CW - For Real this Time


NES Member
Dec 14, 2011
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I'm learning it, damn it.

I have an app that is similar to the Koch method. 20 WPM characters (adjustable), you type each one, and you can replay the sounds if you need. Then challenges where 3 wrong is a fail. I got through the whole alphabet tonight then it said to feed $5 into the machine to move on. I hate when apps do that.

Anyway, I told myself I'd learn it this winter, so here I go. will probably be my go to site for practice. It's really good, and not horrible on the phone.
I'm trying not to think dots and dashes but learn the sounds. Some are easier than others for me. An hour on day 1 was probably too much. On previous attempts I found I can copy better on paper than typing, so on LWCO I copy to paper then type it in for scoring.
You start learning the code: You hear dit-dah and think "dit-dah; that's A" and write it down.
You have learned Morse code: You hear dit-dah and write down A immediately. Eventually you start hearing entire words and copy "in your head" but that's at maybe 20+ wpm.

I think it's like learning a foreign language. The speaker says "bonjour" and you translate it into English and then think "that's good day." Once you really learn there is no translation you just begin thinking in the foreign language.
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When I’m in CW mode, I translate highway signs into code.

CW in the men’s restroom:

.-. - - - -.- - .- .-.. … .-.. - - - .- -. …- .- .-.. …- .
You start learning the code: You hear dit-dah and think "dit-dah; that's A" and write it down.
You have learned Morse code: You hear dit-dah and write down A immediately. Eventually you start hearing entire words and copy "in your head" but that's at maybe 20+ wpm.

I think it's like learning a foreign language. The speaker says "bonjour" and you translate it into English and then think "that's good day." One you really lean there is no translation you just begin thinking in the foreign language.
I'm definitely at step 1. There are a few things I've heard enough to just recognize without translating, like CQ, so I can see how one would progress to just hearing it without translating. When I first started I wasn't even able to accurately identify what is a character, meaning I'd hear dahs and dits and have no idea which ones went together to make characters.

I just did a couple lessons on LWCO with only four characters and totally sucked. They do five letter "words" and some I could nail, but as soon as I got flustered I'd miss the rest of the word. They have a Morse Machine that's helpful, too. It gives you a letter at a time, you type it, then another letter. It at least gives my brain a chance to process it before I get the next letter.

Alright, back to it for a few more minutes.
10 mins a day. Visualize the letters as u hear the sound.

Check out these guys;

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My iPad runs hyphens together to make a longer dash, so spacing was off. But you got it “ROYAL SLOAN VALVE” - only biological males that face urinal plumbing routinely will get that one, regardless of gender identification.
Day 3

I kept the character speed at 20wpm and lowered the spacing to 8wpm and was much more successful. I still get flustered, but I'm trying to ignore mistakes and keep going. I gotta imagine in a real QSO you can recover from some errors other than in call signs.

I find it's easier to stare into space and just type as the characters come. I just hope this translates to copying with a pencil because that's most likely what I'll be doing in real life. It's just easier to type in directly for scoring than to transcribe it twice.

I'm also looking at paddles as a prize for learning. Best I can tell one paddle vs two paddle is a Ford vs Chevy situation.
Day 4

I got through lesson 13/40 on LCWO. I try to do each lesson a 3-4 times if I pass, and more if I struggle. Still having trouble not correcting errors since that's how I naturally type. I tried copying on paper and botched that up immediately.

My system tonight was warmup for a couple minutes using their one character at a time "Morse Machine", followed by 15 minutes of eight 5 character words (8 wpm effective), then more morse machine for the rest of the half hour.

I tried dit-dah-ing words I saw written today, license plates, and so on. That wasn't too hard. I'm sure my speed is rubbish but I didn't have to think too hard about the characters. Most anyway.

The streak continues.
Day 5

I only added one letter and suddenly I can't hear the difference between about 6. I spent a bunch more time on the one-at-a-time trainer, then went back to the 5-letter words where I did better, but not great. Today felt like a setback. But it's only day 5.

On a positive note I was telling a friend about it. He thinks all of radio is dumb, especially obsolete things like CW. He mockingly blurted out some dits and I copied it off the fly in my head. That's a good sign.
By the way, it's easier to copy random groups of letters and numbers than straight text. I find that even now after 57 years, I sometimes anticipate what the sender is going to send instead of just paying attention and waiting for the whole word or sentence to be sent. Keep at it. You'll be doing the SST (slow speed test) weekly event before u know it!
Day 6

This morning I did some one-at-a-time practice, and tried to do the 5 letter groups tests, but that wasn't too good. So I went back to the one-at-a-time. I can't decide if I'm just learning the keystrokes or the letters. I also practiced sending using the TX tool on It's not perfect, but it's better than tapping on a table.

