CWA Beginner – Session 8

Session 8, introduces the letters B and V. (Thanks, Mateo, for sending out the Lesson 8 mp3 file that you can listen to on headphones.)

In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, session 8 is divided into copying segments: 

B, V, 7, 9, / (five times each)

vote, at, view, wave, pave, save, vow, valve, solve, volt, vault, bad, body, bore, born, barn, barney, brad, bread, bed, better, best, bill, build, built, bolt, bulb, blame, blend, bland, blow, bv2aa, ba1ro, wb2ae, n6rb/4, w2/ve1ar, ve2/w2le, 6146, 5514, name is bob, name is bill, name is ted, name is vinnie, ur rst is 559, ur rst is 459

And sending segments: 

vote, valve, bed, best, bv2aa, ba1ro, wb2ae, n6rb/4, w2/ve1ar, ve2/w2le, 6146, 5514, name is bill, name is art, ur rst is 579, ur rst is 449

In call signs, the / character usually indicates an operator not working in the area expected by the call sign. For example, VE2/W2LE is an US ham working in Quebec. Canada and the US have reciprocal operating privileges. That Quebecois operating here might identify as W2/VE2AR.

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

You’ll noticed during the sending segments, there are snippets of a potential QSO:

name is bill

ur rst is 579

We’ll go into more detail about QSOs next session, ultimately spending sessions 11-14 practicing them in class.

RST (readability, signal strength, tone) is a signal report.  In contests, 99.9944% of those will be 599, or more likely, 5NN (where N is a “cut number” version of 9).  In conversational CW, folks tend to either be complimentary and give you a 599 even though it took five attempts to get the information, or occasionally more honest with the scale below.  If you get one of the latter, the information can be a diagnostic (e.g., don’t take it personally).  From my home setup, I would not be surprised if I got 339.

Readability: 1-5, where 5 is perfectly readable. I’m not sure how one would receive a 1 (“unreadable”) since the other operator would not know to whom their sending. 3 (Readable with difficulty) and 4 (Readable, mostly) are common.

Strength: 1-9, where 9 is extremely strong. This is more useful, though obviously subjective:
1. Faint – signals barely perceptible
2. Very weak signals
3. Weak signals
4. Fair signals
5. Fairly good signals
6. Good signals
7. Moderately strong signals
8. Strong signals
9. Extremely strong signals

Tone: 1-9, Lower scores would occur if you had interference from a powerline (A/C is 60Hz) or your tone generator was really bad.

CWA Beginner – Session 7


Session 7, introduces the letters G and P, the numbers 7 and 9, and the / character. (Thanks, Mateo, for sending out the Lesson 7 mp3 file that you can listen to on headphones.)

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, session 7 is divided into copying segments: 

F, Y, 3, 6, P, G, 7, 9, / (five times each)

page, paper, pepper, glad, glare, large, ledge, george, geo, chas, chase, change, peg, pug, pig, pen, pencil, pipe, pit, gain, garage, guard, gas, gus, chug, yes, yet, yonder, coy, G4AN/3, N1AR/5, W9UCA/9, W3/PY2AA, F6/N6AM, 2N2222, 7423, 14253679, he is a pro, she is near, do not gape, he is at 19 glen street

And sending segments: 

page, glare, ledge, george, pen, pit, G4AN/3, N1AR/5, W9UCA/9, W3/PY2AA, F6/N6AM, 2N2222, 7423, 14253679, go to her, read the page, wat page?

At the end of this session, we are 19/26ths towards a complete alphabet. The remaining letters are high-value Scrabble tokens. 

Nice job sending tonight.  I’m enjoying the words and phrases you come up with tonight: coyote, foul play, periphery, haggis, up/down, rush 2112, no pain no gain, chump change, diphthong, cape horn..  (In college, it seemed like Rush was always playing in the quad.  If you ever wondered what Morse code sounds like when sent by a guitar, they did that in a song intro.)

Since you all are making great progress, we were able to do work through our customary five rounds with plenty of time left over for a sixth. For the bonus homework, be prepared to send two groups from the “Sending Segments” and four words or phrases from the letters we’ve learned (they can be your own or from the list).

