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Thread: to hell with straight key for beginners advice

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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,
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 . . .




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.


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

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 )
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
...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.



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.


Posted: 2022-03-08 16:21
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.


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
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.


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.

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