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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: Restarting CW after 20 years

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Posted: 2010-07-25 11:55
Hi all,

As a new user of this site, I think it is polite to introduce myself. I am Alex, Ham radio amateur in the east of the Netherlands and licensed since 1987. Back then we had to pass a 12 wpm CW exam to get a full license (PA3- callsign). After strungling a few months I passes the exam the first time. Especially receiving CW was very difficult for me, as I learned it the wrong way: starting slow and speeding up.
I have made a few CW QSO's with my home made 30 meter rig in the first years. But it was very hard work these days. Realizing Ham radio should be fun I dropped CW QSO'ing.

Now, with all CQ exam requirements dropped, I have found new motivation and read about the Koch method. I just started yesterday with the first lesson. Hopefully progress and joy will remain. But as like then, I expect to have ups and downs.

Hopefully it will end up in an enjoying CW qso with one of you!

Alex - PA1FOX

Posted: 2010-07-25 17:08

Begroeten in LCWO!

You say you want to learn CW again after 20 years? First of all, you said it so you must keep to your word. Do not become a statistic of guys that land here but do not continue on.

I, like you, just started working on my cw this year after not actively operating CW since I was in high school almost over 30 years ago. Yes, I did get on CW from time to time again but very few CW qso's, only ssb.

It was amazing basically how after just a few days here, I was able to start after so many years off in the low 30wpm. The old saying, once you learn the code, you never will forget it.

Here are a few basics that will help you:

(1) Make your Profile Public so that the world can watch you and your progress, this will help push you.

(2) Practice daily by landing here and doing some attempts; take a day off once and awhile to rest your brain. Try to increase your attempt count upward.

(3) Make a note of CW settings that are working for you and stick with those settings.

(4) Look back through the forum archives to learn and answer questions that others may have asked there.

(5) Use this forum to ask questions that you may have. Use this forum also to inform the other user's on mile-stones that you pass.

We are all interested in your success at doing this and (stay committed). These are just a few basic idea's to start with.

I will watch you!

Een mooie dag verder.

Craig, AH8DX

Posted: 2010-07-25 23:30

Craig speaking Dutch, very good Craig!

I agree for 100% with Craig, I started last year about November here brushing op CW. My last CW QSO was around 1969 I estimate.
Ik learned it of course the same way you did, because at that time Koch and Farnsbourg were completely unknow,
Craig is interested in call sign copy, look at www.rufzxp.net and join the club. I am interested in rag chew CW.

gd luck

Posted: 2010-07-26 11:02
Hi Craig and PA0WV,

Thanks for your warm welcome. I have the feeling I am already making progress. Of course it is not knowing the CW characters, that's not forgotten. It is building the reflex.
After the first lessons I have set the speed to 25/25. I somehow feel comfortable hearing this speed.

The first problem I encoutered is not being able to write down the characters with pen and paper fast enought. It is hardly readable already with only these two characters.
I have changed it now to keyboard entry. I have been working for over 20 years in the IT sector and just learned touch typing about 8 years ago.
Just by doing it. Training touch typing seems similar to learing CW this way. This touch typing helps me for noting the received charcaters. It is easily fast enough.

The only thing that bothers me is that I doubt if I will be able to work CW without a keyboard in future. Should I be able to switch to QSO in mind mode, so just remember what is keyed without typing or writing it down?
If I am now training an ear-to-fingers reflex and not an ear-to-mind reflex I hope I will be able to switch in future.

Hopefully I have made my doubts clear. Any ideas on that?

Alex - PA1FOX

Posted: 2010-07-26 11:19
Hi Alex,

welcome to LCWO!

> The only thing that bothers me is that I doubt if
> I will be able to work CW without a keyboard in
> future. Should I be able to switch to QSO in mind
> mode, so just remember what is keyed without
> typing or writing it down?

I wouldn't be too worried about that. Most people learn CW by copying it to paper or a keyboard. For their first QSOs, they will also need to write down everything. After a few QSOs, the repetitive things like the exchange of callsigns ("PA1FOX de DJ1YFK + K") and a little later, phrases like "my name is...", are recognized easily and don't need to be written down anymore. Instead of writing down the whole QSO, only some snippets of relevant informations need to be noted. After a few dozen QSOs, you don't need to write down anything anymore, and can directly put the relevant information of the QSO into your logbook.

I still have the notebook which documents my first 100 QSOs or so, in 1998. It's higly amusing to skim through the pages now and look at the progress, from copying whole QSOs to only a few words. And it's even funnier to see that I even copied on paper things like the "dit dit" at the end of a QSO as "E E" :-)

Here on LCWO, once you have mastered to recognize all characters at ease, the Word-Training and Callsign-Training are probably good ways to do the transition from "typing copy" to "head copy".

73, Fabian DJ1YFK

Posted: 2010-07-26 18:24

"Don't bite off more than you can chew."