After next class, I’ll send out a simple worksheet for you to assemble a QSO cheat sheet filling in common phrases such as the one from Stephan (“ant is dipole”) and Bill (“operator/ws6y”) did in round four. (As you’ll discover, there are a lot of abbreviations. “Operator” would be simply “op”.) Starting with session 10, we’ll work on sending QSO snippets to each other over Zoom.

Following up to Ross’ question last night on people sending slower upon request, I did an informal survey (asked a bunch of CWA advisors).  Some of the comments (my additions in bold):

  • In a contest, I never QRS [send slower] with the speed control (well, rarely). However, when I grab the paddle for any reason, I Farnsworth down the speed appropriately. Seems to work well. 
  • I will slow down to 15-18 cpm [characters per minute], with additional spacing and repeats as needed.  I make too many mistakes if I I overthink it.
  • In a SSS [Slow Speed Sprint] all operators should send no faster than 13 WPM and if someone is calling you or CQ-ing slower speed, you should QRS to match their speed.  [there was no mention of cpm]

One also pointed me to the LIDS philosophy on this: http://lidscw.org/skeds-frequencies  A “lid” is slang for an inexperienced or error-prone operator – its origin is unclear to me.  The “lidscw” group takes this tongue-in-cheek, much like the the “Second Class Operator’s Club” https://www.qsl.net/soc/ who appear much more laid-back than the “First Class Operators Club” https://g4foc.org/ appear to be.

A couple of weeks ago Bekah forwarded me a few ham-related.  This one, “Morse Code if I Could Start Over Again“,  has similar themes to what we’ve been discussing in class.  

CWA Beginner – Session 6


Session 6, introduces the letters F and Y. F is the reversed L. Though it sounds distinctly different, some folks have difficulty between the letters the first few times.   (Thanks, Mateo, for sending out the Lesson 6 mp3 file that you can listen to on headphones.)

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, session 6 is divided into copying segments: 

m, w, 3, 6, f, y (five times each)

you, toy, foot, tooth, root, cute, noise, larry, roy, ton, teeth, feet, yet, they, say, ray, hay, your, fair, fare, far, fur, furry, hw?, F5IN, YO1AR, HH5H, NO3M, AA3, U S52R, 1512, 3316, is this fair?, yes it is, the fur flies, she is shy, I say no, she says yes

And sending segments: 

cute, said, raid, stir, him, feet, hw?, F5IN, YO1AR, HH5H, NO3M, AA3U, S52R, 1512, 3316, she says yes, he says no, who is he?, he is will, no he is walt

At the end of this session, we are 17/26ths towards a complete alphabet, though the letters we have learned lead to a lot of creative words like wildfire, furry animals, Curly and Moe (session 9 will give us “nyuk nyuk”), monument and fly fish

For the bonus homework, be prepared to send two groups from the “Sending Segments” and three words of your choice from the letters we’ve learned (they can be your own or from the list). In two weeks, we’ll have everything we need to build a QSO cheat sheet and start sending sample QSOs in class.  When we do, we’ll mix it up the routine a little bit by having you call to another student (while in Zoom), do a simple response, then call the next student.  

W1AW – ARRL makes available MP3s in a variety of speeds based on text pulled from the QST magazine: http://www.arrl.org/code-practice-files    Additionally, they also do on the air runs from the west coast that you can listen to on the air. 

Snoqualmie Falls Wildcat IPA is available at Total Wine and BevMo.  
The Solder and Smoke Podcast Mateo mentioned is available here.  

Sunday’s session 7, will introduce the letters G and P, Numbers and 9, and the / character.  P can be a little tricky because of its timing – dit, hold the key for two dashes, then dit.  (It’s the inverse of X, which we’ll learn in session 10.)   

The slant is even more musical than the character and shows up most frequently in call signs – portable (/P or /M), operating in a different country.  For example, if Bill were operating in BC, he would send WS6Y/VE7.  

CWA Beginner – Session 5

Session 5, introduces the letters M and W, the numbers and 6, and our first punctuation, ?.  The question mark has a very distinct and musical sound.  It’s also fun to do on a paddle with repeat: hold for two dots, hold two dashes, hold two dots, release.   (Thanks, Mateo, for sending out the Lesson 5 mp3 file that you can listen to on headphones.)

