To refer to myself as a M.O.R.S.E.M.A.N. somehow seems a bit over the top. Yet, that is how I think of myself. A Morseman. After three summers, or just over two full years of practice, I may be full of myself to even consider myself a Morseman. It has been more years than I care to admit since last devoting any time listening or participating to any mode other than Morse. I fiddled a bit with some WSPR but that isn’t really like actually listening to SSB is it? I hope not. I do admit to a single SSB QSO with a classroom in Belmont Ma. for the purpose of demonstration of Ham Radio to a group of forth graders. I trust that infraction will not blemish and otherwise perfect record.
Still, after working at this for a long time I am dubious about any ultimate success with Morse. Success to me means a natural comfort level having been attained, one can send and receive perfectly spaced characters and words at almost any speed with few if any errors. Some say doing pitch-perfect code at any speed while cooking breakfast or making coffee is required to properly be referred too as a Morseman. Me? I can barely turn on the trash compactor while sending and receiving, let alone any thoughts of a coffee pot ,waffle iron or cake baking activities. Still, I try.
The obvious insecurities I am dealing with do not include receiving-except in one very specific area. Normally, during a QSO I can copy quite well up to about 38 WPM. I say “normally”. Normally to me means being able to get my “Fills” without asking for them by utilizing context and sentence structure to make sense of a fade riddled loss of a character or word. What is the exception? Dare I say contest exchanges? Please do not think of me as less than human. Yes, we have no bananas when it comes to Eastern European call signs, with their plethora a uniquely placed characters designed to cause maximum mental anguish. I have to admit call sign recognition eludes me. Especially those “designed to fail” Balkan devilish ones. There always seems to be an errant dit or perhaps two. H’s turn into 5’s or vice versa, H’s to S’s and reverse or worse, the terrible B’s knees get into D’ees Peas and turn me into a zombie for a minute or more. And there I sit frozen in normal time like some gumbo brained dimwit just learning code. How embarrassing is that? Morse Runner or RUFZ you say? Have you ever actually tried Morse Runner? RUFZ? Doing a session with Morse Runner or RUFZ is the closest thing I can imagine to being stretched on to a mental version of the “Rack”. It is mental torture designed by a madman to filter out pretenders to contesting fame. It isn’t fun for me. Have you got the picture yet? I recall my embarrassment at a friends house doing a CW contest from the East Coast when I first encountered my shortcomings. Trust me. You haven’t lived until you have experienced the joy of European openings, if only with a wire antenna, played out on the US eastern seaboard, only to find that pileups start to sound like a foreign language. Yes, I was Bambi in the Dial Lites. It is perfectly clear to me that my mind shut down under pressure. A similar thing occurred many years ago when my memory of a trip to 5E2EBE for ARRL CW in the 1980’s disappeared. It must have been time for the “other side” of the pileup to pay revenge. Pressure indeed.
Laugh if you must, but contest exchanges are not the worst of it. No, there looms a far greater threat on my road to becoming a true blue Morseman. Sending! What? Sending??? Yup. Sad to admit but I can’t send worth a hoot. Well, let me rephrase that a bit. I could at one time send worth a hoot, but lately, no. Not so much. The nature of our practice is such that for 2 years plus, one or both of us agree to bump speed a bit by one or maybe two words per minute. As speeds get higher it takes one to two weeks before one or the other of us becomes comfortable and we carry on with practice at that speed until we get the urge to bump up again. All of that worked fine until about 33 WPM. My hand-ear coordination began to fall apart at 33 WPM. So we stayed at 33 WPM for longer than normal. Error rates in sending seemed to accumulate and manifest themselves in waves. For a few days I would send with what I deemed an acceptable error rate only to be trounced by a series of really bad days when I seemed to lose control of my finger muscles. There I went; dit dit ditting away uncontrollably. Damn! It is almost as though I had a muscle spasm. Never dah’s. Only dits. I moved spacing, tension, changed keys, posture, closed my eyes to focus better mentally…in short I tried everything save physical fitness which is next on my agenda. Of course the thought that I had reached my potential (made available to me though my personal equation) keeps creeping into my minds eye but I keep pushing it back. Perish the thought. Limits? Nah, not me! We are currently at 35 WPM and suffering through a series of weeks that follow the aforementioned form-waves of errors interspersed with good days. We seem to have finally mastered 33 WPM after what seemed like months. Onward and upward!
This may sound like a rant but it is not intended as such. It is simply a diary entry describing the details of what you discover about yourself while trying to learn a new skill. It isn’t easy. If it were easy more would do it. However, that said, never mix up easy or hard with fun. It is fun. Diabolically so. Practice is invaluable on several levels. First, by its very nature it is point to point. Dallas to Boston. To be successful you have to be flexible, learn how to read what Mother Nature gives you in the form of propagation and plan around it. You have to think and evaluate your successes and shortcomings. Plan to work through the challenges and devise strategies. In short you cannot stop thinking. I am 63. If I quit thinking I would shrivel up and blow away. Learning Morse is no more difficult than learning the flute or a cello or perhaps to play football or baseball. To be good at any of these takes practice while, one by one, removing all the impediments your mind and body toss into the mix. It IS fun. It is also the most wonderful learning experience I could have ever imagined.
Now where the heck did I put that copy of Morse Runner?
Thanks for reading my blog. Best, Chas W7MAP/5