What I mean by this is do not do too much right now. On some days try this sitting in your chair in a quit place so that you can fully relax with your headphones on and do "headcopy". Headcopying meaning put pen/paper and keyboard aside. Just sit there with your eyes closed and let the letters come at you. Once your ears pick up the "sound" of that letter, tell yourself what letter you just heard. Even though you will make many mistakes, don't worry about it. The sound of the code will soon sound like music and it will flow. You are accomplishing two things by doing it this way. You are learning the sound of each letter and you are teaching yourself to relax which as you really gain speed is a key component to be successful at CW speed copy.

You said you already learned the code and know it from 20 years ago so now by doing this, it will come back quickly.

Craig, AH8DX

Posted: 2010-07-26 21:13

Just two more comments and I will let you go to work and spread your wings.

Re-read previous threads with guys talking about (effective speed).

Secondly, I am assuming you know all of the letters/numbers because you had qso's over 20 years ago. I see you made your profile public so in order to get a (TRUE) starting point, make a (code group) run. It doesn't matter how poorly you do because with future attempts, there is only one direction and it is UP.

Good luck,

Craig Maxey

Posted: 2010-07-26 22:57
Hi Craig,

I am not fully clear on what you mean by your advice to me re-reading previous threads about effective speed. I have set my speed to 25wpm for the moment, without any extra delays.

Thanx for the tip about the code groups. I see my lessons are remembered for me only. Code groups are publicly registered. I don't bother about my poor performance currently, that's why I am here for.
At the moment I have a holiday so this is all done with laptop in the caravan, or outside.
Training times vary with other daily activities as sleeping, BBQ'ing, windsurfing etc...


Posted: 2010-07-27 05:58

No problem. I just wanted to mention the effective speed because I was confused about it for the longest time until one day I set it at a lessor speed and it cleared up some copying issues that I was having close to 50wpm.

Anyway, I am envious of you and your holiday. I wish I had a holiday so I could work on my code, HI.

(WOW WV, I see you, I must not relax, you are approaching fast, KG)


Craig, AH8DX

Posted: 2010-07-28 00:18
No need to re-learn the code OM. You already know it by passing 12wpm Exam and then having 30 Mtr CW qso's.

How many times are you going to re-learn the code?

Your brain never forgot it, it has always been with you.

Just dive in and do letter code groups before too much time passes and you get frustrated.

Craig, AH8DX

Posted: 2010-07-28 00:46
Hi Craig

I am making my way through lesson 2 currently. Ups and downs follow eachother.
Currently it is raining over here on top of the tent, so extra qrm and poorer performance.
It's all in the game, I'll have to get used to distracting factors.


Posted: 2010-08-03 03:27
Keep going Alex....you are on Lesson 4 and are doing one lesson every 2 days or so.


Posted: 2010-08-03 16:14
Thanx, I am switching back and forward in effective speed. I try to do 2 30-minute practices per day. At this stage improvement can be felt, but is goes with bumps.
Today I am starting with the read-behind method. So not directly type the received character, but stay about three charactes behind. I find this difficult, but every now and then I can find my conscious mind splitting up listening to the characters and my fingers walk behind automatically. Feels good, but only lasts for a few seconds. Then you get distracted and mixed up again.

Practice, practice, practice. Mood is still good, motivation is still there. Keeps me going.

Again, thanx for the support, it helps.

Posted: 2010-08-03 16:24
By the way, private lesson stats can not be viewed by the public. Here is a 'private' overview about lessons followed since the start:

Lessons, Accuracy
Accuracy Time spent
Lesson attempts min max avg (days)

Taken from my personals stats page.

(edited later, inserted dots so the table does not get mixed up in the text box)

Posted: 2010-08-04 00:24

I applaud you for your progress!

I noticed you did a plain text training run at around 8 wpm.

BE VERY CAREFUL! A common mistake that beginners make is hearing the characters sent so slowly that the learner tends to analyze each dit and dah, and even counts them mentally.

"It is wise indeed for the beginner never to hear code characters sent at speeds below about 13wpm." Getting stuck at higher speeds is the result because you really haven't learned the characters.

Craig, AH8DX

Posted: 2010-08-04 08:42
Hi Craig,

Thanx for the applause!

I know, it's in line with Koch.
I never have the character speed setting lower than 20wpm, currently mostly at 25wpm. This in order to hear the character as a whole in one go.

The reason to set the time period between characters so long is that I was just wandering if my recognition of all characters at character speed 25wpm was still available after all these years. My main practice sessions follow Koch characters (I have 6 now) at character speed 25 and effective speed 15wpm. This averages to a speed around 20wpm. Currently this is much easier than 20/20wpm. I still have to figure out why. I think it will come as I become more effective in 'walking behind'. Main focus is also to stay relaxed while copying. Back then is was hard work and not fun.

Anyhow, thanks for your concern. Back 25 years ago learning for the exam I had the dits and dahs also sent at 8wpm, like a lot of us did back then which was the mistake you are warning about. I am aware not making the same mistake again.

Alex, PA1FOX

Posted: 2010-08-04 14:05
Your problem has passed this forum in the past.
AH8DX gave the advice to take a look at that.

Transfer speed is the number of words (paris) you actually transfer in a channel per minute

effective speed is solely calculated as the speed based on the duration of the letter and word spaces .

speed is the speed solely calculated as the speed based on the duration of dots dashes and spaces inside a character between the character elements.

