Sunday, May 12, 2013

Learning CW: Rock-N-Roll Style

     I have wanted to learn Morse Code since my first ham club meeting. I lived in Northern California when I first got my ticket and attended the EDCARC (El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club) regularly while there. At my first meeting, we watched a video about the K5D DXpedition  to Desecheo Island. As soon as I watched those ops pounding out CW, I wanted to know how to do it. So I did what any other newb does, I asked the guy sitting next to me and the guy sitting next to him. Over the course of an hour, they told me three ways that were the "only" way to do it. Frustrated, I tried all three ways and failed.

     Over the four years since then, I have tried every software, CD, mp3, and web-based course that promises to have me pounding brass with the best of them in less than forty-eight hours at 25 wpm. By the beginning of 2013, I was ready to do just about anything, short of sacrificing my first-born to lear the code, but it seemed hopeless. So I decided to figure out my own method. So far, it's working WAY better than any other method I've tried so far.

     So what's the secret trick? I'm not sure yet. At least, I'm not sure if it's going to work out in the end. I just know that I am now understanding most characters at 20 wpm and I am able to pick out words after two or three trys rather than banging my head against the shack wall in dispair. I downloaded DahDit for my iPhone and started listening to the characters at 20 wpm with the spoken character before the tone for the first fifteen minutes of my morning commute. During the first fifteen minutes of my commute home, I switched the spoken characters to after the tones, giving me a chance to hear/guess the characters coming. I did this for three weeks so far and just started listening to random generated words at lunch time and before bed.

     Why do I think this is a "better" way to learn the code? I don't necessarily. It's just better for me. Next week my new CW rig (a Hendricks PFR-3) should be complete*. I'm also heading to the Dayton Hamvention, where I plan on picking up a set of paddles. Once I have both, I'll begin sending into a dummy load until aI'm ready to get on the air; hopefully within another week's time.

     I don't know if my method will work for anyone else, but it's working for me. The point is: no one has the "best" way to learn the code, because we all learn so differently. However, I do believe that it is impossible to learn it (well) in forty-eight hours or less. It may take weeks, months, or even years. It may take trying hundreds of methods, but like all things worth achieving, putting in the time will eventually pay off.

*More on this in a futre post

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