I first became interested in HAM RADIO when I was about 10 years old. My grandpa gave me a kit from
Radio Shack: 50 ELECTRONIC PROJECTS (I found about 100 things to do with that kit)
My journey towards Ham Radio had begun. Working with the electronic parts and putting together various simple devices was great fun. Looking for more than Radio Shack could offer , a HEATHKIT store near our house came into play. Going there with my father and just looking around, introduced me to my first closeup of Ham Radios.
Thoughts of becoming a Ham Operator and building my own rig someday captured my imagination.

It took 30 years and going to a HAMFEST to finally motivate me to get my license.
While studying to take the CW exam, I experienced a surprising enjoyment of learning how to copy
morse code. A growing passion for CW took hold of me and has never let go.


Frank, kb0pb(sk), got me started on QRQ CW @1992. My first CW keyboard was the mfj 451.


Frank worked with me, training me on my copy speed over the air on 40 meters. He introduced me and supported my membership in my first QRQcw club, THE CFO CLUB. (I am member #967) CFO ROSTER HERE
NOTE: a new gathering of CFO OPS are now located HERE

Bert, AK4G, was also instrumental in helping me improve my QRQ CW skills. He shared with me some of his methods that enabled him to copy over 100wpm. One of his techniques was...He would type in a paragraph into his computer cw sending program and have that program send the CW of that paragraph over and over again, slowly increasing his speed until he reached @100wpm copy. Then he would write another paragraph and do the same thing. Bert was an excellent QRQcw ARTIST in his morse code sending. He taught me to eliminate all the commas and periods etc from my CW sending and just put some spaces in their place. This allows the mind a rest from the continuous stream of the same repetative cw tones, keeping the mind fresh for the best cw copy and cw copy endurance. Bert also had a very beautiful CW NOTE from his gear that he homebrewed and "tweaked" to "perfection". He also had one of the strongest signals on the band using a homebrew QSK AMP and a very unique directional 4 loop verticle antenna. He was able to switch the loops around not only to be able to transmit on all the HF bands without a tuner, but he was able to steer this antenna to beam his signal in a north, south, east or west direction. He shared with me his design and its discovery from a prayer he prayed asking GOD to help him find the best antenna to spread the "good news" via HAM RADIO around the globe. He has prayed for many ham radio operators over the years now and always been there to help out his fellow CW OPS who needed some spiritual guidance or special prayer requests.

Early on in my QRQ pursuits, I met a good friend, Bryan, ab4kx. We both had similar schedules so we were able to get on in the mornings often and practice our qrq cw copy and qrq typing. We have had an ongoing regular schedule for at least ten years now. We were able to push each other a bit and reached about 65wpm. It was very helpful and a heck of a lot of fun too, qso'n most mornings that the band conditions would allow. Bryan is an excellent typist and all of his rigs had some of the best sounding qrq cw notes... a pleasure to listen to and being somewhat of a musician and audiophile, I really appreciated the quality of the CW audio in Bryan's setup.

After a few years of relaxing at this speed and not working much to pursue higher speeds, something caught my attention and I decided to push harder in my training and go for the TRIPLE DIGIT COPY. It took a lot of work to get past 65wpm. But once it started to happen, I felt that it was an easier ride up to about 80wpm. When I started to feel more comfortable at 80wpm, I wanted to train over the air with someone who could also copy and type CW at 80wpm. ENTER: FRED W3NJZ ! Fred was game for setting up a regular schedule on SATURDAYS during the fall and winter months. Over the last few years we have been QRQ'n on 40 meters around 1:30pm central time on most Saturday's @ 7024. This was quite a challenge for me, I had not typed that fast ever....so it took some practice to get my typing speed up to 80 wpm. Since I have been playing piano all my life, I had the potential to get my typing speed up....I just needed some practice time. We were eventually able to get up to 100wpm typing and head copying. One thing was still slowing us down....BRAIN SPEED ! It is one thing to type that fast while looking at some already written text, but it is a far-far greater task to THINK THAT FAST on the spur of the moment during the natural flow of a conversation and get all that data down to your fingers with enough ahead time to get the buffer filled up with a couple of words ....or...at least a couple of letters. WOW ! THAT WAS QUITE A CHALLENGE and actually became the limiting factor in how fast we could communicate. It seems that once you get over the 100 wpm hill...there is an ability to move up to about 140 wpm as far as copy goes. I have found that as you go from 140 wpm to 150 wpm, there is an increasing difficulty and struggle to comprehend what is being sent. My current goal is to reach 150 wpm copy as it relates to the typical flow of a conversation. My training is built around that pursuit. There are many speed bumpsalong the way as one travels the highway to NASCAR QRQ. In my experience it seems to take at least 1-2 hours a day, most days per week...for several months if not a couple of years to get over these natural barriers we all run into during our journey up the long, steep hill to ever increasing QRQ COPY PROGRESS. The brain does not seem to recognize the stream of dits and dahs at the "new" higher speed and you have to retrain your mind to learn the "new" sound of much of the vocabulary.

