a question, but as soon as they discover that some "beginner" in the activity is going to get "bashed"...well, that person decided to keep their head down and their mouth shut.
If growth is intended for an activity, a degree of kindness extended to those who are trying and learning is somewhat of an improvement over "to hell with" something. This topic has Headed the Forum Threads for a sufficient length of time in my estimation.
As the old saying goes; "You can catch more flies with honey, than you can with vinegar."





Posted: 2022-04-14 22:00
Why choose between straight and paddle? My long term plan is to be able to use good-ol' fashioned vertical key, cootie, paddle and, why not, keyboard. At the moment I'm rubbish at all of them. As long as decoding is done by ear, it doesn't matter how you send.

Edit: Sometime ago, I remember watching a YT video of a key that could work as either straight key, sideswiper, single and double lever paddle. Only problem is these toys cost a fortune nowadays.


Posted: 2022-05-06 01:00
That is an interesting ambition oc. I feel confident that you are one person with enough ambition to successfully do this.


Posted: 2022-05-06 16:35
Many good points and of course opposing views, so here is yet another view.

I can use a straight key and a single paddle (never touched anything else); I am NOT great at either, but practice is the answer. As pointed out if you don't REALLY listen to good code, and understand the timing (1,3,7) you will never sound good.

Off air practice (like driving, playing music etc.) is a must before you jump into the deep water.

Let me add 2 unrelated hobbies that I say add a little to the SK first position. If you learn to shoot a firearm, 99% will start with a single shot rifle or revolver (if an automatic like in the military, you shoot slowly shot by shot) after having control of breathing, and grip, accuracy etc. THEN you speed up.

Similarly MANY woodworkers learn the basic safety, techniques, limitation of hand tools then they progress to power tools for some of those same operations (yes this progression is NOT a requirement), but starting with a power tool just enables you to make mistakes and waste material faster.

So we are all different, and we have different goals, but hopefully we all want to be good at our hobby or job. There is NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER (of course there are some absolutely WRONG ones) take in the advice of those that have gone before you. See what resonates with your goals, times, skills and have both patience and determination (I'm working on both after many decades ;-(( ).

Whether you learn the acoustic guitar first, or jump into electric on day one, is not as important as getting time under your belt before you invite your friends and family to a concert.

"Anything worth doing, is worth doing right (or at least reasonably)".

73 and good luck with what ever approach you choose; if you don't see progress after some real solid effort don't be afraid to alter your approach.

WA2NFN (my 2 cents my differ from others)


Posted: 2022-05-08 02:57
That is an excellent post Bill / WA2NFN.
I am always pleased to see moderate instructions rather than commandments. There are persons whose counsel I will follow, and yours is surely among the very best.


Posted: 2022-09-22 08:51
I've found that you can teach an average 12 year old enough code and enough dual-paddle iambic keyer technique to send his/her name perfectly in about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, most adults are not as "adaptable". Using an Iambic key and keyer is a fairly complex technique in itself, separate from learning the code. Once people learn to copy the code efficiently, I would certainly recommend learning to use an iambic keyer. But starting with a hand key (or NO key!) while learning is beneficial because muscle memory is an important part of brain memory, and anyone can tap the rhythm of code, even on a table top without a key. Tapping the rhythm physically helps the brain remember it.


Posted: 2022-09-22 09:02
After posting my previous comment, I found in another thread that said exactly what I was trying to say, but much more eloquently. At the risk of breaking some rule, it is definitely worth repeating here:

M0MZB said: ↑

The advice elsewhere in this thread about starting with a straight key is probably aimed at the idea that using a straight key is "good for you". But frankly, if you just want to be able to send clear morse, as soon as possible in the learning process, a paddle would seem the logical choice

It seems like the paddle is a logical choice, but it is not. I traveled the same path as you and the old timers would tell me I needed to use a straight key when I was learning the code. I disregarded this advice using the same logic you provided. The problem is that the old timers were unable to articulate WHY the straight key is the way to begin. And it is not because "that's the way we used to do it" or "real hams use a straight key."