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, it’s divided into copying segments: U, C, 2, 5, M, W, 3, 6, ? (five times each)

wait, wall, well, will, mall, mill, chum, mow, much, such, water, wet, what, dew, date, atom, tow, tower, were, where, was, wish, wash, mat, matt, mel, him, her, his, hw?, W3AA, N3AM, DM5RA, W6AM, N2AT, RW5L, ON4UN, 335, 1432, 12, 6122, well water, how is it?, is this it?, this is it

And sending segments: wait, well, mall, mill, wet, date, W3AA, N3AM, DM5RA, W6AM, N2AT, RW5L, ON4UN, 335, 1432, 6122, this is it, 1432 hill street, 1 and 4 is 5

For the bonus homework, (same as last session, and will be the same for a few more weeks) be prepared to send two groups from the “Sending Segments” and three words (or a short phrase) of your choice from the letters we’ve learned (they can be your own or from the list).  I appreciated folks giving nudges for “two words” and sending again with a breath between words.  

Last week, the phone app Morse Mania came up, available on Android and iOS (there is at least one other named Morse Mania, link goes to the one we’re referring). It gamifies the letters, which can be fun. The paid version ($3 on the App store) includes longer words, the most common words, pro-signs and additional levels.

I included screenshots of the Morse-It app on iOS that Paul and Bekah both mentioned with CW Academy curriculum built-in.  The left panel is for listening, right panel is for sending practice.  (This would be useful if you were taking public transportation)

The two programs I mentioned for practicing call signs are RufzXP and Morse Runner, and are used heavily in the Basic through Advanced classes.   They’re both Windows-based programs, though you can run Morse Runner on Mac using the Wine wrapper someone made available on the download page.  (Both will run in Parallels without problems.)  There is a command-line equivalent of RufzXP, QRQ, that runs on anything.

  • The core function of RufzXP is to send a series random call signs (or lists of words), one at a time.  If you copy it correctly, it increases the speed a little bit, get partial copy or miss it, and it backs off a bit, which is to say it is always gets hard.  The call signs vary in difficulty, including portable and operating in different countries.  Nearly everyone hates it for the first month, then the feeling becomes somewhere between “not horrible” and “oddly fun.”  There is a scoring system based on accurate copying and speed, but it’s best to look at what your average and peak wpm are.  
  • Morse Runner is more of a time-based contest QSO simulation.  In the easiest level, you copy call signs and the serial number, then another comes along.  There’s no penalty, other than time spent, on retries.   In advanced levels, you have to call CQ, there are simulated pileups (mentioned last time, when a bunch of stations call you back), fading, weather effects, and the other stations making mistakes.  There is a scoring system based on the number of call signs copied correctly times the different prefixes.  Although I haven’t done so personally, one can apparently drop in customized call-sign and word lists.

None of these apps are used in or necessary for the beginner class, but they’re additional tools available.

Thursday’s session 6, will introduce the letters F and Y. 

CWA Beginner – Session 4

Session 4 introduced the letters U and C.  

In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, it’s divided into copying segments: R, H, D, L, 1, R, U, C (five times each)

chat, chair, chin, chart, ouch, couch, touch, such, teach, reach, sun, son, hold, told, sail, rail, tail, nail, oil, soil, toil, coil, rain, cause, sauce, toss, toll, tall, tell, cell, call, NC5A, NA2T, CU1LL, 10, CO5NO, NU4R, CT1AC, CE1NI, 4241, 1452, in the cell, that hurts, at the hall, hole in 1

And sending segments: chat, chin, teach, sail, rain, tall, tell, NC5A, NA2T, CU1LL, CO5NO, NU4R, CT1AC, CE1NI, 4241, 1452, sail on sailor, tell all, hold on

Thank you for a great class.  Nice variety of words, too.  Favorites were: Scotland, Santana, Latch, Loud shout, church

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Sunday’s session 5, will introduce the letters M and W, the numbers and 6, and our first punctuation, ?.  The question mark has a very distinct and musical sound.  It’s also fun to do on a paddle with repeat: hold for two dots, hold two dashes, hold two dots, release.   

Events: 
Paul mentioned the K1USN slow speed (con)test: http://www.k1usn.com/sst.html  This event is a leisurely-paced opportunity, intended to be more welcoming to new CW operators.  By “slow speed,” they mean relative to the CWOPS event perspective, at 15-20wpm.  They will slow down to you.  (To set some context, CWOps has its “CWT” event every Wednesdays at 6am, noon and 8pm PST.  There are a lot of folks “running” a frequency at 25wpm and up.  The CWT two weeks after classes end is a <= 20wpm session to welcome new participants.  K1USN felt there should be one of these every week.)

