Why 5, 13 and 20 WPM

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Layne AE1N Layne AE1N 1 year, 7 months ago.

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    Jeff Millar

    Back in the day, the FCC set code speed thresholds of 5, 13, and 20 words per minute for Novice, General and Extra.  Here’s my theory about why, based on my code learning experience.

    • At 5 wpm, a person has memorized the code and has enough time to hear the letter, think about it, and write it down
    • At 13 wpm, a person has learned the code well enough to hear and write each letter, almost by reflex.
    • At 20 wpm, a person can hear the code in groups of letters and “copy behind”, writing down the messages 3 more letters after hearing it.

    I learned the code as part of boy scouts and an interest in ham radio and that got me through the Novice test.  My novice rig was a TCS-5, Navy surplus PT boat transmitter, a National NC-100 receiver, and 80 meter dipole fed with open wire line.  As a Novice, code practice consisted of some cw rag chewing and listening to ARRL practice.  The final push to 13 WPM took place during vacation on the Cape.  I was listening to CW and the rest of the family was listening to Yaz carry the Red Sox in the pennant race.

    I never got to 20 wpm, but getting to 13 wpm burned the code into my brain well enough that it doesn’t go away.  From time to time, I listen to DX and contests CW and my single letter thinking and inability to copy behind is a big problem.  Certain common groups are heard as a groups, CQ, 73, TU, WA1, K2, etc.  But, when I think for a split second about one letter, the rest is gone.

    The ARRL recommends fast letters and long spaces between.  That’s good for 13 wpm, but all that “letter at a time” experience blocks me off from higher speeds and CW contesting.

    So, what are the recommendations for retraining my fossilized brain to copy letter groups and complete call signs?

    jeff, wa1hco

    Fred Kemmerer
    Fred Kemmerer

    This makes a lot of sense Jeff. Thanks for posting it. Net is that I think I will try to learn to “copy in my head” early on and try to aim toward the 15 WPM speed mark.



    - Fred (AB1OC)
    President, Nashua Area Radio Society

    Visit us on the web at - https://www.n1fd.org

    Mike Ryan
    Mike Ryan

    I came across an unusual Morse Code training link on the web but haven’t explored it in any depth.  You may want to look at their website and read up on their training philosophy.

    The technique involves having a story read to you “one letter at a time” and letting your mind translate the letter series back into words you comprehend.   As your brain adjusts to this type of audio you can instruct their tool to start substituting a list of letters you want to hear sent in Morse code in place of some of the vocalized letters. Eventually you expand your list to include the entire alphabet.  You also get to select the sending speed.

    The website states that they charge for this service, but you can try it for one week for free.

    Try MorseFusion.com if you wish to give it a try.

    It’s a different technique so likely will take some time to gain the necessary familiarity.  While I haven’t worked with it, I like the approach because when your sending you’re spelling out the words that you want to send in your head, and sending them as you spell them.

    Might be worth a try…..






    - Mike (K1WVO)
    Nashua Area Radio Club

    Visit us on the web at - https://www.n1fd.org

    Layne AE1N
    Layne AE1N

    I think we pretty well covered Jeff’s questions in our code class. If you get a chance please join us when you are in town…

    Layne AE1N

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