Hence in the case you receive 5 character code groups with a lot of time to decode them in te arbitrary wordspace you end up with the formula:
transfer speed= (46*speed*effspeed)/(31*effspeed+15*speed)

Your 25/15 is transfer speed 20.5
Your eff speed 15 makes your reaction time available after completion of a received character and before starting te next character 33% longer than you have available with 20/20

That explains your experience.

Posted: 2010-08-04 14:22
Thanks Moron,

This explains a lot. The trick at 20/20 will be to use reaction time when already taking the next character, so parallel processing. It confirms that I should work on 'copying behind'.


Posted: 2010-08-05 16:43

Do not DELETE attempts.

Do you know why I say this?

Because down the line 6 months from now if you keep on working hard; you will look back at your graph and appreciate where you started and came from. By deleting attempts, you cannot get a TRUE representation of your progress.

Craig, AH8DX

Posted: 2010-08-05 21:26
Good point, I deleted some which I regarded as not being serious attempts.

Thank you for setting me sharp.


Posted: 2010-08-20 13:03
For those who are also in the process of practising CW, I would like to share my thoughts which came up during my lessons of the past weeks.

Reviewing my own statistics it occurs to me that expecially at lessons 6 through 9 it took me a lot of effort to make progress. I was struggling to find the correct practising speed and 20/15 seemed to be the utmost during a lot of practises. I had some addtional 3 and 4 character code group lessons to train in 'copying behind'.

This has worked out for me, since I now practice at 20/15 to 20/20 and adding new characters daily. Just the last days I am having a dip above 20/18 for exactly those characters which bothered me 25 years ago. The = and / characters are a crime and I keep swapping Q and Y. I notice it just after copying them but then it is already too late to correct the mistake since I then miss a range of following characters. It seems there must only be one solution: Practise, practise, practise. And instead of hating the them as the come, enjoying it every time I do get them right.
Funny enough the G and Z were also hard back then but they now work out just fine.
There is only one major issue to come. I find myself completely lost when I follow the characters to words and trying to consciously decipher what is being transmitted with real sentences. Codes are now automatically transferring to finger movements around the keyboard. That is completely different from really understanding what is beying keyed. It is so distracting....

What I expect to be the solution will be: complete the 40 full lessons and have the characters hammered in during code training.

And then follow QSO's on shortwave and preparing to make a first QSO again. Currently I am still quite nervous about this and am afraid of completely blacking out during reception and missing al the info.
PA0WV had also contacted me about this. The difficult part will be following the meaning of what is keyed and not letting it interfere with copying the characters. It is something I just fear for the coming lessons.

Hopefully it will work out, motivation is still running strong.

Alex - PA1FOX

Posted: 2010-08-27 16:19
We're a week furhter. I have completed the 40 lessons and am still practising at lesson 40 but at higher speeds. The copy behind method sometimes works, but it is difficult to keep it unconscious. Speed has gone up to 22/22 with accuracy approaching 90%.

Last weekend I made my first CW contact after 20 years with a german station. It was hard but it is was fun. I just hope the nervousity drops down in time.

Now off to head copy at these speeds. Head copy is still down to below 15wpm as it distracts when you really listen to the meaning of what is keyed.


Oh, Fabian, thanx for this site, it has really given me a boost in CW.

Alex - PA1FOX

Posted: 2010-08-27 18:13
Congrats for your first CW QSO after such a long time, Alex!

Will you be at the DNAT this weekend? I just arrived in JO32 and will be there for the flea market tomorrow.

Fabian DJ1YFK

Posted: 2010-08-27 19:46
Yes, I will be there.
I will wear my blue bodywarmer with the text 'Vossenjacht afd. meppel' at the back.
And probably my baseball cap with my call too.

However, it might need an umbrella tomorrow. ;-)
In the afternoon I will attend the fuchsjagd at the north of Bentheim at 14:00 (see www.df7xu.de)

Maybe we will meet?


Posted: 2010-09-14 14:41
Indeed I did meet Fabian. We had a nice chat and is was fun to meet in real life.

So, here is another update of the progress. Having completed over 900 lessons and all 40 steps I am now trying to speed up things.
Letter groups at 20 wpm gave me some headaches for a few weeks, but after taking a few days off (where did I hear this before...?) and training at 25 wpm code groups things improved. Code group letters at 20/20 have an accuracy high over 90% now.

However, what I was afraid for did actually happen. Accuracy at 25/25 is improving as long as they are random character groups. Copying real text is dramatic, having a hard time at around 16 wpm. Listening to real text distracts my automatic routine of character reception.

I assume this will get better through more practise. For those of you approaching lesson 40, try real text as well, it is a different piece of cake!

Alex - PA1FOX

Posted: 2010-09-14 15:15

You can exercise with dutch words and proverbs on this website. 3575 kHz is the dutch meeting point.

Posted: 2010-09-14 23:06
Thanx for the congrats. I still haven't found the guts to call CQ on 3575 yet, first practise some more.

Not in a hurry though..

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