[CQ-Contest] CW Accuracy

Clive Whelan clive.whelan at btinternet.com
Thu Sep 14 19:58:05 EDT 2006

I suspect, that for most of the respondents, the problems
are two fold; certainly that is the case for myself.

1. Lack of keyboard skills


2. Poor memory retention/ translation.

re 1. For those of a certain age, keyboard operation was
never an option. That was "work for women" as one of my
former bosses told me, when he saw me sending my own telex
on the Creed 444 ( ca. 197x). How wrong and misguided he
was, not to say reverse sexist! So we came to keyboards,
either via teletype machines and RTTY ( in my case) or later
still in the era of personal computers. In either case we
were self taught, and never learned the right way to use a
keyboard. No matter how much practice we get now in
contests- or e.g. sending emails like this- we will never
become truly competent in the absence of professional
tuition. Our younger brethren may also not have received
professional tuition, but at least they had the significant
advantage that they were exposed to keyboards at school,
when their minds were more malleable. In my case I now have
numbness and very poor co-ordination which compounds the
problem; I may not be alone here.

re 2. However, this I feel is the minor of the two problems.
We learned to copy CW, quite naturally, by writing it down
on paper, although at first we probably did not manage
"joined up copy", which nevertheless followed quite soon
afterwards. I suppose there must have been a time when there
was a brain lag between copying the character, and writing
it down, but frankly I have no recollection of this. Thus
this became the de facto method of hard copy, and was done
literally without thought. When copying to the  keyboard
however, there is a finite brain lag in the  translation
process, and in this instant there is an extra margin for
error not associated with the ability to copy CW in any way.
I firmly believe that age, and the "stress" associated with
the translation to keyboard process, detract from the
ability to retain  a callsign in the brain while typing it,
thus resulting in a finite error rate. It is well known that
even young people have difficulty in retaining character
strings greater than 5/6 in length, e.g. telephone numbers,
so when we are confronted with callsigns of the type
HB9/9A9XXX/P it is no wonder that we struggle to get them
into the keyboard. A technique I have used but not perfected
is to repeat the callsign to myself in "voice mode". I don't
do this out loud, but the virtual mouthing of the call does
seem to help with retention. However this is yet another
skill that needs to be learned. How this works exactly, I
don't really know, but my best guess is that it places the
data in a less volatile "register" of the brain, whence it
may be retrieved at relative leisure. There is little doubt
that the technique of "copying behind" would significantly
aid the process, but unfortunately I never learned this as I
was self taught at CW, and it is probably now too late.



Something funny is going on. I honestly used to think that I
was slightly
above average. In other words, if there were 1500 entrants
in a CW SS, my cw
skills would be among the top 750. I always thought that if
I was ever in a
position to upgrade the hardware, then my scores would only
get better from
there. As if it would be a reciprocal thing. The more
stations I could work,
the more practice I would get, the better my CW would get,
the more staions
I could work. Repeat. As if that was the main thing holding
me back. Lately
it seems like I can't copy or type very well at all. Last SS
my report was
pretty bad. I do have MorseRunner, but no motivation. My
memory is getting
worse, too.
73, Craig Cook - N7OR in Sandy, OR
"You should be ashamed of yourself"

On 9/11/06, W4ZW <w4zw at comcast.net> wrote:
> After reviewing a few of my past log UBN reports, I
decided to find out
> where I was busting calls.  So I started working out with
RUFZ-XP and made
> several interesting discoveries.  The first culprit is my
typing ability,
> or
> lack there of.  I never learned touch typing and have
adopted the hunt and
> peck method until I feel fairly comfortable, but limited
by speed.
> I switched to computer logging completely about 15 years
ago, although I
> wrote programs to do computer logging on DEC, WANG,  and
DG minicomputers
> a
> jillion years ago for FD and SS.  I'd never noticed a
large error rate
> until
> studying my UBN's.  I have enough hearing loss in my left
ear at certain
> frequencies such that often sounds seem "muddled" and I do
miss calls when
> doing SO2R and have returned to basic SO1R because of it.
But I wanted to
> see exactly where I was making the errors and I discovered
> interesting things.
> My typing errors were the first and most obvious culprit
when I simply hit
> the wrong key. But I also discovered that I almost always
get the call
> right
> if it's a "standard" call, that is a 1x3 or 2x3 or shorter
because I have
> it
> in my head cache at speeds up to about 50wpm.    But if
it's a
> XX7/anything
> I have a momentary mental blink and miss the complete
call.  Also
> sometimes
> have a mental blink and a degree of error with the
Call/QRP.  And last, at
> speeds over 40wpm I mix the "S" and "H", and that from a
guy who was K4HHG
> for 40 years.  Also found certain "mental stops" with
repeated characters
> and certain  letters like "T", e.g. copy "UTU" as "VTU" or
just "TU".
> When I stir this all around with my poor typing, I can see
how my UBN is
> higher than I want.  I also think some of this has to do
with aging,
> because
> I remember how clearly I could grab calls in my head when
I was younger
> (especially in my teens when my head cache was really BIG)
and putting
> them
> down with a pencil.  I tried using a pencil with RUFZ and
discovered that
> my
> accuracy did improve, but not enough to give up the
wonderful advantage of
> computer logging.
> Anyone else notice this aging by-product?
> Jon Hamlet,  W4ZW
> Casey Key Island, Florida
> "A little piece of paradise in the Gulf of Mexico"
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