This new crop of hams are actively engaged in trying to learn CW and POTA is where you'll find them.
This is good.
Either as an activator or a hunter, the exchange is minimal and most of the variation from one contact to the next involves mostly just the callsigns involved.
But I wonder if this minimal-exchange method of becoming comfortable with the mode ends up stunting the progression of those using it?
There are many methods employed by the newly Morse-interested ops:
- The Long Island CW Club has a highly rated online course
- MorseChrome plays highlighted text as Morse (Chrome browser only)
- Some people download MP3 files of Morse - they can vary the speed of playback
- Some practice at 20 wpm, learning letters and common words, with Farnsworth spacing
- Some use code readers as they watch/listen to what's being read on the display
- And others use some combination of the above
Unfortunately, there is no "safe space" for on-the-air practice with other newbies.
This was the purpose of the old Novice bands on 10, 15, 40 and 80 meters. Not a "penalty box" but an on-the-air Morse University, with other students and staff on hand to enhance the learning process.
As a newbie myself, I would often listen to the "pro" CW ops on 20 meters - it intimidated the bejesus out of me and I was thankful to have a cocoon of kindred spirits who would tolerate my mistakes and slow CW.
And not all on the Novice bands were Novices. WA5COH (SK) in Louisiana comes to mind but there were many 30+ wpm Extras who had an uncanny ability to sense our comfort level, then transmit at an ever-so-slightly faster speed.
I think new ops trying to learn CW are at a significant disadvantage. Those who stick with it have perseverance that I probably wouldn't have had. I hope that if any of them stumble across this posting, they'll see it as an e-pat on the back and encouragement to keep on keepin' on.
My only advice to those trying to learn CW, whatever the method, is: just use it to the best of your ability at a speed you're comfortable with. If you think "accuracy", and not speed, the speed will come without you even realizing it.
MorseRunner is here and is a great way to practice copying callsigns. And it's free.
Most fun I ever had in amateur radio was the 6 months I spent as a Novice in 1980.ReplyDelete
Great post. I started as a Novice and kept trying to copy someone just a little beyond my comfort level. Max WG4ZReplyDelete
The Novice bands are long gone but there are slow-speed events weekly - and of course Morse Runner:Delete
Max, I'm using your rubber band idea on my Nye paddles - works great!
When I first saw the title, I wondered if John was going to be the guy who laments having all the clumsy lids scattered around (and in the way) wherever he wants to work, or the guy who laments the novices now having no space where they can learn. Thankfully, the latter!ReplyDelete
As a new ham almost 50 years years ago, I frequented the novice segment of 40m. There, I would accidentally come across Milton from Ohio and have the same pro-forma ragchew every Sunday morning. He helped me move from the 13wpm needed to pass General to about 17-18. His call and QSL cards are long lost, but the memory of a helpful man remains.
Today, I return to the hobby after a very long absence and am essentially a CW novice again, I can pick you out, AE5X, during POTA activities, but can't yet keep up with your speed. Determined to get there...
Thanks for lamentnig. :)
Bob, I QRS as needed. Call me at *your* speed. And welcome back to the best hobby in the world.Delete
POTA is not all that great for CW development, but rather is better thought of as a destination after some development. Or, as a goal to encourage development of CW skill. Or a way to gauge progress as one is putting in the effort to grow in CW.ReplyDelete
There are lots of better activities for skill development within CW. The old Novice activity was great for developing the abilities to hang in there for a while. Current day rag chewing still does the same thing. I heavily encourage those I Elmer to go from learning code to rag chewing first. The vast majority of operators will slow down and go to great measures to ease the way for what is sensed to be a new operator.
POTA IS bringing new CW operators into the fold, and that is fantastic. My hope is for those operators to grow and enjoy the fun that is the wider environment of CW. Yes, that includes POTA, rag chewing, award chasing and contesting.