When learning the code with a straight key you take advantage of the kinesthetic aspect of involving muscle movement with the process of memory. You really do not get this to anywhere near the same extent as with a paddle. I only figured this out after going through a few years of university training as an elementary school teacher and then actually seeing it in the classroom as a teacher. When you combine some type of physical movement along with learning the brain is able to imprint the learning focus at a much more rapid rate.

So I stuck with my paddle and was consistently frustrated with my progress to learn Morse. My code sounded great, but I struggled in receiving. What I did not understand is that these two skills are absolutely connected. When I finally switched to a straight key, my progress was much more rapid. I used a few programs, but one called Skilman was the most effective because it combined sending with receiving practice. You should be listening to perfect code, then using a straight key and oscillator, immediately mirror that perfect code. Forming the Morse characters with the motion of a straight key helps lock the formation of the character in your head and allows you to better recognize the character when you are receiving. The important learning boost you get with a straight key you will not get with a paddle.

Your desired endstate should be an ability to receive and send automatically, without thinking. It should be like recalling a multiplication fact from the times tables. In education it is called automaticity - both the ability to recognize or send a character becomes reflexive... without thought.

Once you have mastered sending and receiving at an adequate speed (you can be the judge of that), switch to a paddle if you'd like.

I really wish one of the old timers had been able to explain this to be me years back because it would have saved a lot of frustration and heartache.


N0ZB, Jun 6, 2022


Posted: 2022-10-01 19:03
Newbie here.. I hear a lot CQCQCQ instead of CQ CQ CQ. Is that because people are trying to send too fast or is removing spaces acceptable? I practice with a straight key and always try to have spaces using VBand to decode.


Posted: 2022-10-01 22:11
How do you connect the straight key to vband?


Posted: 2022-10-02 18:11
vband sells an adapter, or you can use a modified mouse left click contacts


Posted: 2022-10-03 07:29
"There's plenty of room out there for people with good or bad skills on either paddle or straight key."--- G7UUT - Alex
Agreed Alex.
Yeah. It is surprising that it is common that people think complaining about something resolves an issue. It is not unusual to find people promoting an "idealist" or "perfectionist" or an "elitist" standard. That is of course, usually the case wherein the "elitist" assumes that they never make errors.
The exclusion of some persons or even the refusal to accept other people does little to actually change anything.
This whole thing about; "Let's all get on the Bandwagon and promote the unacceptance of those of lesser ability is perhaps more comical than a serious proposition.


Posted: 2022-10-04 03:38
oc:
How do you connect the straight key to vband?


I bought the usb adapter. here is a video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f376DCaM1Ps


Posted: 2022-10-05 19:14
[quote=rafiks]Newbie here.. I hear a lot CQCQCQ instead of CQ CQ CQ. Is that because people are trying to send too fast or is removing spaces acceptable?

CQ is an abbreviation, therefore a word; consequently it requires a 7-dit word-space between it and other words. The ARRL gives it as an example with spaces between the words (as is otherwise required). CQ was originally an abbreviation for sécurité, which was an attention-to-all safety broadcast. It evolved into a general-call-to-all-stations abbreviation and aquired the popular meaning of "seek you" in english.


Posted: 2022-10-08 09:18
I couldn't agree less with the op. The only way to truly internalise the morse patterns and rhythm is to use a straight key and practice oscillator. The physical action of using a straight key gives you that muscle memory that is so essential. It is very difficult indeed to learn morse just by listening and copying which is why people on here say it takes "years". In days gone by morse schools couldn't afford to take that long to train people, they needed efficiency in a few weeks. They did this by lots of sending practice. So beginners on straight keys: perfect, keep going.


Posted: 2022-10-08 16:59
"It is very difficult indeed to learn morse just by listening and copying which is why people on here say it takes "years". In days gone by morse schools couldn't afford to take that long to train people, they needed efficiency in a few weeks. They did this by lots of sending practice. So beginners on straight keys: perfect, keep going."---IKcdab - Ian Coleby

An excellent point Ian. It always helps to refer to the history of the subject to bring clarity to the learning process.

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