First of all, learn to copy Code *in your head*. I can't stress this enough.
You probably can't write 20 wpm with any accuracy or for any length of time,
so you might as well do it in the "software". [Actually, you can try the 20
wpm writing thing by seeing how many times you can write the word PARIS in 1
minute. In this case you knew what you were going to write--think what that
would be like in a QSO!] Even if you never plan on copying 20 wpm code,
copying *any* speed of code is much easier when you can do it in your brain
rather than on paper. I made the switch after I had already "learned" code,
and it was tough. If you are just starting now, start right--copy in your
If you learn sending with a straight key, tape record some of your sending--it
can be a real eye-opener! You think you're sending perfect code, but when you
listen to what you sent yesterday or the day before, you can find room for
improvement [at least I know I could when I listened to my own fist].
If going the keyer route, learn to use a keyer with the opposite hand that you
write with. I'm right-handed, and key with my left hand [thumb dits, finger
dahs, the way it should be]. Again, I made the switch after I learned right-
handed. The bonus here is that you can easily take notes of what is going on
in the QSO and be ready to send in an instant. This is a pretty easy switch.
As far as equipment goes, you'll hear a lot about Curtis A versus B, etc. I
prefer B. You might prefer something else, but B is probably the easiest to
learn if you're timing is good. I find A confusing, but only because I
learned B first. I know this doesn't mean much to you now, but I would
More to the point, find an inexpensive used keyer, like an MFJ 401B. This
will allow you to get the feel for iambic keying and learn its ins and outs
without forking out a lot of dough. Once you get the hang of it and decide
you really like it, then you can go with one of the "superkeyers".
Paddles? Most guys I've talked to say that Bencher is probably the easiest to
learn on. I still have mine.
Whichever set of paddles you buy, there is a little known secret to using
them--find a spring-loaded clothespin and put it on the thumb paddle. Look at
your hand--if it's like mine, the tip of the thumb is placed well behind the
tip of the finger. By attaching the clothespin to the thumb paddle, your hand
is in a much more natural position for keying. You can send this way for a
long time--this technique really shines on Field Day, etc.
Sorry for being such an opinionated windbag, but this is what I've learned in
my few short years of hamming. I'm sure the OT's on the list have many other
73, Jim n0oct
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