My morning began quite well. I woke up at about 3:30am and heard the Russian “K” beacon on 7039.3, tuned lower down the band and worked JS1NDM – Hiro near Tokyo. Worked him with 4W from my Norcal 2N2/40. From his QRZ listing, it looks like he has a beam on a tower, and was probably running quite a bit more power than me, so thanks Hiro for doing the heavy lifting in our QSO.
Just now, about 6:30am, 40 is only open for relatively local QSO’s. I called CQ on 7030 at about 15 wpm, sending the characters at 17 wpm, but with the spacing at about 15 wpm – it’s the way I normally send. A station, who sounded like he was sending at about 5 wpm asked me to QRS, which I did. We couldn’t complete a QSO, due to QRM, QRN and QSB at his end (what a deadly trio!) I also had great trouble copying him, but it wasn’t due to QRM, QRN or QSB. It wasn’t even due to the spacing between his words; it was due to the speed at which he was sending his characters.
I learned Morse code by using some version of the Farnsworth Method, learning the sound of each letter with the characters sent at a speed of somewhere around 15-20 wpm, but with longer spaces between them. Then to speed up my copying, all I had to do was close the gaps between the characters, because I already knew what each of them sounded like. When you learn the code with the letters sent at a very slow speed, you don’t instinctively learn the sound of each letter. I’m pretty sure that was how the station who asked me to QRS this morning had learned the code.
The thing was, was that even though I was really concentrating hard, I couldn’t copy his sending, because his characters were all sent slowly. In order to copy that slow, I have to think in terms of the letter “A” being a short one and a long one, and “B” being a long one and three short ones. It’s a whole different code. If he had sent the characters at 12wpm or greater, with big spaces between them, I could have copied, but the way he was sending, I just couldn’t do it, no matter how hard I tried.
When you are learning code, please, please, learn the letters as complete sounds. It makes it a lot easier for you to eventually increase your speed, and a whole lot easier for other stations to QRS for you. I am very grateful to the superbly competent higer speed ops who slow down for me. I really want to be able to do it for others, but I can only do it if you send the letters as complete sounds at a speed of, say 10wpm or up – even if the gaps between letters are long.
I do hope this doesn’t come across as unhelpful of me, but it is genuinely intended to be the reverse.
On a different note, Julian G4ILO has just received some worrying news about his health, which he has related in his most recent blog post. I’ve been following his amateur radio blog for years and had to do a double-take when reading the post; I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. He has a big following online, and I know that all his readers wish him and his XYL Olga the very warmest of wishes in dealing with his health issues. Of course, we are all eagerly awaiting his return to blogging. Julian has published his address on his blog and I’m sure he’d welcome a QSL card or other communication in the mail. At times like this it’s good to know that others are rooting for you. Let’s fill his mailbox with good wishes!