The K1USN SST event is Sunday 17:00 – 18:00 PDT on 20m (14.032-14.039), 40m (7.032-7.039) and 80m (3.532 – 3.539).  Several of K1USN members are in the northeast, so if you have difficulty hearing them on the air, I’ve included some information on Web SDRs below.  (The Milford, PA, site should work for this.  If there are west coast participants, the Northern Utah and Half Moon Bay, CA Web SDRs are very good.)  It sounded like there were a lot of participants – N1QE (Tim) reported making 50 contacts.

This style of event is great for a newcomer because the exchanges are predictable. If you find someone “running” a frequency (where they stay in one spot and people “search and pounce” contacts for them), the repetition gives you a lot of opportunities to pluck out the essential information for an exchange. For example, if K1USN is running a frequency, you might hear this sequence (bold black = what’s actually sent, red is the translation):

CQ SST K1USN  (Translation: “Calling anyone participating in SST, this is K1USN, anyone there?“)
     If Paul were on, he would respond with his call sign: W7PEZ 
     If K1USN hears you and wants to reply, they will send back: W7PEZ HAROLD MA (Hi, W7PEZ, I am Harold from Massachusetts)   
     Paul will respond: TU PAUL WA (Thank you, I am Paul, from Washington state)
     And finally, K1USN: GL PAUL TU K1USN SST (Good luck, Paul, and thank you.  This is K1USN calling for anyone participating on SST.)

We’ll review this a lot more as we’re working on our QSO cheat sheet in session 10+.  TU (thank you), GE (Good evening), GM (Good Morning), GA (Good Afternoon), FB (Fine business) are also acceptable courtesies you can respond with.  After a while, you’ll recognize these as words and it gives your brain time to focus on the exchange part.  

If, in the response, K1USN answered another station, it’s common courtesy to not resend your call sign until K1USN has finished that exchange, e.g., once they send TU K1USN SST you can call again, or you can wait for them to do the full CQ.  

There is also a CW Academy “QSO party”, which is more free-form:

The CW Academy QSO Party is now on Tuesday nights. 7.100 – 7.200. 17:00 – 19:00 PDT, 0000GMT to 0200GMT. Get on the air and have fun. This is a great watering hole for Academy classes that require the students to make QSO’s. Short exchanges, rag chews, just have fun. No scores kept, no submitting logs. All are encouraged to keep your Keyer speeds up and use generous Farnsworth spacing. Get on the air, have some fun!

Practicing copying what you send: The Intermediate class I’m associate advising for started using Audacity (free download: https://www.audacityteam.org/ ) to record their sending then play it back for self-evaluation.  (There may be a phone app to do the same.)  Some folks have found this helpful for working on timing for some of the more complicated letters to send (like L) that alternate multiple times. 

Errors: No biggie.  Take a breath to center, then resend.  In the intermediate course, you’d send eight dits (……..), pause, then resend the portion again.   For now, when sending multiple words, let’s plan on a breath before and after anything over five letters.   

Web SDRs

If you want to listen (with headphones) at work or are having difficulty picking up anything, there are online SDR (software defined radios) you can tune and listen to:

          North America
Milford, PA: http://websdr.k3fef.com:8901/
Birmingham, AL: http://n4dkd.asuscomm.com:8901/
Half Moon Bay, CA: http://69.27.184.62:8901/
Milford, PA: http://k3fef.com:8901/
Northern UT: http://www.sdrutah.org/ (there are four servers)
Sedona, AZ: http://w7rna.dyndns-remote.com:8901/
Washington, DC: http://na5b.com:8901/

The screens are daunting and have different layouts for each one, but the most important settings are enumerated below:

  1. Waterfall of the spectrum – brighter lines represent signals. You can zoom in/out and pan around to focus on the specific area of the band. For example, for 20M, you might watch 14025 – 14045. The red box represents where I am currently tuned. You can see a strong, narrow signal.
  2. Frequency selection – This is the most precise. On some sites, you can click the mouse and use its scroll wheel. Typically, CW frequencies will fall on 50Hz intervals, but adjustments slightly off may be easier to copy.
  3. Band – A quick way to select frequency; sometimes these will have a mode (Choose CW)
  4. Bandwidth – This lets you limit how wide a chunk you are listening to. When starting out with CW, it is helpful to choose “CW nrw” (narrow) so you will hear a specific caller.