YouTube was reading my mind today. I was wondering what the FCC proficiency test was that people had to take back when code was required. BOOM, someone has a video of a sample test. I believe it was 17wpm characters, 5wpm Farnsworth. I gave it a listen and did fairly well. I haven't started on numbers, although I know how they work, and those proved to be tough. But I just closed my eyes and listened, and if I needed help the letters were on the screen as it went along.

Still going...

Day 7

Meh. I tried some proverbs which was more fun than boring random letters, but it was easy to cheat once I figured out the proverb. I guess I knew what sounds to expect next, so I'm still learning. But "sending" seems to be easier for me than "receiving".

I'm up to lesson 16/40 on LWCO. I had to lower the character speed to 18wpm because I'm getting into 5 sound characters (=) and random letters out of 16 choices is tougher than random letters out of 8 choices.

Still at it.
Day 17 - I might have missed a day or two while I was out of town, but I listened to some CW recordings at night most nights. I could pick out characters at 20wpm when listening to recordings, but couldn't "get" much more than a character or word here and there. I'm going to try the Morse Code Ninja program now instead of just doing what I think is best.

I just treated myself to a Bencher BY-1B (the fanciest black chrome model) from HRO, so hopefully that'll be here later this week.

I've never been one for podcasts, but I needed something to listen to on flights and at night, and found a few to be pretty good. Dit Dit is my current favorite. It's CW centric, but he talks to guys who were radio operators for the .mil, who ran the radios on ships, the guy who runs the KPH station in CA, etc.
Are you doing this for an FCC test or personal enjoyment? I learned almost 30 years ago and still remember the characters. I remember reading a magazine or newspaper and coding what I was reading either out loud or to myself and that helped a lot with remembering. I only actually broadcasted a dozen or so times on 6m and 10m many many years ago and it was funny how many misspellings people would make. I'm sure I had my share of them as well.
I'm just learning it for myself. I was glad they dropped the code requirement when I got licensed, but I always intended to learn it anyway. My account on LCWO dates back to the year I was first licensed, and I remember trying a few times. I don't remember ever making it past the K/M test.

I've been "sending" license plates, road signs, the text in magazines/websites/etc and I'm pretty good at least in my head. I realized one day I was learning to type what I copied, but wasn't actually learning the characters, just where the keys are. Then when I was just sitting on the couch I'd mentally type, then have to translate that to the character. Before that gets too burned into my brain I'm starting over and trying to just head copy.

There are so many resources out there to learn it's overwhelming, and I'm definitely one for overthinking things. I know all of the letters and numbers and one or two special characters. I'm getting there; I just imagined I'd pick it up quickly then work on speed. Not so much [wink]
I have this AME Bushwacker paddle but I’m eternally a few weeks away from having functional cw skills
I was watching a video today and someone came back to the guy at what I'm guessing was about 40wpm. He was scrolling the exchanges across the screen and I was surprised that I could actually tell the difference between characters and actually make out some. It gives me hope I may actually be able to do the damn thang. Having the answer on the screen is obviously easier, but I was able to follow along or find my place again when I got lost. I can just about appreciate the "hearing words not letters" concept at the higher speed.
I don't want to jinx it, but this Morse Code Ninja program is pretty good. I played it in the car for about 2 hours today (one hour out, one hour back later) and it was good.

The format is podcasts, so you can do a drill, skip to the next, etc. I skipped the new letter introductions because I basically know them. I liked the 2-letter combos, 3-letter combos, and word drills. I believe the combos are 20wpm with 10wpm spacing, and the words are just 20wpm.

Anyway, I'm on #27 out of 260, so a long way to go still.
I'm still moving along. Morse Code Ninja just introduced 1s, so instead of words he's got me trying to copy call signs. It was easier when it was just two to four letter words.

I ran into a guy at work today who's always good for some ham chat. I told him about my journey to learn CW and he said it's #1 on his list, so I sent him what I've been doing. Hopefully he gets on board and follows it through. It certainly takes some time commitment.

I'm on lesson 42 of 260. He goes in a different order in terms of letters being introduced as opposed to other programs. So far I've got A, E, I, O, T, S, N, and 1, not in that order.
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Not sure if I already posted this picture.
My K3 transceiver and a Begali paddle. Don't remember what model it is.
I was just about to ask what the paddle was. I'm looking for something I can bring portable. Never mind [wink] .

Just looked it up. It's their "affordable" Expedition model. A bargain at only $300.

From eham:

A no-frills high performance paddle, rugged enough to be tossed into the bags of a DX expedition, but equally at home in any shack. Jet black titanium oxide finish, solid silver contacts, racing bearings and micro-threaded adjustments make this key a bargain.
For portable I'm looking at the CWMorse paddles. There's a POTA/SOTA one that uses magnets vs springs, but looks hard to hold.

Their basic models look easier to hold, but everyone seems to have trouble with hitting the adjustment screw and sending dits.

They also have an aluminum one that looks nicer than the 3D printed ones, but is a similar design to the base model.
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