To help increase my cw copy speed, I started recording cw onto tapes and listened to them on a variable speed cassette tape deck while driving to work everyday. When I heard a word that I was not able to copy, I would hit the review button on the tape deck to hear the word again. After a few times, if I was still not able to discern the word, I would slow the tape down, hit rewind and try again... and again, and again, until I got it.

With so much repetition I thought I would benefit by converting bible texts into cw and listen to them. That is about the only thing I thought would be worth hearing over and over again. I took out all the punctuation so that all I heard were the words. Instead of using periods and commas i inserted spaces of 6 and 3 spaces respectively. Ak4g taught me to not use punctuation while sending code and instead use spaces. The advantage to doing this is to allow some "rest" for the brain and ear and help prevent tonal fatigue and burnout.

I started sending keyboard cw with a 286 DOS COMPUTER and a program called CWTERM by W1HKJ. Now 15 years later, Dave has written a new program called FLDIGI. This new software has many digital modes available including cw. It is my favorite program now for sending cw and includes many features for QRQ including QSK timing, raised cosine with variable rise/fall time, speeds up to 200wpm , weight adjustments and dot to dash ratio adjustments. I am using the program to send MODULATED CW or a2 afcw mode. Any rig can be used with this method to send beautiful raised cosine shaped waveforms to the cw elements. My icom 735 is now able to send qrq cw at full qsk over 100wpm using this method without chopping the cw elements whatsoever. With the QSK timing feature that Dave has implemented into the program I can switch the PTT button on the ICOM first , then send the raised cosine cw audio into the USB LINE IN of the rig. A beautiful raised cosine shape to the cw on the RF OUT is what you see while viewing the wave shape on a SCOPE.

Views: 302

Comment by fred ryan on July 1, 2008 at 7:22pm
One thing that Chuck didn't mention is that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve high speed CW. If you don't really like to accept challenges and put your best efforts into it, it will never happen. Nothing worth while comes easily. -Fred
Comment by Joe on July 4, 2008 at 12:35pm
Great story. I am hard at work using RufZ and the 3000 most common english words method of getting my speed up so I can have QRQ QSOs when the sunspots crank up. Its lonely out here on Maui with a SFI of 66!... Joe KH6/W3GW
Comment by fred ryan on July 8, 2008 at 3:05pm
Joe, I wonder if you know katashi Noshe, KH6IJ ? He was one of the all time great QRQ operators. -Fred

Joe, I wonder if you know Katashi Noshe, KH6IJ ? He was one of the all time great QRQ operators. -Fred Ryan
Comment by Joe on July 8, 2008 at 3:49pm
I didn't know Katashi personally but worked him routinely during all the major contests. He wrote an article on 'High Speed Code' for Qst in the 1960's. I used it for a reference in an article I wrote for the ARRL webzine titled 'High Speed Code Revisited' that is on the net at
http://www.arrl.org/news/features/2007/10/11/1/?nc=1.

I was going through my old QSLs a while back and I found an old card written by Katashi's wife letting me know he had passed away. He was a role model and mentor for generations of hams not just in Hawaii but around the world.
Comment by Brett Miller on June 9, 2011 at 12:48pm
This is a really great bio Chuck, and I believe this is the first time I have seen this!  I remember you telling me about Bryan in the past, and it's great to see him here.  Fred's right about the hard work, and it's great to be back into QRQ and working on my proficiency and speed.  It seems like these days there is a little bit more interest in QRQ cw than there was when I strayed from the hobby back in 2005.  This is surely in no small part due to everything you've done to bring about solidarity and a sense of community in QRQ.  Now there are so many people active on the bands and I've now manage to find 3 skeds a week, plus a fb net to check-in to where I can get QRQ practice, in addition to plenty of practice using the paddle at QRS every day.  If I can keep myself listening to vocab word mp3's every night, the recipe will be complete.  Thanks for sharing this story Chuck and for all you've done for us!
Comment by Chuck aa0hw on June 11, 2011 at 5:55am

Thanks Brett !

Congrats to you sir for your hard work and training and its sure good to have you back on QRQ !

also...was wondering how you setup your mp3 player and word lists for vocab training ?  

Comment by Brett Miller on June 11, 2011 at 11:43am

Thanks Chuck, I intend on never being out for such a long duration, but you know how life can be.  Lately I have just been using my Panasonic Toughbook laptop for playing mp3's and listening to the 100 and 1000 most commonly used English words by feeding them to Fldigi.  Also, I've been listening to some recordings I've made, as well as some excellent .mp3 records of qsos created by Chuck Broadwell W5UXH of qso between he and I, plus between him and some of his friends.  Listening to these files helps a lot, yet I feel I've probably reached the level where the most benefit to my receiving comes for actual qsos, where I use the code for actual communication with another human being.  In addition to big monologue style CW, I've also been doing quite a bit of QSK real conversation via keyboard.  This is highly useful in learning to use CW as a language.