In the screen capture below (Ulvila, FI), I have set it up to listen to CW on the 20M band at 14037kHz with a narrow CW filter. F6HKA is currently calling CQ CWT.

CWA Beginner – Session 3

Session 3 introduced the letters D, H, L (my favorite Morse letter), R and the numbers 2 and 5

In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, it’s divided into copying segments: O, I, S, R, H, D, 1, 2, 5 (five times each)

all, tell, tall, deal, the, their, doll, dell, hall, hill, hole, load, lead, late, later, seal, sell, sole, she, shed, her, hear, DL1AT, HH5H, HS1TD, ND2T, NA4T, 142, 451, 1425, a tall hill, she is here, he is late, 4 sheds, 12 hills

And sending segments: all, tell, the, lead, late, she, her, DL1AT, HH5H, HS1TD, ND2T, NA4T, 142, 451, 1425, she is here, he is late

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

For the bonus homework, (same as last session, and will be the same for a few more weeks) be prepared to send two groups from the “Sending Segments” and three words (or a short phrase) of your choice from the letters we’ve learned (they can be your own or from the list).  I appreciated folks giving nudges for “two words” and sending again with a breath between words.  

Some of the questions that came up:
1. Practicing without transmitting will vary by radio.  Bill had some good insight for the ICOM 7300 – if you want to send some notes to the group, it would be appreciated.  I also found this tutorial on the 7300.  On my KX3, I set the transmitter to PTT instead of VOX. A panadapter or phone-based CW decoder will be a useful tool to gauge your timing. 

2. Timing.  We want the characters to be fast enough so your brain hears the sounds and resists the temptation to count dots and dashes (hard to unlearn later when you want to improve speed).   Since everyone is new at sending, we try to send letters at the 20, but we add exaggerated spacing between them and (especially) words because we want our classmates to be able to copy what we send. 

3. The fastest CW speed.   This StackExchange article has some interesting history.  As a practical matter, if you can work at 18-20 wpm, you will find plenty of opportunities to “rag chew” and participate in events like Field Day. If you want to hear faster sending, CWOPS runs CWT each Wednesday at 1300Z, 1900Z and 0300Z, their not-a-contest event. It’s interesting to listen to because the band explodes with activity during that hour. Some stations will “run” (they’re staying on a frequency and people come to them) at 30-35wpm.

I mentioned a tool used in the Basic through Advanced classes — “RufzXP” — used to help you practice copying random call signs. If you ever want a CW butt-whipping, this program will do that for you.  When you get a call sign correct, it increases the speed for subsequent ones a little bit.  There is a contest with the program and the record holder is a lady who hit 195wpm.  

4. Single vs Double paddle – this is a personal preference.  With a double paddle, you can squeeze both and send alternating dots and dashes (depending which one is squeezed first).  Done fluidly, this can save you some time and movement. Here is an example of someone working a Kent double paddle up to 60wpm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHqi6y9nrc8   

CWA Beginner – Session 2

Note: In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, session 2 covers the letters I, O, S and the numbers 1 and 4. With more letters, we can make more interesting words.

It’s divided into copying segments: T, E, A, N, I, O, S, 1, 4 (five times each)

TON, TIN, TIE, TOE, NO, NOT, NOTE, IT, AT, ONE, NEAT, NET, NIT, TOES, STONE, TEASE, NOISE, ONE NEAT NOTE, NO NOISE, TIE IT, 1 TON STONE

N1AS, N4ON, S41T, NO1S, AI1E, IT4O, EA1ON, ES4IT

And sending segments: STONE, TIN, TIE, NO, NOT, IT, 6, AT, N1AS, N4ON, S41T, NO1S, AI1E, IT4O, EA1ON, ES4IT, 1 TON STONE, 14 NOTES, TEN TOES

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

For the bonus homework, be prepared to send two groups from the “Sending Segments” and two words of your choice from the letters we’ve learned.  The “sending segments” will be a warm-up as we go around.  (Don’t worry about duplicating someone else.)

