I’ve been reading “The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy” by William G. Pierpont, N0HFF (SK – 2003), 3rd revised edition July 6, 2001. According to Pierpont, a “skilled” operator can copy and send 35-40 wpm (p. 37). Although I realize this is a somewhat arbitrary measure, I’ve decided to set myself the goal of solid copy and keying at 40 wpm by December 2013. I’m already feeling more comfortable at 30 wpm, although I still have a ways to go before I am copying 100%. Still, his point is well taken, that to learn CW well you must take practice regularly and from a source sending perfect code. By so doing your brain learns the true sound of words sent.
I agree. A comparison is trying to learn to speak a new language by speaking with someone who has sloppy speech habits such as slurring words, mumbling or mispronouncing words. You may learn the language, but your own skill and accomplishment is diminished because what learned is defective.
As a lifelong devotee of CW it’s exciting to think of mastering code into the 40 wpm range and beyond. I first learned Morse code at about age 11 or 12. My Dad bought a code practice oscillator for me and would send me code to copy, then ask me to send code. He had saved or obtained a 1963 ARRL booklet, “Learning the Radiotelegraph Code” (see below) which, at the time cost $0.50. In it are lessons sung code practice groups. That’s where it all started for me.
My desire to double my receiving and sending speed is really a new chapter for me in CW. I’ve spent years stuck in 2nd gear (20 wpm), which, now that I am knocking at the door of 30 wpm (3rd gear), seems relatively slow. That gives me the impetus to go for 40 wpm, knowing with that accomplishment, 30 wpm will seem relatively slow. I guess 50 wpm would be overdrive.
An ultimate goal is summed up in the book for as, “The “pro” in
code is completely relaxed: he knows he can read and copy it, even while doing something else.”
The book makes important points about best practices to improve CW skill and speed: “first, listening at any speed where we can understand all or nearly all of what is sent; next, there is listening at speeds where we can “read” maybe 75% of it; and finally there is listening to sending so fast that we can only catch some letters or a word here and there. Each kind is valuable.” And, “The essence of code learning, like language, is familiarity that means over-learning. That is, learning to the point where it is automatic, without thinking about how we are doing it: the dit and dash, or even the words.” And this too, “…the less hard we try, the better
we will receive. Don’t ever stop to try to figure out something you didn’t catch. Keep following the sender – keep listening and you will soon be getting enough to make sense out of every sentence, and in time you will get all of it.”
One final note. I’ve found Ham Morse to be an excellent app for CW practice (at any speed). This iPhone app provides multiple types of practice (words, pro signs, numbers, callsigns, QSOs, alphabet, punctuation, BBC news clips, or everything) along with fully adjustable speeds: from 5-50 wpm in 1 wpm increments. Highly recommended.
72 for now. Back to practice!