In the course of my life, I have found that in various pursuits, I tend to favor things that have some challenge to them. This was true with my selection of pieces to learn for the guitar when I was in conservatory and it’s true in radio. I’m really enjoying the challenges of working portable QRP. It’s a lot of fun to go out in the woods or to a park and setup with 5 watts and a wire in a tree.
In a lot of my operating, I do digital modes. With the IC-705 and a tablet, this is a very simple, light, and low noise setup. But as I dabble in RTTY and other keyboard to keyboard modes, I’m seeing that, well, I’m leaving some contacts on the table by not acquiring the ability to work CW.
One of my Stupid Arbitrary Goals for 2022 is to be able to hit 15 wpm copy by June. It’s getting there. I thought I would catalog how I’m doing that.
The first thing I did was brush off Morse-It on my iPad. I’ve always got that handy, so popping in a bluetooth earbud and copying on the couch is easy enough without disturbing anyone else (assuming no one is trying to get my attention). I also find ways throughout the day to check in on Learn CW Online.
Both of these have different approaches available. I’ve been following along with the Koch method because it was the obvious first click. I get that learning individual characters is a good idea. But I have to think I’m going to hear “DE AC8NT” a lot more than I’m going to hear “MMKUPIFL”. Sure, if you can copy one you can copy the other, but patterns are what my brain wants. To feed that, I use the LCWO word and sentence practice. That’s helping a lot.
Another thing I found was the V BAND interface. It’s a cool little widget that translates the input from a straight key or paddle into left or right control keyboard signals for a computer. With a USB to Lightning interface, I’m able to practice my sending on the Morse-It app, again, on the couch.
After a couple of weeks of poking at this I discovered that I’m a LOT better and encoding than decoding. I’m going to go ahead and say that my musical training and ability to memorize patterns set me up for success. I’m sending above 15 wpm with 90%+ accuracy regularly. Once the characters were committed to memory, it really wasn’t much of a challenge to get my sending moving. I’m pretty confident that I could send my part of a QSO…but receiving? Um… I’m gonna need a minute.
Or a couple of months.
The real news here is that I’m out of the gate and running. I have a goal and progress toward it. I’m also listening to CW on the air, in the background, when I can. I’m learning and that might be the best part of this hobby.