(Note to self: Using the sending segments as a warm-up was something I should have done for sessions 1 & 2)

Session 3 will let you hear the timing differences between the E (one dih), I (two), S (three) and now H (four) and 5 (… five).  It’s pretty eahy to throw in an extra dot and hend when you meant S

This post below comes from Joe (AA8TA), one of the long-time advisors, on why CWA insists on paddles versus straight keys.   

Please allow me to advance my perhaps heretical thoughts about non-paddle keying; this is what I tell my beginner students and others who ask why we do not want students to use straight keys.

Think about how a baby or toddler learns to talk.  If they have a hearing issue, they will have difficulty learning to speak properly, otherwise, they have to listen for a long time to a parent in order to learn how speech should sound.  In a similar way, let’s put a person who does not know Morse code in front of a key and ask them to send their name.  Probably is not going to sound very nice.

A paddle/keyer combination allows one to form characters with nearly perfect dit/dah weighting.  As they listen to a lot of Morse code from our practice sessions and send Morse code that is properly formed, they will get the idea of how to form characters planted firmly in their minds.

Later on, if they want to send on straight keys or bugs, they know what a well-formed character sounds like so they are more likely to send well.  From my own experience, I jump into SKCC events when I can and think that I can send well-formed characters on a straight key because I know what they should sound like.  The Reverse Beacon Network seems to agree.

Once a person learns what well-sent Morse code sounds like, I think they should enjoy whatever CW events they can find.  If a Slow Speed Vertical Key event sounds like fun, do it!

I would discourage students from doing that kind of stuff while in a beginner class (maybe basic class, too), though, until they learn what well-formed characters are supposed to sound like.  We don’t expect toddlers to enter advanced oration events while they are still learning to speak properly.  Same idea.

Have fun!
Joe AA8TA

The “Reverse Beacon Network” (RBN) is a network of sites (radios with computers) that decode Morse code call signs they hear and send “spots” to a distributed network.  It’s useful for seeing who is on the band, patterns of stations being on (think someone very far away for DX) and how well your signal is getting out.  There are other services like hamalert.org that will email you when a certain criteria of station is met. For example, I occasionally look at how well I’m getting out on CW on 20m:

Sample CW Spot during CWT

CWA Beginner – Session 1

Note: In the official CWOPS Beginner Book, session 1 covers the letters A, E, N and T. It’s divided into copying segments: T, E, A, N (five times each)

TEA, TEE, EAT, ATE, AT, TAT, TEEN, NEAT, TEN, NET, TAN, EAT AT, TEN, ATE AT, TEN, AT TEE.

And sending segments: TEA, TEN, NET, TEE, EAT AT TEN, AT TEE

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Post class, I send a recap of what we’re doing next time:
Next Thursday’s session 2 adds the letters I, O, S and the numbers 1 and 4.  I’ve attached a mechanically selected list of words using the letters from both, but anything on the sheet is fine.  
Hopefully the format makes sense: you take turns sending and we see who can copy.  It’s better to send slower and more accurately than fast and make a lot of mistakes.  We know our message was received when we see a lot of hands go up
Do people really go through the levels?   
Frequently, yes.  There are now four, eight-week classes (16 sessions):

  • Beginner – Primary emphasis is on learning the alphanumerics, / and ? character. By the time you’re done, you will have a basic QSO down.
  • Basic – Focuses on instant character recognition (ICR), extending the QSO, learning common words.
  • Intermediate – improves ICR and speed. By the time you’re done, you can comfortably work most CW contests and do rag chewing. You will (hopefully) have completed at least one CWT contact.
  • Advanced – focuses on speed, hearing words and the ability to let go (e.g., if you don’t copy something, you won’t dwell on it at the expense of missing newer stuff). Upon successful completion, you’ll be invited to join CWOPs.

Some folks are exceptionally good and/or previously had a license and can skip ahead.   (Some of you know Mike, N7ID, who fits into both of these groups.)  Some of us need longer.   The leap from beginner to intermediate was huge.  I passed Intermediate and had a couple hundred contacts logged from CWT, but felt I was struggling in the last few sessions.  Retaking it worked out well for me.
CWA later added the “Basic” class to bridge the gap.  They also have the self-assessment tool where you can listen to code at different rates and judge what you should take based on your copying.  Based on the syllabi, it’s roughly:

Levelwpm beginning of classwpm at graduationcpm
Beginner0~420
Basic41025
Intermediate102025
Advanced2025+25
Overview of classes

Where:

  • cpm = characters per minute.  This should be high enough so won’t count individual dots and dashes (a bad habit that is hard to undo) but not too fast to cause your brain to overheat.  
  • wpm = words per minute.  In Farnsworth timing, we send a fast letter, but have a bigger gap between them to allow your brain to process the sound.   