 

It might be of use to mention the simple setup I use for recording.  I have a Y splitter adapter which I plug into one of my rigs' headphone jacks.  This gives two female sockets for that port.  One goes to my headphones, which I always use for QRQ, and the other side goes to the mic-in (my Toughbook has no line-in) of my laptop.  I use Audacity 1.3.13 Beta for recording, and check the box under Edit --> Preferences --> Software Playthrough.  This way you can tweak your AF levels and your rig's filter settings while listening to signals live through the recording setup. 

 

W5UXH uses his K3's line out to record, using a piece of software called Goldwave, if I am remembering correctly.  His files sound incredible.

 

73  -  Brett KI4DBK

Comment by Brett Miller on June 18, 2011 at 9:08pm

Chuck, I have an update to what I told you about my .mp3 cw training.  I have borrowed my wife Staci's generation 2 iPod Shuffle.  I also downloaded a software package that reformats the Shuffle and removes the necessity to use itunes with the player.  This way, it's a simple flash player, which is much easier and faster to mount via USB and load up with practice material. 

 

This is an amazing practice tool, since it's tiny and lightweight...and will clip onto my clothing for use with earbuds while completing menial tasks around the house.  I can already tell I will be able to eat up so much recorded QRQ qso material that my only problem will be finding and making enough to keep it fresh.  73

Comment by Chuck aa0hw on June 19, 2011 at 5:33pm

Hi Brett,

Interesting news about your training with a reformatted Shuffle...

was wondering if you might tell us more about the "software package" you are utilizing for this adaptation...

and maybe also some of your training techniques for using this system to advance your qrq copy...

ie ....variable speed ?   variable rewind  ?  removal of superfluous punctuation ? 

etc... 

Thanks...

 

Comment by Brett Miller on June 20, 2011 at 1:00am

 

Chuck,

 

Ok on the software for the iPod Shuffle, I can't recall the exact name of the .exe, but it's a windows compatible file that you run on the ipod every time you copy new files on it.  This program syncs up the iPod and creates the file structure that it expects which is similar to that that iTunes uses.  I can let you know about the exact program via email if you want, at the moment I'd have to actually look in the iPod's file structure to find it and I don't have it mounted right now.  You could google search "ipod shuffle without itunes"  or similar.

 

Regarding my training techniques, they are simple.  I mainly listen to recorded CFO skeds, FOG nets, and similar real QSOs that I've recorded myself.  I've found that anything I listen to that is 65 wpm and below is helpful to the learning process right now.  70 and above, my word vocab drops considerably and listening to 5 Star or SOB qsos only has me hearing probably 3 or 4 words or so.  65 wpm I hear quite a few words...and 60 down to 55 I'm catching phrases and whole sentences..much more than just the 100 most common, which I have memorized.  50 down to 40 I can copy better than 50%.  Below 40, not much reason to listen, since I'd be better off on the air participating with a hand key, since I don't enjoy using the board below 40.  I believe the fastest way for me to learn at this point in the game is via skeds with others more experienced at QRQ and of course round tables with the same.  In lieu of such ideal practice, I can at least go half way and listen to skeds and recordings of QSOs with others (such as some FB .mp3's made by Chuck Broadwell on his K3).  I would rather practice using actual contexts and vocab used by cw operators than listen to prose or computer generated morse files, although there are exceptions, like vocab training, which really is now just an every now and then thing I use for testing myself and if there are any problem words.    ...of course, that being said, I realize I may have to adjust these training ideas to go over 70 wpm at some future point, but right now having qsos at 45 and 50 wpm is challenging enough, and it takes all my skill just to relax enough to snap into the receiving groove even half way through.

 

I don't see any plateaus (unless there's one coming up for me at 65 to 70) so I listen to all QRQ speeds, and find that the FOG recordings I have *really* push me to strain (except the 50 wpm stuff is a nice treat hi W5UX), while the CFO recordings of Andrew sending 40 wpm are fast becoming pleasurable listening.  The challenge there is to keep in the groove of concentration and hear every word while preventing my mind from wandering.  QRS (to me now, that means below 40) can be much harder than QRQ for me sometimes, because it's a strain to keep my brain on the flow of letters long enough to force them into words.  With QRS you have to push the words together and it's a struggle...but with QRQ the words come to you, the only trick is to not get distracted -- or worse yet, become obsessed with one missed word!  I have been trying to teach myself the art of letting it go.

 

So I prefer to keep each recording locked into its original speed and leave it there.  I have long recordings which feature good keyboard sending of all the speeds I'll need to hear for the next year or so, and all I have to do is keep a good rotation so that they don't get stale.  No need to vary the speed for me, I can just get new recordings for new speeds, and of course record my own qsos. 

 

Hope this cleared up more than it confused hihi

 

73   Brett KI4DBK

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