My Morning – QRS Pse OM and G4ILO News

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!


2 thoughts on “My Morning – QRS Pse OM and G4ILO News

  1. Been following your blog for a while – good stuff, but I have a comment about the morse code speed issue. I am learning morse code using the koch method using G4ILO morse code software and have realized that as I increase my speed I am only increasing my copying speed not my sending. My sending is still slow as my fingers and brain are still doing characters – dot/dash etc. Not working too well as I can now copy faster than I can send. I know that it is practice that makes perfect but maybe your guy had a similar issue.
    I did appreciate your reference to Julian as I have been following his very valuable blog for a while. I did send a message – don’t know that it will help but the more people that he has touched that contact him the better in my view.
    thanks Tom K7THR

    1. Hi Tom –

      I’m not much of an expert on learning the code, but I had always thought that the hardest part was copying speed, and that if you learned to copy at higher speeds, you’d also be able to send at higher speeds. Having said that, my top speed for continuous comfortable copy is about 17 wpm, so perhaps I shouldn’t be making too many public statements about learning the code!

      I have a question – when copying, do you hear the sound and immediately associating it with the letter it represents, or are you hearing the sound, then thinking to yourself “dit-dah – that’s a long one and a short one, which is the letter A”. I suspect you’re doing the latter, which is why you’re also going through that mental process when sending. It is very important to associate the “sound” or rhythm with the character it represents – and the only way to do that is through lots of practice. I thought I had the code mastered, and had only to speed up, but I recently found that my brain still insists on going through a conscious process of translation for some of the less common characters, and that is one of the things that is preventing me from increasing my speed. I listen to code every day on the radio and luckily I am now at the point where I enjoy listening to it, but it required conscious effort for quite a long time. Although I’ve known the code for over 30 years, I’ve only been seriously attempting to learn it for use in QSO’s for about the last 2 years and it’s only now just starting to feel natural and enjoyable.

      I jumped on my bicycle this morning (the only form of transport here) and put a QSL in the mail to Julian with a note on the back. It’s not much, but I’d like for him to get lots of messages and lots of mail so that he knows there are many people out here who are thankful for his contribution to our hobby.

      Oh, and good luck with that code, by the way Tom. Perhaps we’ll QSO one day.

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