Thanks for the many POTA contacts, Jim.Delete
I'd like to know, from the newbie's perspective, what is it about CW that attracts them to it? I know why I'm attracted to it, but my introduction to CW was a requirement - I happened upon its benefits as a result of that.
Yes, hopefully the new POTA CW ops will branch out into other aspects of the hobby that use the mode.
You know me and my operating profile (CW + contesting and a tad of casual DX), so when I read:ReplyDelete
"A new crop of hams are actively engaged in trying to learn CW and POTA is where you'll find them."
I say: SPOT ON!
I discovered this parallel universe of WWFF / POTA / SOTA / ... during the pandemic and accompanying lockdown.
It struck me that:
a) These guys are freakishly enthousiastic about the hobby. There's a very positive vibe and buzz on Y/T and social media. Me likes!
b) These folks are going places, moving stuff and getting the HF bands activated. Yet I do not see them in my contest logs. So effectively a parallel universe.
c) They're doing CW or at least in the process of learning it to effectively use it. Woohoo!!!
d) There seem to be a lot non-techno hams in the mix with very basic questions. Nothing wrong at all but I wonder how they end up in our wonderful hobby. That's a vein we can tap fresh blood out of.
What's not to like? And I wanna be part of it! That's why I'm really determined to give it a serious try.
For a CW dude like me, there is little to no fun anymore to be had during a weekday.
Too bad the WX still brings rain, wind, hail and cold. Temperatures on the rise, but so are rain and wind.
But I'm cranking up the POTA RPM with the parking break on. Watch out when I release it! Maybe I blew an engine by then :o)
73 and keep hamming!
Yep, very little CW on the air these days other than a weekend (or Wednesdays, at least here in the US, with CW Ops). As the new POTA CW activators become more comfortable with the mode, they're almost sure to dip their toes into the world of contesting, DXing, etc.
You'll probably be working some of them, who are becoming more & more proficient, in CQWW 2023.
I have been doing POTA since 2018 - I love it! As you stated, I have seen a huge increase in CW activity thanks to POTA. In my early days of POTA the CW portion of the bands were pretty much empty. But now its like "the olden days".ReplyDelete
When I activate, I pretty much run all modes including the "not a real mode" FT8, but my favorite mode is CW, of which I can go 30 wpm but typically run 18-20 wpm. I have found this speed to be the most effective for acquiring the most CW contacts on an activation.
I will also say this, and I have stated on the POTA Facebook page when it comes up, come at me at what speed you are comfortable with and I will acknowledge you at that speed. Us CW guys smile a little bit when this happens because we know we have a new CW operator up and coming. Not to mention that we too remember what its like to finally dip that big toe into the waters of the CW world.
Everyone crawls before they can walk.
I recently bought an external memory keyer to use with my FT-891. QRS'ing is clumsy with that rig's internal keyer but the new one allows an easy turn-of-a-knob to do this function. But if a station calls who is only slightly slower (a few wpm) than me, I'll usually QRS by extending the spacing of my words, Farnswoth-ish style.
Yes, we were all there once - crawling before we could walk.
Oh yes, my FT-857 has the same issue as the FT-891. I have my keyer set up to run CW macro's which helps me multitask (eat lunch while working the pileup..). It doesn't have a knob that I can just turn so when its time to QRS, I use what I call the Farnsworth QRS. That is the keyer stays at the same speed, but I increase the spacing between each letter to match their CW speed.Delete
The newcomers don't seem to have a problem with the Farnsworth QRS. Which actually by using the Farnsworth method of keying helps them improve their copying CW faster sooner.
Hope to work you on a P2P some day!
The novice segments are still there. But very few people use them. I always try to remember to go up and see who may be around wanting some practice.ReplyDelete
Unfortunately, I know a number of hams that know morse code, but can't do 20 WPM. So they're too intimidated to even get on the air and try. What a shame! What ever happened to just talking to each other?
I didn't know those bands were even occupied by anything other than overflow during CW/digital contests. I'll have to give them a listen from time to time.Delete