Morse Spacing ratios are thus:

  • A dot is one time unit.
  • A dash is three time units.
  • The space between symbols in the same letter is one time unit.
  • The space between letters is three time units.
  • The space between words is seven time units.

If we look at a map of the timing, there’s a lot more space between two E and sending the letter I, even though they are two dot characters:

When we send manually, there will be variations, but your brain will figure out some from context.  As you practice more, you’ll start to hear words – it’s not unlike talking, you don’t think “t-h-i-n-k,” you recognize that as a word or concept.  There are a lot of opportunities in the Basic and Intermediate classes to drill on those.  The neat thing is when you do this, your brain has some time to “rest.”

Using the paddle to repeat: Yes, definitely. The reason CWOPs wants you to use a paddle instead of a straight key is so you have a better sense for the timing by hearing it. Starting with a straight key would miss out on that, in addition to making it much more difficult on your classmates. 

With a dual paddle, one side sends dots and the other dashes.  If you hold both down, it will cycle between them depending on which key you hit first. I found I prefer the single paddle, but if you have a chance to try both, you should.

There are two iOS apps named MorseMania.  The newer one’s icon has four dashes and looks like the Android version. This link should get you to the Apple store.

Muting Zoom – You have to keep the spacebar held down to remain unmuted.  As we saw, letting it go gets you back to muting.  To toggle mute/unmute:
On Windows, the shortcut is Alt-A
On the Mac, Command-Shift-A.  You can set up a shortcut by selecting System Preferences –> Keyboard –> Shortcuts.  Select on App Shortcuts then click the + sign.   Select Zoom.us from the application drop-down
In Menu Title, enter Mute Audio and for the shortcut, pick a key.  (I used F4)

Click the + again and enter Unmute Audio for Menu Title and the same key.  It’ll look like this:

Mapping F4 to mute and unmute Zoom

CWA Beginner – Welcome Message

Note: I’m advising a Morse Code (CW) beginner course and wanted to capture my notes, questions that have come up, as well as making updates and corrections.

Overview

My primary goal and hopes for the course are to help make it fun and encourage you to make CW friends on the air.  The CW Academy beginner course structure is thus:

    Sessions 1-10 are learning the alphabet, numbers, and the slant character.  These are roughly in order of difficulty:

1A, E, N, T2I, O, S, 1, 4
3D, H, L, R, 2, 54U, C
5M, W, 3, 6, ?6F, Y
7G, P, 7, 9, /8B, V
90, 8, J, K10Q, X, Z
Letters learned during each session

    Sessions 9-10 also introduce common abbreviations and pro signs.  We will start building a QSO cheat sheet.
    Sessions 11-13 are simple QSO practices.  This is where your QSO cue sheet will be helpful.
    Sessions 14-16 are additional activities like listening to the sub-bands and trying to pluck out call signs, make QSOs.  I will also encourage you to set up meetings virtual meetings (Zoom, Skype, Teams, jit.se, whatever is convenient) between yourselves to practice during the week.  At this stage, getting on the air is a “nice to have,” as I would rather you spend time practicing together than fussing with propagation issues.

Welcome, Session 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Here is the official CWA Practice and Homework Assignments packet. 

I have made my modified version available . The lessons are the same. I did extensive reformatting to make it more concise. I also added added, live links, a document index, session titles that indicate what we’re covering, specific frequencies to try on-air and links to Web SDRs that you can use to listen to the air from anywhere (or estimating how well you’re getting out). If there are typos, please let me know directly.

There will also be opportunities for additional CW entertainment when we’re further along in the course.  For example, there are slow-speed roundtables, a story-time where an instructor sends snippets at different rates for you to copy, and recurring contests both slow and fast.

Time and Commitment

To have the most success, I encourage you to spend 30 minutes a day practicing.  I found it helped to break that half hour up into 5- or 10-minute chunks.  Powering through it can cause burnout. You don’t want that.

