The CW 100 Days challenge continues and this is the halfway mark. It seemed to make sense to look at where things were when it kicked off and where they are now. Also, what it might look like by the time the 100th day shows up.
On Day 1 the settings for LCWO were set to 12/12. That was the platform for tracking progress and the speed set based on helpful feedback from other operators. Within the first week or so, I recognized that I had pretty sold control over character recognition. To be fair, I’d been playing with other apps for a while running a character speed of 20 wpm. Slowing it down made my accuracy skyrocket. Most of the time, I was hitting over 90% on the first run on LCWO’s lessons. That remained consistent as the program progressed through Lesson 40.
This past week brought a powerful realization that the character spacing does matter. That shouldn’t have been as big a realization as it was, but for the life of me, I couldn’t see the difference when spacing changed until I hit 16/16. The difference between 15/15 and 16/16 (or even 16/15) was the difference between running and tripping all over myself. It was really stunning and quite exciting to feel that gap. It’s rare that we can analyze and see up close the developmental shifts in a skill as it is acquired. It will provide a great milestone as my practice takes me past 16.
Running through the ARRL code practice files has also been quite illuminating. In the Koch method, the strings are random to focus on character recognition. When that’s turned loose on real words, the patterns start to fill themselves in. For example, it’s very rare that “T-H-” is not followed by “E” or “I” and that narrows the field of possibilities for the next character. It also means that losing a character here or there isn’t as meaningful. If we drop every third letter in a sentence, it’s really easy to go back and fill it in later. The longer practice files really drive home the idea that dropping characters is fine. It’s the next one that needs attention. This is a difficult lesson to learn. It’s so easy to be focused on getting EVERY character that stumbling causes a loss of far more than just letting it go when one doesn’t land.
In the spirit of cross training – using different apps and different techniques for learning CW – I joined the Long Island CW Club and went to my first class last week. The method is great! I can definitely see that starting here would have been a good approach for me when I was getting my feet wet. Jumping in now makes good sense. I think I will stick with the BC1 class for a bit, but will likely bounce up a bit as I get more comfortable with the classes. I see the real advantage here as being able to find someone to be a “Code Buddy” and practice with. I think being in a class with other people is also underrated. Seeing the way other people learn and watching their development alongside my own gives me a better frame of reference and even sets healthier expectations for progress. It’s just a good idea.
Now here’s a practical question: How much time is going into this? This is a hobby and I’m a busy dude with a full-time job and a family. Where does this fit in? It fits in where everything fits in: in the cracks and bits of time that pop up throughout the day. Spending 5 minutes with MorseMachine or doing a LCWO lesson isn’t too tough. In the morning, before I get to work, I can run through a couple of lessons and practice some sending. I can get in 10-15 minutes over lunch. In the evening, when everyone else is doing their thing, I can work with text files. Character recognition drills can be done in just about any idle moment. So it’s coming it at under an hour a day most of the time. But that seems to be plenty for me to make progress.
At this, the halfway point, I can see what I want to set as my goal for that 100 day mark. I want to get on the air for a POTA activation. I bet I could activate at a pace of 12-14 wpm. I definitely wouldn’t call back stations flying by at 20+, but I think I can do it at a pace closer to 12. This goal works well with what I enjoy in the hobby: POTA and QRP.
The other goal that I have is to get on the air with some of my Mastodon radio buddies. We’ve developed a great community of operators over there who are very interested in helping one another. It would be wonderful to get them in the log!
50 more days. Back at it…