CW Learning Methodology [was:: [morserino] Feature request (and Arduino development help)]

Willi, OE1WKL

Regarding the request for better support of a straight key, you might have wondered, why the Morserino-32 sort of assumes that you would start to learn CW with a paddle, and not a straight key. After all, its feature set has been developed in close coordination with a CW School (The CW School Graz in the south of Austria). Would they not have demanded a better support for a straight key?

Well, no, they did not. And the reason is, they start teaching CW with a paddle, and also with learning how to transmit with a paddle, from day 1.

This is in sharp contrast to the usual methodology (also depicted in the standard work ZEN AND THE ART OF RADIOTELEGRAPHY). This methodology had been developed in the first half of the 20th century, predominantly by commercial and military CW trainers. One of the primary rules of that methodology are:
1. Learn to decode Morse code first (keep away from a key), until you have reached a speed of about 10 - 20 words per minute.
2. Once you can comfortably decode code at this speed, start coding, using a straight key.

And only when you have mastered those two steps, you are allowed to go a step further and use some automatic keyer (ignoring the fact, that for some operators it seems to be very hard to switch from a manstraightual key to a paddle).

Now, if you look at other areas, you will quickly see that teaching methodologies (didactics) nowadays are quite different from the methodologies of the early 20th century - except in radiotelegraphy, where nothing seems to have changed….

But: the technology has changed significantly! When CW didactics were developed, there was no such thing as an automatic keyer or a paddle - the straight key was the only tool available. Why was it so important to learn decoding before you start using the key? The underlying reason is that the learner had to get a feeling for correct spacing (the length of dits, dahs and spaces). Without  a sense for correct spacing (a sense that has to be „hard-wired“ into your brain, so to say) the results of using a key will be catastrophic, and often so bad that decoding it on the other end will not be possible. Hardwiring the sense for correct spacing requires a lot of practice (like it requires a lot of practice to get the length of musical notes - the rhythm - right when you start to learn music).

So the „old school“ methodology is absolutely right under the assumption that you start sending CW with a straight key. But is it correct under the assumption that you start with an automatic keyer?

The „key“ element of an automatic keyer (if you excuse the pun) is that it enforces the correct spacing - a dah will be three times the length of a dit, and the space between the dits and dahs within a character will be the length of a dit. And if you combine an automatic keyer with a decoder, you will immediately also get feedback if your spacing between characters and between words is correct. This also means, there is no reason to delay practicing coding. You can learn decoding and coding at the same time, when you do the coding with a paddle. And once you have mastered decoding (and using the paddle for coding)  for all characters, the sense for correct spacing will be hard-wired into your brain, to such an extent, that using a straight key later on will not be a problem at all - you will be slower than using a paddle, but your characters will be well formed. So the switch from paddle to straight key will be much easier than the switch from straight key to paddle when using the old methodology. (BTW, this is also the reason why you cannot change the „weight“ of the Morserino keyer - the ratio of dits to dahs is fixed to 1:3, in order to avoid that an „incorrect" ratio is being learned by the beginner.)

The CW School Graz has been using this new methodology for teaching CW with great success. And because their classes always start with the use of a paddle, there was no need for better support of a straight key (for the echo mode, for example).

Will this mean that the Morserino-32 will never support a straight key for its echo training mode? No, certainly not. It just means, it was and is not a priority. The basic elements for using a straight key are already in the software (the CW decoder is pretty awesome, if I may say so), so it is more a matter of spending the necessary time to incorporate full straight key support into the software. In the meantime I would like to encourage all learners to use a paddle (use the build-in capacitive one in the beginning - it is good for up to about 20 wpm. Once you aim for higher speeds, get yourself a well-built (and hence necessarily not really cheap) mechanical paddle (it will cost more than the Morserino, maybe significantly more) …

Vy 73


Am 17.12.2019 um 16:13 schrieb Dave via Groups.Io <dave.kc3gpm@...>:

Hi Jim,
The only advice I can give is to keep the individual character speed (not the CPM) relatively high, like 15-20. That will keep you from hearing individual dits and dahs and hear the complete character. You want focus on the complete character or it will be difficult to increase the CPM.


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---- On Tue, 17 Dec 2019 09:47:42 -0500 Jim Upson<jim72upson@...> wrote ----

I too am in the beginning stage of learning Morse Code.....and have purchased a Morserino32 just last month as a part of my overall learning it is super cool...all-in-one self-contained and easy to take traveling great tool....

The following is nothing I can yet confirm to be a working/successful plan....but it is the one I am pursuing.....

I am sure there may be “smarter” approaches but this one seems to fit my abilities and style for learning Morse Code starting essentially from ground zero....(although I have taken CW Ops level one course...)

With that said:

My current plan is based on ”The Zen and Art of Radiotelegraphy”....which suggests to learn proper sending you start by:

1) first focus your learning to RECEIVE all letters etc. at a 15-CPM speed (characters per minute) and working your Overall effective speed starting very slow (1-5 WPM) start and ramping-up to overall the 15-WPM speed. 

— To facilitate this I am using “ Ham Morse “ on iPhone (search for “ ham morse ios “).....I’ve REORDERED” the Koch character learning sequence to match the “ZART” sequence.  I love this app...

2) then add in STRAIGHT KEY sending at the 15-WPM rate 

3) then ramp-up sending with a STRAIGHT KEY up to 20-WPM....finally 

3) to go above 20WPM, switch to Iambic paddle....

Search for ” ZART RADIOTELEGRAPHY ik0ygj PDF “.... or click on this link for the 100-page file:

This plan was originally “hatched” based on a 15+minute Youtube video....especially at the 4:00 minute I got the idea to use FLDIGI to check my STRAIGHT  KEY sending....(as well as iambic keying)

Search for “ Youtube Kevin Loughin three things to avoid for better sending “ .... or click here:

So far I’ve installed FLDIGI on my MacBook Pro,  And I’ve connected an oscillator (3CPO from KC9ON - 3rd Planet Solar) with my straight key  to the MacBook....(I needed some cables to make an “external microphone” work on a MacBook....if you need help with that there are YouTube’s available).   

My next (and hopefully last) step is to configure FLDIGI for CW so my keying will be “picked up” and displayed on the FLDIGI screen....

I then will use Morserino32 for continued clean sending practice....especially for Iambic practice 

Well....this was probably way more than anyone asked for.....but thought I’d share my journey’s plan.....

Comments welcome....I am a struggling Morse Code student and welcome any help you can offer....

73, JIM AC3B 

Jim Upson


My sincere THANK YOU for taking the time to so fully explain your insight!  I can’t thank you enough...

No one has ever given me such a clear and convincing response regarding starting with a paddle vs. straight key.......

As such, after reading THE ZEN AND ART..... I felt that it (The Zen...) was sound and well-founded advice I had ever not having any better convincing plan, I adopted it...

But I am convinced of the logic you do thoroughly explain....especially with the concept of it being much easier to go to a straight key AFTER learning with a paddle than the other way around....

Thank you.....your reply was very appreciated and I’ll go so far as to say a “life saver” to get me on the right track....(so I don’t waste more time etc.)

Happy Holiday.....Merry Christmas to all who observe it....and a my wishes for wonderful New Year,

73, Jim 

Jim Upson