Session Check-in

  1. Have you completed the CW Academy homework for the session?
  2. Have you done the bonus homework? For the first half of the beginner class, this will be coming up with some additional words to send during your turn to send.
  3. Do you have any questions? In the interest of time, we may need give a brief answer and take it up offline. Or sometimes “I don’t know, let me find out.” During each session, I make a list and try to send a follow-up with appropriate reference links.
  4. Are you “CW Happy”? Please explain. Having been through the class material and working as an associate advisor, I may be able to suggest ways to help if you hit a frustration bump.
  5. Tell your classmates something personal about yourself, that they don’t already know, so that they can get to know you better. This is up to you, try to keep it family-friendly.
  6. Are you open to critique? Critique is intended to help steer you towards a positive outcome. Sometimes I can be too helpful and critique sounds like criticism, it’s okay to decline or let me know.

Session time

The rest of class students send and receive code to each other. For example, in session one, everyone sends a word using the letters we’ve learnt so far (A, E, N, and T). The purpose of you all sending to each other is to encourage engagement, maximize your exposure to different kinds of sending, and help you become aware of the receive side – because CW is ultimately about communication. 

After you send, we’ll see how many other students were able to copy, indicated by raising hands. If there were a plurality, I’ll pick someone with their hand up to tell us what they copied and we move on to the next person. 

I may ask you to resend for a variety of reasons.

  • There weren’t a lot of hands up
  • Sending was rough
  • There were sound artifacts, someone wasn’t muted, or your message was clipped
  • The message was sent too quickly – It’s generally easier for students to send than receive. Moreover, it’s exciting and you may send a lot faster than you think. Slow down a little bit.
  • The message had unexpected elements or was complicated We may want to break up longer passages into words with exaggerated pausing.

I won’t lie, sometimes it will be rough, or you’ll get super nervous, and you’ll completely bobble a letter or word.  That’s okay.   You’re among friends.  Take a breath or two, relax, and try again slower.   Adding more spacing between words can help.

Etiquette

  • Please be respectful of each other. In particular, leave politics, gender, religion out of class topics
  • Please mute your microphone if you are not speaking or sending. Zoom has the uncanny ability to pick up awkward background noises when you least want it to.
  • Have fun, try to keep a positive attitude and sense of humor
  • If you know you’re going to miss or be late to class, please let me (or a classmate) know via text or email. Similarly, if you need to make an early exit, let us know during the check-in. I know Real Life comes up.

I will try to follow-up classes with a short email with the bonus homework and any interesting resources discussed. If you think something will be of general interest to the class, I have set up an alias (redacted) to everyone.

Replacing a noisy radio fan in my Kenwood TM-V71a (and ICOM 208)

I have had some interest in experimenting with satellite radio. Typically you transmit on one band, receive on another. This can be done with two radios, but I wanted to keep things simpler and use one. I happened to find someone selling a Kenwood TM-V71a mobile radio for an attractive price. It’s a nice radio, but when I used it indoors, the fan was too loud for me to hear the speaker.

The Ubiquitous Cooling Fan

The stock fan is a Yen Sun Technology Corporation FD124010HB, a 12 volt, 40 mm square, 10 mm thick plastic fan with seven blades. Rated noise level for the newer model is 29dBa, which would be the equivalent of a library. I don’t have equipment to test, because this is bugging me enough to write about it, I’m pretty sure it’s noisier, probably closer to the sound of a dishwasher in the next room. (The radio was manufactured ~2007.)

I found a couple of resources (here and here from M0LMK) on replacing it with a Noctua NF-A4x10 FLX gamer fan rated rated at a 18 dBa noise level. It was only $14 on Amazon, which seemed like a small investment. The procedure, which M0LMK documents well, was pretty painless:

  • Open the radio
  • Remove the old fan (four screws and a plug)
  • Splice the old connector onto the new fan
  • Reassemble
Splice the red and black. The yellow is unused and can be cut/sealed. (Note, in this picture, I neglected to the cord through the back where the fan bolts on.)

The new fan is so quiet I wasn’t sure it was running (a brief inspection confirmed it was). I liked the result enough that I retrofitted my Icom I208H with the same fan. The only difference in that procedure is the fan is flipped to blow into the radio.